When we told the people we knew – our family and friends, our work colleagues, the guy at the corner shop, the parents of our kids’ friends, our local barista – that we were packing up our house, scaling back our work in Australia, taking our three children and moving to Vanuatu for 18 months, there were three types of reactions.
There were the OMG-that-sounds-amazing-I-totally-want-to-do-that-and-probably-will-sometime people. The people who just got it, straight away, why we – why anyone – would want to up and leave and live in a tropical paradise for a while. The funny thing was, there weren’t as many of these people with this kind of reaction as I had expected. Actually, I kind of thought most people would fit into this category – as life decisions go, moving to Vanuatu is the kind of one I have always been pretty (or vehemently and out-rightly, depending on the day) envious of in other people’s lives. But as it turned out, there actually weren’t that many who jumped mentally on board with the idea. (A notable exception was, of course, Aimee, who solidly fell into the vehemently and outrightly envious category. This was not a surprise.)
Then there were the really??-*shrug*-horses-for-courses people. The people who nodded politely, told me about a great trip they took to Fiji once and how good the kids clubs are, and then turned the conversation to everyone’s plans for the weekend, or the outrage over our local MPs latest public gaff. (To be fair, our local member at the time was Clive Palmer. I know.) This was actually the vast majority of people.
And then there were the blank-faced-totally-shocked-a-little-bit-horrified-“but-why??!” people. The people who completely DID NOT GET IT, not even a little bit, and were actually really gobsmacked by the very notion that we would think that was a good idea to take our children out of a good school in a beautiful place (and it is beautiful) and step out of our very comfortable and well-functioning life. “But… why?!” they would ask, almost universally.
While I was as gobsmacked as they were by their shock, it did make me think about why we really did do it. Because the reality is, it’s hard work to move to another country, and leave your tribe of friends and family behind, and change your work situation completely, and find a house and schools and internet providers and decent coffee places. (Ok, this sounds inconsequential but can actually make or break your mental health on a homesick day, trust me.) But for Matt and me, it is totally and utterly worth it. Here is why we did it.
Because I can’t imagine only ever wanting to experience one kind of life, no matter how great it is.
This is also why I travel in general, not just for year plus odysseys. I absolutely love Coolum, and Matt and I always joke that we peaked too early in moving there in our early 20s, because it’s ruined us for living in other places – where else can you get a perfect storm of stunning beaches, gorgeous hinterland, world-class coffee, beautiful restaurants, laid back lifestyle and everything else that’s great in life, paired with near perfect weather (with the odd electrical storm thrown in for variety)? But familiarity breeds contempt, and going other places always gives me a new appreciation of home. It’s a big, wide world out there, and I want to experience as much of it as possible.
Because it gives me fresh eyes to see things – the world, religion, politics, the meaning of life, myself – differently.
Having space from my everyday and experiencing a different way of life and meeting different people gives me the chance to consider what I really think about things. It helps me clarify my perspectivesand re-evaluate my priorities. Matt and I always have our best life planning meetings (?!) away from home!
Because I want my children to know that life like it is in Australia isn’t the only life that people live.
As previously noted, I love life in Australia. But I want my children to grow up knowing that there are different ways and different choices. And I want them to understand that sometimes, people don’t have choices. I want them to have empathy, not fear. I want them to learn another language, encounter other cultures, meet people who are not like them and respect them just the same.
Because I want to get my hands dirty again with work that matters to the world.
I am so proud of the movement that Aimee and I, and all of you, are building at Wanderlust People – a community where people who value craftsmanship, art, difference and culture can uphold and support those values by buying beautiful, ethically sourced things to flavour our lives. But being based in Coolum doesn’t put us on the coalface when it comes to seeing the change that our individual life choices make for our fellow human beings – and I miss that. I’m spending this 18 months working with CARE International, a great organisation doing amazing things to empower women and girls, ensure people have clean water, and build communities’ resilience to disasters and climate change. I’m meeting the people whose houses will go underwater as the sea level rises, and I’m hoping I can help them do something about it.
Umm, because it’s Vanuatu and it’s a tropical paradise.
This morning, I paddle boarded out my front gate and across the mirror-smooth lagoon, swam with sherbet-coloured fish over coral rocks, drove through a jungle and explored a picture-perfect cove with powdery sand and a blue-heaven-jelly sea. And that was all before lunch! It’s a developing country, and it’s certainly not perfect, but it’s definitely not a hardship to live here. So what are you waiting for? We love visitors :-)