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 Lydia, thank you for joining us!
Where do you live now, and where have you lived?
I spent over two decades in New Zealand where I was born and raised, then moved to Sydney, Australia in December 2011.
I was originally intending to move for one year while I completed a university exchange, and over 4 years later, I’m still here.
What do you do, what ‘hats do you wear’, how do you spend your time, paid and unpaid?
I’m one of those people who are fortunate enough to have their work and vocation be the same thing. It was when I moved to Sydney that I discovered it was possible to combine my strategic, business mind with my passion for impact and social change through social enterprise. I’ve spent the last 3 years working on a not-for-profit social enterprise named Club Kidpreneur, which teaches primary-aged children entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for their future careers. I’ve also helped setup Corporate Spend – a social enterprise enabling businesses to contribute to social and environmental causes through social procurement. I’m now enjoying using this experience to help other aspiring entrepreneurs get into purpose-driven business through my work with Investible, a business accelerator and angel investment network.
While working on these passions I love a lifestyle filled with yoga, (attempted) mindfulness, ethical consumption and rock climbing plus my wonderful kiwi, paramedic husband who pursued me via long distance and eventually also relocated to Australia to marry me.
What have you gained by relocating?
When I left New Zealand I was pretty burned out and in a ‘life rut’. I was ready for change. Friends said ‘I’m so jealous. You can start over and be anything you want to be’.
In hindsight I realised that is completely untrue. In relocating I actually learned more about who I truly am (as corny as that sounds). I learned what parts of my life and personality were shaped by my context in NZ and what parts are core to who I am and will follow me anywhere. I also got the choice to take some aspects of ‘NZ Lydia’ with me to Australia (e.g. a love of rock climbing and terrible puns) and to consciously discard other parts that I didn’t want to be part of me moving forward (e.g. being too busy and overcommitted). I was also able to be really intentional about the people I formed friendships with. I consciously made sure I put myself in situations where I could make friends with people who would challenge me, bring out the best in me and would share common passions.
What have been some of the challenges?
In moving to Sydney I naively thought that I could easily leave behind some of the less positive parts of myself, but I quickly learned that some things were deeply ingrained aspects that you can’t just shake off by relocating. For example, within 18 months I quickly found myself becoming over busy again, experiencing anxiety and feeling unable to stop and be present. I had set up the same life dynamic for myself in Sydney as I had left behind in New Zealand. This led to a wonderful process of self-development, working through the root causes of why I tend to do that. I may not have realised that had I not moved.
It has also been a challenge to maintain friendships in two countries and navigate expectations around how often you need to connect with friends to maintain your relationship. Plus, coming back home to visit family and friends is always an exhausting whirlwind, trying to fit in catch ups with everyone in a short space of time (perching at a bar for an afternoon for anyone to come say hi has been a great answer for that). You do realise who your true friends are when you move though. It’s the people for whom distance means nothing, who make an effort to reach out and who it’s like nothing has changed with when you see them again after a long time apart.
I had more culture shock than I thought moving from NZ to Australia. I assumed it was pretty much the same, it’s just the people have a worse accent. So it was the little things that threw me and reminded me I was in a different place. Cream has a blue lid at the supermarket, not a red one; you have to carry cash everywhere because not everywhere accepts card; sushi comes in rolls not slices etc. It’s amazing how much energy it takes when things are new, even if they’re only slightly different. You have to notice your surroundings and think about everything. You can’t just go places on auto-pilot. It was challenging to have to expend so much energy on even the smallest of things like going to the shops, but once I’d settled into a routine it stopped being so exhausting within a few months.
What have you learned, about yourself and others?
I’ve learned that family is more than flesh and blood relatives. The friendships I have built in Sydney feel stronger than many of my family connections. But I’ve only learned this because in Sydney I’ve learned what healthy friendship looks like. In New Zealand I was running around, super busy, trying to be everything to everyone, but I wasn’t very good at letting people be a friend to me. When I first moved I lived in an apartment with two other women who showed me what it looks like to be vulnerable in friendship, to love well and to let yourself be loved. That’s a life lesson I’m so grateful to have learned because only when you know how to be loved can you more fully love other people.
What would you have missed out on, had you stayed in one place?
I would never have ended up marrying my now husband. When living in New Zealand I feared settling down and thought that the commitment of a romantic relationship meant having to give up my dreams and aspirations to see the world and have a meaningful career. Prior to moving, Sam had expressed his interest in me for quite some time, but I wasn’t willing to ‘give up my life’ as I saw it, to be in a relationship with him. But moving to Sydney showed me that there is always going to be more to see and experience in the world and I will never reach the end of it all and I have to be content with that. It also allowed me to see the beauty of having someone to see and experience those things with along the way. It turns out Sam has the same heart for exploration and adventure as I do, so I’m now excited for the life we will have together which will undoubtedly consist of several more relocations.
Did your physical and emotional health improve or decline after relocating?
I’ve always been a generally fit and healthy person, but in Sydney I discovered the beauty of yoga and its ability to balance me and stretch out my body which tends to shrivel into the seated position from being at an office desk everyday. Yoga has also taught me to be kind to myself – to notice what’s going on in my body but not be judgemental or expect it to do today what it could do yesterday.
I have found that my hay fever and dust/mould allergies have become worse while in Sydney – which I’ve since found is one of the worst cities in the world when it comes to allergens.
The process that I have experienced in relocating as a university student, then forging a meaningful career in Sydney with incredibly rich friendships has undoubtedly left me more free in myself and emotionally healthy. I think relocation forces you to reckon with life in a way which you can’t do by remaining in the same geographical location or context.
What did you do to feel as healthy, capable and happy as possible while relocating?
I made sure I chose some things to do on a regular basis that I loved. I went to a rock climbing gym weekly which was where I met my first friends. It’s hard to build friendships when you meet someone at a party and may not ever see them again. It takes time, repetition and shared experiences to build friendships. Rock climbing was great for this. And because it was something I was doing regularly before I moved and is something that I love, it helped me feel like there was an element of enjoyable continuity in my life despite the change.
I arrived in Sydney a couple of weeks before Christmas. So I tried to make my apartment my own by decorating it. I also made sure I had photos in my room and a few special things around that reminded me of the people I have at home who love me e.g. farewell cards. It was encouraging to have that at first when the inevitable (but short lived) thoughts of ‘I have no friends, I feel lonely’ came along.
I love new things and I love change. So I made sure I got out and explored my new city. I got out on foot and on a bike and seemed to discover more that way than driving or on public transport. I discovered hidden gems that I probably wouldn’t have if I was a local. I’ve stopped doing that now that I’ve been here for a while (I’ve turned into a local), and am glad that I got to know the place so well early on.
When and if you experience self-doubt, fear or stress, how do you embrace these feelings and move on?
When I couldn’t find work early on I experienced huge amounts of self-doubt. Financial stress is a unique kind of stress which takes its toll on all aspects of your life. I didn’t feel like I could go out too much as it would cost money, but I knew I needed to go out to meet people and to network to get employed. I ended up doing a weekly budget which allowed for going out. This helped me feel like at least I had some structure around my finances and knew how long I could last on my savings without finding work. I knew I had about 6 weeks which meant I could relax a little for the first couple. It was in those first couple that I found work because I allowed myself to get out there and had a more relaxed and positive attitude which people probably picked up on.
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?
As I moved to Sydney a couple of weeks before Christmas, I took it upon myself to make a wreath for our apartment door. I was the only one home that day and was enjoying getting a bit crafty in my daggy, slouch-around clothes. After putting the wreath up, I decided I needed to take a photo to share with friends back home. So I shut the door to make the photo look better, forgetting that I didn’t have my keys with me and got locked out. Luckily I had my phone there to take the photo and arranged to pick up a key from my housemate who worked 2 suburbs away. Having no money on me for public transport, my only choice was to run there in my daggy clothes, holding my fluffy bed socks, no hair or makeup done – you get the picture.
Early on in my run I turned a corner and ran into an older man pushing his rickety bike with a wire basket up the hill I was coming down. We collided and I was sandwiched between the man plus his bike and a picket fence. Unfortunately, when he was lifting the bike off me, the wire of his basket tore my shorts from around the groin area down to the hem. After dusting ourselves off and apologising profusely I continued on my way, now looking even more of a ragamuffin, running through the suburban streets of Sydney barefoot, with a tear in my pants, holding my fluffy socks and phone. People must have thought I was running from the scene of a crime. The story ended well though when I grabbed the keys from my housemate and she kindly gave me money to catch a train home.
What would you say to others contemplating a relocation?
There are some things you can only learn about yourself and the world from being removed from your current context and comfort and challenging yourself to take the leap. Leaving the known for the unknown feels like the scariest thing in the world before you do it, but once on the other side it’d be very difficult to say it wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to you.
What would you say to yourself if you were contemplating another relocation?
Lydia, if you discovered so much by just moving from New Zealand to Australia, imagine how much more perspective you could gain by setting up life in another part of the world. No matter how uncertain it might seem, you stand to lose so much more from staying put than by going.
Thank you Lydia!
Now back to you, dear reader – are you contemplating relocating?
Check these out:
Relocation Ready (mini-course): FREE to join
Free Resources (articles, recipes, tips – including an awesome moving abroad checklist)
Your Relocation Solution (the book): be healthy and happy, wherever you are. The ultimate guide for women wishing to feel connected, inspired and capable when moving from their comfort zone.
Healthy Relocation Coaching (one-on-one)
And please comment below, your thoughts, ideas, experiences and challenges are welcome and appreciated.