A few short months ago, an opportunity to relocate our family to Australia presented itself. My wife and I immediately grabbed at it with both hands and in around three and a half weeks from today, we’ll be boarding an intercontinental flight and saying goodbye to almost everything we know.
It’s quite a daunting prospect. There are a myriad of things to wrap up and to check off and to be honest, I’m not sure we fully understood just how much preparation and planning this would all take when we started. That said, it became clear early on that the entire buildup to the actual flight would be broken down into milestones. Each of these would have a series of preparation steps and an agonizing waiting period before one could move on to the next step.
That became our reality.
There were interviews and emails and very early morning calls. There were periods of gathering documents and certificates, the filling in of all manner of online (and paper) forms and many more visits to our local home affairs office than any human being should have to be subjected to in one lifetime. I spent so much time sitting in a chair in home affairs, waiting for my ticket to be called, that I began to feel like somehow I was doing something wrong and that it was not the grinding bureaucracy that was at fault but rather my selfish need to be validated by a series of documents and stamps and digital records. I’m actually quite proud of the fact that I only lost my temper once. It could easily have gone the other way where I could have made my way into a local news report as a story about a public disturbance where some reported them coins the phrase ‘queue rage’.
When the news finally came through that everything had been approved, that visas had been issued and that short of a comet striking the earth or our airline going out of business, we were definitely going to go, we were elated to the point of floating. We were actually in bed, half asleep when an email alert dinged quietly in the room indicating that an all important communication from Australia had arrived. It really was a champagne moment, without the actual champagne as there was work the next morning and it was two in the morning. All we could do at that point was congratulate each other and roll over and try go back to sleep. Quite anti-climactic really.
Through all of that though, by far the biggest hurdle we have faced this far was telling our children what we were doing. We agonized over when to do it for weeks. In the beginning, we didn’t want to tell them our plans for fear that they would amount to nothing and then all of the worry and uncertainty that would come with sharing the plans with them would have been wasted. We resolved, early on, to wait until the visas were approved and almost made it to that point.
But then, one evening, we found ourselves sitting them down on the couches in our living room, explaining to them, as tears welled up in their wide eyes, that we were going to leave our country and go on a great adventure. With children, phrasing is everything.
Immediately there were questions and tears and worry. All driven by fear of the unknown, fear of change. We did our best to answer all of the questions as honestly as we could. Thing like ‘what about our grandparents’ and ‘what about all of our friends’ were particularly difficult to answer because the relationships they have now are all going to change dramatically.
We committed to them that we would Skype and FaceTime and WhatsApp and message everyone here as often as they wanted and we said we’d travel home for visits as often as we could.
But then we switched gears and began to focus on all the positives. Our dog, for instance, was going with us. We would get to choose our new home as a family. We would get to buy a new car as a family and we would get to choose new schools as a family. All decisions that traditionally we’ve made as parents without their input. Now they were officially empowered to be a part of those things.
Then we began to google cool things to do in our new city (and country) and we realized that we could literally be tourists every weekend, for years and not see the same thing twice.
In the end though, the deal clincher was a promise to visit Disneyland next year when the Star Wars attraction opens. We showed them the artists impressions and reasoned with them that it was much easier to fly to California from Sydney than from Cape Town. That did it, they were all aboard from that very moment onwards.
In hindsight, we really should have opened with Star Wars.