Living abroad is the dream for many, but it can be surprisingly tricky to negotiate. Nell Gooch from Essex is one person who made it work. One of Flash Pack’s resident Travel Escape Artists, Nell moved from London to Melbourne last year. In doing so, she traded grey commutes for wide blue skies and a sunny pace of life (#jealous). Here’s how she did it:
My move to Australia wasn’t really planned. I had a job that I really enjoyed at Flash Pack and my social life was great. So, while I knew I wanted to live abroad again at some point (I previously lived in South America and Russia) I didn’t think it was going to be now. But my partner, Jake, is Australian, and when his visa sponsorship fell through, it put me in a position to seriously think about whether a move Down Under would be a realistic option.
I thought, ‘F*ck it, life’s too short, give it a go. Worst case scenario I won’t enjoy it and I’ll come home.’ Fortunately, I’m loving it now I’m here. I was lucky in that I didn’t have a mortgage to pay, a child in school, a partner to persuade etc., which is why I felt like I had to go for it. There is never a perfect time for anything like this, but this was probably as close as it was going to get for me.
The work question
Flash Pack’s founders Radha and Lee were the ones that made the career part of this transition possible. I was so nervous about telling them that I was moving. I really enjoy my job and I didn’t want them to think otherwise, or leave them in a mess. Working in a start-up helped, as there is an openness to trying new things. I mentioned that it could be a good opportunity to see if we could provide almost 24-hour coverage (given the time difference in Melbourne), as we were getting lots of enquiries about trips out of hours. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment.
They went away and had a think. We decided that I could trial it for a couple of months, to see if it was beneficial to the company. That was my opportunity to make it work! It hasn’t been stress-free; there was a lot of talking with lawyers, migration agents and accountants that needed to be done, and I had to achieve the figures that proved the set-up worked. It’s a team effort though, so I know that if I need help all I ever have to do is ask. I now can’t wait to start building a team Down Under.
Finding an office
My role can be done remotely, so it wasn’t too hard to move locations. At first we thought that I could work from home for a couple of months to see how the business went with me being over there. But Radha is really into wellbeing and looking after yourself, so she suggested I rent a space in a co-working office to keep me motivated. It would also make me feel part of something, and stop me getting cabin fever.
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I did some research before I went to find an initial base. Then, after sussing out my location a bit better when I arrived, I moved into a more comfortable office a month later. I’ve always been ambitious, so it’s incredibly exciting being part of something that you can see growing so quickly. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.
Quality of life
The biggest lifestyle change here in Melbourne is probably my after-work life. In London, I was going out most nights after work and felt like I didn’t have any downtime to myself. In hindsight, I was constantly exhausted. Since getting to Melbourne, I haven’t got the same social network so my week is a lot more chilled, and I’m actually really enjoying it. I have time to cook or watch a movie in the evening, I’ve even started going to an adult gymnastics class.
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I can do things like starting a new hobby that I just never felt like I had the time for in London. This is quite typical of Melbournians. In London, we burn the candle at both ends during the week, then spend our weekends catching up on sleep and energy. Here, they save most of their socialising for the weekend and really get out and make most of their free time.
Slowing things down
My partner Jake had mentioned that it was a slower pace of life in Melbourne, but I don’t think I really appreciated it until I got here. People seem to be much more keen to preserve their work-life balance and, of course, spend time outside. Whereas in London working lots of overtime is a norm in many industries, among my friends here, it seems to be more of an exception. I think Aussies seem to be a bit more laid-back when it comes to social situations too, particularly with new people. Us Brits are not famously good at that.
The novelty of living somewhere warm and sunny still hasn’t worn off. Mornings are made a lot easier! I walked out of my house the other day and said it ‘smelt like holiday’. I start at 8am and finish at 4.30pm, mostly to fit in with the different time zones around the world a bit better.
This does mean that I have to get up earlier (which has never been my strong suit) but I am loving finishing earlier; I have more time to myself in the evenings. As I’m getting up earlier I am getting to bed a bit earlier, too, which is probably a better lifestyle habit to get into.
I miss my friends and family a lot. That’s the hardest part of moving anywhere. I always make sure we fit in regular Skype sessions, though, so I don’t feel like I’m out of the loop. I’m also really missing roast dinners – I’m struggling to find anywhere that does a ‘real’ one here. The chocolate also tastes really different here – apparently they add different things to stop it melting so easily. That’s a bit of a shame, but I guess I’ll get used to that.
Seize the moment
Life is really too short to make excuses not to do things. It’s true that a lot of big decisions are never convenient. It’s easier to say they’re not possible and push them aside, but sometimes it’s probably more possible than you want to acknowledge; it’s just fear holding you back. Since arriving in Australia I’ve joined a group that meets once a month called the ‘Passion Project’; it’s all about motivating each other to keep on track to achieve what you want from life, whether they’re short-term or long-term goals.
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One of the things we spoke about was the ‘rocking chair test’ and I realised that this was precisely how I lived my life: If you imagine yourself old, in a rocking chair, reflecting on your life and looking back on a certain decision, how will you feel about it? That thought was what made me move; how cool to look back and say, ‘Yeah I was bold and I tried it’. I knew that I’d be proud of myself for giving it a go, even if all went wrong. I want to look back on my life and know that I lived it fully.
… Thanks Nell for your story! Check our latest vacancies on the Flash Pack Careers page here.
Fancy re-locating abroad?
Living aboard isn’t a total picnic (until you hit the beach, that is) – there’s a fair bit of red tape to hop around, too. Here’s a few things to consider before you take the leap…
Think about why you’re going
What you’re after from living abroad will help determine where you go. Do you fancy wide open spaces? Friendly people? A cheaper way of life? The Telegraph has a nice round-up of the best countries to suit every need.
Sound out your work
More and more companies have the option to work remotely now. It depends on what you do, of course, but it’s worth checking with your boss or HR department to see whether that’s a possibility. Hiring new people is costly and time-consuming; your employer may well prefer to invest in your talents.
Consider remote options
If your company says no to remote working, this could be your opportunity to pivot to a freelance role. The world is brimming with hot spots for digital nomads, a term that covers anything from marketing to fundraising and software development. With more and more people developing portfolio careers, there’s never been a better time to branch out.
Sort your work visa first
Securing a work visa is one of the biggest headaches of living abroad, but there are ways around it. GoAbroad has some great suggestions, including work exchanges, volunteering or getting a working holiday visa – meaning you don’t have to have a job lined up before you land.
Network like a pro
Do a shout-out to friends of friends on Facebook, and track down local English-speaking community groups in your area. The more intel you can collect before you go, the better: whether it’s a friendly face to meet up with your first evening there, or recommendations for good shared housing.
A place to stay
You may well want to get a feel for the local area before committing to renting or even buying somewhere abroad. But you can use sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla to research properties ahead of time.
Work out healthcare
The NHS is a residents-based system, so if you’re moving from the UK, you won’t be entitled to it. You’ll need to research the local healthcare system in the country you’re moving to; you may have to join an insurance scheme or make contributions. Find out more here.
Save, save, save
The more money you have put to one side, the easier your move will be. Take on a casual weekend job like babysitting or bar work to earn extra cash on the run-up to your move. Work out where you can cut back, and put the leftover money by standing order into a separate account each month, so there’s no chance for you to spend it. If you own a house, consider renting it out to cover overheads and ideally, make a small profit.
Make sure you don’t get hit by high transfer fees when making payments abroad. Banks such as HSBC and Lloyds offer a means of setting up accounts overseas, and you could consider new money exchange services that offer lower fees, too. Read more here.
Language doesn’t have to be a barrier to your dream destination. If you’re fluent, so much the better; but if not, it’s worth getting some lessons in, pronto. Even if you don’t need it for work, it will help you integrate into daily life, socialise with locals and do things like rent a flat far more easily.
Photos: Nell Gooch/Instagram, Shutterstock and Flash Pack