Welcome to Relocation Recap, a regular feature on the Health & Wellness Revolution blog – sharing the relocation experiences of people from across the world.
Feeling alone is a common challenge of relocation.
This interview series aims to shines light on the many ways you can feel more connected, inspired and capable when moving from your comfort zone to somewhere new and unfamiliar.
You may well read about someone who faced similar challenges to your own, and surmounted them. As you can too.
If you, or anyone you know, would like to be featured in this interview series, please contact Kylie here.
Welcome Jacob, thank you for joining us!
Where do you live now, and where have you lived?
We are back living in Brisbane, Australia, having previously transitioned to London, UK, and are currently considering our next move(s).
What do you do, what ‘hats do you wear’, how do you spend your time, paid and unpaid?
I am an international business coach, speaker and writer over at www.jacobaldridge.com. I help business owners across a range of industries to achieve their business and family visions; one of my coaching firms Real Estate Grow specialises in working with the unique needs of real estate principals, and I have investments in a couple of other organisations.
As most small business owners would appreciate, that means most of my time is unpaid! But I love what I do, making a difference in the lives of my clients, and it provides the flexibility I desire for my family. I’m also a volunteer with the Pyjama Foundation.
What have you gained by relocating?
We moved to London in the middle of the global financial crisis. Our primary context was the opportunities that created to travel, and we certainly made the most of that opportunity (in 2012, for example, we visited 25 different countries). On a business front, I took my business coaching skills from Australia but had to start my business from scratch in a new country and at a time when investing for the future wasn’t a priority for many business owners. To have succeeded in that environment, and built the global relationships I did as a result, was incredibly rewarding. And on a relationship level, the experience (including moving ‘home’ eventually) created many challenges that made us stronger as a couple.
What have been some of the challenges?
We certainly experienced both the culture shock of the move, and the reverse culture shock 3 years later when we returned to our networks in Brisbane that were the same … but different.
Financially in London, we got to within 6 weeks of running out of money, putting flights to Australia on the credit card and moving back to live with family. That was scary, but because we had an end date in mind we could focus day-to-day on what we needed to do to stay, rather than keeping asking ourselves the ‘do we or don’t we’ question. It took us about 6 months to stabilise – because of my new businesses in startup mode, and difficulty for my beautiful wife to find employment at a time when law firms were shedding staff rather than hiring.
Going through all of that while finding a flat, learning to live without a car (you really don’t need one in central London), going into a UK winter, and all the million other little differences you discover (Penguins are NOT the same as Tim Tams) was an experience to say the least!
And then, when we decided to move back to Australia a few years later for family reasons, we were totally unprepared for doing that in reverse. Many of our couple friends now had young children. My sense of direction was always one street off. And Tim Tams now come in about 20 different flavours! In many ways, the reverse culture shock was worse than what we experienced after landing at Heathrow, because we were so unprepared for it.
All that, and packing and sending all of your most prized possessions to the other side of the world by boat. Twice.
What have you learned, about yourself and others?
There’s a great line in the song ‘The Impression That I Get’, which proclaims “I’m not a coward I’ve just never been tested / I like to think that if I was, I would pass”.
Relocating created that “test” for us on so many levels. It was self-created, and there’s no doubt we passed. I gained enormous confidence in myself and my abilities as a business owner, and as a husband.
The travel front taught us many things we largely knew intellectually – people around the world are all the same in many ways. It’s the rituals and assumptions in different cultures that create distinctions, and when you approach those with respect it’s incredibly exciting. That applies to squeezing on a peak-hour Tube as much as it does buying sweets in an Istanbul bazaar or soaking with strangers in an Icelandic hot spring.
Side benefits include being able to pack a suitcase in 15 minutes, and our new ability to sleep on any form of public transport.
What would you have missed out on, had you stayed in one place?
We can point to lifelong friends we made in London, and priceless travel experiences that wouldn’t have been possible only touring. But the biggest thing we would have missed out on was proof for ourselves that we can articulate a dream, work together as a couple to plan for it, and then actually make it a reality.
We all know the ‘gunnas’ and the ‘wantrepreneurs’ – people who talk about their dreams in the abstract, as something they’re ‘gunna’ do one day. Relocating overseas isn’t the only example of following through in our lives – we’ve started businesses, invested in property, and I have a Guinness World Record for non-stop movie watching – but it’s genuinely one of the easiest dreams to cancel. So many people who would love to relocate, and would enjoy the experience immensely, settle for a gap year or an annual holiday, because it’s easier than uprooting yourself from family, friends, employment and routine. I understand and respect making the easier decision – had we done so, however, we would have missed not only the specific experience but also the size of our next vision.
As we talk about location independent business opportunities, life for a while in Central America perhaps, spending three months in Budapest or New York or South Africa, we believe we can create for ourselves whatever choice we make. That’s rewarding and powerful for me every day. And I wouldn’t have that, if we’d stayed in one place.
Did your physical and emotional health improve or decline after relocating?
Initially, there was a definite decline! My poor (but still beautiful) wife suffered this most, since she was commuting on the London Underground during winter and being exposed to a new country’s collection of colds and flus. We counted 6 separate illnesses in the first 5 months, and it’s an experience I’ve heard from many other expats as well.
Emotionally, for all the reasons I mentioned above, the first 6 months were quite difficult. However identifying this and dealing with it has improved our emotional wellbeing for the long term.
As our life stabilised, we realised our physical health was one of those routines that would need to change for a new location. In Australia, we’d invested in a personal trainer to come to our backyard (he was a uni student, so it was actually a bargain). In London, we had no backyard and even a bargain PT would stretch the budget. Thankfully, my beautiful wife found a company she loved working for and their building had a gym and offered lunch time exercise classes – we actually have friends back in Brisbane that were made there! And I took up running, as a cheap and flexible exercise plan that allowed me to jog past Buckingham Palace and Westminster and make the most of living abroad.
What did you do to feel as healthy, capable and happy as possible while relocating?
We’re planners, which helps enormously. For example, we started packing 3-4 months before we left – itemising items for the shipping manifesto, organising stuff to sell on eBay, and putting some furniture etc into storage all take way more time and mental energy than you expect.
We kept our Australian house as an investment property, and rented it out about a month before we left (living with friends during that time). This also reduced stress – nothing went wrong, but we had abundant time.
And we planned a holiday upon our arrival, in our case a month in Spain. That was kind of the reward for having achieved everything, and a much-needed break after the stresses of the relocation.
While not specific to relocating, we have long been ‘Once a Month Cookers’, meaning we batch cook a large number of meals each month and freeze for nightly consumption. Those long nights sorting out all of the details were made much easier by having a healthy meal to microwave, rather than dropping by take-out on the way home.
When and if you experience self-doubt, fear or stress, how do you embrace these feelings and move on?
Thankfully, my work as a business coach over the past ten years has always required me to have my own coach, and over time we have invested in our relationship in that way. I think my fabulous sister Millie from I Am Lovable has the best approach – you have to feel your feelings, rather than fighting against them. It’s not bad or wrong to experience self-doubt, fear and stress – because we all experience those emotions. If you can identify them when they happen and acknowledge them, with your partner to talk ‘about’ your feelings not just talk ‘through’ them, they generally dissipate fairly quickly.
I also find it enormously energising to have a really clear vision for where I’m headed. That may be more of a masculine trait, but I find it aligns all of my other decisions. If I’m stuck in the stuff, with business or life, reconnecting with where I’m going and WHY I’m doing this helps bring me out of the funk. And often it reminds me that the stuff I’m doing isn’t important or necessary anyway! Win!
Invariably the first week or month of a relocation yields a really funny story – sometimes only in hindsight. Do you have a tale to share?
Driving in the UK is a little more intense than Australia. Our mild-mannered friend Jane from Capercaillie Escapes picked us up from the airport, and about five minutes later barreled through the tiniest of gaps at a roundabout. THAT woke us both up after a long flight (though only temporarily – we’ve learned to tolerate jet lag better in the years since then, but that afternoon it claimed us both while attempting Windsor’s Great Walk, and having a fireside pint at the local pub respectively).
What would you say to others contemplating a relocation?
If the desire is there, do it. The worst case scenario is that you come home again – and if you never leave, that’s where you’d be anyway!
Then give yourself the necessary planning time. Pick a date, buy the plane ticket, then slowly use that time to make it happen.
For a young, single person with limited baggage (both physical and emotional!) that may only be a few weeks or a month. We made the decision in February and left in August, giving us plenty of time to pack up a whole house, transition clients, get my UK passport and so forth. Speaking to people who relocate with families, this can be an even longer process – you may need to time it around school years, and ensure they’re on-board with the experience as well.
Like achieving any dream, it’s not the end of your existence. You will set new goals in life – and that may include moving back, which is perfectly acceptable. Don’t waste time second-guessing what your next dream might be, because that energy is better spent creating your current one.
What would you say to yourself if you were contemplating another relocation?
Well Jacob, you guys have done it twice now, so you have the project plan. If possible, plan the income transition better, but there’s absolutely no reason not to go and every opportunity for happiness and adventure if you do.
Anything you’d like to add?
Relocating, as a form of travel on steroids, will teach you so much more about yourself. It’s an experience that will impact you emotionally, physically and financially – but almost always for the better in the long run. You’re not the first person to do it, so learn from the experience of others, enjoy the challenges as they arise, and remember the reason why you are doing this for you. Good luck!
Thank you Jacob!
Now back to you, dear reader – are you contemplating relocating?
Check these out:
Relocation Ready: a mini-course, FREE to join
Relocation Health Resources: articles, recipes, tips, FREE
Your Relocation Solution: be healthy and happy wherever you are: a guidebook for women wishing to feel connected, inspired and capable when moving from their comfort zone
Healthy Relocation Coaching: one-on-one coaching program, tailored to your situation and needs
And please comment below, your thoughts, ideas, experiences and challenges are welcome and appreciated.