It was the summer of 1981 when I first stepped onto Australian soil and walked into the heat and dust of outback Whyalla in South Australia. As we walked down the steps of the light aircraft with our luggage and two toddlers I felt immense excitement for the journey that was about to unfold. We were young, alone and we had nothing; we had taken a giant leap of faith and landed on the other side of the world.
With the network of kindergarten mums and other poms who weren’t afraid to knock on a stranger’s door and invite us to a barbecue, we very quickly made a big circle of friends. Brits like us far from home, and also lovely Aussies who took us into their hearts and who became our new family and stood side by side as we took our pledge to become Australians.
In the summer of 2016, as I was about to turn 60, we did it all over again. We had spent 11 fabulous years in South Australia, Whyalla then Adelaide, but for various reasons — work and family — we returned to the United Kingdom in 1992. We would spend the next 24 years yearning for our home. Our son had returned to Australia (Sydney this time) in 2013 with our only grandchildren, and our daughter, too, wanted to return to the country of her childhood.
This time round our new friends and family thought we were insane, why would we want to give up everything and start again at our age! Our old friends on the other hand couldn’t wait to welcome us back, unfortunately they were all still in Adelaide, so this time round it has been completely different and a lot harder.
There is no kindergarten network for a start. The neighbours and folk of my age that I come into contact with are settled and mainly retired with their own established circles and busy lives.
Due to work we are located a distance from our children and although we see them fairly regularly, they too are busy building their own lives and dont often find the time to visit us as often as we had imagined when we took this second leap of faith. It is a lot harder the second time around and with my hubby working it is up to me to network to make friends and socialise, it can be quite exhausting but we are getting there.
I am naturally quite shy despite what many might think upon meeting me, so putting myself out there on social media and for volunteering opportunities has been a challenge. Groups like Starts at 60 and other social meet up groups have been a lifesaver and slowly I am meeting people who I hope will become close friends. Our Aussie family from the ’80s are still waiting for us to pick up where we left off, we are a lot older but have all remained close, or as close as you can be in this vast country! I know remember how large this continent is when you can’t just hop states for a cup of tea. The country too has changed a lot and Sydney is certainly a lot different to my beloved Adelaide, however, I feel blessed to have had the courage, health and opportunity to return to Australia for one last fabulous adventure.
Life is short and we need to embrace every challenge, every moment. I can lift my face to the sun, enjoy a barefoot walk on the beautiful beaches of the Central Coast and chase away my loneliness with the realisation of how far we have come to start again at 60! I thank all of my new friends for their welcome.