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Finding hope in uncertain times

Finding hope in uncertain times

I’ve been living in fear and anger lately, without much hope in uncertain times. We’ve had to leave our home in the UK, only to be treated like we don’t belong ‘back home’ in Australia. We couldn’t say goodbye to any of our friends or even to our life of the past six years – just had to jump on a plane and hope for the best. It’s been very sh!t.

COVID-19 has impacted a lot of people in many terrible ways. Some people don’t understand, they remain lucky and unscathed; the most they have to complain about is that the gym is closed. Others find themselves in situations where they can’t see sick or dying family in hospital or at home. Cooper and I had our lives torn away from us, and I haven’t seen light or hope, if I’m honest. Grief.

Finding hope in uncertain times

I know I don’t want to live like this. So, as we sit in mandatory 14 day isolation in a hotel in Australia, I’m finally getting to a point where I feel like I want to make the best of it. Acceptance.

This has been many weeks coming though. If you’ve followed the stories on this blog, you’ll know we’re now in our fifth week of isolation.

We got caught in Italy when lock-down was announced on 10 March.

Then we witnessed the health crisis unfold in the UK, although we were watching from a distance in our beautiful little corner of Bedfordshire with our friends Andy and Helen who we met through house sitting adventures.

 

Hope and acceptance amidst impossible decisions

We found ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we stayed in the UK, we did have accommodation and I had employment. But, Australia is harder and harder to access now (closed borders, very few international flights in), family is here and we seem less affected by Coronavirus (so far). Is it a better bet? After what we’ve witnessed, we worry that many here are too complacent – that Coronavirus will explode after Easter. I hope that prediction is wrong.

A friend recently gave me some advice about dealing with impossible decisions. She said, “sometimes you just have to make the choice, commit to it and make it work“.

Now that we’re here, we’ll make the best of it, even if ‘it’ means taking things month at a time.

There’s also a school of thought that my friend Leanne (publisher of Get it Magazine) and I have been focusing on. Time is something we have gained through Coronavirus isolation. Read our April Get it e-news for our tips on the ways you can use your time to improve your business and your life 😄

We have to hold onto this 👇

“Now more than ever, hope can actually become our power source.” -Deepak Chopra

 

Finding hope in uncertain (and isolated) times: our fave tools

No matter what’s going on in your life, in the end, hope comes from within. And it’s something we have to practice accessing – we can’t take it for granted. (just like you shouldn’t take your time, fresh air, fresh food, nice bed, and HEALTH for granted – think about that today 🙏).

So, from within the confines of our forced lock-down in Australia, here’s what we’re leaning on:

Hope in Uncertain Times, 21 day meditation experience (FREE on the app at time of publishing)

Gratitude practices

– Yoga – we love Adriene and Benji on YouTube

Home fitness classes including Barre, Pilates and Boxing on Popsugar Fitness TV

– Positive social media, like content coming from pages like this one from our friend Madonna Williams of Zen Soul Life

– Gabby Bernstein’s ‘Miracles Now’ card deck

Finding hope in uncertain times - Gabby Bernstein Miracles Now cards are helping our sanity

Find out more about what we are and importantly, are NOT doing, in this post about managing Coronavirus anxiety.

 

Helpful advice

Throughout this disaster that we know will end, although no end is in sight, I know more than just Cooper and I have retreated ‘home’. A wise friend and lifestyle coach Linda Stewart-Brown, reminded me that going back to your roots isn’t a bad thing, and to not feel like I’m peddling backwards. She says:

There are some things that need clearing up and finalising, in one way or another. Doing this, one step back, as you might see it, also means the next step is definitely forward! A strategic retreat and then transformation and clarification to be able to move ahead more quickly and with greater success. It is difficult to see right now, however, in 18 months, or less, this will all be 20/20 hindsight for which you will be very grateful.

 

I learnt a little something in this mental health and life coaching training too, that talks about a nice evening ritual. The course mentors encourage us to visualise our future at night. If you’ve got a partner, talk about it before bed. No worries if you’re on your own – pull out your journal and write as if you’re in that future moment.

Feel the health, travel, fun, freedom and abundance that’s on the way.

 

We hope you’re doing ok in these uncertain times. Let us know in the comments about your experiences, or find us on social media to say hi. We’re in isolation, after all – happy for your company 😉

And if you have any helpful ideas or resources to share, do feel free to link them below.

Inside our Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine

Inside our Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine

So now we’re caught inside the Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine. Just brilliant 🤨

We were told we’d be better off coming ‘back home’, away from the UK where we’ve been residents for the past six years. They say the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has not yet reached its peak there. So of course we’re better off in Australia, right?

Australia, ‘the land of the free’.

We aren’t so sure.

Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine

A few days before we were set to fly, the Australian government announced what they claim is ‘necessary’ to stop the spread of Coronavirus here. Every international arrival is sent into forced quarantine – somewhere, like maybe a hotel, motel, student accommodation or caravan.

We’ve found it interesting that family and friends think this is fine. No questions asked.

“It’ll probably be a hotel”.

“You’ll be right – it’s meant to be 5-star.”

“I assume you’ll have internet.” [for not just fun, but we work for ourselves!]

Interesting, that so many have an attitude about it being ‘fine’ – as long as we’re back on ‘Aussie soil’.

If only we could touch that soil. If only we could get some fresh air during this Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine. And what is in the food that I’m eating, since I do have allergies?

 

Inside our Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine - is Australia violating human rights by treating recent arrivals worse than prisoners? Our story...

An unacceptable lack of information

This policy rolled-out all too quickly, allegedly because “80% of the Coronavirus cases in Australia have come from abroad”.

Funny, we now know six people in Brisbane who believe they have had Coronavirus (experiencing everything from very mild to very bad symptoms). None of them were tested. One of them had been overseas. Some went to work and grocery shopping across the space of a couple of weeks.

Many countries have already enforced strict ‘stay at home’ policies. That’s absolutely not the case yet in Australia. The response to target incoming travellers would be reasonable, if everyone was treated the same here. It’s not happening – and we know how this works. It’s our third Coronavirus quarantine in five weeks. Aussies have no idea what lock down really means, and consistently disregard the rules.

The government’s response here, typically, is to target anyone stepping off a boat or a plane. Keeping in mind these are all residents – with ‘rights’ – because no one else has been able to enter the country for weeks.

The policy announcements came with zero information on what incoming travellers should expect. On the plane there was no information on what to expect. Brisbane airport was FULL of federal police and the army, to ‘welcome’ a flight of just a few hundred who had boarded internationally. Everyone was silent. We filled in several forms and finally Cooper and I had confirmation that we wouldn’t be separated.

Then we were told to wait:

“…the police will pick you up soon”.

It was about two hours after all passengers had cleared immigration that we were all herded onto a bus. Still no confirmation on what was going on. Everyone diligently packed their suitcases under the bus, boarded, and finally our coach full of masked avengers left… to go somewhere.

Guessing games

After a 25 hour commute of two flights, and a three hour wait at the airport for everyone to be processed, Cooper and I were on the road again. We spotted the exit signs and figured we were headed to the Gold Coast, just over an hour from Brisbane.

Half way down the highway, one poor young woman begged the bus driver to pull over – she was desperate for the loo.

“We weren’t told anything at the airport, I assumed we were staying in Brisbane. I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t desperate – I can’t wait another half hour,” she pleaded.

So, our coach driver flashed his lights in the dark at our police escort in front (I know, really?!), and we were all happy to see that this poor chick wasn’t going to pee herself in the bus!

But that’s how little information we’ve been given. We’ve not even officially been told when check-out is.

Yet, most people we know think this is fine.

If it was your partner or your child in this situation, wouldn’t you want to know what the plan was for them?

Forgive me for being anxious and really pissed off about the whole thing.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of traffic on the road between the Gold Coast and Brisbane on this random Wednesday evening. Who exactly is prioritising staying at home then?

Basic human rights and the Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine

We ended up at the Voco Hotel on the Gold Coast. It’s nice enough and staff are doing their best. The windows don’t open though. And we’re confined in one room for the next 14 days. A legion of police and army were here to escort us to our rooms and ensure we didn’t run. For God’s sake – I would understand why someone would want to. And, we’ve heard reports of solo travellers threatening to self harm because of this isolation experiment.

Plenty of people still out and about in the street though, from what we can see out of our window.

Smokers here in quarantine are allowed to go out on an escorted break for ‘fresh air’. How ironic.

Good time to take up smoking, I’d say.

We’ve read this evening that some people in Sydney even had their room keys taken away from them. What the actual f!ck?

For those of you who say or Tweet, ‘”Oh wow, quit moaning, you get a free two week holiday”, find some empathy. And quit ignorant trolling!

Even if you’re self isolating – as we have been in England following getting caught in Italy’s lock down – we bet you’re in a place with more than one room. You’ve probably got a garden you can go out to, yes? Or a door or window to open for fresh air, right? You can go for a walk and choose the food you want – or need – for your own wellbeing.

Do you suffer asthma from air-conditioning like I do? We’ll be requesting time outside. Let’s see what they say.

Go shut yourself in your bedroom for 14 days, lock the windows and then tell me how reasonable this is. Tell me that’s good for your mental health and physical wellbeing, or that of your kids?

Since when did we become prisoners?

We’re not the only ones picking up on the problem with this rushed-through government policy.

People in forced quarantine around Australia have made the same comments as us: prisoners are allowed exercise and fresh air, why aren’t we?

Most of us aren’t even sick, and don’t have Coronavirus, let alone have criminal convictions.

This BBC video shows another recent arrival to Australia – she highlights really well that a ‘five star’ room isn’t any bigger than your bedroom, and since when should we have our basic rights like moving around (responsibly), fresh air and fresh food taken away in 2020?

What we’d say from this experience is please be careful what you’re consuming from the television and governments. 

THINK about how others are impacted before saying, “you’ll be right”, or posting how great you think a free holiday would be, or how much you love working from home (when you’re not really working from home). Someone you know is having a tough time because of this world crises.

Live from Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine

We’ll do our best, and we’re refocusing every day, using tools like yoga, gratitude and keeping in touch with family and friends. We know this is far from the worst situation anyone could find themselves in, but at this difficult time, we expected more consideration from those in charge.

If you’re struggling with Coronavirus anxiety, especially if you’re travelling or a digital nomad, our key tips on dealing with all of it are here.

We genuinely hope Australia – and the world – can get on top of this quickly, so we can all get on with our lives. But this Coronavirus Australia mandatory quarantine policy for residents entering the country feels very narrow minded, and like something that serves as more of a ‘popular vote’ for the prime minister, than anything that takes proper care of Australian citizens. All of them. Would it not have been cheaper simply to test us for the disease?

 

Latest update

The Australian Red Cross is now involved in liaising with state health bodies, like Queensland Health, to lobby for better conditions for thousands of returning travellers like us. A representative made contact with us yesterday (8 April) on rounds calling all people in hotels on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. They confirmed that there is a serious issue with people not being allowed fresh air, exercise and fresh food. In some cases, the government has been required to make changes at hotels because the food being provided was of ‘unacceptable quality’. Maybe people coming ‘home’ from now on will be housed in accommodation where windows at least open – that would be a good start, and it’s reasonable to expect in Australia.

 

Always happy to hear your stories or perspective though – drop us a line in the comments. And please – wherever you are – stay inside and stop the spread!

 

👉Subscribe on Youtube and Facebook … you don’t want to miss us going live from our ‘free holiday’ 😆

Expat blogger changing tack

Expat blogger changing tack

It’s with a heavy heart that this proud expat blogger writes one of her last posts from our adopted home of England. London has been such a wonderful adventure. It’s not been without ups and downs, laughter, tears and lessons.

But, we’ve lived our motto here: life is about experiences.

Expat blogger – future uncertainty

I had wanted so very much to settle in England. We’ve produced plenty of blogs for expats and travellers here on Travel Live Learn. And as a reader on this site – to you I say thank you 🙏 I am grateful.

As an ‘expert’ expat blogger, I started out getting together guides on living and working in London. Cooper developed our videos too, that showcase fun, travel and tips. We’ve been lucky to be recognised for content on this site with a couple of awards, and have covered wonderful destinations while living over here.

As I look over it all now, I have to admit to fighting back tears. It’s hard to let go of one life and go back to another – or start yet again. That’s risk we take though, forging a space for ourselves in a new country. You either get to stay or one day must leave. But we must not forget: life is about experiences.

Difficult decisions for expats all over the world

We’re at the end of March 2020 and as I type, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the face of the planet. It was completely unexpected, and it certainly is not discriminating in who is impacted. The world has been dealing with this public health crisis since January, although then most people outside of China where the disease originated, never predicted the impact that’s unfolding.

I type this while on ‘self-isolation’ in the English countryside. We were lucky to get out of Italy when things shifted from ‘manageable’ to ‘catastrophic’ overnight on 10 March. Cooper and I found it very difficult to get a flight out to leave.

Just as we made it back to England though, lock-downs and strict measures were imposed. With the threat of airline closures and restricted international flights, it feels like we’re heading back to the days where travel was far less accessible and much more expensive. The UK has already seen one major airline go into receivership over the past week. Which other airlines will follow?

As we come to the end of our work sabbatical which was covered in major media, I fear our story about inspired action is turning into one of retreat, back to ‘our’ official corner of the world. We are set to renew visas for the UK in July, but with so much uncertainty around the future, I am sad to say it seems like that that dream will no longer become a reality. As these shocking events continue to sweep the globe, I doubt very much we are the only travellers, digital nomads and expats forced to reconsider our paths. Borders are closing. People are worried. The tourism industry and way we travel will look different on the other side.

Expat blogger changing tack - leaving England our home - how does it feel to leave somewhere you love behind

How it feels to leave ‘home’

As I type this I remember the little things about life in the UK. Old church bells chiming. Work bus commutes when I’d to listen to new music that would become the soundtrack to special moments. My favourite walk around London Fields where I’d feel so happy sometimes I’d almost burst. Dog spotting on the tube; identifying wonderful old buildings amongst innovative new ones. Swifty at Wembley! Swifty at BST Hyde Park, for that matter 💕

I remember ‘stairwell lunches’ with my friends when we’d laugh so much and be told off for being too jovial; and impromptu after-work pub runs that would last ’til 11:30pm mid-week, with the sun just down not long before that. Just ‘popping over’ to France, or Spain, or Italy on the train or plane. Pride, festivals, fairy lights and Christmas markets, dining in igloos by the Thames, fireworks night, bank holidays spent in the park and at the loveliest markets in the world.

Only in London.

There were moments I helped people get through tough times. They became my good friends. And other times when people here would show up for me, just as I needed them. I call them too, my best friends. Sunny park days in summer – oh the joy of sunshine 😀! And snow days of course – always gleeful for an Aussie in London. We made a mark, got a special invite to Buckingham Palace, covered royal weddings, and mostly just enjoyed life in the big, mad, historical, beautiful, wonderful city that London is. I’m sad [understatement] to leave. This has been our home. It is a home of ours.

But after six years, and because of this pandemic and situation, the best version of a ‘goodbye’ we could do with all our friends – our UK family – was on WhatsApp.

What to do when the world is ending

Maybe a bit dramatic, but you’d agree if you saw Heathrow as we did today – like an eerie mall, all closed down, lifeless – another planet. As an expat blogger who now needs to find a new niche and start another life, you get where I’m coming from, I hope. Everyone has been impacted by this, and will be for months, if not years to come.

But we’ve been hit hard.

Our life as we embraced it was ripped away today.

We’re working on new projects already though, like this venture into wellness travel (podcast launching soon); but when can those who value travel, safely and freely travel again?

We left here once before and I consoled myself with the idea of bringing adventure back home. I’d spoken to another expat friend too and discovered there is a mourning process around leaving somewhere you love, somewhere you’ve invested heart and soul into. Having two homes – I’ve always maintained – is a blessing and a curse.

Is Coronavirus impacting your plans as a digital nomad, expat or traveller - read about how we're approaching it

Coming to terms with change

This time when we leave the UK, I don’t know, maybe it’s for good? That’s not how we feel right now though. This is a ‘trial’ separation 😉

Are we really better off ‘at home’ in Australia? The government certainly isn’t treating us as equals.

We know we’re lucky to have options, and family and friends who are happy to see us (and we to see them). But, I’m only at a ‘2’ on the change curve, which you can probably guess from the tone of this post – in a state of disruption I’m feeling anger and fear.

We’ve had a hell of a ride the past few weeks, and use every moment as an opportunity to try and choose our thoughts again.

👉We’ll continue to seek hope in uncertain times 💕

 

It all goes too quickly, is the old lesson. Wasn’t it just yesterday we arrived back mid-2014, to pick up where we left off in 2011? Isn’t it all so delicate, just hanging by a thin thread that can break at any time. Like now.

If you’re impacted by the fallout of borders closing or difficult circumstances brought about by being based in another country, being a digital nomad, or the change that’s been thrust upon you now, let us know about your experience in the comments. We’d also love for you to join us in our Facebook group – come say hi today!

 

Why now is your time to live abroad and travel

Why now is your time to live abroad and travel

A few years ago I compiled this interesting set of interviews for a national women’s magazine in Australia, on when in life is the best time to live abroad and travel. I had the opportunity to chat with some inspiring women over 30 years old, who had decided to take a ‘late gap-year’ – that is, a year to live and work abroad (despite the expectation that a ‘gap year’ is only for under 25s).

Unfortunately, the editorial team at the magazine changed direction during a new year restructure, so this feature never saw the light of day. But, as it’s becoming more and more common to ditch the early backpacker years to develop a career, and then take a ‘risk’ on a life far away from home ‘later’ in life, I’ve decided to dust off this piece in the hope it inspires one more of you to take the plunge this year!


The great (late) gap-year debate.

Why now is your time to live abroad and travel

Would you press ‘pause’ on life in order to head overseas? Four women talk to Sarah Blinco about the risks and gains associated with taking time out for a mid-career ‘gap year’.

A few years back I could think of nothing else but going to live abroad. I felt like I’d missed my chance, entirely career-driven throughout my twenties. Finally I’d reached a horrible point where I felt like I was ‘too old’ to follow a dream. When fate presented an opportunity to move to London, I just scraped in securing a British work visa by age 31. I couldn’t believe what was happening – a chance to live and work overseas, just when I thought it had slipped away. Why then, on my way to London, did I sit fighting back tears, panicking, thinking, ‘what have I done’?

I’d packed all my worldly belongings into the required 20kg checked luggage, said goodbye to family, friends and dog (utterly awful), and was on my way to Britain. No job, no home, no friends. It had only dawned on me that making the decision to leave life as I knew it behind to experience some kind of Eat Pray Love dream was probably the easy (or perhaps stupid?) part. I was doing my utmost to contain my freak-out so that fellow passengers wouldn’t get the wrong idea!

Spinning in my mind were questions like what if some of those loved ones aren’t around when I return? Will I adjust abroad? What if a job isn’t here for me when I come home? Will all my friends be married with kids when I get back? Will I be completely out of the loop? What was I thinking?

If the numbers of older professional Australians working and residing in cities like London, Dubai or New York are anything to go by, women are evidently getting over these fears (as I quickly did) and letting go of safety nets in order to embark upon a ‘contemporary gap year’ – that is, choosing to take a mid-career pause to travel and develop international skills.

In fact, a recent Wanderlust travel survey found that over 50 per cent of respondents thought that taking a gap year for the ‘big trip’ of a lifetime mid-career was actually the best time to go, above post-university, after having children, and retirement.

Taking my homeland, Australia, as an example too, in 2012 there were over eight million overseas departures, and of that number, 372,200 left with the intention of going ‘for good’. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) anticipates that around 80,000 of those Aussies will see the dream realised, starting a new life abroad. Australian Department of Immigration statistics share that 66.1 per cent of this 80,000 departing permanently were in employment prior to leaving, and 25.5 per cent – the largest group, were professional adults, 25 to 39 years old (almost even between women and men); highly skilled and well educated, and increasingly mobile, moving between Australia and other countries as career and life chances appear.

Sarah Blinco Stonehenge England

The concept is undoubtedly exciting, especially to career-minded women who missed a chance to travel earlier. However, when an adult gap year becomes reality and with seemingly more at stake the older we are, is the experience worth the worries associated with putting ‘real life’ on hold?

Teaching in the Middle East

Hannah Wallis, a teacher and education recruitment consultant, admits to a panic attack mid-flight to her new life over such a decision. “I was 30-years-old and chose to move to Jordan following an invitation I’d received to teach there. I had never been to the Middle East and I was really interested in going somewhere that my friends had never tried”. Hannah says the biggest risk to her was leaving a happy life behind in Australia. “I was worried about hating it in Jordan, but it wasn’t until I actually got on the plane that I panicked.”

A gap year involves starting again on one level or another (new home, job, friends, routine…), and obviously for Hannah these issues were magnified. “I arrived in the capital city at midnight… was raced through the airport and taken to a hotel that was in the middle of the desert. I thought this is crazy, what I am I doing? It was like landing on the moon… I was taken to a medical centre where I had a needle stuck in my arm. I wasn’t put in a chair or anything, just jabbed. It was very scary”.

Hannah lived and worked in Jordan for two years. “The first year was good because it was all new to me. The difference in culture is difficult; I was ready to come home at the end of my contract”. She adds that she doesn’t regret the experience and might consider a future gap year teaching in Asia, however Hannah maintains that taking time abroad in your twenties is preferable. “You’re less mouldable [in your thirties]. You know your own limits a bit more but that’s not to say you don’t know them in your twenties. I think it’s easier to go with the flow when you’re younger. Also, when you come back home when you’re 25 for example, you still have time to kick around for a bit; but when you come back in your thirties you have to be serious. Everyone expects you to settle down.

It’s harder to secure visas when you’re over 30, and there does inevitably come a point where you question whether you’re prepared to start again”.

Setting up fresh in Hong Kong

“Is it brave or stupid to take a late gap year?” Sydneysider Fleur Filmer, Startup and business growth specialist, and Managing Director of Lulu and I.com, laughs heartily at the question.

Only a clinically insane person would do what I did – going to Hong Kong, one of the most expensive places in the world, on my own at 35, with no job but yes, I’m very happy for the experience!”

Fleur decided that she wanted to do something totally different with her life and thought that a gap year would broaden her horizons.

“This incredible opportunity presented itself when I was 35 and it’s honestly been one of the best decisions I ever made. My family was shocked – I’d never flown the coup before! They didn’t expect something like this from ‘professional, ‘responsible’ me, but they thought it was courageous… It wasn’t until I’d set up my apartment in Hong Kong and the shipping container with all my belongings was on the sea that I thought, ‘wow, I must be nuts’; I felt empowered though – I’m the only person I know who has ever moved to another country without a job, but I went out, sought advice, started my own business in Hong Kong and the whole thing just felt right”.

Fleur attributes her positive experience to the fact she was older. “You face things with a different head on your shoulders once you’re out of your twenties. Financial security is also a big thing for this version of a gap year. You can experience another culture and not have to slum it. If I’d done this when I was 21 I wouldn’t have appreciated it… I wouldn’t have had the ability to understand how awesome the opportunity to take a gap year is. My experience taught me that if you follow dreams there will be lots of rocky things happen along the way, but if you stick to your guns you’ll get there. This is exactly what I’ve done and now I have devised my absolute dream business in Australia – I owe it all to my gap year in Hong Kong”.

Falling for Paris

Sydney-based book editor, Desanka Vukelich, agrees that an older gap year has improved her confidence. “It’s most certainly a brave thing to do, taking a gap year when you’re mid-career. The experience has helped me to have the courage to know I can do anything”.

In 2008 at the age of 30, Desanka left a prestigious job as an in-house editor and moved to Paris for a year. She explains, “I knew I wanted to travel and work overseas but mostly in my twenties I was shy and wasn’t ready for the adventure”.

The critical risks to Desanka were employment, and pride. “I was really scared of failing in the respect that I wouldn’t get a job in Paris, and that I’d have to turn around and come back with my tail between my legs. My cousin inspired me by reminding me that I’d never failed at anything I’d tried before, so why should this be different? This gave me the confidence to stop worrying about home safety nets and just get on with my dream”.

Desanka, like Fleur, insists that ‘gut instincts’ played an integral role in overcoming concerns relating to this type of ‘controversial’ life move.

“The period before I left for Paris was definitely a confirmation of the fact I was doing the right thing. It was a very positive time. For me the gap year later in life was worthwhile because I simply had more wisdom than I did in my twenties… I now maintain my own successful business thanks to inspiration and lessons from my time overseas that I couldn’t have gained at home.

Too often we get caught up in worries that turn out to be unnecessary, like what people expect us to do – I feel it’s not a sufficient way to live. I understand that not everyone has the option though, and it’s difficult when people feel obliged to others or even themselves to do certain things. The overriding lesson for me though, is that the risks are worth it and I now live following my heart and instincts. I found work, everything was the same in Australia when I got back, but I had a life changing experience in Paris, it was home”.

There’s no place like London

Katrina Dudley, a marketing professional from the Gold Coast says that she stands testament to the fact that age is advantageous when dealing with challenges associated with a new life elsewhere.

“When I was 19 I moved to Tokyo to live, but stayed for three weeks and had to come home because I was too overwhelmed. My biggest fear ten years later however, was that I wouldn’t have the chance to take this gap year. I was running out of time to secure the working visa and was keen to accept an opportunity in England”.

The British gap year option for Katrina wasn’t about taking a break from her career but was more about adding to her skill set. “There was some resistance. My parents hated to see me leave. They queried why I would want to go when I had a mortgage, a good job and would have to come back and start again, but a large part of me knew it would be worth the risk. My career was in full swing but I had to follow my dream and I was fortunate to be presented with amazing opportunities in London… Now I am in Australia I see how easily you can slip back into life. I think people are concerned that they will come back to nothing, but it’s all the same.

If anything, employers love the fact that you have broadened your horizons, experience and skills”.

Is an adult gap year brave or stupid? Katrina replies, “In my experience it’s not stupid at all. I think it is a shame that people don’t step outside their comfort zone… When you’re younger a year away is a bit more like an extended holiday; when I lived in London it was ‘real life’. All the risks that seem like issues before you leave home turn out to be inconsequential. In the UK had a network of friends, a responsible job, annual leave. Other people find love and their dream jobs overseas! It is also easier when you’re older and have a well paid career – you appreciate it all differently and have money to do many amazing things… I would definitely consider another gap year. I think it would be brilliant to move to Mexico one day, work remotely on my laptop and learn Spanish”.

When is the best time to live abroad and travel?

Tracey Batty, CEO of Pure Professional Recruitment encounters many considering the ‘contemporary gap year’: “Working offshore is a great thing to do but my advice is to be very clear about what you want to achieve. Build your ‘gap year’ around goals for the year, whether they are to explore, improve career marketability, to make money or to find your passion”.

Primary concerns

  • Not ‘settling down’ and buying a house.
  • Missing out on home front career opportunities.
  • Not being taken seriously / finding employment abroad.
  • Criticism for being ‘irresponsible’; also missing friends and family. Tracey adds, “remember though, twelve months is not a lifetime”.

Worth the risks

  • Increased confidence, professional and personal growth.
  • Finding love, inspiration or adventure abroad.
  • A professional / marketable skill is advantageous in most ‘adult gap year’ cases, improving financial and job security. Tracey notes, “look for international transfers or secondments within your organisation – you may be surprised what you find when you speak to HR or a recruitment company”.
  • It’s now acceptable to not be restricted by antiquated age stereotypes.

For me, I ended up returning for a second time, and am generally happier for the experience (at least for now!). What are your thoughts on the best time to live abroad and travel? Please let us know in the comments below. Similarly, any questions, please ask.

Re-edited in 2015, original interviews prepared in 2012.
How to cope with the goodbyes that matter

How to cope with the goodbyes that matter

“Rip it off like a band-aid,” I said.
“What?” Replied my brother.
“Rip it off like a band-aid,” I repeated, “You know, make it quick.”
“Oh, right,” he answered.

I was referring, of course, to our final goodbyes – the worst and only bad part about leaving one home to go and live in another that just happens to be far across the seas. I once had a conversation with a friend of mine, Melissa, who loves the UK like I do. We only wish England and Australia were closer. Yes, theoretically it’s only a flight away, but it’s a big one, and in some instances seems rather too long, tiring and expensive. Of course, these aren’t points I bring up when trying to make my mum feel better about me leaving, or things I dwell on when I’m sad about leaving my loved ones and my dog.

This past week was lovely but quite draining. If I could leave without saying goodbye to anyone I would. Not because I’m heartless and rude – the opposite in fact. I don’t like goodbyes and really didn’t know how it would all end.

Last time around I left with a heavy heart and eyes overflowing with tears. It’s not that I didn’t feel the same this time, but I discovered the way to deal with such situations – humour. I can thank my brother for that. I’d spent weeks worrying about final goodbyes with some of my best friends and my lovely mum-in-law, sisters-in-law and of course my immediate family. On the Gold Coast though, my time with good friends was spent laughing, not being sad. And at home with mum in Brisbane, Josh, my brother, simply turned potentially teary moments into funny ones. Like when my mum started to get upset over a lunch, instead of telling her to turn off the tears (the only tactic I know!), he made a reference to the “Last Supper”, and then we were laughing.

Leading up to my departure too, we had a terrific dinner at a fab Japanese Izakaya restaurant called Wagaya, which was filled with laughter and bubbles (champagne, that is – my idea, of course). We transformed trembling lips into fun moments, and instead of “consoling ourselves” about the end of things as they are, we planned for the future and talked about all the good things we’ll do together.

We reached the train station with only a few minutes to spare, which was ideal because there wasn’t time to get too upset. Hug it out, wipe away tears and bid a quick farewell. Rip it off like a band-aid. It’s just easier that way, in my opinion.

3 lessons I’ve learned on how to cope with the goodbyes that matter

1. Don’t dwell on the negative or on being sad. You can end up in that space for hours, and to what end?

2. Love and laughter are the answer – laughing trumps tears every time.

3. Drink champagne and celebrate all the things you have to be grateful for and happy about. Life is an adventure – always drink to that.

On a final note though, I’ve realised something else important – that I’m lucky to have even one person, let alone a few, who would shed a tear about me not being closer by, just as I shed a broken-hearted tear (or rather, several) over having to leave my dog behind. Is that really how my mum feels? It’s traumatising, but that’s a whole other post, unless I take my own advice written down here.

Fellow expats – what’s your experience saying goodbye? Do you have tips to share for those who are leaving and/or those that stay behind?