The emotional journey to Australia Part 2: The Big Reveal

I’ve written just 2 posts since I arrived in Australia 3 months ago; this will be my third and I confess that I have missed writing greatly. You may wonder what the hold up has been; after all, I’m in an entirely different continent experiencing a vast range of different situations and emotions. I have a job, a place to live and a great group of friends; all things I could be telling you about and yet I hit writer’s block so hard it rendered me wordless. However, now that I’ve made a couple of big decisions, I feel like my thoughts and emotions are feeling clear enough to make sense of them so I’m going to try and put them down in writing…

And so to the big decision I need to tell you;

I’m going home in a few weeks and I’m not coming back to Australia to live and work.

Considering my rough travel plans were indefinite it’s a huge change but life changes and I’m changing with it for now. You see, the Australian dream was just that; a dream. One which very quickly turned into reality and unfortunately for me, reality became a bit of a nightmare and one that I am happily leaving behind.

I have felt numb, lost and confused since the moment I arrived, always hoping that one day everything would simply click into place and I would begin my new, happy life; that day never arrived. I have no idea why Australia has not worked out for me but I am happy to shout it from the rooftops that it hasn’t. Why? Because life isn’t a uniform; not everything we wear will suit everyone and likewise, not every place visited will elicit the same emotions for everyone. I have struggled to be honest to my friends when everyone assumed that from the moment I arrived, I would be happy and be leading the life I so desperately craved when nothing was or felt further from the truth despite the positive Facebook statuses I portrayed.

I knew I wasn’t homesick and yes, everything was unfamiliar but simultaneously, I know myself well enough (and I’m truly blessed that I do) to know when something isn’t right.  Unfortunately, I ignored what I was feeling deep down and listened to everyone else so I told myself that I was just struggling because I was so far from home for the first time but I wasn’t being honest with myself.

The plan had been to live and work here in Australia for approximately two years but I knew within a few weeks that I had no intention for staying for the second year and just after that, I began to realise that I couldn’t even bear the thought of a whole year.  Panic set in.  If I wasn’t going to stay here, what was I going to do?  Trying to live and work here has made me reconsider if I want to attempt to do the same in New Zealand.  That then threw up so many directions and paths I could take that instead of feeling empowered by the freedom of choice, I felt imprisoned by it; I had no idea which way to turn or path to take.  And then  I realised that I was, after feeling so dejected and beaten by Australia, in no mood to even travel in Australia never mind Asia and beyond.  And so, I have made the extremely difficult but necessary decision to go home and suddenly I feel better for it.  I have yet to book my flight home but simply knowing that I will be soon is enough to lighten my mood.

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I have had some amazing times in the past few months and yet they haven’t FELT amazing; just okay.  I climbed the Harbour Bridge as part of my induction at work and whilst many people dream of doing it their entire lives, once I was up there, I felt numb and thought ‘well this is nice but can I go now’?.  I knew then that feeling so flat over something so magical was a tell tale sign that ‘things weren’t right’.  Of course I’ve had good days where I’ve laughed until I have cried but sadly they have been few and far between and I miss them more and more which is why I feel I need to seek the familiarity and comfort of home to realign myself before setting off again.

There are many reasons for me leaving. First and foremost, like many people when they come to Australia, it’s all about the money. I saved £10,000 in total for my trip telling myself that I would set up my new life in Australia for £5000, no more, and leave the other 5,000 for my further travels around Asia with diving etc. Well, that £5000 has come and gone after I spent 7 weeks trying to find a job and I can do no more than try and live off my small part-time wage which only just covers my rent and a bit of food.

Money has tended to throw up two questions from friends and family when I’ve broached the subject of going home:

  1. Why don’t you look for another job?
  2. Why don’t you move houses or move location completely?

To answer question number 1, I’ll tell you some home truths about Australia; almost everywhere requires experience in the job field you are going for, many, MANY companies don’t like hiring people on working holiday visas and after applying for almost 80 jobs a week when searching, it’s more than a little soul-destroying, frustrating and stressful to try and begin your new life which is why I have stayed in my current part-time job because it’s at least some money coming in and my colleagues are amazing.  I can’t bare to go through so much stress again looking for a full time job particularly when I know in my heart that I don’t want to stay here.

To answer question number 2, there are a few reasons for not moving. Firstly, I live in a great area  – sandwiched between the city and the beaches –  and I have a room to myself, only sharing the house with 2 other women. As my housemates work long hours, I hardly see them meaning I have free-run of the house, I have a backgarden to sunbathe in, I’m on a quiet street and I live 5 minutes from a shopping mall and amenities. I’m 27 years old; if I wanted to pay just $140 a week in rent and share with 7 other people, I would have stayed in a hostel. Secondly, I have far too many friends to lean on and support me to move away completely; I may not have enough money but I certainly have enough friends and they are, at times, the only thing that has kept me here as long as I have done.

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People told me to move out of the city. ‘Sydney’s so expensive’. ‘You’re more likely to find a job in Brisbane’. ‘Why don’t you just travel through Australia’. Everyone suddenly had an opinion on what I should do and each thought their opinion was better than the next persons’. They were all wrong. Some spoke from past experience, some were just trying to encourage me and some didn’t have a clue but thought they were the authority on my life.

Yes, Sydney is the most expensive place in Australia and one of the most expensive places in the world right now but I have a good set of friends here and feeling as lost and depressed as I have done, the last thing I wanted to do was to leave that all that support behind at a time when I needed it the most and so I stayed and for that reason, I’m extremely glad that I did. When I have needed people the most, even if it’s a text or phone call to say hi, I have been grateful that I made the decision not to leave knowing that they are just a short train or bus ride away from me.

I also wasn’t expecting some serious health problems to come knocking on my door (another reason I am glad I stayed with my friends). After getting over a bad cold for 10 days, I thought I had food poisoning as I didn’t feel well but I realised it must be a side effect of the medication I had started the day before for my eczema when my urine suddenly turned brown.  The next thing I know, I’m telling my doctor about the overnight urine colour change and all my other symptoms and he replied with ‘you have liver damage’. Not the news you expect to hear when you don’t drink, take drugs or even smoke.

Two days after my tests, I received a call from my doctor in which he spoke 7 words you never want to hear: ‘I am very worried about your test results’. A base line liver function test should be 30; the doctor said he expected mine to be two or three times higher than that; neither of us quite expected to see my results sitting at well over 1400 after taking just 2 pills! Before I even knew what was happening, I had more blood and urine tests and was informed that I was doing ‘nothing but going straight for an ultrasound scan’; if he didn’t like the results I would be in hospital by the end of the day. Thankfully my ultrasound came back as clear but 2 days later, I woke up to discover that my skin, and more frighteningly, my eyes were bright yellow; I was now suffering jaundice.

The worst part of my illness was that I could do nothing but ride it out; alone. I wasn’t allowed to take any medication for my eczema, no anti-nausea pills, no paracetamol for my headaches, nothing to stop the itching and weird chemical smell my skin now had, nothing to give me the energy I so desperately needed as I continued to have to work; the one time I wanted to take something to help and I wasn’t allowed anything. I couldn’t drink alcohol or eat fatty foods (and still can’t) and the seriousness of my situation began to dawn on me. When you hear that an organ is failing to work properly, suddenly an illness takes on an entirely different level of worry and one that I wasn’t expecting (though thankfully the liver has the great ability to heal itself). I am pleased to say that I’m over the worst of it and on the mend but it simply added to my frustrations; I couldn’t even afford some of the specialised tests my doctor asked of me.  Unfortunately, my liver problems lead to others; due to chronic high levels of stress since I arrived, not only did my eczema really start to hurt but my skin began to lose its pigment on my chest and back and my hair began to fall out.  Getting ill was the catalyst for realising and accepting my need to go home.  My Australian dream had turned into a nightmare and I no longer had the desire to fight through it for an outcome I no longer felt I wanted.

To the people who think I am wasting an amazing opportunity by leaving, have not given Australia a chance or not tried hard enough (including some friends and family),  I say two extremely passionate and honest words; get f*cked.  The beauty of being me is that I am not you; I am me and I’m not trying to be anyone or anything else.  You’ve not lived my life or had my experiences, thoughts and feelings.  You have no idea what I have been through in my life and what I continue to go through currently.  The irony of any of the above statements is that they probably come from the small minority of you that would never even have the courage to attempt what I have done in the first place.  If I can survive until the end of my work contract at the end of February, I will have tried a new life for 5.5 months whilst becoming very ill; when was the last time you turned your life upside down and started from scratch by yourself?

As Dr Seuss once said: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind 🙂 

Maybe Australia hasn’t worked out because I didn’t come out in the best frame of mind (despite my hopes for it) or the fact that I wasn’t expecting (like everyone else I have spoken to) the ridiculously hard fight to start a new life.  Maybe I needed Lady Luck on my side or maybe I should have left Sydney the moment I realised it wasn’t working.  It’s all ifs, buts and maybes.  I have made my decisions based on several factors and now, after finally being honest with myself, I realise I have made the right decision to go home.  I will come back to Australia at some point to travel; it just isn’t the right time for me at the moment.

And so, the plan for now?  To go home, spend time with friends and family, eat my favourite foods, wear my favourite clothes and generally get my head together.  I hope to find some work for a few weeks or months but in that time I will make a real plan for Asia, Indonesia and all the other wonderful places I wish to visit as well as dive and then head back out to this side of the world in a much clearer state of mind and heart in just a few months time.

Despite needing to leave home so desperately last October, I so desperately need home right now.

As my good friend once said:

“Perhaps getting on the plane was all you needed to achieve.”

Leave a Reply

30 comments

  1. ‘life isn’t a uniform; not everything we wear will suit everyone and likewise, not every place visited will elicit the same emotions for everyone.’ – I love this, so so true. Going to Australia was so brave, and you should e so proud of doing so. Perhaps it was exactly what you needed to find out what you REALLY want to do. I’m so, so proud of you xxx

  2. You know yourself better than anyone, so if you feel like you need to go home, do it! Life doesn’t come with a manual, (though sometimes we wish it did). We kind of just make it up as we go along. And when one thing doesn’t work out, the next thing just might. Or the thing after that. Or the thing after that and so on. Good for you for knowing your limit and taking charge of your happiness. 🙂

  3. Oh no! That’s such a shame, but I totally see where you’re coming from. It is amazingly tough trying to find a job here in Sydney on a WHV. And unless you get a professional full-time position, you have little chance of saving any money. I can’t believe how many jobs I applied for and I was very lucky to fall on my feet. I totally agree that when things aren’t working out you should change your plans. There’s no shame in that at all. you gave Australia your best shot and it’s not making you happy, so you move on. I hope I’ll get to see you before you go xxx

  4. I have to say, in the 2 years I was in Australia, I never encountered any employer not wanting to hire someone because they’re on a working holiday visa. In fact, I found that it was the opposite.

    I completely understand where you’re coming from with your decision Toni and I know being in Australia has been tough for you for many different reasons. I know that you’ve got stronger just by being out there and the experiences you’ve had there already are amazing.

    Having said that, you are my friend, so (at the risk of sounding like a terrible terrible person) I’m just going to be honest: you only get one Working Holiday Visa. Once it’s gone you can never apply for it again. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to live, grow and experience somewhere new.

    There is BUNAC, of course, but there are less places available each year.

    I hope everything works out for you and I commend you for knowing exactly what you want.

    Hopefully see you back in England if you take a trip to London 🙂 xx

  5. Such a well written post, Toni.

    You’re absolutely right to listen to your gut and nothing else. I too had to do the same thing, and regret never ever comes from it. I just came home from a WHV in Australia and wish so much you had the same experience/feelings I did. In fact, I’d do absolutely anything to go back. BUT, like you mentioned, the same places aren’t made for everyone and I’m really looking forward to reading about which country, city & experience finally captures your soul the best.

    Hang tight, there really is no place like home. At least we know that much is true:)

  6. I suspect I know what you’re going through better than most. 10 days ago I returned from a 3-month stint in Amsterdam that was supposed to be the start of a year or so of living around the world. It’s something I’ve done before, throughout my 20s, and enjoyed immensely; I was looking to recapture that feeling after a year of dealing with severe depression. I had the opposite of your situation: I had a good income (my work is totally portable), but only one acquaintance- that I’d just met on a train trip across Siberia. About a month after I got there, my depression ramped up. It became clear that what used to make me happy just wasn’t working, so I came “home” (mom’s house) to work on getting my brain chemistry sorted out, and I have no idea what to do now. It’s very unsettling. And I’m 43.

    Good luck, and Happy New Year 🙂

  7. You have to be true to what you feel is right, nobody else’s opinion really matters.

    Glad you are feeling better!

  8. Hey Toni,

    Sorry things haven’t worked out for you babe. But at least you went, you tried… a lot people don’t even go so you are very brave. There’s nothing wrong with not liking somewhere as much as you thought. Do whatever is right for you. If that’s home, then it’s home.

    Hope I get to meet you when you’re back! x

  9. Whoever said to you “Perhaps getting on the plane was all you needed to achieve” sounds pretty wise 🙂 As travelers (and heck, as people), we should be open to the experiences before us, but we also need to listen to ourselves if something isn’t working.

    I wish Australia had worked out better for you, but I wish you all the best in returning home, getting better, and planning for next steps.

  10. Hey my love,
    I certainly don’t hope you think I’m one of those people telling you to suck it up and give it a go despite you being so unhappy. I don’t think you’re wasting your opportunity – you’re doing what’s right for you. And if going home is what you think is best – then you’re the only person who needs to know it. And if you truly feel happier just knowing you’re going to head home, then that’s definitely a sign that your heart just isnt in Australia.

    Like I’ve always said – I’m here, in your corner, and will support you in any decision you make. I know it hasn’t been easy for you to admit these feelings – you so desperately wanted to create a wonderful life to Australia. But maybe you don’t need Australia to do that… maybe you just needed to be able to give your old stressful job the big “F you” and show them that they did not destroy your (traveller) spirit with all ‘that’ crap.

    Always here for you, hun!

  11. Everything happens for a reason Toni. You have done well for giving up your old life to try something new and even if it didn’t turn out as expected you have at least tried it and made some valuable experiences! I hope your health is going to improve soon. Make the most of the good old NHS. 🙂

  12. It’s a shame that you’ve come to the conclusion that Australia isn’t right for you Toni, but staying just because you felt you “had” to enjoy it and keep putting on a brave face wouldn’t have done you any good all, and it’s great that you’ve made the decision that’s right for you at this time.

    I didn’t expect to read such a strong response towards certain people in there – but I’m glad that it was! Like you say, it’s your life, your money and ultimately your happiness that you need to take control of, so good on you!

  13. I completely understand that, when the black dog attacks, no situation can make things better for us–even if “logical.” Add to that physical illness like you’ve been going through and whoa, you got a handful…

    I just hope you find your way — and whatever is bugging you deep inside. Clearly, you being unhappy at home, going to Australian experiencing of happiness again — something else is troubling you and, once you identify it, you’ve hit the jackpot. I tell you this because of I have gone through a similar situation!

    we are friends on Facebook. Feel free to chat me or send me a private message ANY TIME. I’m always here for you!

    Hugs and many blessings in the new year,

    -Maria Alexandra

  14. So sorry to hear that Australia hasn’t worked out the way that you wanted it to, you never know until you try whether the things that you think you want are what you really need. Good on you for going with your gut feelings and coming home despite all the pressures to make it work – only you know what is best for you and whatever happens you’ll always have the achievement of having made it out there. Australia will still be waiting when you’re ready to make it back there and see more!

  15. Scarlett – thanks sweetheart. It’s friends like you that made me feel so much better about making the decision in the first place. Thank you for your love and support 🙂 xxx

  16. Priya – thank you for your lovely comment hun! As you said, life is about making it up as we go along 🙂 Maybe if there was a manual it might actually make things easier hehe

  17. Arianwen – Even the Aussies I work with tell me it’s almost impossible to get a job here in Sydney so at least I know it’s not just me 🙂 I know that I can hold my head high because I’ve tried to give it a real go and for whatever reason it just hasn’t worked out – at least I took the plunge in the first place 🙂 xx

  18. Beverley – For whatever reason, we’ve just had two very different outcomes here in Australia and that’s ok. I truly appreciate your opinion hun but for me, it’s a question of me – I’m not going to keep ploughing money into a venture which isn’t materialising for me and one that doesn’t make me happy 🙂
    And we are definitely meeting up in the UK!! xx

  19. Katie – Thank you for your kind words hun!
    It’s really interesting to hear from people that have totally different experiences to yourself in the same place – really intriguing and you ask yourself a lot of questions because of it! I’m so glad that Australia worked out for you and you enjoyed yourself so much; it’s really great to hear 🙂
    In all honesty, I know that Africa has my soul but I’ll settle for anywhere that allows me to find my happiness 🙂 xx

  20. Money Kate – I’m really sorry to hear about your struggles :/ I can only imagine how unsettled you must feel right now when you had so much hope for Amsterdam. For the last 2 years before coming out here I was struggling with having a breakdown so I often wonder if Australia, like Amsterdam for you maybe, was too much too soon despite our hopes for our new futures. Who knows. I really hope that you can work out your head, heart ad life so that you’re happy again. I’m heading back to mum’s house too – she really is my world. Good luck to you Kate! 🙂 xx

  21. Erik – thanks hun! Fingers crossed 🙂

  22. Helen – We are definitely meeting up when I get back; it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most – spending time with old and new friends! 🙂

  23. Heather – my friend is very wise indeed 🙂

    I hope it had worked out for me too – I honestly believed that it would but it’s just one of those life lessons I have to go through and if it’s helped gives me a clearer direction then it hasn’t been a waste 🙂 xx

  24. Melissa – I literally don’t know how to reply to your comment hun other than to say ‘thank you’. Thank you for being my friend, my sounding board, my supporter and my own personal cheerleader. Your comment is so true is so many ways and I absolutely love you for it 🙂 xxxx

  25. Tammy – You’ve said it; at least I’ve tried and I’ve given it my best shot; I couldn’t have asked any more of myself! Fingers crossed I’m back to being 100% healthy soon! 🙂

  26. Carl – As you said, if I stay here because I think it’s what I should do, I’ll just be miserable and life is too short for that! I definitely think it’s the right decision for me for this part of my life. Thanks for your support as always 🙂

  27. If there’s a place in the world, I’d relocate to, I’ll choose Australia.

  28. Gwenn – it’s certainly not an easy place to live but it’s gorgeous I’ll give you that 🙂

  29. These are not easy questions – you should take your time. Took me awhile as well 🙂 Btw – just followed you on Facebook as well – please keep it up. Looking forward to connect! Torsten

  30. Torsten – good to know there are others out there who keep on asking themselves questions and working through them 🙂