Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Email from a Girl Who Has the Ability To Loves Both Her Family and a Country

I want to post a copy of an email I wrote to my whole family in January. I sent it a week after we returned from Australia--it was in response to comments they made on my OFOTO pictures.

I'm posting my email because it somewhat explains my feelings for Australia and the whole issue of separating from loved ones.

Is migration about rejection and abandonment? Or is it about adventure, following your dreams, and embracing opportunity?

Anyway, here's the email. (The stuff in bold is currently added comments and was not in the original email)

I wanted to respond to some of your comments and questions: (the comments on Ofoto)

MELISSA (my younger sister) : I forgot, what is so important about the bridge except you can climb it? I still smile every time I read this. My sister is too cute sometimes.

Answer: Well, the most important thing is (like most bridges) it helps people get from point a to point b. Before that, the only way people could travel to North Sydney (and beyond) was by ferry. And besides that, it's tall and pretty. Makes for a good landmark.

DAWN: (my older sister) Australian or American travelers? She's referring to a picture of us with some other people.

ANSWER-Australian and the visiting family was from the UK....I think? I think maybe they were in the process of emigrating. Or they already did. Tim might be more clear on that. There were no Americans as guests at the park. It was a VERY local kind of place. I actually saw very few people from even outside the state (New South Wales). We definitely stood out as the "cool foreigners" and probably got more attention because of it. Now that I look back we probably stood out as the freaky Americans--not cool foreigners.

DAD: think its time for you to also visit Yellowstone, the Blue Ridge and Smokies..and while you are at it, visit the coastal towns of Northern Maine...and then travel and experience the southern coast of Italy, France and Spain . So much to see. Oh, don't forget the Bavarian Elps. Glad you are beginning to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. There was a time when I remembered you being at times oblivious to all of this natural and man made beauty. So this all very good! This was my political commercial!

Answer: We might visit those places. We might not. As we talked about before, I'm more interested in spending quality and quantity time at places rather than checking off a checklist of famous places I need to visit.

I would rather have tons of fun and truly experience a different culture....than add new places to my travel resume.

Yes. I do love the Opera House and Bridge. Mostly for some kind of mysterious spiritual reason that I can't and won't try to explain. But that is rare for me. I usually have very little interest in famous landmarks. And I doubt that will ever change.

I'm more into enjoying the simple things in life. A fly on a leaf. Watching Jack and a little boy play monster on the playground. Seeing Jack and four little girls slide down a water slide together. Watching an adorable little boy take twenty minutes to savor and eat one damn little cookie. Witnessing a bunch of Australians get super excited about a koala in a tree. Chatting with an indigenous Australian. Visiting a favorite animal attraction so many times that we have the order of the exhibits practically memorized.

It's hard for me to explain my love for Australia. I like to compare it to a romantic love for a boy/girl. First I had a crush (before we went) and now I'm in love. Talking to me about visiting other countries and appreciating other places is like telling a young woman in love that she should see other people before getting engaged.

Since Tim just likes to travel period and since Australia (like the United States) has such a wide variety of landscapes...he is fine using Australia as our destination. He is pretty sure that like all my obsessions, this one will pass and we won't have to go to Australia every year for the rest of our lives. He may be right. He might be wrong. If he's right, hopefully the next place I have a love affair with will be closer by---like Tyler Texas.

I personally would much rather spend several months or a few years living in one country than traveling to all the famous must-see countries around the world.

I think it would be an amazing, wonderful, and incredible experience to live in Australia for awhile. This would be a complete dream come true for me. Since from when we first got together, I think Tim and I have talked about our desire to live in another country for awhile. And now that I've fallen in love with Australia, the issue is definitely one we're seriously considering.

I would appreciate everyone trying to understand and support our decision. There was once a time where moving to Australia was saying good-bye forever to your family. You go and that's it. Families completely lost touch with each other.

Life has changed. There's email. Video phone. Cheap long distance. (for people who actually live there....not tourists at hotel). And a 14 hour plane ride is really not that long.

Now who knows what the job situation is. We might not be able to find anything that works for Tim. So it might be a mute point. But if we do find something interesting, we are probably going to go for it.

Jack, like most children, is a little weary about such a big change. He's very attached to his cousins. And the rest of you guys as well. On the other hand, he's not heartbroken about the idea and does seem interested.

I was very upset last night and felt guilty for wanting something that "might hurt Jack" so much. I said with my usual drama. I don't want to take Jack away from his cousins! Tim did a good idea of calming me down. It would be one thing if I said "You can never see your cousins again!" But a several-month separation is fine.

I started thinking today that any relationship you have that prevents you from venturing out on adventures is probably not a healthy one. One thing I regret about my teen years is that I did not take the opportunity to travel. Do an exchange program. Hell, I didn't even go on the damn high school spring break trips or field trips to D.C. Why? I was afraid I'd miss mom and dad too much. I really wish I had done those things back then. I wish I had understood that yes, I'd get homesick. Yes, I'd miss my family. But the experience would likely be wonderful and my family would be waiting for me when I got home.

Anyway, if it does become a reality....I would like people to be positive about it around Jack. Remind him of how much fun he'll have. Promise to keep in touch. Reassure him that he'll talk to his cousins. Perhaps change (or add additional) birthday party dates so Jack won't have to miss any.

P.S-back to the travel style thing. There was actually an article about it in Tim's new travel magazine. It's supposed to be the new "In" thing now. They call it "slow travel-- influenced by the desire to stop rushing through life. It talks about spending long periods of time in one place...rather than jumping around. Such as instead of going to a cruise to the Bahamas...spending a week on one island. Or spending six weeks in a city in Spain rather traveling throughout Europe.

I will admit I'm a little jealous of Melissa and Fred....going to Cairns and Uluru. But I'm glad we did what we did. We'll hopefully get to those places someday. If be it. I'll just photoshop myself onto Melissa's and Fred's pictures.

So that is the email.

I want to end this post with a quote from Hodding Carter:

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.

And I would add to that, the genuine blessing to take flight.


  1. Well written and well said ;)

  2. Thank you.

    I actually can't take credit for the writing. I got the letter off the website "Emails to Send Family When You Want to Move to a New Country"

    They give you a form letter and you just fill in the blanks with the name of the country, names of family members, etc.

    Very useful website ; )

  3. Dina--I love you and there are so many things in this email which I want to address... but I have to warn you that I don't think you're going to be lovin' them all!

    I'm gonna write my thoughts in a comment rather than a personal email because I think that anyone who is considering moving away from everything and everyone they know should hear this.

    Being here for a month or two, versus being here living are very different. The things you've mentioned are great experiences-- and that's why people travel-- experience other cultures, get a feel for how others live and relate.

    Having a crush on a country is probably as romantic as having a crush on a person-- it's all peaches and cream until you realize everything isn't as perfect as you've built it up to be.

    So here's what I think about the Australia obsession in relation to your family-- close your eyes now if you don't want to read this or if you are going to get mad at me...

    I think that you do not have a great enough appreciation for your family. Most people, myself included, wish they had a family as cohesive, caring, and fun as yours... obviously, I know your family, so I am not talking out of my ass. And I know how much of a role they play in your life, as much as I know it can annoy you that you guys do spend so much time together-- and it may sound tempting to think things would be so much better in Australia-- but, I do not think you are being realistic about how you feel about your family.

    What I saw when you were here was a real happiness in using the public transportation-- It makes me think that maybe you should be living in a more downtown area where you CAN walk to things and use trains/buses. As an "outsider" I would say that seemed to me to be a real factor in why you liked Sydney so much-- and I think you can have that in many places.

    I also do not think you fully understand the reality that Jack will not have the same relationships with your parents and his cousins if you move away from them. My kids have not seen any family for a year. Skype, email, etc. it is NOTHING like being together and you will never get those years back, (ok crying).
    Visits every 6mos-1 year from here are long and difficult-- it will all be up to you to make it really happen. And even with those visits, I truly do think there is something to be said for the peace of mind and stability it gives your child having family around.

    If you have an emergency you will not have anyone to call. If there is an emergency in the U.S. you will be helpless. There will be no lakehouse, there will be no family dinners, you are an island here.

    Not only will you not see them except maybe once or twice a year-- but even trying to talk to them is difficult because by 1pm here it's 10pm there... everyday.

    And on a separate note, I agree with your dad (I know you're seething at that probs, see old people do have wisdom, do our parents have their AARP cards yet? ha ha)-- I think there is much reason to see these other places-- and it's not at all about checking off a list of places you've been, it's about experiencing the cultures and seeing the beauty... I would equate it to reading-- there is some knowledge/wisdom you can only gain by reading or your experience while traveling.

    You can feel that happy feeling from within, in many places.

    I have so much more to say on this, but I don't want to make you madder than you probably already are.

    People's (from parents, to siblings, to friends) lives will go on and not change at all if you move. There will not be anyone changing party dates to accommodate you. People will forget to call and then it will be nighttime. And you will feel like they don't care and never think of you.

    I don't think it would be insane to "live" in Australia for 6 months or a year, but beyond that I think that to pack up and move to another country because you "love" THE COUNTRY (not for a job or other specific reason) is not reasonable. I think in that case it is almost more about purposefully isolating yourself than "living the Australian Dream".

    Don't hate me, I'm just speaking from the heart.
    Love, Me

    excuse any mistakes and this being a big jumble, but I'm kind of emotional about this topic.

  4. Well, Florida Girl.

    Don't expect a Christmas present from me this year.

    You will be loved by my dad though. You'll be the star of Thanksgiving--when you move back here.

    I understand where you're coming from.

    I would miss my family. I don't doubt that.

    But Laura, you and I are incredibly different.

    As I said in my email, just because you don't like something.....doesn't mean I won't like it.

    I could end up hating Australia. I could come home five years later with a blog that says "The Girl Who Totally Hates Australia"

    It could happen.

    But I could end up loving it too.

    I think the thing is....I have the right to find out.

    I think I would see your opinion as much more valid if you had been in the same boat as me.

    If you had wanted to come to Australia. If you had loved it as much as me and then researched it as much as me. If you were LIKE me and them moved to Australia and hated it....then I'd feel I'd have to listen to you.

    It still wouldn't mean that we'd have the same experiences. I could still end up loving it. Or I could end up hating it more than you.

    BUT you never wanted to move to Australia. You've disliked it from the beginning.

    So our situations are so different.

    I don't like a certain country. I didn't even want to visit there. If I had to move there, I'd be so depressed. I'd be angry. I'd be so homesick. I'd feel lost and abandoned.

    And then if my cousin was jealous of me moving there and she wanted to move there...I'd say "What the hell are you thinking?"

    But maybe for her....moving to that country would be the best choice.

    Do YOU have any dreams, Laura? Anything that you want so much?

    What if I've told you that I've already experienced it and it's not worth it?

    Would that stop you from wanting it?

    What if I not only tried to stop you from wanting it....what if I tried to make you feel guilty for wanting it?

    I have more to say, but I'm going to write it in a private email.

  5. About the island thing.

    It could happen. We could end up moving to Australia and having no friends. We could end up very lonely and isolated.

    But it could also go the other way. We could meet close friends who end up being like family. We COULD end up with people to call if there's an emergency. We COULD end up with friends to share special dinners with every weekend.

    We might even find family there. I don't think family has to be blood relatives. Sometimes friends become family.

    We've been there for friends....helped them out in serious situations. And I've had friends rescue me in serious situations.

    It's not just blood relatives who save us. It's not just blood relatives who are there for us.

  6. Dina,
    As an expat living in Sydney (posting from the US on home leave) I encourage you to give it a shot. We did 18 months ago (myself grudgingly, hubby and 2 kids more than excited!) And now we love it.
    We have friends we consider family -- all the holiday dinners have been spent with close friends from Sydney. They are the ones I call at 2 in the morning with a medical emergency and they answer my call. They are the ones who watch my kids when I am too sick to handle them. They are also the ones I go out for pizza with every Friday night.
    Once you integrate yourself into the culture and actually believe it can be good, it can be great.
    Family far away is a problem, but Sydney is a great vacation destination...
    You are never more than 24 hours from someone in the US (unless there is an air emergency). Phones are good, video phones better. But it isn't always the best thing. You just have to know yourself and how YOU will handle it.
    I wish you luck...and safe travels.

  7. Since we have moved this conversation off the comment board, I'll say these last publick (accidental misspelling that I just realized I like and don't want to correct):

    1. No one (in the whole entire world) would be happier than me if you moved here. But I need you to live within at least 30 minutes from me and need a commitment that we will get together once a week.

    2. I don't hate Australia, or even being in Australia. I don't like feeling so isolated. I don't like that my kids have no family here. And I don't like feeling like I am held responsible for the mistakes of that wacko George Bush, and/or bringing McDonalds to Australia.

  8. Laura.

    If we move to Australia, we'll probably be very poor. We'll be living WITH you.
    I know Benji and Ollie will be mad about not being able to have access to the fax machine. I shall give them daily visitation rights.

    I'm joking, of course. We'll just pitch a tent in your backyard. But can you let us in when it gets really cold????

    You need to stop lying about the McDonalds thing. We ALL know that you're the one who brought McDonalds to Australia. Who are you trying to fool? Maybe if you just admitted it, things would get better?

    I can't accuse you of the Bush thing. I have no proof. But I DO have my suspicions!!!

  9. Blue House Mom,

    Thank you SO much for posting such a positive story!!!! It makes me feel so good that someone validated what I said--that you CAN find friends who are like family.

    I hope we do get to move there. Sometimes, it seems like such an impossible dream.

    Well, I guess the problem is we haven't done much outside of dreaming. I think we're all so hesitant and nervous about it. So, all we've done (besides dreaming and research) is give our resume to one person and hope she passed it around.

    We haven't been really active about our pursuit yet.

    I'm not even sure I want to move to Australia. I'm 100% sure I want to live in Australia. I'm not sure I want to go through the hassle of moving.

    I guess what I do want is for people to accept and respect my desire to move. And I don't want to feel guilty about wishing it.

    I want people to be happy that I have a dream and to be supportive if the dream comes true.

  10. Oh yeah, I have a dream.
    I want to get a Labradoodle.

    Don't stand in the way bitch, just cause you have cats and don't want a dog... doesn't mean it's not right for me.

    See, not really the same thing, right? I'm laughing, you're probably not, right? still laughing... are you.

    Still laughing-- see we really are related, cause we have that weird sense of humor... I mean humour.

  11. Yes. I am laughing.

    I think you're the only person I can get really annoyed with and still be laughing and loving you all at the same time.

    I do not think you should get a dog. And a Labradoodle?????????

    What the hell are you thinking????

    Even the name makes me laugh.

  12. Hey Blue House Mom- (we actually almost know each other) Hi.

    Make sure when you encourage my cousin to move here, you tell her how important it is to live near the cousins!

    Hope you're having fun visiting back home in the U.S.!

    -FL girl

  13. Don't mock what you don't know--
    Labradoodles-- all the smartness of a poodle, with all the fun of a Labrador.

    Can you help me convince my husband?

  14. Okay, okay.

    I'll support you and your genetically mixed up dog.

    Tomorrow though....cause I'm going to sleep.

    It's way past my American-time bedtime.