Upside Down Expat


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This month is six months since my little sis died, and a year since I last saw her physically alive. We miss her terribly. If something good could come from my sisters premature passing, and mine and my parents’ never ending pain, it would be that society start to treat addiction differently.

It’s been six months this week since my little sister died and undoubtedly the worse six months of mine, and my parents lives.

It’s also a year to the month that I last saw Gem alive.  We flew out to England to celebrate my daughter, India’s, 4th birthday as a family – Gem organised her party. In the months that followed that trip, Gem and I continued, as always, to speak constantly.

We found out that Gem died in her sleep on the 10th April 2017, just weeks away from her 34thbirthday.  The cause was a fatal condition called ketoacidosis. It would have come on very quickly. It stems from the anorexia and alcoholism Gem fought for 16 and ten years respectively.

The results of why she died also showed a small amount damage to her brain. Just one of many physical and emotional marks left from when, at just 16, she was the victim of a hit and run – the driver was drunk. The night it happened, her life hung in the balance but thankfully, aside from several severely broken bones, she made a steady recovery. Though in her hospital notes, they wrote ‘future risk of depression, anorexia and addiction.’ Soon after, mum and dad fought to have her admitted to a specialised eating disorder unit. We were terrified she would die. Eventually, she recovered and seemed to get on well with life, although she never really ate properly.

A few years after that, after a run of bad luck, Gem sadly started to drink heavily. It wasn’t long before it completely took a hold.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the trauma of being left for dead, both emotionally and physically, at a vulnerable age broke far more than Gem’s bones, but her ability to bounce back from subsequent challenges in her life.

It’s funny, because I think there’s a sense of knowing of what’s going to happen in our lives on a level we don’t always tap into. In hindsight, in the months before gem died, between us, there was a sense of recovery and urgency. Like so many people who lose a loved one say, it’s like we were saying goodbye.

One time was during my last visit to England to see her. I went to pick her up, and as happened frequently, she was drunk. This time though, we both handled it differently; we cuddled and we both cried. Later, back in Australia, I asked over the phone if she knew how much I loved her and if I did enough to help her. She said yes – she knew how loved she was by all of us. She said she’d felt ashamed in the early days, lost all of her confidence and, in a vicious circle drank even more to hide the shame.

She also talked for the first time about getting well and trying for a baby. I think she’d believed for a long-time it wasn’t a possibility for her because of her illnesses and the impact they had on her life and body. I was delighted. For the first time, I dared to become excited at the prospect of a future in which I’d be an aunty and love my sisters’ child in the same beautiful way she loved mine.

In another call, Gem said she dreamt I was getting married on a beach and she and I were running along the sand, laughing happily. She joked she must have stubbed her toe on a rock, because for some reason in her dream, something suddenly stopped her running along with me. How strange that detail in her dream now seems.

And the day before my parents were forced to make that tragic call to me, with almost urgency, I emailed Gems local council to enquire about enrolling India at a primary school nearby. Unbeknown to me, when I sent that email, she had already died.

If I there is some good to come out of my sister’s suffering, it would be that society and the medical profession look at and treat people suffering with addiction differently. That, instead of conveniently labelling them by the illness we would prefer not to see – the addiction and associated behaviour –  instead we consider the person and the backstory we can’t see.

Gem had a kind, gentle and caring personality. In fact, I believe these qualities made her even more vulnerable to the disease.

And yet when someone is suffering from addiction, we hear things like ‘they are wasting their lives’, ‘they have to want to get better’ and ‘it’s their choice’. We don’t talk about any other illnesses in this way. And yet, many diseases that are met with sympathy result from a lifestyle ‘choice’ at some point along the way. Yet flip the sequence of symptoms around; an illness from probable trauma that later manifests, and at best it’s met with avoidance; at worst, judgement and contempt.

Over the ten years my sister suffered, she had therapy, went to a rehab centre, was sectioned, was in intensive care, had several blood transfusions, temporarily lost her eyesight and could barely leave the house. And still she couldn’t stop. The reasons and recovery for addiction, like many illnesses, might be complex, but one thing is certain; it is anything but a choice.

I recently read that only one in five people suffering from addiction seek treatment – if it was treated as an illness not only would treatment be more accessible, I’m sure that without the shame and the stigma, more would sooner seek the help they so desperately need.

Our pain as a family is never ending.  As while we have treasured memories – even during her illness, there was always love and laughter – the scars from the fear, distress and frustration of helplessly seeing Gem struggle will never fade. Now we must also bear the deep wound of knowing we will never see her in this lifetime again.

However, losing Gem has also made me acutely aware of the fleeting nature of life; it’s only temporary. For that, and the time that lies in between, during which I’m determind to be happy, I feel grateful.

Because for the first-time, my little sister did something before me. Maybe the next time we meet, since she got there tragically early, she will play the big sister role to me.


Upside Down Expat

Are You OK ?

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While connection is important at all times, it becomes particularly profound during bad times. Once grief, depression or anxiety takes hold, it’s like quicksand. Pulling us out often requires a helping hand.

Today’s ‘R U OK’ day resonates with me particularly strongly.

Over the last year, for the first time in my life, there have been times I’ve been anything but ok. I’ve had bad times before of course, but nothing has come close to losing my little sister.

Further compounding the pain is being so far away from family and, not long before Gem died, becoming single for the first time in a long time. I don’t hold any shame in admitting how alone I’ve felt at times – it’s been the most challenging period of my life.

Yet it’s clear to see, in my darkest moments what has helped the most has been the connections with those around me. Their presence and consideration has shone sunlight into the dark night of grief, offering much needed respite and reminding me of the brightness that also continues to exist in life.

It is the importance of connection that R U Ok? Day recognises as an important element of suicide prevention. While connection is important at all times, it’s becomes particularly profound during bad times. It can be incredibly difficult to reach out once grief, depression or anxiety take hold. It’s like quicksand – we can quickly get pulled into a pit of negativity. And while we may do all we can do to help ourselves, sometimes the more we put up a fight, the more we become submerged from the light.

These times, we simply need someone to reach out a hand.

Yet it can be so easy to be caught up in our own lives that often when someone is sinking we turn the other way. Places to go, people to see, there’s no time to stop, nevermind risking also getting pulled into negativity. Or we are so consumed with our own strife, we don’t look up enough to see that others may also be struggling with life.

What we don’t realise is, while its important to show we care about those around us continuously, helping someone out of quicksand doesn’t mean we have to hold their hand permanently. Even the smallest everyday encounters can be the difference between someone suffocating and pulling them onto to safer land.

So, like people have done for me – often those I least expected – today is an important reminder to either just be there, or ask, and really mean it, ‘Are You OK?’. You may also need a helping hand one day.

The founder of R U OK? researched three areas that put a person at risk of suicide: feeling like a burden on others; being able to withstand a high degree of pain and a lack of connection to others.

For support call Lifeline 13 11 14.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

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Upside Down Expat

A new life view

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Sunglasses on wooden desk, focused on lens city view

Sometimes I squint my eyes and try to see the place I now reside as I did for the first time. Everything so shiny and new; the lens I was then looking through yet to be marked with strife from the ups and downs of life. As when we start over somewhere new, we immediately adopt a new life view. In the beginning, it’s thrilling. Everything we do is filled with exciting possibility.

But eventually, the exhilaration of the early days fades. Life returns to normal, problems don’t go away. In fact without our families by our side, problems can be magnified. Suddenly the incredible place that changed our lives becomes nothing but the backdrop to the way we feel inside.

Yet we ourselves cast the shade on a life that has just as much potential to be as magical as it was in the early days. Here are some unhealthy habits to stop blocking sunny days from view;

#1 Stop resisting reality

Painful emotions (for expats; homesickness, loneliness and indecision) left unchecked can cause us to resist our reality. We may develop a mindset of ‘poor me’. Or ruminate over how things ought to be; having family nearby, more support or closer ties. The way out is to fully embrace our new reality, accepting that a level of uncomfortableness is a new part of life that is in other ways more carefree. When we stop fighting, resisting or attaching meaning to what we’re feeling and just let the feelings be; we set ourselves free.

#2 Stop pondering the past

We can often long for the comfort of the past, frequently questioning whether we should go back. But with our lens of life forever changed; home will never be the same. Instead, make a pact to pack any regrets and longings a case and put it away, only packing new items; future plans, goals and experiences, in a new bag each and every day.

#3 Stop being scared

To take a chance on a different life, away from everything we ever knew, is a brave thing to do. But chances are, while life may be more amazing in many ways, we often don’t count on the uncomfortable collateral moving away can, in the long-term, create. Maybe things haven’t panned out how we planned. Perhaps we feel trapped, frozen in fear or undecided on what to do. Yet we have already done something not many have the guts to do. That strength and bravery is proof of the ability to once again, if we choose to, create a great life once again all anew.

#4 Stop giving power away

Letting others’ actions define how we feel about ourselves is a fast track to low self-esteem and unhappiness. The things others do is always a reflection of the lens they themselves are looking through. This is especially true when we move somewhere new. We have far fewer strong connections to rely on than we used to. We feel rejected and let down more regularly. Yet learning to support, love and be kind to ourselves, regardless of how others behave empowers us to be brave. We subsequently choose close ties more wisely, only extending energy to those genuinely and mutually supportive of our lives.

#5 Stop trying to decide

Long-term indecision can leave an expats’ mind spinning.  Yet when our minds are in overdrive, we become crippled with an inability to decide. In this situation it makes no sense to uproot our lives. Instead we ought to get out of our minds, fully embrace our current life and let our intuition, that gentle, quiet voice, be our guide. In my experience, the right path to take then becomes as clear as the emerald blue skies on an Australian summers day.

Often, we believe that changing what we see on the outside holds the key to a happier life. While for a time that may be true, when the novelty wears off, the promises we project onto somewhere (something or someone) new, rarely come to light in the long-term unless we change our internal view. After all, even the brightest emerald skies and glistening opal oceans soon lose their sparkle if we ourselves are feeling deeply blue.

Long-lasting happiness is a state of mind that no matter our location or situation, we ultimately have to decide. As the most beautiful view of life starts from the inside.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

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Upside Down Expat

Fleeting feelings: My home trip checklist

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Manchester, vintage postcard with a rough rubber stamp

With my flight for my fourth visit home to England nearly upon me, and procrastinating over packing by writing (this checklist) currently more appealing than procrastinating over writing, I’m flying high with excitement and elation. But as always, I’m also feeling a subtle yet familiar sense of anxiety caused by the conflicting emotions trips back can bring home.

Here is my home trip checklist.

Things I’m excited about:

  • The moment I make it through airport security, relieved no inexplicably placed class-A drugs or lethal weapons were found in my case, and calculate the time I have to sit down and relax with a glass of wine.
  • Making it through arrivals in Manchester and seeing my family’s much missed familiar faces for the first time in over a year.
  • Family showering my little girl with love. And my little girl inundating family with curious questions, demands for too many treats and non-negotiable requests to pretend to be a pet while barking or meowing and crawling around on all fours on the floor, as I sit still smirking, I mean smiling, and sipping on wine.
  • 24-hour babysitters!
  • Catching up with everyone and hitting the bars of Manchester! Nights out in Melbourne are always fun, but nights out in Manchester are crazier!
  • Celebrating away some of the stresses, struggles and sadness of a challenging year for family. A few weeks won’t solve everything, but some mutual company will hopefully bring some comfort.
  • Comfort food! Crisps, chinese takeaway and chippy chips. Despite that they always leave a lingering taste of disappointment, I’m clinging to the illusion of deliciousness.

Things I’m dreading:

  • The flight when boredom, exhaustion and deep vein thrombosis paranoia sets in.
  • The apprehension and irritation of waiting in long queues at arrivals, knowing my family is waiting on the other side. It’s the equivalent of patiently waiting to pee for a long time, calm and in full bladder control, only to feel like exploding at the finish line.
  • Coming face to face with family and simultaneously the feelings I spend the most of the year trying to ignore; guilt, indecision and homesickness. Mostly though, just how much I miss them.
  • The conflicting feeling of not wanting to be the centre of attention, yet feeling a little put out if people don’t put in an appropriately polite amount of effort!
  • Feeling out of place in a place I still call home, and wondering if I’ll ever feel at home there again.
  • Manchester weather; rain, cold and grey skies.
  • The shadow of dread cast by the dark cloud of the last day.

What do you look forward to and dread the most?  Let me know in the comments below!

My blog post Making Memories Down Memory Lane covers the emotions we can experience as an expat when we visit home.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

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Upside Down Expat

The sting of expat guilt

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Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Beauty Girl Outdoor.

Living overseas, away from family, can incite guilt for many. Yet it can be hard to assess whether the guilt is a sign our life is misaligned with our true desires, or if we carry an unprecedented amount of responsibility.  This post assesses where you may sit on the overseas scale of guilt.

Once, I killed a bee. Immediately I felt guilty. In what appeared to be a revenge attack, seconds later, a second bee, I assume a member of its family, came along and stung me. Of course, this reinforced my remorse; I really shouldn’t have flattened that bee, even if it was going to sting me.

It’s a scenario symbolic of the pattern of the guilt that has plagued me throughout my life. The fear of impacting others negatively frequently threatening to engulf me like a swarm of bees to a sticky mess of honey.

No guilt has bit with the intensity it has since I have lived overseas.

Living far-away from my family is a persistent stress that sits just under the surface of my conscience. It takes little to trigger an internal storm of remorse; a special occasion or an important milestone, or, particularly painful; family members falling unwell. It never leaves me.

Yet ironically, it’s the force of these feelings that have taught me to eliminate culpability that doesn’t accurately reflect my values, desires or responsibility.

Because excessive guilty feelings are most likely shaped by our upbringing, and, particularly as women, society.

If you feel guilty for living overseas, here’s a guide to assessing whether it’s a real reflection of your inner self, or if it stems from somewhere else; 

Rarely Feel Guilty – Independent family values

Some families’ are not reliant on one another socially, emotionally or practically. Mobility may have been a part of life for a long time, or individual freedom is the fundamental fabric of their family. As a result, living overseas only incites guilty feelings occasionally. This is arguably a healthy way to be. Although for those that continue to be close, a regret at missing out on time is likely to remain.

Regularly Feel Guilty – close family ties

Other families are more inter-reliant. This is true in my immediate family; we lived close by and saw each other all the time. While family members are openly excited for the opportunities that come our way, including living far away, strong bonds can mean our absence is felt more intensely. For this we feel immensely guilty. Mostly though, the genuine sadness at missing out on memories is an accurate indication our life is not a true reflection of the values we like to live by.  Yet, dwelling on it is futile. As with our life’s desires split in two, we’ll always be required to relinquish an option that is the ‘right’ thing to do.

Always Feel Guilty – Skewed sense of responsibility

If we find ourselves thinking living overseas impacts others more than ourselves, it may be that we hold a skewed sense of responsibility. Many reasons; challenging childhoods, unhealthy relationships or societal conditioning can cause us these emotions. We may hold a misplaced perception that our life choices affect others more negatively than they do. Yet when we inadvertently allow others’, perceived or real, ideals to guide us more than our inner values, we can wind up living a life that’s not properly aligned with our true desires.

Constant Sense of Guilt – You’re a woman

I’ve yet to meet a man that has articulated guilt for living his life in exactly the way he likes. Yet, it’s a conversation I’ve had with women from many countries. It’s a disparity driven by society; women are conditioned to be caring and conscious of others’, while men are nurtured to think more of their individual needs. It’s why men get labelled selfish universally!  We can confuse selfishness and self-care, often adopting emotional responsibilities that are not ours to bear. Yet while trying to satisfy everyone but ourselves may seem like an easier solution at times, it will take its toll eventually. Including on those we are aiming to please.

Intensely Guilty but Resentful – Family put you on a guilt trip

Whether harshly direct or subtle but intentional, some families inflict a thick layer of guilt on relatives living away. They may take it as a personal betrayal. But while we can all understand the loss felt from living away from our loved ones, ultimately to do this is to project responsibility for feelings onto family. They may be effective in administering culpability, but can also simultaneously inject a deep sense of resentment. In this case, applying pressure to repatriate can sometimes have the opposite effect and push loved ones further away.

Overwhelmed with Guilt – Family members unwell or unhappy

When family members fall unwell or on unhappy times, we can feel an inevitable and tremendous sense of regret that we’re not there to help take care of them. Unfortunately, particularly after living away for a long time, it’s not always easy, or best-for-all, to uproot established lives. Yet it’s possible to provide support from afar, while remembering that our loved ones wouldn’t want us to live our own lives unhappily.

Feeling guilty for living overseas can pose an incessant threat to our happiness.  Yet, while some guilt is good, guiding us to live a life aligned with our values and desires, a skewed sense of responsibility can drive us to make decisions that are not in our best interests.

Good guilt can be defined by a genuine sadness, not only for our families, but for ourselves. Our main regret is missing out on time together. This complicates things when we love life overseas, but in the long-term it may help us decide which parts of our life to make a priority.

Unnecessary guilt may be able to be defined when we feel driven to make decisions that immediately ease our discomfort and anxiety. The pain so intense, we can feel compelled to dash home more quickly than we’d run with a colony of bees up our bum!

Yet often the right decisions are the most difficult ones. They may sting for a little while, but it’s nothing compared to the pain we experience when we fail to live a life aligned with our desires.

Whatever the source, putting our happiness first is not wrong; it’s wise. Like a bee must feed and prune itself before it can collect pollen and pass honey to everyone else, to fulfil our real responsibility of treating others lovingly, we must first look after our own needs.

And we can’t do that if we’re unhappy.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

And instagram #upsidedowninoz



Upside Down Expat

Stepping into the unknown

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randonne pied nus -  rivire

This article takes a step by step look at the risks of moving overseas, and how the real risks are not what we initially see.

The first conscious risk I ever took, I was two.

It was a warm summers’ afternoon and my mum was stood outside, pegging wet clothes onto the washing line. My baby sister, around ten months at the time, slept soundly in her pram, while I played with my toys contentedly inside.

I remember shouting out to my mum. I wanted my dolls pram from my bedroom upstairs. She said she’d get it down when she was done.

I must have been just as impatient as a child, because I got tired of waiting after a while. I stomped upstairs, pulled out the burgundy buggy from my bedroom, pushed it to the top of the stairs and determinedly hauled it down the first step onto the secondary landing. Holding on tight to the handles, I clumsily twisted it around, ready to start the descent down. I remember looking over the edge to the bottom of the steep stairs and suddenly feeling very scared.

The fear I felt in that moment undoubtedly made it my first memory. The sudden realisation that my personal safety was at stake, my exciting plan now potentially, a huge mistake.

It can be the same for those of us that take the plunge to move overseas. In the beginning, we often only think of the opportunities; the long-term risks we seldom see. Yet step by step, the risks become apparent;   

The idea:

All big life changes start similarly; with an idea, a daydream or a lifelong ambition. Yet for many, for whatever reason; fear, commitments, a lack of confidence or chance, it stops here; never becoming more than a distant possibility. Yet for others, once the thought is ignited, it becomes impossible not to light it.

The decision:

Next, perhaps once we’ve received perceived needed approval, we set the intention and decide to go for it. We start to save, apply for visas and look for jobs. This stage can be both exciting and filled with nervous anticipation as we risk failing in our endeavours and, perhaps, one of the reasons some never strive, coming to terms with the possibility that our dream is lost forever.

The move:

The dream begins to become a reality; visas are granted, houses are rented and sold, and employment contracts are signed.  It’s time to leave it all behind. Enthused and excited we start to say our goodbyes. We also, perhaps for the first time, feel the fear. The risks are clear; we are leaving behind friends and family and taking a huge step out of our comfort zone into the unknown. However, the amazing adventure overshadows any discomfort and doubt.

Starting out

We land overseas and start to find our feet.  It feels both fantastic and a little frightening. It’s an exciting adventure yet it requires a lot of energy. For some, exertion exceeds excitement, and the craving of the comforting validation from those we know can mean many return home, back into the arms of their loved ones. They return with a suitcase full of experience; enriched and enlightened, yet largely unaffected.

For others, there’s no question of jumping off the roller-coaster of emotion, filled with new experiences, new people, and discoveries about ourselves. The thrills silence the screams of loneliness, homesickness and threats to our identity. We see that life has many more possibilities that we could have ever seen had we not taken the leap, and we feel an immense sense of gratefulness for the amazing opportunity.

The transition

After a while, the excitement starts to subside. We’re likely now comfortable with our new country, connections and career, and, with less effort now required, can begin to take our new life in our stride.  It can feel like a relief, yet once off the emotional high, we can start to feel a little fragile. Feelings, like loneliness, guilt, homesickness and questions around our identity, there from the start, but before transcended by exhilaration and exploration, arise. This phase can be challenging; and we begin to see how the downsides of moving overseas, over time, could affect us emotionally and mentally.


Life settles down, yet there’s an unsettling sense of time passing us by.  As, while we still thrive on our new life, missed milestones of both our own and those of our loved ones, frequently afflict us with misgivings and guilt. Some of our own life challenges may have also left us reeling, normal ups and downs of life, yet when we’re faraway only further enhancing our uneasy feelings.  We may wonder at times if it was worth it. Yet without fail something; a moment, a memory or a blissful sunny day, reminds us why we stay. We reflect how much we’ve changed. Our identity is far stronger, no longer caught up in what we believe others see, but one that is ever evolving to whatever we choose ourselves to be. We run less from loneliness and instead find strength in our independence. We’ve become experts at choosing company wisely, only spending time with those we truly value.  We’re more open to new experiences, more appreciative of every moment, more adaptable to life’s changes and more resilient during challenging phases.  Most poignantly, our perception of life has significantly changed, and, where once we felt resigned, it is no longer an option to accept a life that feels mundane.

Moving overseas, like most big life changes, comes with risks we often can’t see. Life becomes more complex than we could have imagined; both amazing and distressing feelings able to exist simultaneously.

Yet when we think about  life and ourselves back home, we remember how much we have overcome, experienced and grown. It becomes clear the real risk would have been to never take that first exciting step into the unknown, to see how rich, mysterious, magical and special life can be.

The risk didn’t work out for the two year old version of me on the stairs that summers’ day. I tripped up, toppled down, hit the deck and had to have stitches in my head. But, while it wasn’t what I planned, I did what I set out to do; I got my pram! And that’s life. Every step we take, there’s a risk we’ll make a mistake, fall and break. Sometimes we will. Mostly though, we’ll walk on, making exciting discoveries as we go. The real risk is to never know.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

And instagram #upsidedowninoz

Or twitter Upside Down


Upside Down Expat

The winter cold

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unusual toned portrait of a beautiful young girl in winter

Winters overseas feel raw and it’s not because of the weather.

The winters down under are an unwelcome wake up from our happy holiday-like haze. In part, we’re spoilt by long summer days spent sprawled out on the sand, slathered in sun-cream, sipping on iced sodas and dipping in the ocean; our skin sun-kissed and sprinkled with freckles for what feels like infinity.

By the time the first wave of the bitter winter arrives it’s often a surprise. It takes a few times of leaving home without wearing warm clothes, waterproofs or wellies before we properly remember that Australia does actually get cold weather and that pink thongs (flip flops) and numb purple toes are not a good look, or feel, together.

To further fuel our frosty feelings, no-one believes us when we tell them our Australian homes are extraordinarily cold. But we’re only shielded from the wind by a woefully weak wedge of wood that is the wall. And heating systems are seldom sufficient so we sit on the sofa with shivering shoulders, wrapped up in our woollies while finding warm relief by sipping on copious cups of hot tea. We subsequently spend all night bursting to pee, braving the Baltic bathroom instead of being snuggled up asleep.

And just as we can’t escape the cold weather, we can’t escape our woes. When we’re no longer distracted by the sun, the dull skies are a glaring reminder we’re unable to pop in to see our loved ones. Homesickness hits like a ton of bricks. The winter cold brings up both comforting and disconcerting memories of home; familiar, yet a reminder of the times we rarely felt alone. We can languish under a landslide of longing; pining for our older, colder life yet the warmth we felt inside, and also for sunnier times and our new carefree identity that thrives on feelings of freedom, tranquillity and possibility.

Winters down under can be raw. Because when it’s cold outside, it’s hard to decide which life we long for more.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

And instagram #upsidedowninoz

Or twitter Upside Down


Upside Down Mind

My parenting superpower

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girl plays superhero

As a parent of a pre-schooler, like many I suspect, I go from feeling like a superhero mum to hapless heroine from one moment to the next. Some days I’ll make my three year old daughter fresh and nutritious home cooked food, others I’m throwing frozen finger food in the oven and letting her eat way too much sugar. One  morning I’ll send her off to day-care well-presented and well-fed with French-plaits in her hair; the next day still holding a piece of banana bread looking like she’s been dragged backwards through a hedge. Sometimes I feel calm, accomplished and self-assured that I’m sufficiently meeting all her practical, intellectual and emotional needs; other times I’m frantically googling parenting guides, fuelled by fears I’m failing. Or we’ll be sharing a tender moment; a cuddle, a book or a gentle look, the next second I say no to some screen time or a second ice-cream and suddenly I feel like the enemy; queen of the land of mean.

It’s these meltdown situations that probably test my confidence the most. In one swift second our interactions go from magical to miserable leaving me wondering whether it’s just a normal childhood incident or whether somewhere along the way I’ve failed to implement a critical element of  good parenting or discipline. Her fits of rage initially stun me into silence. Sometimes, admittedly, although I wouldn’t let it show, I want to laugh incredulously at the dramatics displayed by the solo star of a superbly-acted tantrum stage show. Mild amusement quickly turns to anger. I breathe deeply until it dissipates. I have learned by now that acting on it only exacerbates her emotions, invalidates her vulnerable infant feelings and leaves me languishing in remorse. The anger goes and I detach, careful to not let her actions; screaming and sometimes hitting or throwing things, stimulate a response. I calmly explain why she can’t have what she wants, express some understanding and wait, only to recurrently check if she wants a cuddle yet. She eventually gives in and throws her arms around me. I breathe a sigh of relief.

However, occasionally, the tantrum persists. The longer it goes on I feel my patience slowly ceasing to exist. This recently happened on our way out of the house after I refused a third chocolate biscuit request. She begged, bribed and badgered me, but, in a superhero mum moment, I stood strong. The corners of her mouth abruptly turned down accompanied by a frown. She was about to push out that all too familiar horrendous, high-pitched howl. Out it came and it wouldn’t stop. She rejected my reasoning, declined countless offers of cuddles and was refusing to back down. It was beginning to grate on my ears and I was also worried the neighbours could hear. I pleaded with her to give it up, realising my super hero mum moment had passed and I was now the hapless heroine. She turned the volume up instead. My voice started to raise; I was becoming the baddie; controlling, crazy and enraged. I walked away and took several deep breaths. I returned to where she stood and in desperation at the situation contorted my face at her in a playful way.

Her voice cracked. I heard her laugh! She started to whinge again, so I did it again. She couldn’t control it; her cry gave way to a belly laugh. Soon I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying and we got the giggles together. She ran over to me, flung her arms round my neck and we squeezed each other while snuggling and sniggering.

It was the first time I really comprehended just how much I make my little girl laugh. That even in the middle of an extended and outrageous meltdown of indignant rage, overwhelming emotions and desperation to get her own way, she couldn’t control her giggles at her mummy’s funny face.

And I realised that no matter how much I may be getting wrong on my journey as her mum, one thing I’m getting right is making sure we have a lot of silly fun. That, while I’ll never stop learning and trying to do everything better, no amount of reading can add value to these special moments we have together. My little girl makes me laugh a lot too. It’s our super power. Our shield against the challenges of life. And the best one too.

Upside Down Expat

Fleeting Feelings: People or place?

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enjoying life, success concept

Are people more important than place? Most would agree that to be the case. So for those of us that live overseas away from our families, it’s a lingering notion that can cultivate uncomfortable emotions.

Before I took a chance opportunity to live overseas, I strongly believed that people were more important than place. That families were meant to stay close together and there was more to life than the weather. I couldn’t understand why people would choose to move far away, particularly if it meant leaving behind family. These beliefs, at surface level, largely remain in-tact. Which means my choice to live overseas is misaligned with many of my core beliefs, creating a jarring juxtaposition in my mind.  I feel overwhelmed at times. Not just because I miss my family, but because my self-assessed selfishness cultivates a conscience about putting my own lifestyle preferences above the love I have for my family. A family I know that misses us desperately.

And so I’ve frequently questioned whether I’m choosing lifestyle over love. Whether, by choosing to live so far away from family, it means I now believe that place is more important than people.

Yet my current lifestyle really suits me. It makes me feel free. I never feel bored anymore. I no longer need to wait impatiently for a few days once a year to bask in the glistening sun, for the grey clouds and rain to subside to feel motivated to go out for a run, or for the annual, two if we’re lucky, holiday overseas to relax and have some fun. I feel inspired, relaxed and energised by nothing more than stepping out of my front door. This lifestyle makes me happy.

And so no, I still don’t believe there’s anything more important in the world than the people that we love. But I’ve realised I am in fact choosing people over place. Because, while I would love and feel I will eventually be closer to my family, I’d forgotten to include one person in that question before; me.

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

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Upside Down Expat

Country Commitment-Phobia

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Couple Beach Kite Flying Getaway Holiday Concept

A love story

You know the script; girl meets new country, falls in love and has a baby.

Captivated by clear skies, blissful sunshine and pristine sands, it all happens so fast that she pushes aside any niggling doubts of long-term plans. Before long she has created a new life. And while she knows deep down they’re not the perfect match, after a while she becomes deeply attached.

This is how it is for me. Because when life’s big moments present themselves seemingly suddenly, subsequent decisions are made easy. For example;

Life; Here’s a job you can apply for in Australia, want to have a crack?
Me. Yes ok!
Life: Perth’s not really suiting you here’s a job in Melbourne, fancy it?
Me: Yes please!
Life: Here you’re pregnant, want the baby?
Me: Oh wow, yes, thank you life.

So, for a long period of time, I’ve been in the fortuitous position of choosing to say ‘I do’ or ‘I don’t’ to some of life’s most fantastic opportunities. The answers to which, for me, were indisputable. Sure enough, they have been some of the most defining, direction-changing and magical moments of my life.

But the all-consuming, intoxicating and optimistic love song can only last for so long. Eventually reality sets in; long-term leases need to be signed, schools are to be selected and steps forward to be settled on. As the pressure to do these things edge closer, a feeling of panic starts to rise like the crescendo of a dramatic a cappella about to reach it’s emotionally charged finale. And so I do the only thing I can. I avoid thinking about them. I push down each note of fright and avoid singing life’s necessary lines, often until the latest possible time.

This avoidance expresses itself in everyday occurrences and conversations. If these are true for you too, they may signify that you are also a country-commitment-phobe:

– Responses to questions about your long-term life plans are littered with language like ‘we’ll see’ ‘nothing is forever’ ‘just going with the flow’ while quietly cursing the uncomfortable feelings the questioner has created.

– You ask the same above questions to every expat you meet, secretly hoping they will give a never-given-before answer and with it an entirely new perspective to your predicament.

– You can’t bring yourself to buy much needed new furniture because you would have to ship them expensively, even though you don’t have any current plans of repatriating. (apart from in your head where it’s happening later in the year; every year)

– You would like a pet but feel it would be unfair to eventually abandon it.

– You have in-depth lifestyle knowledge of almost every country in the world because you frequently fantasize about alternate countries that would be better suited, i.e. closer to home, and regularly research schools, culture and living costs.

– You come away from conversations with other parents of young children that include comments like ‘won’t be long until they’re having sleepovers’ and ‘wait until they start clubbing together’ thinking it’s probably best you reduce the amount of time you spend with these crazy future-plan-making people.

– You frequently consider and conjour up ideas of careers you could carve out that would allow you to live half the year in each country

– You have lived in the same property for years, even though you’d like to move, because you like the easy-exit feeling the month by month lease gives you.

– You refuse to book holidays more than six months in advance.

– You panic when you realise you haven’t panicked about your long-term future in a while.

Committing will set you free

The reluctance to commit to an alternate country is not uncommon. Especially when we fall in love unexpectedly. Because we convince ourselves it’s only temporary.

It’s a state of mind fuelled by a fear of finality – making a decision to be away from our families forever, closing off our options and feeling trapped or making a life-changing error of judgement we feel could leave our lives in ruin. Alternatively, we’re afraid to really go after what we want; petrified it will all go wrong.

Whatever the reason, to shy away from commitment means we actively avoid making long-term decisions. Yet not committing takes more commitment than committing. We become stuck in our head, constantly wondering what could be instead. With one foot in and the other marching around in our minds; we limit our progress by failing to fully appreciate, see and subsequently walk through all our current doors of opportunity.

So if we’re happy and don’t yet want out, we have to make a decision to commit to everything that is happening now. As in actuality, paradoxically, when we commit we set ourselves free, allowing ourselves to live our lives completely, without the burden of avoidance, ambiguity and associated anxiety.

Because the cliche ‘nothing lasts forever’ is true. So to sing a few songs badly is always better than living elements of our lives on mute. We must show up and immerse ourselves fully in every moment we produce.

And that always starts with two simple words; ‘I do’

You probably found my post through Facebook which is an amazing way to share content but also risky as sometimes paid posts and advertising are given preferential visibility  – so if you enjoy reading my free posts on expat related topics and don’t want to miss them visit my home page and sign up by email. 

You can also follow me on facebook: UpsideDown

And instagram #upsidedowninoz

Or twitter Upside Down