Welcome to our one year expativersary celebration post! We made it a whole year in Australia! Now, this may not mean much to anyone else, but I believe life is all about celebrating the small wins as well as the big ones, and I am choosing to celebrate today. One year ago today, we stepped off a plane bleary eyed and full of excitement (and bad plane food, boiled fish for dayyys), ready to start our journey.
Instead of the usual monthly update, I thought I’d do something a bit different this time and share a bit more about why and how we moved to Australia in the first place. Normally, when people ask why I moved to Australia I just tell them it was because we wanted to. Whilst that is the truth, it’s also not the full truth. Actually, a lot of people don’t know the full truth – when things are important to me, I tend to go a bit sheepy about them. So I thought the occasion of our first expativersary would be a good one to use to share the Story of Australia.
So come back with me, to the time of butterfly hair clips, global hypercolour t-shirts and Sony Walkman cassette players….
My uncle, aunt and two cousins move to Australia for two years. My parents decide to take us to visit them one summer holiday instead of our usual camping trip to France, and I go on my first plane flight at the age of 10. I spend it eating jelly babies and side eyeing the curry that Cathay Pacific serve (I was a fussy kid). We stop over in Hong Kong, and land at the old airport where the plane comes in to land between skyscrapers. It’s my first flight; I think this is normal and have been disappointed with pretty much every plane landing since.
I have a great time on the trip, in a childhood holiday sort of way. It passes in a blur and now I mostly remember the great ice creams I had, seeing the sharks in the aquarium, and the really steep hill you had to walk up to get to my uncle and aunt’s house. Apparently, at some point, I also awkwardly hold a koala although I now have no memory of this.
Ten years later, I board a plane to Australia with my parents and third eldest sister again. It’s the summer holiday after my first year of university, and we’re going to visit my second eldest sister this time. She had such a good time in Australia in 1996 that she took a job out there after qualifying as a doctor. She’s been out there for a couple of years at this point, and we haven’t been to visit her yet. She lives in Manly, so we stay in serviced apartments right on the quay and have a great time doing All the Touristy Things. Notably, we take a minibus tour to the Hunter Valley where I decide I do quite like wine after all.
I’m heading back to Australia for my second eldest sister’s wedding. Yay! It’s the end of my third year of university so I maximise the use of my long holidays and go out early. I meet up with a future housemate and her friends who happen to be travelling round Australia, and piggyback on their plans. We go to Cairns, and I snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I see my sister get married, which is amazing, but then get very sad that this means she will most likely be staying in Australia for a very long time (spoiler alert: she’s still here).
Due to an airline snafu on my trip in 2008, which is rectified thanks to stringent intervention by my sister’s in laws, I have some airline vouchers to use. S and I decide that we will use them to… go back to Australia. I’ve just graduated so it seems a bit extravagant, but the tickets cost us £150 each after the vouchers are applied and we stay with my sister and brother in law to save costs. We go for around 7 weeks in total(!) during which we do side trips to Perth, roadtrip up to Exmouth, and around Tasmania. I also find out I passed my degree with a first. Oh and S and I get engaged. And just like that, we have one more major life event tying us to the country.
S and I get married, and try to settle down to normal life in Birmingham, UK. However, we retain strange hangovers like a penchant for listening to Australian radio and eating carefully rationed supplies of Old Gold chocolate. We even go and see a lesser known Aussie band that we’re fans of, some dudes called Powderfinger. Their fan base in the UK is quite small so we are third row from the front in the ‘intimate’ venue. We sing along to their songs at the top of our voices, along with the rest of the Australian diaspora in Birmingham. We talk about Australia a lot. People politely pretend not to notice.
Suddenly, my second eldest sister gets taken severely ill. It’s touch and go for a few days and we’re all terrified. My eldest sister and I rush out to see her as soon as we can, and luckily by this point she is getting better. The primary objective of this trip is to spend time with my second eldest sister and make quite sure she really is on the mend. We also get to hang out with my niece, who is about to turn one. We do all sorts of gentle, getting back on your feet type activities including going for a delicious afternoon tea at Gunners Barracks as a sisterly trio. This is my first trip to Australia in the warm weather (technically it was autumn…) and you can definitely tell in this photo!
It’s an emotional trip as I’m sure you can appreciate, and I stay for almost a month. I really don’t want to go home (although I do miss my husband). During this trip, a number of people ask me why I don’t just move to Australia. Of course I can’t do that, I say.
And then a still small voice.
When I get back to the UK, I tell my husband I think we should move to Australia. He agrees.
Everyone has an Annus Horribilis, don’t they? I think 2013 was mine. The gist of this year is trying to get myself in a professional position to be able to move to Australia with work – S and I quickly decide the working holiday option isn’t for us. The result of this is a lot of changes for S and I, most of them pretty tough ones. I start a blog in protest at my woeful life.
S gets a job with an Australian company based literally around the corner from where we just moved to in St Albans, and starts to really enjoy it. The timing of this doesn’t line up with ability to look for a job based in Australia, and we prioritise his career. I basically give up on the whole Australia thing for the most part, and end up accepting a job I think I’ll probably hate/be really bad at (spoiler alert: I still have it).
It turns out I quite like this new job, so I decide to stay a bit longer. S and I move to Bedford and talk about buying a house there eventually. Rumours of a project at work in Australia come to nothing, and I’m disappointed. I keep my head down. The time limit I had mentally set myself for moving to Australia quietly passes.
We decide to spend Christmas and New Year in Sydney, because we missed our family and the moving thing wasn’t happening so we thought we might as well have a good knees up instead. For our Christmas present, my sister and brother in law got us afternoon tea at… Gunners Barracks.
Over tea, we talk about how much we want to move here but how we can’t seem to make it happen. For now, we’re just happy to be here even just on a visit.
My company acquires an Australian branch. I do not think this is a good thing – now I’ll never get to go there on a project because they’ll just use local staff instead. S and I get into the house buying process in Bedford, which stalls due to some interesting legal issues on the seller’s behalf. We are committed to settling down here and Getting Serious.
And then my Dad dies. Everything I thought I knew, or wanted, suddenly explodes in a cataclysm of grief.
We realise that the dream of moving to Australia will stay just that unless we do something about it. We pull out of the house buying process.
S’s job sends him to Australia for a company get-together, and I decide I won’t be left out so I book a ticket as well. Also I want to grieve with my sister. We do this in many ways, some involving extravagant paddling. Overall it’s a good trip, a healing trip. It gets S and my thinking back on track. Are we really going to do this?
My sister tries to ask a few times whether we might want to move here. S and I not-so-skilfully change the topic.
Our minds made up, I trepidatiously enquire with my manager as to whether my company may wish to transfer me to the new Australian branch. He doesn’t see why not, and kicks off the necessary discussions (sidenote: total legend of a manager) and we decide to aim for a move in 2017. We have some things we want to do before we go: I make this the year of Why Not and tick off some things I’ve always wanted to do, like get braces to fix my teeth and travel to the USA.
Towards the end of the year I receive my formal offer, and I finally share the news with you all. I did drop some fairly unsubtle hints throughout the year, so I don’t think anyone was that surprised.
I work out my last three months as a UK employee, we do a Grand Tour of Visitation around our friends and family, and I am sent on a surprise project to Australia a month before we move.
My eighth trip to Australia is the one I’m still in; the one I didn’t think I’d manage. The semi permanent move! Who knows how long we’ll stay here – that’s sort of not the point. The point is, we made that dream come true, even though it took a really long time. And today we’ll be celebrating with tea at… Gunners Barracks.
If you want to celebrate with us, I’ll be taking tea over on Instastories. Cheers!