A frank chat with a dear friend John Truscott about the realities of relocating 10,000 miles to the other side of the world. Finding work, falling in love, the practicalities and roadblocks along the way and making difficult but enticing and exciting decisions for life in the long term.
In 2011 in his late thirties John made the decision to pack up life in London and head off in search of a new adventure in the vibrant city of Sydney, Australia. This wasn’t a case of mandatory relocation for work but something that he personally felt he wanted to experience for himself. It’s here where he now lives and works in the Financial Services sector for one of Australia’s leading banks.
A family friend for many years I talk to John today about the realities of leaving an old life behind and starting a new one. What is it really like in his opinion? The triumphs and the moments that left him feeling despondent and how he adapted to the new life he found before him.
Q: So John lets start at the beginning! What was your initial education and training and what led you into the work that you do now?
I finished secondary school at 15 and went straight into the work place. Through a couple of adverse situations a number of opportunities presented themselves which ultimately led to me working with a very large global IT company as a full time employee. I was deployed on a programme of work where to my left and right were very well paid consultants. Wanting to be able to join them in the sense of earnings I realised I needed to find a niche for myself. I did and it is this niche that I currently work in.
Q: What were you doing as a career/where were you working prior to relocating to Australia?
Prior to moving to Australia I was a consultant working in the software testing space, advising and assisting companies on the journey of large scale IT based change programs.
I left a role with Barclays Capital at Canary Wharf working on a £350 million IT investment program to boost its UK Wealth and Global Wealth Management capabilities.
Q: Could you describe in a little more detail what the work you do involves?
I help the technical people on programs communicate with each other and with the business. Working within the software testing space I own the process of how and when things are discovered not to work, are managed, either by having them fixed, accepted or through workarounds being put in place.
Q: What drew you towards making the move to Australia? Why make the change at this point in your life?
The opportunity presented itself and having been in the work place since the age of 15 my one frustration in life was never having done the travelling thing, experiencing different cultures, feeling the sun on your back day after day. In some ways I felt that the chance to work in another country would go some way to satisfying this.
Working as a consultant in the UK I had lived in many towns and was always a few hours from friends and family, I was used to starting afresh and making a new life for myself. I figured being three hours from friends and family is not that much different from being 24 hours from friends and family in the sense that phone, Skype and messaging already made up a large part of my interaction with people.
Also as they drive on the right side of the road, are English speaking (albeit with a funny accent!) and I could earn the same money as in the UK, it didn’t seem too hard of a decision, plus if I didn’t like it I could always head home.
Q: What were the practicalities that you had to consider prior to departure – especially on a work basis?
I had to have a visa in place but this was done by the agency that was placing me (short of filling in the forms with my personal details). Other than that, it was the same consideration for any other role: Will I enjoy it? Will I learn in this role? Does it pay enough? Does it have longevity? Will I regret not taking it? Is it an ok place to live?
Then of course there is the tying up of loose ends like cancelling phone accounts, Insurances, Internet providers, satellite TV subscriptions and all that business!
SCALING THE PEAKS:
Q: What have been the high points of relocating life and work abroad?
Since being in Australia I have met an Australian girl, set up home and am getting married next year, those three things combined are a first for me and I'm obviously very happy about that. Also being able to successfully start afresh again and create a new life for myself and all that goes with it, new friends, new activities and new hobbies.
Being able to make an impact in my new workplace is a great feeling, knowing that how you see things and how you choose to do things have value and context.
I have always had a number of close friends that I would share everything with and have been able to add to that group with a small number of people here, that’s very special. The wedding next year excites me most because it's an opportunity for my two lives to come together; it is, for me, about the people in each of our lives which in many ways define us.
Oh and having 200+ clear blue skies does wonders for your wellbeing!
HITTING THE ROCKS:
Q: What were the stresses and were there any unexpected difficulties?
The day I arrived I heard the news my Grandmother had died. It was expected and therefore easier from that perspective. Though there is a feeling of guilt that I wasn't there to help comfort my Mum for her loss.
The program I came out to join was cancelled two weeks after I started work and along with everyone else I was given four weeks notice which meant (on paper) I only had eight weeks to leave the country due to visa restrictions. Having just signed a six-month lease on a rather expensive apartment this was a very testing time.
I agreed with my employer that it would benefit both of us to try and assign me to another project. Four weeks notice equates to twenty working days meaning if I only worked two days per week my notice period could be stretched out over a slightly longer ten week period, thus increasing the chance of something else coming up on which I could be placed. Something else did come up (albeit a tight nine weeks later) and luckily I’m still here to tell the tale!
Being away from my family presents odd feelings, I have two nephews who mean the world to me and not being able to spend time with them has been very hard, but ensuring good contact is kept via messenger and Skype makes it ok. Also, it ensures the time you do spend together is spent well. I have been lucky that they've been out here already to visit and we also met up in New York earlier this year. Plus they get to have an older uncle with a spare room or two which opens up the opportunity for them to come and stay for extended periods of time.
Q: How did you feel on that first day when you landed in Sydney? Where did you go?
Having found, and then dropped my bags at the hostel that I would call home for my first three weeks in Australia I headed down by foot to Circular Quay. I saw a glimpse of the Harbour Bridge through one of the streets as I got closer, I remember that moment and those feelings so well; absolute excitement, an energy that ran through my body and bought with it a connection with every moment of my life leading up to this moment. From being the small boy crossing the road holding his Grandfathers hand right through to whom I was at that precise moment, accompanied with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. I was very proud of the experience I had been able to create for myself. The time in front of me was full of joy.
It sounds silly but I had no idea the Bridge and the Opera House were opposite each other, I spent that day drinking coffee, watching the world go by, looking at those famous landmarks, oh and pinching myself!
Q: How does it feel to be living and working in such a different environment?
It’s very different. I was used to my work shoes getting wet around September or October in the UK and not drying out again until April or May because of the rain.
Work-life balance is very different here. I used to get to the office at 7am at Barclays and not leave again before 7, 8 or sometimes 9pm. Here, people are in for 9 and by 5-5:30pm people have left again! In fact in a couple of places I’ve worked the lights flash on and off at 5:30 to remind you to leave at 6!
I've also experienced certain Managers coming round at the end of the day to kick you out the door, telling you to ‘Go home, the work will still be here tomorrow!'
Being able to take a walk at lunch is nice as well, most days are sunny and it helps you unwind a little and take in a different perspective on things.
I also find people friendlier here; it’s far easier to get chatting to random people who are generally interested in what you have been up to and where you're from.
It is a very outdoors way of life and that’s really nice.
Q: As part of each interview in this series I like to delve a little further into the individual and their personal relationship with the issue we have chosen to discuss. Could you give us the lowdown on one relevant item/thing that has helped to inspire you on your journey?
Back in the 1950’s my Great-Grandmother, at the age of 80, took a trip to America by boat and then took the train across America, she did this alone. If she was able to do that, how could I not do what I have done?
Having friends who have done similar things, being inspired by people you can call friends is invaluable.
DIRECTION AND ADVICE:
Q: What have been the biggest surprises – has it been as you had expected?
I guess the only real surprise was meeting the person I’ve chosen to marry. Who knew she was waiting on the other side of the world all this time!
Q: Would you encourage others to make the same move? What advice would you give?
I personally would whole-heartedly encourage others to make the same move. That is, in the sense of following up on an opportunity that presents you with things you feel will enhance your life, whatever that looks like or feels like.
Make everything an adventure, if you feel fear over something swap that feeling for excitement, those situations are opportunities to see what you are really capable of and demonstrate that we are capable of being far more than what we are currently. Fear nothing and never stop learning.
Most importantly in my opinion - commit. I tried hard not to come here with the view ‘If I don’t like it I will come home after 6 months’ instead knowing I would give it at least 3 to 4 years no matter how hard I had to work for it.
Q: Are there any major no, no’s – pitfalls you would tell people to avoid?
Thinking too much about what could go wrong or what will be hard, instead of focusing on what you want. I’m a strong believer in sending out into the universe what you want and the universe delivering; just be careful what you wish for!
Q: So what’s next – what are your hopes and plans for work and life in the future?
To formally make the move to Australia permanent, this would mean becoming a permanent resident and then dual nationality a couple of years after that.
The opportunity to work elsewhere such as New York for a year or two would excite me, but I think Eastern Australia and Sydney will be home from now on.
Finally - getting my golf handicap into the low teens!
Q: Any additional thoughts or advice?
I guess in part I’d readied myself for things being tough before I arrived, a couple of months before I left the UK I was chatting to my Uncle about the move and he asked if I had a house set up for when I got here. I told him I didn’t and was amazed at how hard he found that to understand. He explained he couldn’t bear the thought of not knowing where he would be living.
I played with this in my head a bit and decided to see how far I could take it. My decision was not to research hostels, hotels or anything like that until I arrived in Australia itself. Therefore the first thing I did when I got off the plane was to get on the Internet, research a hostel, find somewhere with availability and make my way there. I’d never stayed in a hostel before so this was also something that had to be an adventure for me. Plus I did get some odd looks walking in and out of that hostel in a suit and tie for work during those first few weeks!
THE FINAL SWEEP:
Thank you John for your honest and heartfelt interview. Whilst we miss you dearly we are so glad you have found the love and happiness that you deserve.
I hope that this insight into the highs and sometimes lows of the the realities of relocating your work and life abroad will help anyone currently tussling with similar thoughts and questions.
There is a lot to consider, it is a huge decision to make and not necessarily right for everyone, but as John demonstrates you can't go too far wrong if you trust your instincts and follow your heart whatever it may be telling you.
Whatever you choose be brave and be happy!