It’s exactly 30 days until we board our flight to Canberra, but what was it that made us leave the UK in the first place, and why is it that we have no desire to return?
I can still remember all the significant moments in the months leading up to our departure from the UK. I’d been working for the same company for 15 years and I was in my late-30s. I had a great job, I really liked the company I was working for and there were plenty of potential ‘next steps’ on my career path. And yet I was restless.
At home, things couldn’t have been better. We’d just moved house to an area which had halved my commuting time, and my wife and I had just welcomed our first child into the world. Our move made no sense unless we were planning to stay put for at least three or four years. And yet I was restless.
The root of my restlessness, it transpired, was the looming prospect of hitting 40 without having fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions – to live and work abroad. I surmised, perhaps pessimistically, that if I was still in the same job and home when I reached 40, then in all likelihood, I’d still be in them when I reached retirement. Something needed to be done.
My wife and I talked it through and we agreed that the best time to have an overseas adventure would be while our son was still young, so he would appreciate the experience but not have his education compromised if it turned out to be a short-lived but nevertheless disruptive sabbatical.
Big moment number 1
Then we set about listing the countries that we’d want to move to if the chance arose. There were five countries on that list: Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Big moment number 2
The next week, and I mean the very next week, I saw an ad for a communications manager, in the same industry as my current job, based just outside Copenhagen. So, I called the hiring manager, introduced myself, and applied.
Big moment number 3
After two rounds of interviews, straddling Christmas 2004, and a little bit of discussion over the details of the contract, I had a job offer in front of me. I sat there, wavering on whether to sign it. Then I put it in a drawer to think about it.
Big moment number 4
I decided not to sign it. Then I emailed a close friend explaining my situation and why I’d decided not to accept the offer. His reply was as incisive as it was swift: “Yes, I can see why, having wanted to do this for years, you’d turn it down now it’s within your grasp.” He was being sarcastic of course. But he was right. I thought some more, fretted some more, talked some more with my wife. Then I said: “Shall we go on an adventure?” She smiled and nodded, and then I signed the contract.
Big moment number 5
Three months later, with our belongings successfully packed up and waved off on the back of a lorry, we drove to Harwich ferry terminal with a one-way passage to Esbjerg booked. I don’t remember much about the journey except standing out on deck as England disappeared into the distance and the ship’s Danish flag fluttered in the wind in the foreground. Despite all the agonising, false starts and indecision, we were off.
I once read that the definition of bravery isn’t doing something dangerous or foolhardy; it’s doing something that you were initially afraid to do. There’s an exhilaration that comes from succeeding at something that you felt sure had a more than 50/50 chance of failure. And it’s addictive too.
Looking back on our Danish adventure, it’s been the best thing we ever did. But that doesn’t erase the fears we had at the very start of it all. They were justifiable and perhaps even sensible, but we overcame them and did it anyway.
As our Australian adventure looms nearer, I recognise many of those ‘big moments’ as old friends now I’m seeing them for a second time and they remind me of why we wanted to do it all again, of why going home to the UK was never really an option.
It took me nearly 40 years to start living the live I really wanted, and I’m not going to stop now, just when we’re about to get to the place where we always wanted to be.