Lake Burragorang

I moved from the UK to Australia in May. Although I’ve moved around the isles in my life – from Northern Ireland to Scotland, then to England – this is the ultimate moving adventure.

Jess and I have spent the past few months working through a mountain of paperwork: visa forms and supporting evidence (bills, joint travel itineraries, sworn statements from friends and family on our relationship, dates of all of my brothers’ and stepsisters’ weddings – you know, the important stuff), bank accounts and superannuation, social security, shipping our personal belongings and then clearing it through customs, paying off my entire student loan to avoid a debt collection agency shaking down my mum, flights back to the UK this Christmas… there are so many strands to the bureaucratic web of modern life, it’s only by re-threading it all in a month that you can comprehend its complexity.

We’re fortunate enough to have secured jobs and are settling into a routine again. I finally feel like I have the cognitive capacity to take stock of the journey, and better yet, write again. As I wrote in ‘Learning to Write Again‘ – before I moved halfway around the world – writing falls by the wayside when you’re preoccupied with other tasks. Deep writing requires space and time for ideas to form in the mental ether, condense into sentences and stories, then evolve through editing into something I’m not embarrassed to read back in a month.

Mt Keira, overlooking Wollongong

What’s Australia like?

‘Beautiful’ is the first word that springs to mind. We live in rural New South Wales near Warragamba Dam, and yes, there are kangaroos at the end of the street. It’s brighter and warmer than the UK – even in what the locals call ‘winter’ it is 20°C or above during the day – and the dense eucalypt forests filled with cockatoos, rosellas, and lorikeets are a world away from the drab brown winters of Oxfordshire. At dusk you can usually hear a kookaburra; at night, the shrill cries of fruit bats. It feels alive in a way Britain never did to me. Although I also see more foxes (much of what is wrong with Australia can be boiled down to ‘unwanted British imports’).

Jess and I visited the local lookouts when we arrived: I hope you appreciate the stunning views as much as I did. My phone camera pictures don’t do justice to the scale or vibrancy of the sunsets, but I tried my best.

Yet once you’re out of nature and into more urban areas, Australia is not massively different from the UK. It is easiest to run through the minutiae in a series of rapid-fire bullet points:

  • The train from Penrith to Sydney at peak hours costs roughly £5. Oxford to London, shorter distance, same times: £70. Doesn’t make up for my partner visa costing nearly $8000 AUD, but it keeps daily expenses down!
  • Dining out as a vegan is a mixed bag. Specialist restaurants are excellent, and there’s a wide range of cuisines and cultures to enjoy. But Australia has the highest meat consumption of every country in the world, and their idea of culinary excellence is a chicken schnitzel covered in tomato sauce and cheese. But fresh fruit and vegetables cost less and taste better, and those are 99% of what I eat.
  • Related: Aussie beer is horrible. The craft beer situation is improving, but draught beer ranges from merely bland to downright offensive.
  • Also related: Aussie coffee lives up to the hype. The worst coffee isn’t as bad as the UK, but there’s a consistent high bar (pun intended, barista friends).
  • Mobile data networks are blazingly fast. Home broadband is largely embarrassing, but getting better.
  • Electronics in Australia are now cheaper than the UK. Thanks, Brexit!
Jess at Jellybean Pool, Glenbrook

It’s About Time

The worst thing about moving here, aside from a saga involving Xbox 360 power supplies too boring to recount (I now own a new Xbox 360 S, thanks Rich!) is the time difference between Sydney and the UK. I am currently nine hours ahead, and during the week I can only call people at dawn, or just before bed if they aren’t at work. Calls with family and friends are limited to the weekends, unless someone is on holiday. Unfortunately my granny became unwell the literal day before we flew out of London, and staying in touch with family has been a challenge. On the bright side, my grannies think I’m lavishing them with expensive phone calls from Australia, and simply do not understand inclusive long-distance minutes no matter how many times I explain.

For better or worse, I am used to most friends and family being at the end of a phone call rather than a bike ride, so the distance isn’t quite so bad. In the event of an emergency, the trip home will be expensive and excruciating. Yet it helps me value the conversations I can have all the more, where perhaps I took those opportunities for granted.

All things considered, I love it here. Life is great, and the future seems brighter than the embarrassing self-immolation of Brexit Britain. Ultimately, life is what you make of it, wherever you are. But Australia seems a better place to make it than most.

Bents Basin