I was at my best friend Lexy’s a week or so ago and we were talking about the previous two years; the various ups and downs and adventures and heartaches and highs and lows moving to Australia has entailed. It’s a move she’s considering herself; though for her it’s one that would involve uprooting her entire family; her husband and two gorgeous little girls – whereas when I moved I only had myself to consider. It’s not a decision she – or most expats – take lightly, and while there are endless pros to moving down under, as with anything, there are also many cons. She asked me if I ever regretted the move; if I sometimes wish I’d stayed in London; not knowing any better; not knowing what life could otherwise be like. For all intents and purposes I had a life I was very happy with; a job I loved, a brilliant (if slightly booze-filled) social life; I lived in one of my favourite parts of London, was able to see my family as frequently as I wished. While, like most, I had a love/hate relationship with London; and often waxed lyrical about the tubes and the weather and the inability to get on the housing ladder, my move down under was never to do with a dissatisfaction at my current life, or a thirst for more adventure. The topic of regret when it comes to moving to Australia is one I often talk about; particularly with expat friends in the eastern suburbs, but the longer I’m away and the harder the goodbyes become; its poignancy only increases.
Is it better to stay, and to settle in a life you’re perfectly content with, or to broaden your horizons and explore life beyond the boundaries of home? While the latter may seem the obvious and adventurous answer, it’s not without its sacrifices.
In the past two years since moving to Australia, I’ve had little, if any, desire to even consider a move back to London. I suppose it didn’t help that both trips I’ve taken back home prior to this one have been at the beginning of summer – a time I now associate with Australia’s balmy weather, beach days and barbecues, quite forgetting that London’s lukewarm summertime bears little or no resemblance to Sydney’s equivalent.
Coming back in October, however, is a different experience entirely. London gives great autumn; from the cooler temperatures, the cosy knits, the crunch of leaves and the endless opportunities to curl up with chai lattes as the outdoor sky turns charcoal with night’s fast approach. The countryside – a place I frequent when in the UK to visit both sets of parents and my uncle, does it even better; log fires and misty mornings and the bleating of sheep and grey winding roads, flanked with golden trees. For many, autumn’s a depressing time of year; the end of summer; the onslaught of winter. For me; it’s my favourite. The anticipation of new beginnings, the slow but steady approach of Christmas; the cosy pubs and winter walks and catch ups with friends over minced pies and mulled wine in the not too distant future.
The irony of course, is that while for the first time since moving to Australia the thought of returning to life in London no longer fill me with dread, the opportunity to do so will soon be out of my hands. Once I return to Sydney in November, my boyfriend and I will be applying for our de-facto visa – a process that is not only a huge financial investment, but one which can also take between six and eighteen months to complete, which means I’m not able to leave Oz during that period of time.
And so, all of a sudden the goodbyes become more real; and more painful than ever before. Both the distance and the time that lies between now and my next trip back are unfathomable; that it will be months before I next ponder my career hopes with my dad over an early morning cup of tea, or bike ride along the canal with my mum. That my sisters will continue their lives together, afternoons in Salisbury; weekend trips to Spain, while I’ll be on the opposite side of the world. That late nights in London are off the cards, and cosy afternoons in Kew Gardens a thing of the past. Every friend and family member I’ve seen while in he UK have been joy-filled, but imbued with a sadness at how long it will be before it happen again.
It’s funny isn’t it, how we might not want something until the choice is taken out of our hands; yet we might covet something endlessly; for months or years on end, only to question our reasons for doing so when the time to commit; to financially and emotionally invest come around.
I know the second I step back on Sydney’s soil, back to my flat in Bondi, to the onset of summer surrounded by friends and beaches and road trips and sunshine, that these thoughts and feelings will no doubt seem like a thing of the past. But I also know that moving to Australia is the best and worst thing I’ve ever done; there will always be a sense of regret; and that the distance from those back home will always be the hardest thing of all.
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