Living the dream: 5 months in

Living the dream: 5 months in

Written by Heather

Topics: Life in Oz

Over the weekend I hit the 5-month mark of experiencing Australia. *shakes head* I can’t believe it! I mean, it certainly feels like I’ve been here for at least that long, but I still can’t quite believe it’s true.

Today I am reminded that I am living a dream. For four years I saved in the event long-term travel and I were destined to meet. The desire was there, yet I wrestled with the reality of quitting a job and missing precious time with family and friends. After countless discussions, lots of prayers, and a ticking clock (i.e., the age limit on the visa), I decided to take a leap into the unknown and LIVE the dream of spending a year in Australia.

Every day you postpone a dream you weaken it a little. The longer you wait, the less likely you will ever chase it. -A. Liverman, Delaying the Real World-

Early on, one of the big questions I asked of myself was how would my ultimate decision (whether or not to go) would impact the rest of my life. One friend read my mind and phrased it perfectly in an email while I was still on the fence: Can you hear yourself saying “I had the opportunity to leave for a trip, but if I had I wouldn’t be where I am today” or “I took a trip and if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be where I am today”. Neither are negative – you’ll have different life experiences no matter which you choose, both a mix of good and bad I’m sure. After reading this a tiny voice in my head said “pick the latter!” Life is a series of choices and the consequences of those choices forge paths for the future that may not have existed had we selected differently. I knew that no matter whether I stayed at home or left for Oz, the rest of my life would be different, that different didn’t mean better or worse, and that by choosing Oz, I’d have one less regret in life.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else… -Emerson-

I came to a point in my life where I knew I would always regret not trying. I didn’t want to wake up one day 20, 30, or 40 years down the road and wonder what could have been…if I could have handled a year living in another country or if I would have returned after 3 months. I didn’t want to wonder about people I would never have met or places I would never have seen by choosing not to go.

Pursuing a dream doesn’t mean everything is going to be exciting, thrilling, easy, or fantastic. About 3 months before my departure date, a wicked case of nerves showed up on my doorstep and didn’t leave until I was on the plane from LAX to Sydney (confession: I quietly sobbed in a bathroom stall at LAX when a sense of “ohmygoshwhatamIdoing” descended at once). One month into my time here in Oz, I cried nearly every day just because. Four months in and the day before a friend came to visit, homesickness knocked on the door just before breakfast and waltzed right on in to take over my morning.

Thankfully I love identifying and normalizing change and how it affects us. I may be living a dream, yes, but that doesn’t mean that every day should be full of sunshine and rainbows. It’s life and that means I’ll encounter the good, the bad, and the ugly. If I can remember during the tough times that “this too is normal and shall pass”, then I’m doing okay. View this lovely chart describing our internal emotional response to change.

I am blessed beyond words to be here. Even on the most difficult day, when I asked myself “are you ready to pack your bags and go home”, the answer was no. I’ve met people who will be a part of my life forever. I’ve seen places I hoped to like the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback. I’ve tasted kangaroo, emu, and more tasty pastries than one should consume. I fell in love with Adelaide, Coober Pedy, Brisbane, Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, and Sydney’s Inner West. I have a flat, a great flat mate, and a job. I’m finding my inner foodie and secretly wish to be a food photographer and blogger. I’ve had two friends visit me in Sydney, and my parents will be here in just a week and a half. I’m missing my favorite season back home, but my family started a Facebook album to document Saturdays full of football, food, and friends. I’ve learned heaps about myself — not all of it new, but having things confirmed anew…these “lessons/realizations” have been my biggest moments of growth. Maybe I’ll share them at the 6-month “state of the union” post. I skipped over a month 2, 3, and 4 post, so I’m certainly due for some introspective ones.

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I may not know where I’ll be a few months from now, but for this moment, I’m right where I’m meant to be. After one month I thought I might return home after New Years. At the end of month two, it was the opposite — not only would I stay in Oz for the entire year, but I would spend the rest of my travel money to see New Zealand, SE Asia, and visit friends in Europe before returning home. By month four, I was homesick and ready to spend next summer and fall in the US. From month four to five, my thoughts and feelings have continued to change. So I’m giving up trying to guess where I’ll be when this visa expires…I know my experiences here will continue to shift and shape the future. What I thought two months ago isn’t the case today, and what I think today may evolve in the weeks and months to come. One of the things I’ve learned is how daydream/future oriented I am. This isn’t inherently bad, but sometimes I need to be more centered on the present.

I’m living what is my biggest dream to date, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Whether I’ve had a day that’s close enough to perfect or one that leaves me in tears, I’m living, breathing, and experiencing long-term travel in Australia. As I approach the half-way mark, I need to make a commitment to myself (and you can help keep me accountable). I want to make the most of the rest of my time here — however long that may be. I don’t want to to watch days pass by. I don’t want to waste a moment. That doesn’t mean I won’t relax and spend time on the couch sometimes daily. But I want to be mindful of each day I have and enjoy life, focus on wellness, take risks, and cultivate relationships. I want to wake up each day and choose to LIVE that day. That should be a commitment for the rest of my life, not just the next few months.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re a) a family member, b) one of my closest friends pre-Oz, or c) a fellow traveler from Twitter. Thanks for sticking with me these last five months and for your emails, FB messages, tweets, and comments. I love having encouragement & support around the world — and it means the world. ♥

18 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Kieron says:

    It’s nice to get some more insight into the emotions of a long-term traveler – it gives us a taste of what to expect. Even though you’ll have your ups and downs, I’m sure in a few years time you’ll look at this as being the best time of your life!

    Enjoy the rest of your time in Oz and make the most of the upcoming summer and the (mostly) beautiful weather! Hopefully there won’t be as big of a heatwave as last summer.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks guys! I hear you’ve been having beautiful weather the past few days down your way :-) Hoping maybe to get down there early in the new year.

      Looking forward to reading about your planning and emotional journey in the months to come!

  2. Lauren says:

    Um, first off, you look absolutely gorgeous in this photo. Happy and shining.

    I am proud of you for writing this and for being able to be reflective so early on. I think it will help you stay centered and more in the moment. You’re doing a good job of living your dream, and I bet the best is yet to come.

    • Heather says:

      Thank you beautiful! Very thankful to have met you here and look forward to more adventures together :-) Enjoy the great November you have ahead of you!

  3. I think having a life full of stories is fantastic. Not just so you can spin war stories to the grandkids… But these stories keep life interesting and provide light and shade which in many lives is missing. There’s the downs to counterbalance the ups, but those ups are just so much better because of it. What a journey. The best is definitely yet to come!

    • Heather says:

      Your encouragement and support have meant loads in the last couple of months! Looking forward to seeing what Oz has in store in the days to come.

  4. Nicole says:

    I always love reading your posts, but especially the reflective ones! Isn’t it interesting how we struggle to make a decision & then once we’ve made it, there are still so many emotional ups & downs wondering if we’ve made the right choice & where we’ll go from here? I like the quote from Emerson & the advice from your friend – each path in life provides us with different opportunities & experiences, one is not right & the other is not wrong, they’re just different. I still give you so much credit for taking the leap & following through on an experience you have wanted for so long. I think it will lead to many good things to come in your life. :)

  5. Jenny says:

    Right on. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows but when compared to what life could be, it’s amazing. You will never regret going and the experience you’ll have will change you forever. Kudos to you for taking action and following your heart!

  6. Mom says:

    I cried…What can I say, I’m your mom and I’m an emotional mess when it comes to my girls….I love reading your blogs. I’ve learned so much more about you my love.

    So looking forward to lots of hugs when I arrive!

    • Heather says:

      Aww, now don’t go and make me teary!! :-) Curious what all you’ve learned about me. But you can tell me IN PERSON next week!

  7. Laura says:

    First off, your Mom’s comment almost brought tears to MY eyes :) So sweet! I’m soo happy you stuck it out to the 5 month mark. We’ve both been around the homesickness block. And after reading about your crying episodes, I recall back in August sobbing, no not crying, but sobbing on my flight from South Africa to Thailand (lucky for me the woman sitting next to me was crazy- literally- she told me about it, so I wasn’t too worried about what she thought). It was from the ‘why does this world have to be such a miserable experience for some people’ as I had interviewed just one too many people in Africa that have lived through such hardships. Then when I got it together I cried for feeling pity for people when they seemed to be so courageous and happy in spite of life’s hardships. It was like, What gives me, a privileged American, the right to cry about their lives? Oh yes, and then of course I had to cry at the realization that after spending 3 1/2 months in Africa, I was leaving the continent behind that I loved so much. Those are the travel experiences people don’t talk about as much :) Thanks for sharing and have fun with your parents next week. Oh and please keep the customer stories coming. Those are hilarious!

    • Heather says:

      I’d imagine I’d cry in all of those situations as well! If I ever go to Africa, I want to go with you.

      I have a few stories from yesterday, but they were actually nice ones. Every day is a new adventure O:-)

  8. Poi says:

    5 Months already!! It’s great to know your enjoying yourself so much, you made the right decision for sure!

  9. Jaime D. says:


    1) I just got tears from reading this.
    2) I couldn’t stop jumping in my bed in JOY for you.
    3) You are really making me want to spend a year in Australia after I am done with my RTW trip.

    Ahhh I am so happy for you CONGRATS on 5 months in Aussie world. So tell me are the men really as hot as I imagine them to be????

    • Heather says:

      And I’m LOVING your blog and tweets. You are one of the folks I’d really like to meet one day!

      When I was traveling very few guys caught my eye, but when it comes to Sydney, I actually see most of them at work! Quite a few of my coworkers are really good looking and some of the customers aren’t bad either O:-)

  10. Such an inspiring story! You are 100% right. It is so hard to pick up your life and go somewhere completely new but there is also a ticking clock and no one wants to miss that window of opportunity. Thanks for sharing your story Heather.

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