Recently my graduating class from high school caught up in Toowoomba, Queensland, for a significant reunion. Being over here in London, sadly I was unable to attend.
Thanks to a closed Facebook page though, most of us were still able to communicate and share photos coming up to the big event.
One of the organisers, Clare, kindly gathered together some short histories from those of us living abroad, to find out about our experiences since school wrapped up.
Mine speaks a lot about the value of travel and embracing change, so I’m sharing my high school reunion reflections here.
Does any of this resonate with you, and where does your gaze usually settle – forwards or backwards?
We spend a lot of our time looking back at what happened in the past; about what used to be good. With our twenty year reunion top of mind, it’s easy to reflect like this.
When I was 30 though, I was hit with an important lesson on the necessity of looking forward.
I’ve been lucky; I’ve worked hard, tried to do the right thing (as much as I knew how), and things have generally gone pretty well for me.
Somehow though – between a job I was unhappy in, a city where I didn’t belong, and draining personal relationships taking a toll − I found myself in an emotional rut.
I felt like all my options for creating change were gone. If I’m completely honest, I was depressed, and I spent each day believing the best of my life was behind me.
What I really wanted to do was travel and live abroad.
My parents were some of the original backpackers of the world, contemporaries of the founders of Lonely Planet, and I’d grown up hearing stories of adventures everywhere from Cape Town to Lima, Buenos Aires, Kathmandu and everywhere in between.
Then there were the numerous mates from high school and my brother who had all ‘done the backpacker thing’, living and growing while making friends on the road over a cheeky beer (or ten).
While I’ve always been career-driven and don’t regret a moment of my experience, back then I felt a sadness about not experiencing the world.
In my heart I wanted that adventure. It’s not for everyone, however I knew it was for me.
But my time to get a working visa had passed, right?
I vividly remember the day my partner, Cooper, came home excited because unexpectedly he’d been approached about teaching in London.
We’d never explored Cooper’s right to an ancestral visa in the UK, and as it turned out there were options for me too.
Life altered in an instant, when we decided to take a massive chance on a complete change at the very point I really thought that the ‘good bit’ of my life was done.
Now in 2016, we are in the third year of our second stint living and working in the UK (the first was across 2010 to 2011 with some time working in North America as well).
I constantly worried when I was younger about ‘missing out’ at home if I was overseas.
As it turns out, career-wise, you actually develop a special edge through experiences like this.
Personally, you learn the value of exploration and how change can be very positive and helpful.
I’m passionate about media content (with experience in radio, magazines and online), and from a base in London I’ve had the chance to hone my digital skills. This education far surpasses any a university could offer at this point, particularly in an industry that’s constantly evolving and in a city on the cutting edge of this change.
I make friends with travellers, expats and people with open minds. Life in London for me is exciting, enlightening and fulfilling.
Of course there’s sacrifice – living far away from loved ones being the critical factor. But challenges I’ve faced over the past twenty years have taught me that we all have our own journey. We are grateful our family members support this view too.
To make the world around us a better place, we need to pursue that which lights us up as individuals.
As much as it is possible, we have to look forward and anticipate a positive outcome.
I’ve also learned to trust that my true friends are always there, regardless of time and physical distance. I’m certain a couple of mine are reading this now.
And whatever you do, don’t consider the reasons why you can’t travel … to that new job, different life, dream destination.
Look forward to it. You can. And you should.