What is so special about 10 years? A lot can happen in 10 years – births, deaths, marriages. The date 12 May will always be imprinted in my mind because it’s the date I set off into the unknown. I left behind all that was familiar and moved clear across the other side of the world.
10 years. It doesn’t feel like 10 years. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. Sometimes it feels like a dream. Sometimes I look back and wonder “Wow. Did I really do that?”
And I guess the big question is why? Why did I do that? I have my big sister to thank for the idea. I was unhappy in my job (almost floundering I guess you could say). Big sis had been invited to a wedding in the States and asked me to travel with her. That would have been awesome…and then she suggested I keep travelling over to England and live there for a while.
The thought was in my head and wouldn’t get out. Could I do it? Could I give up everything to make a go in a new country? Of course I could. Anyone can do anything they want when they put their minds to it. Did I want to? I did, I really did. Did I feel comfortable doing it? Heck, no.
But…the seed had been planted and once there it would not go away. The trip to the States fell through so it was straight to England for me instead. So, I scrimped and saved. I got my passport renewed. I was lucky enough to have a grandparent who had been born in England, so I was eligible for the ancestry visa. This gave me four years with no restrictions, as opposed to the two year working holiday visa.
Planning started to fall into place. I joined one of those International Exchange programs, who organised my accommodation for me for the first few nights. That was one less stress on my hands. I had my important documents – passport, visa, one-way ticket (eek!).
Why did I choose May? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it was to make sure I had enough money saved to make a go of it until I found a job. Maybe I just pulled it out of the hat randomly.
The day got closer and closer. I had finished up work at the start of April. I moved out of my flat not long after (I loved that place) and went back to Portland to spend the last couple of weeks with my parents. I was getting more and more nervous. I knew some people would wonder if I would make it. I wasn’t known for taking risks (still not really…). I had people trying to tell me horror stories – acquaintances they knew who ran out of money because they couldn’t find jobs.
It didn’t deter me. I wouldn’t let it deter me. I would make it work and I would enjoy it. If I only lasted three months so be it but at least I tried. It actually helped that a really good friend from high school was going to join me a few weeks after I arrived. At least I would know one person.
My parents and I headed back to Melbourne a few days before departure. Big Sis had arranged a farewell dinner for me. I thought it was only going to be family but she had arranged for some close friends to be there as well.
Finally the big day was here. I was nervous. I was excited. I was s***-scared! But I was determined. I was going on an adventure! I had my parents, sister and grandmother there to farewell me. My parents even stayed at the airport to take a photo of my plane departing. In fact, my father documented the whole departure as can be seen in the following photos!
The flights were long. I flew to London via Bangkok and Frankfurt. I almost missed my connection in Frankfurt because it took me the longest time to work out I had to change terminals.
I finally landed in London on 13 May, which was also my parents’ wedding anniversary. The exchange program, when organising my accommodation, had organised a transfer from the airport so that was one less thing to worry about. I got to the hostel, checked in and then stepped outside to go exploring…and it started raining.
Welcome to London. Enjoy your stay.
I will write more about my experiences in the future but I will finish by saying this…
I thought I would last three months. I lasted almost three and a half years. It has been the most rewarding thing I have done in my life and it now seems almost a dream.
If you dream it, you can achieve it. If you are contemplating a similar adventure, and you’re not 100% sure I say go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? You get to see a bit of the world? Good on you.