Expat Adventures - Karen Bleakley's move to Australia
Posted by Stephen Whitfield
Australia is a popular destination for expats dreaming of a more relaxed lifestyle and culture similar to their own. Here, medical insurance brokers Medibroker interviewed Karen, family travel blogger from Tales of a Twin Mum, about expat life in Australia.
Why did you choose Australia over other countries?
In 2008/09, my husband and took a round the world trip. We spent over half our time away touring New Zealand and Australia because we thought we might like to emigrate one day. Although we loved both countries, the weather in Australia was a big influence in our decision, as was the work opportunities for my husband.
What was the biggest influence that made you want to become an expat?
There are so many reasons, but the most basic is the weather. Having three kids under five at home who hate going outside in the cold (even when they’re wrapped up!) means we end up trapped indoors most of the winter in the UK. We want to spend our family time outdoors enjoying barbeques, going swimming and building sand castles. Another huge reason is space – I feel claustrophobic with all of the towns and motorways around us in the south of the UK. I've noticed the overcrowding so much more since returning from our travels. We considered moving to other parts of the UK first and looked at lots of areas, but when we weighed up the benefits Australia still won our vote.
What were your top 5 priorities when planning you trip (e.g. job, legal documents, location…)
1) Our first priority was seeing if we were eligible.
My husband works as an electrician on helicopters and just as we made the decision to go, the avionics job role we were looking to apply under was removed from the skills list. After talking to lots of agents, we found he was still eligible under the electrician category as he had enough general qualifications and skills to apply through that route rather than the aircraft specific role, thankfully.
2) Collecting all of our documents together.
Thankfully my husband is a hoarder and he had absolutely everything stored in the loft, so it wasn't too difficult to collect everything together. If we’d been going under my skill it would have been a nightmare as I throw things away every couple of years.
3) Deciding where to go.
We've had a head versus heart argument going on during our visa application - Perth is where we’d most like to live, but we've decided to start in Brisbane as we have work contacts there. Hopefully we’ll find a job there, but if not there were other possible work opportunities along the East Coast so we could move without having to get our things transported too far.
4) Getting rid of stuff.
Although we’re taking a 20ft container, as a family we have so much junk. Getting rid of it through eBay and car boots sales is an epic task and one I wished we’d started much sooner.
5) Renovating our house.
We’re going to put our house on the market soon after we get our visa through (hopefully later this month or early next) and we want to get the best possible price for it, so we’ve been spending every moment trying to finish it off. We've had to leave a lot of redecorating until the last minute because we’re being followed around by small people with sticky fingers and crayons and we know the freshly decorated look won’t last long!
How long do you plan on being away for?
As the whole move is going to cost so much money, we’re hoping it’s a one way move. I’ll never say never though; if it isn’t right for us we’ll come back in a few years, but I’m hopeful it will be. I know it takes time to settle into a new place, so we’re prepared for a challenge.
How is the family handling the plans?
Most of our family are really supportive; they obviously don’t want us to go, but they know we need to do this, and they don’t want us to regret not trying it. Obviously, not everybody agrees with our decision. Leaving family behind is hard, but my husband hopes to get a job with an airline which will allow us some free flights each year to come back for visits. Hopefully, eventually everybody will come round.
Which elements of the move would/have you taken professional advice?
We appointed a migration agent. At first, when we thought it would be a straightforward process, we were going to attempt
the visa application ourselves. As soon as we realised there was an issue with my husband’s occupation being removed, we decided to find an agent. We spoke to a lot of companies before we settled on one who was willing to chat to us and answer our questions – it was harder than I expected to find a good agent as most didn’t want to chat, and quite a few gave me advice and information I knew was incorrect (such as assuring me we were eligible to move to states under the avionics role which I knew to be untrue). In hindsight, using an agent has been a great investment and I’d recommend it to anybody who has a complicated application – just make sure you put in the groundwork to find someone who knows what they’re talking about.
What’s you biggest worry about the move?
I’m dreading leaving family – that awful final week, and, worst of all, the final goodbyes. I’m also really worried how our four-year-old twins will cope leaving their grandparents, their friends and their home behind and starting school in a new country.
What are you hoping to get from the move and the experience?
We’re hoping to get some more open space around us and be able to spend a lot more time outdoors. I’m also looking forward to beaches that aren’t overcrowded on sunny days so we can play games and have fun. I’m looking forward to a new challenge, meeting new people, getting to know a new city and spending our holiday time taking the children to places we visited during our travels as well making new discoveries together.
How do you plan to integrate with the locals upon arrival?
We’re looking to move somewhere with a sense of community. Until we get there I’m not really sure how we’ll integrate, but I guess it’ll involve attending toddler groups and activities with the kids as a way to meet the locals. I work from home as a freelance writer so my work is quite solitary, but hopefully we can meet some friends through my husband’s work and through the friends we already have out there.
What have you found most difficult about planning the move?
It’s all been really easy, so far – time consuming, but easy. That’s down to using an agent as they just tell us what they need and they get on with it so we haven’t needed to worry about whether the forms are filled in correctly or not. For us, the house renovation and getting rid of junk have been physically hard and it’s going to carry on for another month or two before we’re done. I think the whole process seems difficult when you first start, but you just need to tackle it in chunks and not let it daunt you.
What was your number one helpful resource for planning your trip?
There have actually been three resources that I can’t choose between as they’ve all been so important: Our agent, our friends who are out there already and online forums. When moving abroad you have lots of questions and between the three of those we’ve been able to get answers to anything and everything.
How do you picture your new life in Australia?
I don’t want to make any assumptions about what it’s going to be like, as I know that travelling in a country and living it in are going to be very different. All I can say is I’m hoping we can spend more time outside together as a family, I hope we can settled into a community and make some new friends and I’m just looking forward to enjoying having free time again to do fun things after a busy year of visa applications and house renovations.
What would you say to people who are too worried to make a move like this a reality?
I guess it depends on the situation. If you’re single or in a couple and you’re looking to move abroad for a while on a working visa without many costs, then just go for it and give it a try because there aren’t any risks.
If it’s going to be a permanent move for your whole family, with lots of costs involved, then my advice is to weigh up all of your options and concentrate on making a decision. We decided against emigrating when we found out we were expecting twins, but it has been at the back of our minds for the past five years. Last year, we went on holiday for a week and decided that during that week we’d decide once and for all whether we were going to give it a try or to draw a line under it for good. We wrote lists and compared our options about other places we could move to give us a better lifestyle. During that week something switched inside us and we knew we had to give it a try, as none of the other options came anywhere close.
It’s a cliché, but just remember the only things you regret in life are the things you didn’t do. We met so many retired people when travelling who told us they wished they’d emigrated at our age but stayed because they had family at home. Every single one of them told us to go, because they couldn’t anymore. That advice haunted us constantly during the years after our travels and I’m really pleased we’re now taking their advice and going for it.
Interview with Karen Bleakley from
Karen is a family blogger, freelance writer and full time mum to two twin boys and her young daughter. Her blog covers family life and with her upcoming move to Australia, will soon start to see travel articles, family travel and moving information!