28th March 2012…….that date will be forever etched into my mind.
It was the date I got up in the wee small hours to head to Sydney airport with a one-way ticket in my pocket and my final 30kg of possessions crammed into my remaining bags.
It was also the date, thanks to the vagaries of time difference and a ‘direct’ Emirates flight, that I touched down at Gatwick, ready to start my new adventure ‘Back home’
I find it hard to believe that 5 years have now passed since that (very long) day. My memories of Sydney life and friends remain so vivid.
But it has also been a hugely exciting time for me and my family, leaving the comfort and familiarity of Sydney behind and having to forge a new life, back where it all began.
Returning to a land where many, many things were familiar and yet everything was somehow different.
In the early days following my return, there was a sense of novelty as I became reacquainted with lots of things that I’d forgotten all about – even a trip around the local supermarket was a voyage of (re)discovery.
This phase also proved to be a rich source of inspiration for this blog as I frequently found myself being captivated by aspects from my past and compelled to write about them.
Seeing old friends again was also a wonderful experience, reconnecting after a lengthy hiatus and knowing that I can see them again more regularly in the future.
And having family on the doorstep again, not restricted to short intense periods every 2 or 3 years when we travelled back to the UK on holiday was another major plus.
But then as the novelty phase passed, I entered a new phase as work, schools, home and general living required the establishment of a set of routines, helping to reinforce that this is now our life and not some kind of extended holiday.
As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, I started to appreciate the natural cycle of the seasons, the beauty of the countryside, the pervading sense of history, the proximity to Europe (geographically, if not now politically) and the diversity of people and opinions that I came into contact with on a daily basis.
I have seen my kids grow up and flourish over the last 5 years and my wife reinvent her career too. So much has happened to us and most of it has been hugely positive.
But setting off into the unknown back in 2012, I had no idea of how it would all work out. I was optimistic as you must be, but I couldn’t be certain. No-one could be in that situation.
But I figured whatever happens, change is a good thing and we felt in need of a change.
One thing I’m really glad I initiated at that time was a thing called The Happiness Project – a simple 5 year diary that requires you to enter a sentence each day, recording something happy that happened to you that day.
Maybe it was the researcher in me, but it provided an evolving record of our reintegration back home, capturing feelings and experiences at the time which I could review later, especially seeing what happened on the same day in previous years as the diary filled up.
Now, I wouldn’t be as Pollyanna-ish to suggest that everyday has always been a bag of chuckles, but it is amazing when you look for a positive each day – even if just to fill the empty diary slot staring up at you – you can always find something to say.
And now, as I close the pages on my 5 year diary for the last time, I can look ahead to the next 5 years, wondering what they have in store, but confident that regardless, they will be full of stimulation, change and yes, happiness as we continue our life Back Home.