In 2016 I said I could never move to Australia.
In 2018 I moved to Australia.
It’s been a hell of a journey to get here – spending all my savings on a partner visa, waiting nine months for it to be accepted, quitting my job, selling 90% of my things and saying teary goodbyes to everyone I know. All to go and live in a place where toilets flush backwards and summer is in February. Where 17 of the most poisonous snakes can be found, and kangaroos replace rabbits and pigeons as commonplace road kill. A country so happily detached from the world that the prime minister in 1967 vanished into the sea and the rest of the world didn’t notice.
It’s not your average country. I moved to Sydney on the east coast of NSW, a thriving if terrifyingly expensive city with an abundance of jobs and places to easily spend all your hard earned wages. A bus ride east of the city takes you to Bondi and its neighbouring, somewhat less crowded bays. Drive two hours west of the city and you’ll discover the panoramic Blue Mountains. South-west, past Canberra, are glistening snowy mountains where you can ski. The whole city is surrounded either by national parks or the South Pacific ocean, and those are two things I want to live sandwiched between.
Being from the UK I find Australia overwhelmingly juxtaposed: many aspects of life are based on British ideas, yet it’s still all too evident that the country sits 10,000 miles away on the other side of the globe. I feel at home, yet I feel so far out of my comfort zone. It’s a satisfying if rather confusing feeling.
There is no North Star – I live under foreign constellations that I don’t know. I never thought not seeing the North Star would make me feel uncomfortable, but for some reason it does. I walk past trees and flowers and have no idea what they’re called which is again weirdly disconcerting. I suppose we are so used to familiarity that it’s a total shock to the system when everything is new. I don’t know what brands to look out for in the supermarket – Walkers Crisps are called Smiths and they’re different colours. Australia doesn’t have prawn cocktail crisps – pink crisp packets are salt and vinegar – imagine that excitement followed by immediate disappointment, which I still haven’t learnt from. Pot Noodles are $4.60. There are Magpies who swoop down to attack humans during ‘magpie season’ (honestly). Nothing makes sense.
But why would you want it to make sense? I didn’t move across the world to live in a sunny version of England. Here, I see more parrots than pigeons. Rain is a godsend for farmers. Sushi is the cheapest fast food. Wombats and kangaroos and koalas exist. The water contains fluoride to keep your teeth clean. If you rent you don’t need to pay council tax. If you ask for a snag sanga you’ll get a sausage sandwich. You can catch double-decker trains or even ferries to work. Every time I see the Opera House I hear the ‘ta-da’ sound from Finding Nemo in my head. Who could not fall in love with this country?
I never thought I’d move abroad. I always loved the idea of visiting various countries but these dreams stayed in my head. I never got the travelling bug and could count on one had the countries I’d visited. I wandered through early adult life in a somewhat traditional way – went to university, moved in with my partner, worked various minimum wage jobs, eventually got a 9-5 doing something relating to my degree, and started saving for a mortgage (the north of England is still just about affordable, folks).
It was in early 2017, a year after I came to Australia on holiday, that I realised how much I craved some kind of adventure. With my other half having both British and Australian citizenship, moving my life 10,000 miles away seemed like the best way to satisfy the craving. You only live once, right? There’s no point in doing anything half-arsed.
After I submitted my partner visa along with all my savings as well as my sanity, I spent the next 9 months freaking out over every email that pinged on my phone. There is nothing more disappointing than going into your inbox hoping for an accepted visa and being greeted with 12 emails from Groupon telling me there are half price haircuts 12 miles away. Then on a cold January morning, I got it. The email worth over £5,000.
The feeling of downright fear in the days and weeks leading up to the move was prevalent, but once past the gates at the airport, when the tears of saying the last goodbye had started to dry on my cheeks, I was immediately reminded that this wasn’t a sad event. It was the start of the most exciting adventure of my life, one I never imagined I would have the opportunity to do.
If moving country takes your fancy and you have the means to do it, then (without wanting to sound like a Nike advert) just do it. Sure, it’s nerve wracking, daunting, lonely and draining, but it’s also brave, thrilling, awesome, inspiring and soul nurturing. Jumping into something crazy and daunting creates new memories, and they are so much better than material things – take it from the girl who packed her life into two suitcases and sold the rest.
Moving to Australia was the best decision I ever made. I feel empowered, brave and proud of myself every single day, and the country has been treating me pretty well so far. Every time I zoom out of Google Maps and I see Sydney sprawling between luscious green forest and the cerulean blue ocean, my tummy tingles. I’m here. I did it. And I can’t wait to spend every second outside work finding out more about my new country. Unless I get into a fight with a snake, shark, spider, crocodile, jellyfish, or a killer magpie, of course. Then, depending on whether I survive, I’ll get on the next flight home. No dramas.
Words & Pictures: Jess Wright