When you decide you want to move to Australia, the hardest part of the whole process is knowing you’re going to be moving away from family and moving away from friends.
Leaving behind the people that you love and your entire support system for something completely unknown can feel terrifying.
So many people told me: ‘I couldn’t move to Australia as it would mean leaving my family behind and I love them too much.’ As if they were telling me I couldn’t possibly love my parents if I was willing to leave them behind. I’m here to tell you that you can still love your family and friends dearly but still choose to follow your own path in life.
Living far away from family doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it just means you’ve been raised to be independent and open to new adventures. It means you have the confidence to live your life your way which is a POSITIVE thing and something you should feel proud of, not sad about.
This post is here to reassure you that although moving away from family can be challenging, and it can stir up some strong emotions in people, you can still follow your dream and stay connected to the people you love. Leaving them behind physically doesn’t mean you need to lose touch – you just need to get creative about how you will connect to keep your relationship going from afar.
Moving away from family with your kids? Get these tips about moving abroad with children
Anxiety about moving away from family
When you’re doing something as huge as moving across the world, it’s perfectly normal to feel some anxiety about moving. Moving away from home is challenging enough, but when you’re moving to a faraway country it can make you feel sick to your stomach (even if you’re also excited about what the future holds!) There will always be some feelings of anxiety and stress when you’re pushing your comfort zone and taking bigger steps in your life.
You may end up wondering: is it selfish to move away from family? The truth is that you need to follow your own path in life and that isn’t selfish. You can’t live your life for somebody else as your time on earth is limited and you deserve to follow your heart and do what makes you happy, otherwise you will regret it. You can be mindful of other people’s feelings while following your own journey, and you can still make plans to stay connected so you don’t have to lose touch with the people you love.
Making the decision to move away from family is a really difficult thing to do and it’s likely the main reason most people don’t do what you’re about to do. Shows like Wanted Down Under are popular because viewers get to watch people taking this leap from the safety of their own home without actually taking the risk for themselves.
During my travels over the years, I’ve met a lot of older people who told me they had the opportunity to move abroad to Australia or New Zealand when they were younger but they didn’t because they didn’t want to leave their parents behind. Every time they told me it was their biggest regret as they ended up living their life for others and missing out on the future they really wanted. I think that feeling of regret must feel very heavy.
Listening to these stories during our backpacking adventures really reinforced to Matt and I that we would make our own decisions about our future, even if that meant living far away from family.
Guilt about deciding to move away from family
As if the guilt you might feel about moving away from home and leaving family behind isn’t hard enough, you might find there are people in your life who love you so much they will do whatever they can to stop you from leaving. This can mean you’re exposed to emotional blackmail and made to feel bad about moving far away from family.
When you tell people your decision about moving away and starting over in a new country, be prepared for some pushback, as even the most supportive of families might feel shocked and upset at first.
If you’re moving away from family for a job and the offer comes out of the blue, or if they weren’t even aware you’d been considering moving away to Australia in the first place, the idea can take some time to process. Talk to them, explain your reasons for wanting to move abroad (you might like to read this post about what is your ‘why’ for moving to Australia so you can prepare yourself in advance) and do your best to get them to share in your excitement. It’s also a great time to share with them some of the ways you will be able to stay in touch to show them you’re not disappearing off the face of the earth (you’ll find lots of ideas below).
Moving away from toxic family guilt
Things don’t always resolve easily. Things can get messy. Emotions can get heightened. People can get angry when you don’t change your mind about your plans to leave. We experienced a difficult situation ourselves and it made our last few months in the country quite miserable at times.
It’s important to create solid boundaries and protect yourself. If this person can’t accept your decision and they won’t listen to your reasons for wanting to move, you might need to distance yourself from them until you move.
Relationships can get strained, but they tend to calm down when you’ve left the country and that person realises their behaviour hasn’t influenced your decision. Thankfully, often the relationships can be rebuilt again when you’re settled abroad. The distance can ease some of those big feelings and hopefully you can move past it.
Just know that if somebody in your circle is making you feel guilty for leaving that it’s a very common experience. It’s also important to understand that this is on THEM not on you. They’re upset and pushing their negative feelings onto you. It isn’t fair. You don’t need to accept those feelings and take on board more guilt and anxiety about moving. All you can do is put plans in place to reassure them you will still be there for them and that moving away from family doesn’t mean losing touch or never seeing them again.
Living away from family: Tips to make it work and stop feeling sad about moving house
For me, moving away from parents, moving away from our niece and nephews and moving away from friends was hands down the hardest part of deciding to relocate to Australia. I miss my mum and dad so much and it’s hard knowing they’re a long way away in case anything happens. I miss that our kids can’t grow up with their cousins. I miss my friends who I’ve known since my school days. I miss being part of family get togethers.
While I miss my family a lot, I’ve been able to shed the moving away from family guilt that I once felt. We continually make a real effort to stay connected to the people who are important to us as much as we can.
Moving away from family and friends isn’t easy, but there are things you can do to stay in their lives and ease your guilt and anxiety. Here are some of the ways you can cope with living far from home…
How to deal with moving away from family: 13 tips to stay connected
Send family photobooks and photo calendars for Christmas
If you send your family photobooks and photo calendars every year, it gives them a glimpse into your lives. When we moved, we all decided we wouldn’t send one another expensive Christmas gifts in the mail (other than for the kids in the family). Instead, we use a photo site to create a document of the last year and send that to our parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. It gives them an insight into how our lives look and they get to see how the kids are growing up.
Use apps to stay in touch
There are lots of apps to keep in touch which is perfect when you’re moving away from family. Things like family What’s App groups, and Messenger are great for sharing quick photos and updates. It allows you to instantly stay connected with groups or individuals. I have no idea what life would have been life for expats before this technology, but this definitely makes our lives easier.
Make time for phonecalls and video calls
It’s important to make time for phonecalls, even though evenings can be busy. The time zone can make it challenging to link up, but it’s something that has to be done so prioritise making those calls. It might involve you pre-booking it into your calendar so you both know to be around at a set time, or you can use a messaging app to find out where someone is and if it’s a convenient time to catch up. Either way, do it, and do it often!
Arrange group Zoom calls
Having a big family get together online is a fantastic way of staying connected with family around the world. We arrange family Zoom get togethers a couple of times a year. This brings together aunts, uncles, my cousins, their kids and even their kids too! It’s a big occasion with lots of people and it always leaves me feeling happy. Zoom is free to use for up to 40 minutes (or one of your family members is bound to have a paid account that allows your call to last as long as you like so get them to set up the link and you can chat for longer).
Be part of in-person get togethers
When people you love are having an in person meet up, join in online! When my old school friends have a meet up, I call in on a video chat so I can say hi to everybody. It’s not the same as giving them all a hug in person but it means I still get to be part of the gang. When one of them got married and I wasn’t able to get back for it, one of our friends held up her phone so I could watch the ceremony on Facetime. It meant getting up in the middle of the night to be part of the occasion but it was worth it to be able to join them on their special day.
Share a virtual meal together
Missing having dinner with a mate or missing the Sunday family roast dinner? Arrange to share a meal online. Depending on your time zones, one of you could eat an early lunch while the other eats dinner and you could enjoy a cocktail or coffee together. You can still connect over food, even though there are many miles between you.
Send surprise gifts in the mail
When you see something you know someone will love (like a book), post it to them or order it online to be delivered in their home country. If you want to show somebody you’re thinking about them, send them a bunch of flowers (especially at Christmas time) or send a gift hamper, just because you can. It matters that someone knows you’re thinking about them even though you live far away.
Save for international travel
If visiting family regularly is high on your agenda, factor flight costs into your monthly budget. If you plan to go back every one or two years, work out the cost of flights and divide it up so you know how much to commit to saving each week or month and put that money into a separate account so you aren’t tempted to spend it. You are creating your new life in Australia, so if you want to go back for regular visits to see family, you can make this happen by prioritising it in your budget.
Invite people to visit you
Ask your family and close friends if they would consider coming out to visit you sometimes – perhaps you could alternate visits. This might mean you only need to factor in flights every two to four years if they will come to you in between. Or another option is that you meet somewhere in between for an annual holiday together. This works well as you won’t need to fly as far and it will be a holiday as well so you’re bringing your family together through fun, memorable experiences.
Postcards are quick and easy things to order online and send, or to handwrite and post. Sending regular postcards is a lovely way to keep in touch with family (especially for older family members who might not be as familiar as online messaging apps).
Read books or watch movies together
I don’t literally mean at the same physical time, but commit to both reading the same book or watching the same TV show or movie one week and then get together online to discuss it after. You can message each other as you go, so it’s a great way of enjoying a shared experience.
Send your friend a playlist
Create new playlists for one another to share some old tunes that hold memories for you, or to share some new songs you love.
Play online games together
Online gaming is a great way for your kids to connect with their friends in other countries. My kids have come back from our UK travels with lots of new online buddies and it made saying goodbye to their friends over there a lot easier knowing they can now stay in touch.
How to cope with moving away from family
Australia is a long way away but the world is smaller than it has ever been. No matter where you live, you can generally get on a flight from Australia and be back within 24 hours if you need to in an emergency.
Moving away from family and moving away from friends doesn’t need to mean never seeing them again. You don’t need to lose touch as there are plenty of ways to stay connected and remain part of one another’s lives. You can move away AND still be a great daughter, son, friend, brother, sister, aunt or uncle…
It’s time to ditch the guilt about moving away from family and instead embrace the new experiences that await you, while also putting together a solid plan to maintain the relationships that are important to you.