Why we decided to move halfway round the world

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Featured, Life, Travel | 3 comments

Why we decided to move halfway round the world

In January 2013 our high school friend passed away at the much too young age of 23.  He was a wonderful and intelligent person with a bright future ahead of him.  The sad reality hit home to us that life is indeed unpredictable and can be taken away in an instant.

I began to ask that big cliched question – what is the meaning of life?


I read the book The top five regrets of the dying by Bronnie Ware who worked in palliative care.  Two of the top regrets were ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard‘, and ‘I wish I had lived the life I wanted, not the life that was expected of me’.  The reason she wrote this book was that it seemed such a waste not to learn these lessons earlier, instead of only on our deathbed realising what is important in life.  You won’t be thinking “I’m glad I got that project done on time and my boss was happy”.

Growing up I spent a lot of time surrounded by type A personalities (myself included), which made for an environment filled with pressure and competition.  In primary school I was in a selective advanced class, I went on to attend a selective high school, next to study law at university, and then to compete with my peers for jobs as a graduate.

For so long my life was dictated and consumed by tasks and deadlines.  First it was getting the HSC results I needed to get into university, then the university results I needed to get a job.  Once I started work if a letter didn’t go out the day my boss wanted I felt like a total failure.  If due diligence wasn’t completed in the timeframe decided, it was as if the world would end.

I had no perspective, these things seemed genuinely important and were what I thought about constantly.  My energies should have gone into looking after myself, spending time with my partner, friends and family and concentrating on the things that actually mattered.  At the end of the day it didn’t really matter whether that letter went out on Tuesday or Wednesday, and it certainly wasn’t worth stressing about.

Understand that what seem to be big problems today will become small pebbles when you look back on them.

Stress and unhappiness have such profound detrimental effects on us, both mentally and physically, it can lead to depression, alcoholism  and weight gain to name a few.  I would use coffee to wake up and wine to wind down.  Physically I suffered from rashes across my body, migraines, and began to wear down my teeth from grinding while sleeping.  This was due to too much of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, which I had in bucketloads.

I was fuelling my cortisol with a heavy caffeine addiction, of which I was completely dependent due to my lack of sleep.  Ironically as the caffeine increased my cortisol I slept even less, and so the vicious cycle continued.  It’s pretty crazy when you think about the body’s physical response, adrenalin is supposed to kick in when our life is in danger to put us into fight or flight mode.  But now adrenalin is being produced because we are telling our bodies there is a threat, that there is pressure and urgency because of work deadlines, bills to pay, and other perceived threats.

I knew I wasn’t happy and wanted more from life, but everyone around me was ploughing ahead with the daily grind.  On the surface our lives looked pretty good, we had checked all the boxes, our life was very satisfactory.  But there’s a difference between living a satisfactory life, and being satisfied with your life.

If I ever made a comment to a senior person in my team, asked if they wanted more or ever felt like they were missing out, they looked at me like I was crazy, or lazy, or both.  They had lived this life so long that it seemed normal to them, I don’t think they could even comprehend what they were actually missing on “the outside”.

Societal expectations put us on a carousel that goes round and round, we keep doing things we don’t like doing and raise our kids to do the same.  We drive to our job that we don’t enjoy, to make money to pay for the car we drove there in and the house that we leave empty all day, living for the holidays and waiting for retirement.  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself: what is it that I really want to do? If money were no object, what would I want to do?


Lunchtime conversations would revolve around the most recent episode of The Voice or My Kitchen Rules, I wanted to talk about more interesting and inspiring things, I wanted more.  We are so caught up in watching tv and communicating on social media that we have forgotten how to have meaningful human interactions, or spend time with ourselves in self reflection and stillness.

These feelings came to a head when Wayne and I had what we call our “epiphany moment”.  We were enjoying our usual Saturday morning routine in Bondi, siting on the south hill reading the newspaper and having coffee made by our favourite barista.  I loved this, but wanted to spend more time doing things like this – enjoying life.

We were both in the careers we had planned for, heading down the path we thought we wanted.  It occurred to us, was this what the next 40 years of our life looked like?  Were we happy for it to be?  Society was telling us we should stay in our jobs, get a mortgage, and start thinking about kids.  But we wanted more, we wanted something else.  So we asked ourselves – what did we want our life to look like, and what were we going to do to make it happen?

Top of our list was travel, we wanted to get out and see as much of the world as we could.  This was never going to happen with me working long hours and only ever getting four weeks holiday per year, two of which I always had to take over Christmas during office shutdown.  Wayne was getting great holidays as a teacher, and had heard about international teachers who could teach their subject at international schools all around the world.  We had always wanted to live overseas, so this seemed like the way to do it.  Wayne began applying for jobs everywhere, mainly in Asia where we knew the cost of living would be lower and we would be able to save more money to put towards travel.

We decided then and there to get off the treadmill and break out of the mundane routine that had become our lives.  It was a scary decision, we knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that we would miss our friends and family.  But more than that, we knew we would regret it later in life if we didn’t do it.

When we left Australia I felt a sadness, I was leaving a place and people I love and a promising career that was going well.  So why did I do it?  Because I want to see the world, and not just on short one week trips.  I want to really see it, get to know it intimately over time, live in it and experience it completely.

Right now I don’t know what the future holds, and I can’t wait to find out!




  1. This is the best story Em. I feel so inspired. And it makes me miss you! But don’t come home, keep exploring. xxx

    • Thanks Vick! You constantly inspire me xx

  2. It makes it worth looking at Facebook just to read this.

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