I’ve had a lot of practice at answering this question. For friends and relatives who don’t want us to go; for neighbours who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave our current home in Denmark; and for Aussies who are flattered that we love their country but, frankly, want to know why.
For us there are three main reasons:
Back when we were dating, the first holiday I ever took with my wife was to Australia. I remember some raised eyebrows at this – wasn’t it optimistic to book a lengthy holiday, some months off, with someone you’d only just met? Well, yes, and no. Because we were just starting our adventure together and all things seems possible, so doubt never entered our minds. Wasn’t it a very long way? Well, yes, but that was part of the adventure. What if we didn’t get on? Well, we’d find out, wouldn’t we.
In the end, it was the perfect holiday—three weeks which took in Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne, and memories so vivid, I could reel them off even today.
That first holiday is now 15 years ago, and we’ve been back several times since, but it definitely instilled something in us that we still carry around today. As the saying goes, “it was the making of us,” and we’ve never forgotten it.
We have two children, both boys, currently aged eight and 11, and this feels like an important little period in their lives, especially for ‘big boy’. At 11, school starts to get a bit more serious. In the coming years, our influence as parents will start to diminish as he asserts his own personality, becomes influenced by friends to a greater degree, perhaps even starts dating. But where do we want all of that to happen?
Clearly, we want it to happen in a place where he will thrive, become confident, discover the joy of learning, and find a path into adult life that equips him well for many years of happiness. I should add that we want the same for our youngest son, too. It’s just that the clock isn’t ticking quite as fast for him.
Ten years ago, my wife and I had a similar conversation – about where we wanted the kids to spend their younger years. We were living near London and we were both working typical UK hours – leaving the house at 6.30-7am, getting home again between 7-8pm – and, with our first child having just been born, we knew we needed to change something if we were to enjoy him in the that way we hoped to. That precipitated our move to Denmark (of which, more in a future post), and it’s been great here, but we never felt like Denmark was a ‘forever’ move. And if it wasn’t, we needed think about where we wanted to end up. So we did. And Australia was the first word from both our mouths.
There’s something about living in a place that seeps into your bones. After ten years in Denmark, I can certainly feel the ways in which it has shaped and influenced me, particularly when I go back to the UK and notice behaviours and traits that I probably displayed myself at one time. Which brings me to something that I think Australia excels at – optimism.
When I was there on a work trip, a few years ago, I awoke in the small hours, suddenly overcome with jetlag and unable to get back to sleep. So, I flicked the TV on, and there was a man being interviewed about what he thought the main differences were between the UK and Australia. What he said gave form to something I have felt for a long time, but had been unable to articulate quite as well as he did.
He said: “It seems to me that the UK is essentially a pessimistic place that believes its best years are behind it. Australia is predominantly optimistic – we believe our best years are ahead of us.”
It reminded me of another, much older TV interview that I’d seen on YouTube.
Once, when John Lennon was being interviewed about his belief in love and peace, a TV interviewer challenged him with: “But what good would it have done for people to shout ‘peace and love’ at Hitler as he marched towards their borders?” Lennon’s reply was wonderful. He said: “Nothing. But what if they’d been saying it to him his whole life?”
And I think that’s the point of our move. If Australia can infuse itself into our kids from a young enough age, perhaps they’ll share that optimism; perhaps they’ll experience that romance; perhaps they’ll find that path to the happy adulthood that we, as parents, would wish for them.
We want to give them a fighting chance of it, at least. Which is why we’ll be moving there later this year.