When there is a death at home and you are living abroad

It’s something most expats don’t even consider when planning to move abroad and hopefully for most it doesn’t occur. However if you end up living abroad for an extended amount of time you have to be ready as it may just happen.

For me it’s happened twice. Both sudden. Both dearly loved family members. Both heartbreakingly sad.

Being on the other side of the world has this strange way of making you feel like time stands still at home. You know it doesn’t but you experience this odd disconnect with the daily life of home that sadly you are just not a part of now. So when a situation like this occurs it almost doesn’t feel real. It’s like a bad dream. One that you can’t wake up from.

Both times I got the phone call whilst at work surrounded by people in my new life that didn’t know my family, didn’t know my relationships with those dear to me, that I didn’t feel I could talk to about what had happened at home. In that moment you already feel alone but feeling alone in your grief on the other side of the world is a whole different kettle of fish. Thankfully I have an amazing partner and the very best friends and family both here and at home that I could lean on. But I couldn’t imagine if I was somewhere where I didn’t have that.

The decision to go home for me was always an easy one. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to support them and wanted to say my own goodbyes. I was lucky enough to have a manager who understood this and gave me the time off, I had my emergency fund for a flight home and a family who knew however much they told me not to come that I wouldn’t listen. One thing I would say is to not just go home for the funeral try and stay longer as this is when people need it the most and when you need it. Once the dust of the funeral settles and everyone starts going back to normal life is actually when your family most need the support.

It’s hard posting about a topic like this as it’s so deeply personal and everyone deals with grief in different ways. That said it’s a fact of expat life and if this helps someone in a similar situation then it was worth it. If you are reading this while in this unfortunate situation then here are a few things to remember ..

Its ok if you can’t make it home to say goodbye or for the funeral.

Your first reaction is always going to be to get straight to the airport to get home.  But what if you can’t get the time off work as you’ll likely need a week or two to get back home. What if you can’t afford it? What if the funeral is straight away and you’ve not got the time to get back. These are all very real situations and as much as you desperately want to be there you might just not be able to. And that sucks and as much as it will hurt remember it is ok if you can’t make it back. Your family will understand and to be honest they will likely tell you not to come back (numerous times!). If you can’t get back then make peace with the decision and don’t be too hard on yourself. Trying to get back at a later stage will mean just as much as if you flew out straight away.

The world isn’t that big

It’s really not. It will feel massive and the distance between you and home will feel like it will take an eternity to get back. For most places, it will take no more than 2 days to get back. If you are able to get home then you’ve got flights ahead of you which will be the hardest flights you’ll ever have to take. All these people around you excited about their holidays and your in a weird limbo of being happy that you will soon be with the family and sad that you didn’t want to go home in these situations. The time on the plane will give you the chance to reflect and reminisce and once you’ll step off it will feel like it took no time at all getting back.

To think about having an emergency fund

I’ve always tried to make sure I always have enough money in my account just in case I need to go home. It’s worth it sometimes just putting a little extra away each month so if the time comes when you need to decide if you’re going home that you can afford it.

To rely on your network both here and at home

Talk, reminisce, cry, shout, laugh, sob, whatever you do just make sure you get it out. You have family and friends that love you and that want to help you through this sad time. If you are abroad and haven’t yet made your network then call home. We are fortunate enough to live in an era where you can facetime/skype/call over the internet without the extortionate prices. Speaking to friends and family will be the comfort blanket you need at this time.

That the pain will be intensified but it will subside

When you first get the phone call. It breaks you. It’s a hard enough to have the phone call when you are in the same country but when abroad it’s intensified tenfold. You just have to ride through it and know it’s all part of the grief process. Just trust me the pain subsides. Eventually.

That time heals

It’s the oldest cliche in the book but it’s true. Whoever has passed would not want you giving up on the experiences you initially set out to have. So try to not let the sadness take over. Every day will get easier and just by moving forward every day and by taking in every new experience will help. Enjoy it for them as much as you need to enjoy it for yourself. Make the most of your life and just be thankful that they encouraged you to travel, inspired you to look for the best in life and that they helped make you the person you are today.

At the end of the day, you need to follow your heart, enjoy your memories and be there for those you love. Death is a part of life and there isn’t anything we can do to stop it whether we are back in our home countries or in our new countries. If you have any other advice to impart or want to share your story please do leave a comment below.

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

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Travel, Love and Weddings- Planning a wedding with someone from another country

So what happens when you meet the ‘one’ when you’re on your travels?

Obvs take them home and marry them of course. And that is exactly what my sister did.

My middle sister moved to the UK a few years ago and while here she found her ‘one’.  She’s not like me we always knew her time in the U.K. would be for a few years and that she would eventually return. I, on the other hand, have dug my heels in and now drink so much tea and eat copious amounts of Yorkshire puddings that I’m practically British. But she was always going to go back and when they decided to move to Australia my brother in law made the decision to move without him even ever stepping foot on Aussie soil. They were (and still are) crazy in love.

Their love began and grew in Birmingham, they were engaged in Canberra and then the wedding planning began. Where, when, how? Two nationalities and cultures to come together in one place. Would it work? Would people travel wherever they ended up marrying? So many questions and things to consider that normal couples don’t need to think about.  My sister, however, is the super organised one of the family so we knew she would have it sorted before anyone could even ask when’s the wedding.

They married in Australia just near our hometown and had their wedding at a family friends property. We all stayed onsite in cabins and the ceremony was on the lawn with a marquee for the wedding breakfast. I wasn’t at all surprised that the wedding was in Australia but what I did like is how the celebration gave a nod to both cultures. The bridal party had both Aussies and Brits included on both sides. The night before the wedding and breakfast after we all had meals together so that everyone could get to know each other. The favours were a milo sachet and a Yorkshire gold tea bag and the games on the lawn while they were off having photos felt like a British afternoon garden party. The bouquets included my sister’s favourite native flowers and the groom and groomsmen’s suits all came from the UK.

It was a wonderful day and I’d always wondered how they decided and planned the wedding across the two countries so my sister kindly answered some questions and shared her wisdom below in case there is anyone else out there planning a wedding for two different nationalities.

How did you decide where to get married?

It was a really easy decision to get married in Australia. I’m not sure I even thought of getting married in the UK! It just made sense for it to be Australia as that’s where we are living. The main difficulty was choosing where in Australia to get married. We looked at venues near my grandparents’ house on the south coast and also my hometown. We ended up getting married in my hometown as it was easier, cheaper and my parents were there to handle some of the tedious bits of planning.

Was it a hard decision?

Nope! Well not for me! Luckily Ben is pretty easy going. I think it was easy for Ben once people said they would travel over (we had 67 adults attend the wedding and almost 20 came from overseas).

Did it affect the type of wedding that you had?

Not overly but it did impact on what we had to consider. We ended up getting married in my hometown in the middle of nowhere. There is no public transport to the town and there is no public transport to get around the town either. So everyone had to drive and to make it easy, we ended up with a venue that had enough accommodation on site for everyone to stay. It made the whole weekend like a massive family reunion/party.

What was the best part of getting married in Australia?

For me, it was having most of my family attend, including grandparents and cousins. On the other hand, Ben only had his mum, dad, step mum and step brother from his family attend. Plus we had the perfect spring day with lovely weather. Not sure we could have guaranteed that in the UK!

What was the hardest part of getting married in Australia?

Having friends and family who couldn’t attend, especially Ben’s sister and her children. However, we did travel to the UK a few months before our wedding to attend Ben’s sister’s wedding and we at least got to see all the family then. We also had a bridesmaid and groomsman who weren’t able to come over which was sad as we would have loved them to share our special day.

If you had married in England how do you think it would have been different?

It wouldn’t have an outside wedding – you just can’t risk it! I’m not sure it would have been so relaxed. We got married on a private property in the middle of nowhere and everyone could stumble to their room when they were done for the night. There was no one to complain about noise so those who wanted to could keep the party going to 2 am. We also had to provide our own alcohol so that kept costs down.

Where did you have your hen party? Stag party?

We had several! While we were in the UK in August, Ben had a week in a caravan in Wales with his best mates and I had a day out with my girlfriends at an inflatable park. Back in Australia, I had high tea and cocktails in Canberra and Ben had a night out. Plus I had a weekend in my hometown with my mum and two bridesmaids for the wedding trials.

How was it planning across the two countries?

It wasn’t too bad, as we didn’t really need to do much planning for the UK. Ben bought his suits (and the groomsmen’s) while in the UK but everything else was pretty much done in Australia. The only extra planning was organising things to do with our visitors. We spent a week before the wedding in Sydney with friends and family from the UK and after the wedding, we went to Jervis Bay and the Gold Coast. I organised the accommodation and travel which added a lot of planning.

Did you have to plan more than you expected to?

I’m often the organiser of a lot of things so I assumed I would end up planning a lot of things (including the travel above) so that wasn’t unexpected. One of the things I didn’t factor in was how to assign cabins to the wedding guests. The cabins had shared bathrooms and kitchens for 8-10 people. It was hard working out the different groups and who would be compatible to share.

How did you include your different heritages in your ceremony?

Luckily, English and Australian cultures are pretty similar (especially as my grandmother was born in England) so there wasn’t much we needed to bridge in that regard. We just worked with our celebrant to plan a ceremony that worked for us and reflected our relationship.

What (if anything) would you do differently?

It was a perfect day – I wouldn’t change a thing….except for the hair drama. Oh, and I maybe I would have finished my master’s thesis before the wedding.

Top tips to any other mixed national couples planning to get married?

I’m not sure how useful any advice I have would be for couples that have vastly different cultural backgrounds. I just think that you and your partner need to remember that it’s your day and so long as the two of you are happy, nothing else matters.

Those that are familiar with this blog or Deb’s World will be aware that our family loves to travel and I love how this has been a factor in both my sister’s weddings. From my middle sister above meeting her husband aboard and planning a cross-national wedding to my baby sister initially planning an elopement to Fiji but then deciding they wanted the immediate family with them so turned into a wedding abroad. We like to keep things interesting.  A huge thank you to my middle sister for getting involved in this post and keep your eyes peeled as my baby sister is also getting involved so a post on planning a wedding abroad will be up shortly.

As my dad keeps saying 2 down 1 to go. No pressure then!

Maybe one day you’ll get 3 out of 3 Pappa.

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An Aussie living in the UK. Not quite the cliche you would expect

The Wandering Darlings- how I ended up in the ukAn Aussie living in the UK. Pretty cliched really, however, the story of what got me here isn’t your run of the mill gap year tale.

I’ve now spent a 3rd of my life living in England and to be honest I’m really not sure when or if I’ll be heading back to my island home anytime soon. Over the years I could have racked up some pretty good frequent flyer miles but alas foresight wasn’t my strong suit. I’ve flown backwards and forwards from Australia to England almost 20 times.

Most Aussie’s will venture to the UK as part of a gap year before Uni or for a year out after Uni to enjoy the last of their freedom before a working career prevails. It’s the perfect base to explore Europe, live in London, try and meet the Royal Family and wind up some poms about the cricket. Usually, the time living in the UK lasts for 2 year which is the common visa length, however, some just end up embracing the grey dreary weather and the way of life and stick around for a bit longer. This is me.

The most common question I have been asked (and still get asked) is ‘Why are you here when you could be in Australia’ and it’s a fair question Australia is paradise but the real answer is-  I was always meant to end up here.

So I promised above that mine isn’t your run of the mill moving abroad story so hold onto your hats here it comes…

When I was young (much younger) my parents took part in an international teacher’s exchange which meant that they swapped jobs, cars, houses and lives with a family in England. They went to our small town in the Snowy Mountains in NSW and we came to their home in Somerset in the South West of England for a whole year and here is the kicker- this is where I now live- in that very same village. Some 25 years later.

I was 10 years old and my life’s path was in motion and I had no idea.

My sisters and I went to school, we made friends, we got to live in a two-storey house, we even got cute English accents. We loved our life in this foreign country.

My parents also made friends and when it was time for us to move back to Australia we all kept in touch. As it was the 90s this was mostly through being pen pals! We had some of these friends come out to stay with us and the relationships remained as strong as ever. One set of my parent’s friends had a daughter my age who was my best friend so it was great that when they came to visit our friendship remained and still does.

We then, when I was 16 ventured back to the Northern Hemisphere as a family and went back to our little village home. We all caught up with our friends and also made new friends. I had my first pub and clubbing experience. I was sucked into the British life then and there and wanted so much to stay and live in England. My friends back home in Australia even knew after this trip that I would always end up back in England.

While I was in my final year at school my best friend from England came to stay with my family for 3 months and then when it was time for her to head back I packed my bags with her and started my gap year back in the village. I worked in the local pub, made an even wider set of friends and fell for a few boys (standard). I embraced my English life wholeheartedly. I didn’t have any Aussie friends or family around and weirdly felt at home.

Sadly by being on a gap year before uni meant that I had to go back home AGAIN. I didn’t want to at all and I remember my parents telling me that when they picked me up I was miserable and just complained about how bright and sunny Australia was (silly girl- I totally wouldn’t do now).

For my 21st birthday, I went back again for a two week holiday. I just couldn’t stay away. Then when the time came for me to finish my degree, there I was back at the airport with my blue suitcase ready to move to England till I was done living there. That day just hasn’t come yet.

I am still friends with those I went to school with, I have other friends who I call my school friends but never actually went to school with them, I’ve made friends who are now considered my family, I have history in the village and can remember when the florist was actually where the old swimming pool was, I play ladies football for the village and actually feel like a local. When people would tell me how brave I was to move abroad  I always thought I wasn’t actually that brave or adventurous as I  was just moving to my second home. Which is actually a pretty awesome feeling to have. One of my favourite quotes at the moment is.

‘You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place’  Miriam Adeney

I often wonder if my parents didn’t do their exchange would I have still ended up here. Would my life have been on this path anyway or would I have never made it to England? I do find it funny that I’ve basically moved to the other side of the world to live in a village so very similar to where I grew up and all I wanted to do growing up was to move out of our small town to a big city.

Life is a funny old thing and you never know with the decisions you make where they will eventually lead you. I’m just pretty damn lucky my parents took the gamble and brought me here to my home away from home all those years ago.

Do you have an interesting tale of why you ended up living abroad but would love to hear your stories if you are a fellow expat so do leave them in the comments below or get in touch?

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The Wandering Darlings- how I ended up in the uk

Welcome to Life in the UK

So you are making the big journey across the seas to the UK.  Be it moving or just spending some time exploring you need to ensure you get involved in the British way of life. Get chatting to some locals, watch British tv, go to places off the tourist trails, learn the lingo and try out some of the British cuisine. If you are staying in London,  do make sure you get out and see some other areas. Go rural, get to the coast and just don’t stay in Shepherds Bush with all the other Aussies. The UK has a brilliant culture and heritage and the best way to experience this is just throwing yourself in head first.

As it’s a funny old place and I’ve put together a few pointers for you to get you prepared for your time in the United Kingdom. Things I wish I had known before I moved to the UK include – 

They drink. A lot! Aussies often get a reputation for being big drinkers and to some degree, we probably are however the Brits seem to do just do it more often. There is always a reason to go to the pub. The weather, new baby, new job, lost job, a new partner, break up, celebrations and commiserations. There is a huge pub culture in the UK and you know what they do pubs really well. There are cute ones, quaint one, historic ones, real ale ones, cider ones, gastro ones that serve insanely good food and trendy ones. If you ever find yourself in a village there will always be a pub welcoming you with open arms. I live in a small village and we have 6!! Another thing I always find weird but is considered perfectly normal is when two people go to the pub for a pint of coke. If you’re not having an alcoholic beverage I just don’t get it. That just wouldn’t happen in Aus.  I also for ages couldn’t work out when someone asked for a ‘half of larger’ what the half of the drink would entail. A ‘half’ however is a glass size. #muppet

Although we both speak English there is still a language barrier.  A couple of my favourites that have caused a few giggles are the following

Muffler= exhaust

Whippersnipper = strimmer

Zuchini= courgette

Capsicum = Pepper

Lollies- sweets  (lollies in England is an ice lolly or lollipop)

Band aid- plaster

Doona- duvet

Singlet top- vest

Overalls- dungarees

Rather than just having towns and cities in the UK they have cities, towns, villages and hamlets. Towns are considered a town if it has a town hall and city is a city if it has a cathedral. A village can be bigger than a town but if it doesn’t have a town hall then it’s still a village and a hamlet is just a really small village. The mind boggles.

Soaps are huge over here- Emmerdale, EastEnders, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks. I’ve dabbled in a few but have stuck with Emmerdale. What can I say I’m a country girl. They have their own national comedy duo Ant and Dec which are kinda like the UK version of Hamish and Andy. Although Hamish and Andy are funnier. And younger.  Piers Morgan in the morning is no comparison to Koshy or Karl. There are far too many reality shows- Love Island, Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex you really don’t need to watch them but be warned they will be all over the magazines and newspapers and the locals will be obsessed with them.

There are SO many old buildings. Which is great as there really isn’t that many in Australia so getting to explore them is pretty awesome. The National Trust and English Heritage have memberships and there is always several properties within a few hours of each other. It’s a great way to learn more about the history of an area.

You can tell where someone is from the moment they open their mouth. Coming from Australia where it’s such a vast country you couldn’t tell if someone was from Sydney or the back of Bourke but in England, two people that live an hour away from each other could have a different accent. I still don’t understand how it works. My personal fav is a Somerset or Yorkshire accent.

In England driving more than 2.5 hours to a destination requires an overnight stop. There is no way people would drive 2 to 3 hours somewhere to then return that same day. Considering Australia is several times bigger than England driving long distances is in our blood. The roads in the UK are also really narrow. In many places especially the country there will be some parts of the road that have ‘passing places’. If you plan to drive do make sure you’ve read up on the road rules

Barefoot is perfectly normal down under. England not so much. They also think you’re weird if you wear flip flops all year round.

The weather is always a good conversation starter. If I’m lost for something to say I will ALWAYS bring up the weather. Even if you’ve not checked the weather bring up rain and it will usually cover it.

A cup of tea will fix anything. No matter what time of the day or night. Brits love their tea and to be fair there is nothing better a cup of English Breakfast. What you do need to do though is read up on the colours and strength of teas. Builders brew is a common term for a cuppa and this basically means a dash of milk. If you are making a cuppa for someone always ask what strength they want their tea.

‘Alright’ is considered a greeting. My dad will alway answer it like a question which he thinks is funny every single time. If someone says ‘Alright’ to you just reply ‘yeah, alright?’

There is still a class system. Not everywhere and not everyone cares but it’s there. Your postcode, up bringing, social status all come into play at one time or another. Just ignore it.

Bank holidays are just public holidays.

Fridges are half the size of Australian fridges and often houses will have the washing machine in the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen!

Their postcodes are completely different to Aussie ones. A postcode here can pin point your exact street and then you just have to pick the house number. It’s really good for sat navs and finding your way around.

Vegemite will always be better than marmite. Penguins don’t compare to Tim tams and Nik Naks have nothing on twisties. Try them all but you’ll soon understand. 

And finally for the love of God whoever you speak to do not call your thongs, thongs. They are flip flops and you will get some seriously weird looks.

I’m sure I have missed many other tips but this should be enough to get you on the right track. If you have any pointers I’ve missed do put them in the comments below with your blog link and I’ll update this post with your suggestions.

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Summer- Australia Vs UK

Today it was hot in the UK. Like really hot. The late 20s /early 30s hot. The papers tomorrow will declare it a heat wave and come Monday everyone will be returning to work completely sunburnt. Then by the end of the week, it will be wet and rainy for two weeks because it’s Glastonbury weekend so of course, it’s going to be wet. I would never have known what that meant 10 years ago.

Welcome to a British summer.

As an Aussie living in the UK, I find it hilarious every year how excited/crazy we get when the temperature peaks for several days straight you’d have thought I’d have I come to adapt to it. Nope! Now every year I get just as excited as everyone else. I wrote a similar post last year you can find it here.

The most surprising thing for me today was I got in my car to go to the gym (yes just popping that in there as a big pat on the back to myself) and the steering wheel was too HOT to touch!! Yes, you heard right to hot to touch. This has never happened to me here. Australia yeah sure this is a daily occurrence but never in the UK. I actually almost called my mum to tell her as I was so shocked. Thankfully I didn’t choose to wake her up at 3 am with the news and instead started to think about all the things that are different between my two homes in the summer time …

Heading to the beach in Marbella

Europe
Summer in the UK more often than not means a summer holiday to the continent. Spain, Portugal, Italy, France are all on your doorstep and only 2-3 hours flight away. Some of the deals available make it a more cost effective option than staying in the UK and you are guaranteed sun. In Australia, you pretty much stay in Australia but maybe just venture to another state. If you did want to go abroad Bali or Fiji are only 3-4 hours away.

Respect the sun vs worship the Sun
I have moles on my body and have always been protective of my skin. In Australia, you are brought up respecting the sun. At school, you can’t play outside unless you have a hat and there are always campaigns about Slip, Slop, Slap- Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. We don’t spend all day everyday sunbathing in the sun and we have Skincare centres everywhere to check on any changes in our skin. This is so different to my friends in England who worship the sun and will sit out all day in to get some colour. Even if that colour is red. Even going on holiday in Europe you always see ‘brits abroad’ who have sunburn on sunburn but still will sit out catching the rays. In Australia, it is rare to buy sunscreen under factor 15 or 30 whereas in the UK you can get factor 4 or factor 8!!

Summer is longer and hotter in Australia
Summer last forever in Australia especially if you live inland or in Northern parts of the country. Every day of summer is almost guaranteed to be warm and if by chance it is cooler it’s still early 20’s. It can also get super hot so you can’t touch your steering wheel, the road looks like it is melting and God forbid if you try to sit on a leather seat.

But…Summer days are longer in the U.K.
Whilst we don’t have as many hot days in the UK we do have more daylight hours. Summer evenings in the UK go up to 9.30/10pm. I love this and found it so confusing when we were on the Gold Coast last year and it was almost pitch black at 6 pm in the middle of summer. Summer days need long summer nights as well.

Surfers Paradise

Beaches

According to Australia.gov.au there over 10,500 beaches in Australia. There is nowhere near that many in the UK. Whilst I love a beach wherever it is I do prefer the beaches of home. The white squeaky sand that burns the soles of your feet, crystal blue ocean and bush that always separates the beach from the rest of the world. They will always hand down beat a pebbled, muddy British beach.

Ice lollies/Ice creams
No ice lollies/ice creams in the UK will ever compare to a Paddle Pop, Zoopa Doopa or a Bubble-o-bill. Not ever..

Santa’s in Darling Harbour

Summer will always feel like Christmas
As soon as it starts heating up I’m waiting for the Christmas carols, the Christmas tv and Santa to be driving round the streets on a fire truck. Summer for me means Christmas no matter how many years I have away from home- this will never change.

Rain

Obviously, rain was going to pop up somewhere in this post. However, it might not be in the way you would expect. In the UK we hate it raining when its supposed to be summer and in Australia, they long for it to rain in summer. Summers in Australia are long and hot. Summer heat on top of a long-standing drought affects crops, farms, bush and the general landscape. We have bushfires every year and part of the reason they spread so quickly is that everything is so dry and crisp. My grandpa always asks me to bring the rain with me when I come home at summer.

The green fields of Somerset

Green vs Beige
Leading on from the above, I have lost count how many times this last month I have said to my other half ‘It’s soo green! It’s never this green at home in the summer’. This is partly due to the rainfall we have. Everything grows so quickly. We didn’t mow our lawn for a month and it looked like a meadow. The countryside in the UK during the summer is beautiful luscious greens, bluebell forests, yellow rapeseed fields and wildflowers on the side of the road. Just beautiful.

Sport
Big on both sides of the equator in the summer. Wimbledon, The Australian Open, Boxing day test the list is endless. Both nations love watching sports and getting out and being active in the sunny days.

Animals
I grew up in the country and going for a walk in summer meant you always needed to keep an eye out for snakes and your back is always covered in flies. Going for a walk in the UK just means midgies and that’s only if you are near water. Its pretty much a snake free zone and is 100% a fly free zone. The UK wins purely for just not having flies!

Shirts off at the pub
I don’t think I have ever seen Aussie men at the pub with their shirts off in the summer. In England, one little slither of sun and half the men are there with their tops off showing off their Adonis bodies. Most places in Aus will have a no shirt no service rule and we love a drink so the shirts stay on. We are more a nation of vest/singlets, baordy and thong (flips flop) wearing men than a rip your top off at the first sign of sun nation.

Procrastinating taking selfies when I was supposed to be writing this today in the garden

Happiness
One thing that remains the same in both places is that summer = happy. Everyone has a spring in their step, more social and just happier. The vitamin D does something magical to us all. We smile, we play, we eat alfresco, we relish the days spent outside.

Summertime is great not matter what side of the world you are on. There will always be good and less good points no matter where you are. You just need to get our and enjoy it.

What is your favourite thing about summer? Have you experienced summer in two countries that are different? I’d love to hear from you so let me know in the comments below.

Back to the future- How social media and technology has changed for expats and travellers in 2017

When I left Australia in 2006 there was no Facebook. Yes NO FACEBOOK! No, Twitter, No Instagram, no Pinterest, no snapchat. Well, they may have been in existence in the US but it was early days. I don’t even think smartphones were a thing. Pretty sure we were all still rocking the flip phones.

Gosh, I sound really old.

I remember New Years Eve 2006 my friends were talking about this new website which was coming to England and It was set to be better than Myspace. That you could upload photos to, find friends (but better than friends reunited which let’s be honest wouldn’t be hard) and to send messages to friends over the internet with no charge. There wasn’t even an app it was just a website.  I also remember when I first signed up and no one I knew in Australia was on it. I remember wondering if it would even catch on.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently just how different living away from my family was only 11 years ago to how it is now. Which in itself has had drastic changes. Then I was thinking about when my parents moved our family to England in 1992 and just how different and hard it was for them. The world has changed a lot in 25 years!

In 2017 the Harris sisters meeting up in an airport would have been a Facebook status update but in 2007 it was just emailed to the parents. Oh we were so fresh faced

For me, in 2006 I probably spoke to my parents on the phone (always on a landline!) once a month as it was extremely expensive to call. I would have emailed a few times a month but would be completely out of the loop as to what was going on at home with the family or with friends. I wouldn’t see pictures of my family as again picture messages were very expensive and it was just a bit difficult to get photos from a camera to a computer to then email. Even sending an email I would need to go to the library to use the internet there.  I always felt quite disconnected with the goings on at home and it made it really tough emotionally. I always would get jealous of my friends who would go home to see their parents at the weekend and I wanted Australia to be just that little bit closer so I could pop home for a weekend break.

In 1992 my parents must have felt like they were on the other side of the universe rather than on the other side of the world. The contact with their parents, friends and family was few and far between.  International phone calls cost the same as a small car, there was no Skype, cameras still primarily used film, mobile phones were still bricks and could only keep 10 text messages at a time and you were charged by the number of letters. Areograms were written and received often, postcards of all the places we went were sent back and took like a month to get there. Nothing was instant. To get information on either side of the globe took time and for that year they were only able to get snippets from back home. For all the amazing experiences they had they couldn’t really share them with their parents or if they were missing home they just had to suck it up and wait till they were back on Aussie soil. They wouldn’t have even been able to see their own parents faces for a whole year!

Grainy family photo due to having to scan it in from a printed picture. The challenges of 1992. They obviously didn’t have razors in 1992 by the state of dads beard

Fast Forward 25 years and now  I can face time and speak to my parents face to face and even better I can  feel like I’ve been home (especially when my parents walk me around the house or perch the iPad up at the breakfast table like I’m there in the flesh), I have a group chat group  with my parents and sisters and with my besties so we can share the goings on in our lives as it happens. I can be on the other side of the world and still feel like I’m only an hour down the road from them.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I wrote a letter or postcard home but I could tell you where in Tasmania my mum has just been, through her Instagram and blog or i could tell you what my sister did after she finished work today. I can keep up with their fitness through runkeeper, I can see what my sister is planning for her wedding from her Pinterest board and I can know town gossip at the same time if not before my mum knows. It really has made those thousands of miles in between us seem so much smaller.

It’s not only changed keeping in touch with home but it’s also hugely changed how I view travel. I can now go on a website and find the best flights for my travels and not rely on a travel agent. I can stay in someone’s home on Airbnb rather than a hotel room. If I am going somewhere new I can look on Instagram to see what it looks like or the best places to visit. I can get a guide of what to see in any given country from Pinterest. We can read reviews on trip advisors or learn from other people through their blogs about their experiences and the good, bad and the ugly parts of destinations. We can get annoyed at the Begpackers on social media asking people to pay for their ‘journey of self-discovery’ , we can tag ourselves into places on facebook to show just how fabulous and awesome our travels are. I mean can you imagine how only 10 years ago we couldn’t upload the standard ‘my Monday is better than yours’ status update accompanied with a picture of a beach or beautiful view. The horror! We get an endless supply of wanderlust worthy travel photos on Instagram and that those hidden gems of destinations are just not as hidden as they once were.  It’s opened up the world both for the good and the bad.

I’ve read about how social media can make people actually more lonely than if they were interacting with ‘real’ in the flesh people. One website even said this was higher in expats as they are in a new place, still making friends and getting used to adjustment and changes in their life. I can see how this could be true especially if you don’t know ANYONE or if there is a language barrier but I’ve never felt like that. If anything it’s given me a greater connection with home which has allowed me to interact more in my day to day life as I’m  not sat around missing home. I used to get massive FOMO as I never really knew what was happening at home whereas, with technology and social media the way it now it feels like I’m closer to home, I can get involved in family activities by face timing, social media or just a simple WhatsApp message. I’ve met and maintained new relationships and I’ve had friends in similar situation help me through the tough parts of living abroad as they have done it themselves. So whilst I agree the rise of social media and new technology does have its negatives and downfalls I’d much rather have it as it is now than what it was like in 1992 or even 2006.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like in another 10 years. I’m hoping for teleportation pods but we’ll see…..

Have you noticed how social media and technology has changed for you either travelling or living abroad? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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14 Facts Every Traveller Should Know…

  1.  The journey is always just as important as the destination. Yes in a strange way those 6 methods of transport and 30 odd hours of travelling is just as important as that picture perfect beach you end up on.
  2. Ask and more importantly listen to others on where to go and what to see. Read blogs, search Pinterest, read travel guides, ask friends in the flesh (or on social media), read reviews, lust over snaps on Instagram and get inspired by others. Recommendations from others might set you off to some place you’ve never heard or even let you find your new favourite place.
  3. Do you plan your life down to every minute or every day?- no. So you shouldn’t do the same with your trip. Have a rough plan but leave a bit up to chance you never know where you might find yourself or who you might meet.
  4. It’s ok for not every part of the trip to be amazing or as you expected it to be. Don’t dwell on it just let it go (try saying that without pretending your Elsa).  You don’t want it to ruin your overall adventure.
  5. Everyone looks shit after being on a long haul flight. The cankles, the dry skin, the greasy hair, dried drool on your chin (ok maybe that’s just me)  it’s ok. Sadly it’s unlikely you’ll be papped at the airport so don’t dwell on your post flight style.
  6. As Theodore Roosevelt said  ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. Don’t compare yourself to that girl on the beach who is a bronzed toned goddess or to that traveller you met in the bar that’s been to more countries than you or has a better picture of a temple in Thailand. You are you and this is your journey. For everyone you compare yourself to there is someone who is probably using you as their compassion. 
  7. Stay in contact with home. Sadly the world is changing and it’s not always as safe as what we once perceived it to be to explore all four corner of the world. Our news headlines are dominated with evil people trying to test us and while you are off exploring, people at home will worry about you. So check in with them. Thankfully with technology the way it is you should be able to connect fairly easily.
  8. Take photos – lots of them just remember that everyone isn’t going to want to see them when you return. You will though. A month, year or 10 years later you’ll be thankful for every photo Even that awkward selfie you took where you tried to take it  to look like you weren’t taking a selfie as you didn’t want everyone else there rolling their eyes at you. Future you will smile and be able to be transported back to the trip so suck it up and take all the pictures and selfies you want. 
  9. Go away with your girlfriends. I love going away with my family and with my better half but what I love most is holidays with my girls. If you’ve not been on a girls holiday then grab your BFFS and book up a trip. It is the best thing you can do!
  10. Get lost. In a good way. I can assure you will find something you would never expect to find.
  11. Marvel. Be in awe. Appreciate the world. A sunset, a beautiful church, a street performer captivating a huge crowd, a waterfall wherever you end up take a moment to marvel at just how amazing this world is. 
  12. Similar to the above take a moment without your phone and camera.  Slightly contracting myself for point 8 but… trust me sometimes you just need to put down the phone and look up. See the world with your eyes rather than behind a lens or through a tag in on Facebook.
  13. Labels suck. Who cares if your tourist, a traveller, a nomad, or if you are travelling halfway around the world or only going to the next town over to explore. It really doesn’t matter you are getting out there to see another part of the world and broaden your own viewpoint. There is nothing better than that.
  14. Have the best time you possibly can!

Should I stay or should I go? 

Don’t get excited family members reading this. This isn’t a question for me. I’m not coming home………  just yet.

I’ve spent a long time living in the UK with little to no face to face contact with others from down under. Well very little in the flesh, I’ve obviously spent a lot of time face timing friends and family. The last 2 years however my antipodean circle has widened. I hired 3 southern hemispherians (pure coincidence I promise!) and another girl from NZ joined another team within our department.

It’s been great they know what milo is, say words funny like me, help share the pain when Australia plays England in the cricket/rugby, share funny videos that our British colleagues just wouldn’t get, spend too much time in walkabout and they just sound like home. They were all there about the age I was when I first came over and whilst they all have completely different situations, plans, lives and loves they have started to have to make some big decisions about what happens next like I did many years ago.

Last week we were sitting in the sun drinking 1 too many proseccos discussing living abroad and the decisions that come with this at each stage of creating a life on the other side of the world.  I’ve lived away for 10.5 years (or 11.5 of you count my gap year) both times I had an ancestry visa due to my grandmother being born in England (hilariously she’s from Birmingham and her name is Sheila) and that allows me to have 5 years to live and work in Great Britain. I was lucky most Aussies don’t get that opportunity and the best they get is 2 years.

My 2 friends are in this situation and both of their visas are up before the end of this year. Talking to them about what they are planning to do was so different yet so similar to what I thought, felt, spoke to my friends about when my own visa was coming to an end.

For me, I never ever considered not applying for residency when my ancestry visa was due to expire. I don’t remember calling my parents to discuss it or ask their opinion I knew in myself that I wasn’t ready to go yet. I wasn’t ready to leave my friends, my boyfriend, my career or the life I had here. Because I had a 5-year visa I had been home most years and when I didn’t make it home my family had all been out to visit or stop in to see me on their travels through Europe.

Talking to both of my friends who are sadly a bit younger than me and they are so much more conflicted. They both have friends, boyfriends, jobs and more countries to tick off their lists but also long to be home with their families and not ready to commit to a life in the UK. They’ve spoken to their parents at length and luckily one of them is able to apply for her own ancestry visa but the cost of this is much higher than when I got mine all those years ago so it puts extra pressure to fund that and support two lives whilst being out of the country as the application is processed. One thing that stuck with me was one of their parents could tell they weren’t ready to go back to a land down under and even said ‘your adventure isn’t up yet’.

It’s hard being away from your parents and family but as I’ve learnt and experienced no matter how far away you are from them they just want to you to be happy.
My other friend has to leave the country when her visa expires. She doesn’t have the option of another one. The decisions for her are different as well as her and her partner need to work out what it means for them in the long term. If they continue togethere but long distance or if he makes the journey over with her. Falling in love abroad is really tough!
My one piece of advice was so not to stay here for a boy (or girl). I love my fiance dearly but I’m here for me and not him. This is the independent women in me coming out -Beyoncé would be proud. Falling in love is really hard when you are away. The problem is if you stay for them to run the risk of it all going tits up and then you are here for the wrong reasons or worse could end up resenting them that you only stayed for them. It puts a weird balance on the relationship. The relationship should, of course, be considered when making a decision to stay but in my opinion, it shouldn’t be the sole reason. See normal couples who are both from the same country don’t have to worry about this sort of thing.

For both of my friends, I don’t know what they’ll do. If they’ll stay or if they’ll go. I don’t think they even know for certain yet.  But one thing we all agreed on is that living and working abroad is one of the best things you could ever do. You grow so much as a person, you see the world through different eyes, you meet amazing people, you learn more about yourself, you develop a deeper love for your homeland (and weirdly the junk food of home) and most importantly you realise just how much crap you can accumulate over the years when all you arrived with was a suitcase!

The Hard Part of Living Abroad 

Dear 2006 Me,

You’re about to move to England. Big step but it feels right and you will have the right mix of apprehensiveness and excitement. You don’t realise it yet but this is a pivotal point of your life.

At this point your thinking you’ll be away for at least 2 maybe 5 years as that’s when your visa runs out and by then you’ll be 28 and ready to come home.

This is not the case- 10 years in and you’ll still not be sure when or if you’ll move back.

When you step on the plane you’ll be thinking of the adventures your going to have, the people you’ll meet, the countries you’ll go to and the new life you’ll have. What you won’t be thinking about is what you’ll end up missing out on at home while your away and rightly so in your mind your only going for a couple of years. Not much will happen in that time. Although it’s glaringly obvious, you forget life will go on even if your not there.

You’ll go home almost every year and funnily enough more times than your sister but you can’t be there for every occasion. When your sister gets married, your best friend has a baby, a family member suddenly passes away you’ll be there and reminding yourself that the worlds not that big. But the longer you’re away the more things you start to not be able to be there for like when your grandad is ill and needs to move into a home and your grandma needs support, when your family get together to celebrate anniversaries, significant birthdays, random off the cuff weekend catch ups, meeting friends new partners, engagement parties and town celebrations.

A few weeks ago it was Dad’s 60th birthday and you won’t be there for the party. Yes you saw him a month earlier on an amazing family holiday and celebrated with everyone then but you miss out on being there now. You’ll facetime (FaceTime is amazing just you wait) and talk to everyone and see how much fun they are having together and they will laugh at how rugged up your are when it’s so warm there and then you’ll hang up and smile but that smile will fade into tears. Tears of sadness that your not there, guilt that your not there and longing as you wish to be there and not in your lounge getting ready to put the washing away.

Im not writing this to you to stop you from going or to create any further guilt as you need to go. You need to live your life. But you need to know these things as your going to have to be strong. Really strong. No one will ever tell you about this side of living away (only all the practical points of living abroad) and you do learn how to cope with it even if at times you won’t feel like you can.

You need to make sure you enjoy every moment and every new thing you see as this will shape you and make you into the person you are meant to be. As much as you’re longing to be at home with everyone they will be looking at your Facebook, text messages, Instagram and feeling envious that your having a weekend in Paris or that your off on another girly holiday to somewhere fabulous in Europe. They’ll want to be there for you when you have a bad day, hospital appointments, celebrate the promotion you got or even take you out for dinner when you get engaged (yes you get engaged!). This is just the way it is.

It might sound all doom and gloom but it’s not. It’s amazing – you have so many friends who are your extended family, you fall in love, you see things you never thought you would, you have a great job, mum comes to celebrate your 30th, you even get a pet rabbit and most importantly you have the most amazing family that are there for you regardless of the miles or oceans between.

Home is where the heart is and your fortunate enough to have your heart on both sides of the world.

Be strong and enjoy!

X

oh and look out for a guy that gives you a jar of vegemite on your first date. He’s a keeper and will always make you smile when your missing home

Welcome home -sort of 


This time last week I was here….  on the other side of the world, in the sun, seeing new things.

However today I’ve just had two days back in work, freezing my butt off in the cold and wistfully looking at holiday snaps trying to believe it’s not over.

I’ve put together 9 things I’ve noticed about coming back to reality and routine after a long and amazing trip.


Jet lag

Anyone whose been on long haul travel knows the joy of jet lag. Wide awake at 4am and then fading fast come 4pm. Your body and mind are lost in some weird time loop. You don’t know what day it is, how to function or even who you are. Trying to function at work is ok for about 2 hours max.

‘how was your trip’

EVERYONE will ask this regardless of if they care or are just being polite. The thing you need to remember is you probably have a minuet if not less to respond. Not everyone is going to want to know all the details. Pick one funny antidote and form a quickly reply. Save the indepth synopsis of your trip for your besties.

‘bet your glad to be back’

Like ‘how was your trip’ in the first couple of days you’ll hear this just as much. Don’t roll your eyes and slap them. Just smile and say yep. Then walk away, get your phone out to look at your holiday snaps and cry. Quietly you don’t people to think your weird.

Forgetting slightly what you actually do

Once you’ve made your cuppa, had a few chats with co workers (see points above) you finally sit down at your desk and stare at the screen racking your brain about what you actually do. Give it 10 min and then with a bolt it all suddenly comes back and you start questioning should you really have returned. Or you get onto to booking the next trip.

Looking out the window isn’t pretty

Usually while your trying to get back into the swing of things you’ll find yourself looking (note staring) out the window wondering when the world became so grey. Gone is the endless blue oceans, green green trees, glaring sunlight and the freedom of the big wide world.

Officewear

Yes you need to put a bra on. It’s usually ideal to slap on some make up and even run a comb through your hair. You don’t want to .. but your back in the professional world now and the flip flops, shorts, messy hair and bikini top just won’t cut it. It’s sad but true

You aren’t with your travelling companion

If you’ve travel with a friend/partner or family you would have most likely spent all day everyday with them. They were their for the amazing, the not so good and also the ugly. Having those first days back in reality without them is WEIRD. When you suddenly remember something funny they aren’t there by your side laughing and if even if you were looking forward to a bit of time on your own you just miss them.

Internet

In a positive note you have Internet all day everyday. You phone isn’t just a camera you can use it properly without having to search for free wifi or debate with yourself if the data roaming charges are worth it.

Cling film

Now I’m almost positive this doesn’t happen to everyone but.. sometime your work colleagues will like to remind you why you went away in the first place. My team wrapped my desk and everything in it in cling film. Yes the entire desk


Hopefully if you’ve been in this situation you can relate. It’s been a tough couple of days but it’s all worth it for the amazing time I had.

One of my favourite quotes is ‘don’t be sad it’s over but glad that it happened’ and over the last few days it’s become my post trip mantra. Well that and Dory’s ‘just keep swimming’

X