My husband, Rod, and I moved from northern California to the east coast of New South Wales in March of 2018. Virtually every Aussie we've met has asked why we moved here. Rod's response is considerably different from mine - he usually says something about how beautiful this country is. I agree, but there are equally beautiful places in the United States. My answer usually starts with a question of my own - do you know who the president of the US is?
Yes, following the presidential election of 2016 I was so repelled by the person who lost the popular vote by 3 million but who managed to secure the office through the electoral college (an archaic system used in the US) that I felt I couldn't remain in the country I grew up in and loved. While I had no idea of how he'd do it, I knew, from what he showed us during the campaign, that he would destroy the United States.
How did we chose Australia? To begin with, I must confess my ignorance - the only thing I knew about this amazing country was that kangaroos lived here. Sadly that was the sum total of my knowledge! While I wished I could have departed for another country on November 8th (the date of the election), Rod insisted we had to have a plan. Really?? I just wanted out!
We had a few matters to discuss before we packed our bags and all of our belongings. In November of 2016 both Rod and I were 66 years old. At that age I didn't really want to learn another language, so our choices were limited to places where most, if not all, of the population spoke our native tongue. If our plan was to become permanent residents or eventually citizens of another country, we had to consider what would be involved. At the very least, one or both of us would need a sponsor. Initially I thought Canada would be a great choice, primarily because it was so close to the US and had a stellar health care system. Rod's not a fan of cold weather (darn) and both of us would require sponsors.
At some point in our deliberations Rod reminded me that he was born in Australia and had citizenship here. Because of that I was the only one who'd need a sponsor and he could serve that function for me. Even though I basically knew nothing about this country, I was willing to take a look!
A dear friend of mine was finalizing plans for her daughter's Hawaiian wedding, scheduled for the end of July, 2017. My preference would have been to "take a look" at Australia a lot sooner, but if we wanted to go to the wedding, it made much more financial sense to combine that wonderful event with our trip to the land down under. We planned to spend a month in Australia, then on the way back to California we'd stop in Hawaii for a few days to attend the wedding and do a bit of sight-seeing.
We arrived in Sydney on June 26th, 2017. We rented a car and for the first time in our lives we drove on the other side of the road, all the way up the coast to Korora, which is just north of Coffs Harbor. We stayed in a lovely AirB&B for a week, then drove to Brisbane, where we stayed in an apartment on the 9th floor of a building that overlooked the river. Because our Korora accommodations and hosts were so lovely, we decided to return there for another week. We topped off our month long stay with a week in Sydney.
I'm pretty sure during our first few days in Korora, I fell in love with the area. Rod, my ever practical partner, asked me to make a list of pros and cons for such an enormous move. I filled three pages in my journal with positive reasons. There was only one "con" I could think of: I'd miss friends and family. Fortunately Rod was willing to make the move, which was a big deal because he didn't have the same visceral, gut-wrenching response to the outcome of the election as I did. Oh he disliked the cretin who was sworn in, but had I not insisted we had to leave, I'm confident we'd still be in the US.
When we returned from the wedding, we began the tedious process of getting our house ready to be put on the market. Our home was quite large - it was a two story house, with a three car garage, three full bathrooms, two fireplaces and four bedrooms (the master bedroom was the size of two more normal sized rooms; it had an enormous walk-in closet, a fireplace and a lovely view of a nearby hill). The backyard had a deck and beautiful landscaping, with a variety of fruit bearing trees: an apple, an Asian pear, a few orange trees, and couple of enormously tall redwood trees, a garden where I'd grown a variety of vegetables and many beautiful flowering bushes. There was something in bloom every single month of the year. We lived there for over 15 years and as most couples do, we accumulated a LOT of stuff!
Finally, in January of 2018 we were ready to put the house on the market. We had no real idea of how long it would take to sell - after all, selling a house in winter is not the ideal time. Five days after it was listed, and before we had an open house, we had THREE offers, including one that was $5000 over our asking price and that one was for cash! Guess which one we accepted?
Due to a scheduled business trip Rod had to attend in New York City in March, we arranged to remain in the house until then. We landed in our new country on March 24th, 2018. In June I made my formal application to become a permanent resident (that process takes a minimum of two years - yuck) and a few weeks after that we closed on a house in Boambee East, just south of Coffs Harbor. It's about half the size of the one we had in California but it's all ours - no mortgage.
I realize this introduction is longer than most, but it's a fuller description of why we're here and the process we went through. I'm eager to know what experiences other expats had!
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