(11 minute read)
It occurred to me recently that there were quite a few things we went through as part of this (ongoing) process of change and that we may have benefited from a little advice here and there. So this post is a descriptive story of the things we went through to get to this point. It’s based on our own experience, so there are probably other routes and please don’t take this as legal advice, that said, feel free to ask any questions and we’ll help where we can. These are our ‘tips for a change of life’.
A little over a year ago, we took the first steps toward where we are now. Kylie had gone home to Australia for Christmas and I remained in the UK. Sometimes a little time apart can be a good thing. Not just so you can play some xbox in your pants, but so you can look to the future and day dream. When she came back, it didn’t take too long to agree it was time to make a change (some of the reasons why are here). We decided to move to ‘Straya. The process of ‘pulling out’ of our daily grind had begun.
Scene One: The Visa
Australia is well known for its points based visa system and strict requirements. Like most governmental paperwork it was a labyrinth of forms, questions and confused considerations (all with price tags). We looked at using a solicitor or migration specialist, but their fees simply moved everything out of reach. We managed to ask enough questions between those we had contacted to give us the guidance we needed. After a little foray down the wrong visa avenue we started to pull our papers together under the Partnership Visa. Both our parents casually suggested we ‘just get married’. Thanks oldies but it wouldn’t actually make much difference, so you’ll have to wait.
Fortunately we had lived together since knowing each other and had actually managed to keep enough different types of paperwork to demonstrate our relationship was real. One of the most valuable pieces of advice we were given was the need to supply two pieces of addressed evidence for each month you had been together. Alongside this we provided an avalanche of photographs demonstrating we totes had friends together!
With the visa whisked away to Her Majesty’s Aussie Government we gave further thought and focus to the next chapter of our lives. We had discussed travelling plenty of times and concluded if we were to travel to the other side of the world without a strict arrival time then we should enjoy the journey. I swiftly adopted the grumpy grandpa role, maintaining a budget and grasp of geography rather than the route of a drunken ant strolling across the map. One travel show, many hours of research and even more day dreaming later and the trip was settled. Two weeks of Cuba, 3 months of the USA and 7 weeks of Southeast Asia. The Asian leg would allow some flexibility of time scales relatively close to Australia whilst we waited for my visa to come through. We began to book.
Scene Two: Resignations
Next up was the job. That oh so nice conversation that…erm…yeah…I’m off. Buh bye! Both Kylie and I worked closely with our seniors, but had quite different relationships, we both also had a three month notice period (long). But the time was right and we had decided what we were doing. We discussed different ways of going about it and what to say. This admittedly varied with our mood following a day’s work! But, ultimately we decided to be honest on what our plans were. With the deed done, the clock was now firmly ticking. Visa in, tickets booked, notices handed in. Progress!
Scene Three: Shipping, Adult Responsibilities & Goodbyes
In parallel to all of this we began unravelling the rest of our lives. We only planned to ship essentials suchs clothes, books, a few basic kitchen things to help us start up and the sentimentals. Everything else was for sale or charity. I quietly enjoyed using ebay’s app which recognised almost every barcode I presented and made an instant advert for it.
Little sparks of luck lit our way including a couple who had moved in down the road and were happy to buy all the things you never expect to sell. Kylie’s sales skills were also blossoming as she sold an extra oven dish and colander to someone who came for a sleeping bag. Before we knew it, all we had was a bed, dining set and what we were shipping. Between Gumtree and Ebay we hadn’t done too badly. Three months of sales went pretty well so the shipping was booked.
Although we hadn’t really accumulated a huge amount of ‘stuff’, downsizing was a process. For Kylie it was the clothes, for me it was the books. Sometimes I just like to know I can make that one important reference that one time. Well after a few long nights we made our culls.
We made sure to visit friends and family for goodbyes as the date moved closer. In the background to all this was the unexpected difficulty of closing utilities accounts, one more adult thing. There was of course a miscommunication between our estate agent, land lord and ourselves. Cue the energy company forcing entry to the flat, changing our meter and 2-3 months of discussions to clarify and resolve. Success eventually achieved, but they were a right pain in the arse.
February 11th 2017 was departure day and we allowed just one week free between finishing work and leaving. Smart move…?! Perhaps a slight underestimate of requirements, largely based on earning a little extra money. Sometimes you have to learn the hardway.
Time was now flying by, every day something happening, whether we sold some shelves, said goodbye to someone or booked something. The thoughts and dreams of the destination just about dragged us through. Meanwhile our arms were being pumped full of vaccine after vaccine for the trip.
The original aim was to relocate to Melbourne and reestablish ourselves in work more aligned to our personal beliefs and in between enjoy some sights. During the trip we hoped to be involved in some WWOOFing, a program of giving around half a day of labour to learn how an organic farm works, and in return receive bed and board. An incredible scheme I can’t recommend enough.
As the final week loomed I thought we were in pretty good shape. In an effort to make life a little easier we brought the shipping collection forward. Lordy, talk about piling on the pressure. The final week included late night sessions packing and weighing boxes, filling out customs and insurance forms whilst organising our general life paperwork. With an empty flat, our travel bags and a few last bits and pieces we dropped off the keys to the agent and retreated from our lovely little Camden flat, back to my parents for our final night.
No time to rest yet though, time to go full throttle! We packed and repacked, squeezing everything we could. Our trip would take us through both snow and tropics, we needed a range. We kicked out what we could. Meanwhile the scanner flickered endlessly like a cheap 90’s house party as it captured the final papers for the trip. A ‘neat’ package of things was left for Mumsey to store for safe keeping and we were finally done. We managed all of three hours sleep before it was time.
We were finally doing it. A year of planning, months of stressing, and we were in the car on the way to the airport. We had pulled out with minimal mess (maximum stress).
Scene Four: Departure
The trip roared on at high speed, along the way we began to feel that, shockingly, we didn’t want to just set up somewhere new as a slightly better reflection of our previous life. We wanted something entirely different. To really pour our energy into what we are passionate about, to do something purposeful, useful and worthwhile. It was time to adjust course slightly.
The Asian venture was cut. My visa had incredibly come through in less than half the time expected, so we no longer needed a time buffer. We had also realised that hostel dorms and endless drinking were slipping down our list of priorities (encourage down the list by some ground shaking snoring by fellow backpackers). So whilst some time exploring what would undoubtedly be an incredible part of the trip, it wasn’t for now. We would return for it instead. The good ship ‘Stylie’ (#StylieOnTour) was heading straight for Australia.
Changing flights wasn’t too much hassle, although being tied to a round the world ticket wasn’t quite as quick and carefree as made out. FYI however, redirecting your shipping is a-major-ballache. Getting quotes, explaining again and again to each company representative only for them to balls it up as you call repeatedly from the other side of the world was only slightly annoying. Nevertheless, we arrived in Australia just as our boxes did.
Scene Five: Arrival
With the whirlwind of stress and confusion left in London over three months earlier and thousands of photos now in the bag, we were in! Only for passport control to barely notice. It was simple and easy. Normally this is great, but this was a big deal, I had a visa you tits! Check it! Admire it! Stamp it! I went back to the guard’s desk for my stamp (admittedly with a little encouragement from Kylie), slightly nervous that they might have mistaken me before and would now question me. Nah all good mate, stamps away!
The first few weeks have seen us getting all our adult Australian paperwork in order (i.e. local drivers licence, bank accounts etc.) as we now piece together what it is we’ll be doing. We met loads of great people en-route and had developed some interesting ideas, now it is time to enact them…
Above Left: We’re in! G’day Straya! Above Right: The Sequoias, not part of the original plan, but a very welcome stop.
Scene Six: A few tips
So, without being too self indulgent I’ll offer the following comments that hopefully someone will find useful as I think I would have before we left (feel free to ask any questions if you’re considering this stuff).
- One week to finalise everything is absolutely not enough. I’m glad we left when we did, and didn’t feel we had a huge amount of choice, but it gets hard. Give yourself as much time as you can afford.
- Don’t worry if you’re going to change your mind as you travel. I didn’t think we would. We did. It was good, and entirely the right thing to do. This isn’t like a normal holiday, you’re exploring, coming across new things, new people and will inevitably have new ideas. Allow yourself the chance to enjoy them (see Sequoias above, absolutely worth it).
- You will pack too much, so be ruthlessly rational. Realistically a 20kg main bag is plenty to carry in terms of actually moving around (most domestic flights have a limit of 23kg). Packing more is just making life harder (it also took us a good few repacks on the trip to get the location of everything right).
- You won’t have enough time on the trip to do everything, not just seeing stuff, but other things. We planned to do some reading and research on the way. We managed to do some, but nowhere near what we expected. At times this guiltily hung over us as we weren’t doing this for some big jolly, but because we wanted to learn (and have a bit of a jolly). But this is also part of the process that we needed, to unclench from our lives.
- Allow yourself to speak up if you’re not happy with something and fix it. We left our previous lives on this basis, but it can be difficult to carry this through to the everyday. It is worth doing (no need to be rude). You’ll find it a very useful skill and that actually the few times we needed to speak up like this, everything worked out great and people can be very helpful if you explain.
- Things will go a little ‘tits up’ from time to time. Again, we learnt to deal with it and accept sometimes you can’t really do much, sometimes things just have to be left to untangle themselves.
- Go travelling. We loved it, I hope you will too. At times we were scared, annoyed and exhausted, but so many more times happy. Chatting with new friends, drinking and dancing, seeing some wonderfully beautiful countryside. It is entirely worthwhile. There are times when things feel a little pretentious or oversold, but if you allow it, there are many more times when it is unexpectedly ace. We were forced to change our plans due to bad weather at one point. This took us to unplanned places where we had no idea what was to come. It was probably one of our favourite times. On a similar point, many people (including ourselves) had a certain preconception of the places we were travelling to. Having spent some time there, I can’t recommend enough stuffing those preconceptions up your bum – get out and see reality. Again, allow yourself to see something new, understand it. Listen to yourself and those around you and you should be good.
- Last but not least. If you’re not happy, make a change. It’s hard, almost overwhelmingly daunting at times but just like above, it’s worth it!