Monday, July 19, 2010

Moving Countries in Midlife

At midlife, with kids grown up and flown the nest, it is hard to make a major life change. But for me, it was harder NOT to, harder to be stuck in a rut, harder to stagnant. My once-flourishing career and fulfilling lifestyle had hit a dead end.

Our family had lived and thrived on the idyllic, sub-tropical Sunshine Coast in Queensland for 18 years. We had raised our kids in the laid-back beach culture. I had enjoyed an active role in the community as a journalist with the Sunshine Coast Daily, survived a high profile term on council and run a counselling practice.

I was proud I’d made a contribution but had to face the fact I’d exhausted my career opportunities and felt like a frustrated gold fish swimming in futile circles in a fish bowl, yearning to leap into a bigger pond.

I was gripped with the gut feeling I’d run my course in the Land Down Under and it was time to move on to new challenges and satisfy the longing to live ‘overseas’.

Moving countries is no mean feat. It requires a massive dose of motivation, which can only be driven by extreme optimism.

In seizing the courage to migrate, I didn’t need criticism. I needed the unconditional encouragement of a cheer squad. I did have a few supporters, including my mum, whom, despite how tough it was for her to be left behind, unselfishly encouraged me to pursue the dream I’d postponed for 30 years.

My mother remembers me in my early 20s, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cadet reporter, with a dream to jump on a plane for Fleet Street, having embraced the original Lois Lane as my childhood role model.

I would rush home from school every afternoon to watch Superman; not for the heroics of the man of steel but for thrilling exploits of that feisty newspaperwoman. My plan took a long and winding detour due to family tragedy when my brother was killed in a car crash. So mum, of all people, knew the unfinished business in my heart.

However it seemed almost everyone else had a cautionary opinion. Friends warned us against the bleak English winters and implored, in universal disbelief, “How could you leave the sunshine?” Some insinuated it was almost disloyal to want to live in another country.

The truth is I found the sweltering humidity unbearable. I would pour with sweat in a frenzy of menopausal madness 24/7. My only respite was hiding at home in the air conditioning and when forced to venture out in my car, it was like driving in a mobile sauna!

And what about the legendary English winter? Here is a confession. After years of humidity and wearing sandals and singlets, I actually enjoyed rugging up in boots and jackets and the bracing sensation of chill on my cheeks! To see a blanket of pristine snow cover our own little backyard was a thrill!

And now it is summer and light until 10pm. Many Aussies don’t know about the beautiful English summers when dappled sunshine is like a gentle embrace on evening strolls in the park and magical nights in the city. They haven’t tasted the succulent raspberries and cherries from Kent!

I love experiencing four distinct seasons, seeing gardens explode with pretty flowerbeds in spring and crunching leaves underfoot in autumn.

What about our careers? As a journalist seeking fresh stories and meaningful causes to champion, being based in the UK has opened up unlimited possibilities. And Andrew’s business is thriving.

I felt isolated in far-flung Australia and nursed a dull ache from the tyranny of distance. At this mature stage of life, I want to fully participate in global issues.

After a hectic year living in London, I’ve discovered a real love of city life and culture, the fabulous concerts and shows, museums and galleries, buzzing street activities, festivals and attractions. We enjoy the multi-cultural mix of people and delight in riding the Tube and local buses. Public transport is still a novelty!

We relish exploring the genteel English countryside and quaint villages. Our roots are English, Irish and Scottish. After decades in exile, we have reclaimed our heritage. We are also keen to travel widely and Heathrow is an ideal launching pad to Europe and exotic destinations.

Our move has opened up a rich and fascinating lifestyle where we can continue to learn and grow, not wind down and retire. It’s challenging some days to muster the energy but I’d rather jump on a train than plonk on the sofa.

It is a bonus that our two adult children are living in London. They moved here first, blazing the trail. We are re-united as a family unit and have recreated a stable home base for our 'kids' and young travellers.

Some city-jaded, bone-chilled Brits might yearn to swelter in the distant tropics, frolic on sun-scorched sand and feel the rush of wild surf. Personally I have seen enough beaches to last a lifetime.

So we have left a spacious new home on the other side of the planet and I am sitting here at my desk in my cosy loft in West London and couldn’t be happier. Making a major change at midlife is not easy but it opens up an exhilarating vista of surprises.


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  2. Having moved to Australia from England, back to the Uk and then back AGAIN to Australia your blog really resonated with me. You have reflected my thoughts, feelings and emotions so vividly. I want to jump back on a plane to England tomorrow!!

  3. you could have experienced four seasons in one day in Melbourne. m.l.

  4. Love it. Great story and looking forward to more.

  5. Beautifully written and wonderfully heartfelt! My heart leapt to the visions as one who has lived 20 years on the Sunshine Coast and feel I have explored it's options and long for other experiences! Love that you are doing it and will enjoy your Midlife Matters

  6. Absolutely love it! Captures London life in a beautiful way. Can't wait for the next post. XX

  7. I'm really enjoying the posts, Diane. Even though some of our experiences are different, I find there's a common bond and understanding between mothers who've gone through the various stages of bearing children, nurturing them and letting them go. And now we're in the Age of Miracles as Marianne Williamson calls it where it's our turn once more to "do our own thing" and sometimes even for our children to take the role of Advisers and Supporters.

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  9. Thank you for all your thoughtful comments and I am glad to know our journey has resonated with others who move back and forth across the Pacific, torn between the UK and Australia.
    I just re-read my own blog after a few years since I first wrote it. We are now living in Kent, the Garden of England, and have just endured a very cold January with several days of heavy snow. I loved seeing the soft white carpet draped over the countryside! Today the sun is shining and the promise of Spring and a new carpet of daffodils and bluebells promises to adorn the surrounding woodlands.
    We have absolutely no regrets about our move. There are still so many possibilities for travelling over the next 10 to 20 years! Feeling grateful, feeling blessed.