‘Spare a Thought’ – Expat life through the eyes of those left behind #1


One of the most asked questions we get here at The Wilsons of Oz HQ is, how did we feel leaving our friends and family behind, when we made the big trip to the lucky country. Well, the answer is always “pretty terrible”. Of course you’re going to miss people when you move away, and I often think about the people we left behind.  I am pretty sure this is the one thing (apart from the evil visa process) that stops most people taking the huge step toward a life overseas. It goes without saying, it’s tough, but at the same time, I know deep down in my thumping, aching heart, it was too good an opportunity to miss out on. I’ve come round to thinking that maybe it is harder for the people you leave behind, the ones who still walk past your old house every week, the ones who you had regular coffees with, the ones who have reminders of you in their everyday life. Surely it’s got to be harder for them.

Well, all this has encouraged me to get on to those people left behind, and have them guest blog for me in a series called “Spare a thought”. One person in particular, who jumped at the chance to make me feel guilty, was my mother. My dear, rather ‘emotional at the best of times’ mother. I asked mum to write about how she felt, and still feels about our move Down Under.


Your wings already exist; all you have to do is fly!

When my husband retired from the Army we decided to sell our house in Lincolnshire and like two homing pigeons we returned to Wales. It all made perfect sense, we were both from the area and after 25 moves and friends scattered all over the world it was time to be with family and renew friendships long neglected. What happened next was totally unexpected. My elderly father-in-law decided he would move to Hong Kong to be with his daughter, and our son went to take on a new job in Malta. Thankfully our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were settled in Somerset, and not too far away for frequent visits.

During one such visit the bombshell was dropped; “Tim has a new job, but it means moving” Olivia announced one Sunday.  I replied “you won’t find that a problem, you are used to moving, it will be an adventure”. Her reply hit me like a thunderbolt, “yes, but we’re moving to Sydney”. That’s when I burst into tears whilst asking the ridiculous question “Sydney Australia?” I suddenly recalled a time many years ago when my husband told me we had been posted and I suggested he could commute from Lincolnshire so as not to disrupt the family.  He’d said Abu Dhabi in fact, not welsh Aberdovey. Not such an easy commute from Lincolnshire after all.

Once Olivia’s news had sunk in, I started blaming myself for how I was feeling. Was it our fault that both children have the urge to travel and live abroad? Or perhaps it’s a wonderful legacy we bless them with. Our lovely daughter has transverse myelitis, a debilitating illness which she has struggled with and has now come to terms with in a way that makes us feel so very proud. I couldn’t help but feel worried how she would cope being so far away from home; and selfishly I thought, how would we cope?

My first mistake after the bombshell had been dropped was to start watching “Wanted down under” on British television. It shows couples who have taken the plunge, sitting on a sofa in Oz talking to loved ones back home via video link up. Usually the whole family get together in the UK and spend most of the time crying, not knowing what to say, and being typical Poms, just repeatedly ask about the time and the weather. All this does for me is emphasise how far away Australia is. Our morning is their evening, our winter is their summer, and this only exaggerates the constant reminder of the magnitude of their decision. However, finally with the help of my husband, I started to think positively. Our daughter has a wonderful, supportive husband and two great children who are going to make friends, travel, and enjoy all that Australia has to offer; and it has a lot to offer. They will enjoy the outdoor life, the sports, and of course the food. My later predictions have proved to be right. They have immersed themselves in everything that has been palced at their feet.

We have already enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Sydney, and now that they have moved to Melbourne we hope to go there. Thank goodness for Skype! It has made such a difference to be able to see them all and to see their home. The one disadvantage is that I am sure they think Granny lives in a dressing gown as they always call early morning our time; but rest assured I have, unlike those on the television programme, not been too emotional on screen.

I meet people here who are upset because their offspring have moved 10 miles away, but I also meet people whose children are unhappy and can’t find work, so we regularly count our blessings.

Our son, daughter in law and granddaughter have announced they are now moving to Las Vegas; did we do something to upset them all? Maybe I won’t dwell on that. I will concentrate on arranging a few more holidays instead. Thank you Australia for taking care of our loved ones! (Now I am shedding a tear, but don’t tell them!)

Susan Thomas



Family; like branches on a tree we may all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.


If you think you would like to write about your experience of being ‘left behind’, or let us know about how you’re planning to stay connected with family and friends when you move away, please get in touch. Are you about to turn down the opportunity to move away because of a loved one? Did you follow your loved ones abroad to be close to them?  Just one email to us, and you could be sharing your story with thousands of followers all over the world and helping others make that life changing decision.

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