Moving Countries in Midlife
Posted on: 14 September 2010 by Diane Priestley
Why would a middle-aged Australian couple, with a spacious home close to surf beaches, move to chilly overcrowded London? That's just what my husband Andrew and I have done and the adventure has just begun...
When you reach middle age, it’s hard to make a major life change. For me, though, it was harder not to. My once-flourishing career and fulfilling lifestyle had hit a dead end.
Our family had lived and thrived on the idyllic, sub-tropical Sunshine Coast in Queensland for 18 years. We had raised our kids in the laid-back beach culture. I wrote a weekly newspaper column, Family Matters and endured a high profile term on the council, buffeted in the storms of local politics. I had also studied psychology and run a counselling practice and written Relationship Matters for Brisbane’s prestigious Courier-Mail.
I was proud that I made a contribution to my burgeoning coastal community but had to face the fact I’d exhausted my career opportunities in the Aussie media. I felt like a frustrated gold fish, swimming in futile circles in a bowl, yearning to leap into a bigger pond.
My mother remembers me in my early 20s, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed cadet reporter, with a dream to jump on a plane for Fleet Street.
As a child, I would rush home from school every afternoon to watch Superman; not for the heroics of the man of steel, but for thrilling exploits of my role model Louis Lane, that feisty newspaperwoman.
My plan took a long and winding detour due to a family tragedy when my brother was killed in a car crash. So mum, of all people, knew that there was unfinished business in my heart.
Moving countries is no mean feat. It requires a massive level of motivation, and can only be driven by extreme optimism. I could not absorb the pessimism of cautious friends, keen to point out the risks of such a change.
In seizing the courage to leave, I didn’t need criticism. I needed the unconditional encouragement of a cheer squad! I had a few supporters, including my mum. It would be tough for her to be left behind, but she unselfishly encouraged me to pursue the dream I’d postponed for 30 years.
However it seemed almost everyone else had an unsolicited opinion. Friends warned us against the bleak English winters and implored, in universal disbelief: “How could you leave the sunshine? Why would you leave our paradise?”
The truth is I found the sweltering humidity unbearable. I would pour with sweat in a frenzy of menopausal madness. My only respite was hiding at home in the air conditioning and when forced to venture out in my car, it was like driving in a mobile sauna!
Here is a confession. After years of humidity and wearing flip flops and singlets, I like rugging up in boots and jackets. I like the bracing sensation of chill on my cheeks!
Many Aussies don’t know about the beautiful English summers when dappled sunshine is like a gentle embrace on evening strolls in the park and magical nights in the city. They haven’t tasted the succulent raspberries and cherries from Kent.
I love the four distinct seasons, seeing gardens explode with pretty flowerbeds in spring and crunching leaves underfoot in autumn.
As a journalist seeking fresh stories and meaningful causes to champion, being based in the UK opens up unlimited creative possibilities. My husband Andrew’s business is flexible, portable and thriving.
I felt isolated in Australia. At this stage of my life, I want to fully participate in global issues and I have a treasure trove of knowledge and skills to contribute.
We prefer culture to sport. We adore London’s concerts and shows, museums and galleries, buzzing street activities, festivals and attractions. We enjoy the multi-cultural mix of people and delight in riding the Tube and local buses.
We love exploring the genteel English countryside and quaint villages. Our roots are English. After decades in exile, we have reclaimed our heritage. We are also keen to travel and Heathrow is an ideal launching pad to Europe and the rest of the world.
Our move has opened up a rich and fascinating lifestyle where we can continue to learn and grow, not retire and shrivel up.
It is a bonus that our two adult children are living in London. They moved here first, blazing the trail. We are re-united as a family unit and have recreated a stable home base; a refuge for our 'kids' and their friends.
Some city-jaded, bone-chilled Brits might yearn to swelter in the distant tropics, frolic on sun-scorched sand and feel the rush of wild surf. Personally I have seen enough beaches to last a lifetime.
Sitting here in my cosy loft in West London, I couldn’t be happier. Making a major change in your 50s is not easy, but it opens up an exhilarating vista of surprises.