A Story about this Girl.

Dear Journaling Friends,

I have just made a dramatic move from a nomadic life through different countries of the world, finally returning back to my childhood home after 25 years. There is a crazy kind of magic in Ireland that has drawn me back, with not just a small amount of uncertainty and no income source to grow some roots in the old sod. My husband of ten years (from New Zealand) and our two children and one long sausage dog have made the move too.

Each Sunday I will write or video a weekly journal with updates on how the transition is evolving. Feel free to jump in with your own points of interest.

This week I am going to share an article of mine that was published recently in the Irish Times, featuring the thought process behind our move back to Ireland.....

Hmmm decisions, decisions

Hmmm decisions, decisions

How I am making the dramatic move back home to Ireland after 25 years abroad.

I am sitting at my desk in Antigua in the Caribbean surrounded by quotes, paperwork and packing boxes. The scent of jasmine blossom fills the air. The view from my desk, through the louvered window that lets in the warm breeze, looks over Galleon Beach and the sea entrance to Nelson’s Dockyard. The beach is dotted with coconut palms and the garden is bright with hibiscus, bougainvillea and flamboyant. I am overwhelmed with excitement, fear and busyness.

The actual, real view from my desk in Antigua

The actual, real view from my desk in Antigua

The phone rings and it is the job interview that I have been waiting for.

“So, why would you want to move back to Ireland?”

The nice lady in the mortgage department at the Bank of Ireland asked me the same thing (before politely telling me that I don’t have a hope of getting a mortgage for the next twelve months).

Sometimes I think that everyone in Ireland wants to leave and everyone that has left yearns to be back home.

I left Ireland when I was seventeen to study abroad and never really went back. Frankly, I was having too much fun. I moved with ease from country to country following jobs and dreams and love. Eight countries and twenty-five years later, I am a wife and a mother to two children – global, international or third culture kids is what they could be described as. But I don’t want that label for them. My children are going to have an identity, that of an Irish mother and a father from New Zealand, born and pre-schooled in Switzerland speaking French followed by a few years on a Caribbean island but soon to grow up part of Irish culture – something I have been proud of in my travels: proud to be Irish and proud of my heritage. They need to know the soul of the country whose passport they hold.

The urge to return to Ireland has been getting stronger over the last ten years of my life abroad and I spoke of it often with friends and relatives. “It is easier to talk the talk than walk the walk”, “the grass is always greener” and “be careful what you wish for” are phrases that sing in my mind now though. I wished and talked and dreamed and then universe whistled back with some subtle hints and finally a great big kick in the backside.

“What? Our contract is up? How dare you! What on earth are we supposed to do?”

“Why, move back home to Ireland of course – you great big eejit!”

If we weren’t stranded on a desert island, would I have had the courage to move back to a country where I don’t really have any close friends, where I have no job and no car, but thankfully I have a roof over my head (bless you Mum and Dad!)? I am not sure that I am that brave!

A colourful life for the kids in Antigua

A colourful life for the kids in Antigua

To help and ‘to be sure-to-be-sure’ of myself I enrolled with a life coach to talk me through the little voices in my mind saying,

“Are you mad? The hayfever? The taxes? The weather…?”

I could spend all day and night reading other people’s stories of why and why not, but this decision is my own. Even my husband is not Irish so he has no strings pulling him across the Atlantic. My coach asks me to write for 10 minutes about what I love about life here and what I don’t like about life here. Afterwards she tells me that everything I liked is available anywhere. Don’t base the decision on the country. Then we work on who I am and what I want, as it is this person that I will be travelling to Ireland with.

She also wants to test the foundations of our marriage and my husband gets involved. Fair point – we are going through this together.

My friend Gavin makes me laugh. A fellow Irish abroad, he says that we all need to have a plan for our next move, not just an idea that sounds good after a few rum and cokes.

I am drawn to life near my family. I am struck with the realisation that my network of friends abroad (with the exception of Australia) are all expats in the countries that we lived. Of course, I knew locals but I never integrated enough to call them close friends. There was always a chance that my nearest friends would leave for another country. This is especially true where I am now, which makes the decision even easier, not so much to go ‘home’ to Ireland, but to return to a life where I can be part of the country and the politics (good and bad) and not think about how much more ‘time’ I should do in this particular place. Life in Ireland, come what may, will be real.

I have never lived in Ireland as an adult so I still see the country through the rose-tinted glasses of my childhood. There were gymkhanas in the Summer and pantomimes in the Winter, the nature table at school filled with conkers and acorns, pilfering chocolates from the Christmas tree, playing board games by the fire while the huge stock pot bubbled on the stove after our weekly roast dinner, Sunday lunch at Nana’s house when she wheeled in the trolley of coffee eclairs for dessert and playing tag in her rose garden.

Now that I think about it, there were chilblains and hot water bottles too, bible passages and money worries, complaints about the endless muck in the autumn, winter and spring.

As a child, I knew about faraway shores where the sun always shines. I grew up at a time when a year in Australia was a rite of passage. The reality is that I moved to Neverland – when things start getting too serious, settled or grown-up somewhere, it is time to move on to new and exciting lands to begin life all over again – a life lived always in colour with an interesting story to tell. I shared this journey with new friends each step of the way, friends that became family, friends that moved on too when their time came.

Then one day I realised that I have missed all of my cousin’s weddings, my grandparent’s funerals and my children don’t know how good my Mum’s Sunday roast really is, nor the family traditions at Christmas.

So here I am. I return to my paperwork, the 1200 euros to fly the dog to Dublin, the 1500 euros to ship our belongings, the 2200 euros to fly the four of us with eight suitcases from one continent to another, with all of my worries in the hands of the life coach who disposes of the junk and lifts my head above water.

Soon we will be picking blackberries and making jam with purple fingers, riding bicycles and saying “How’ya” to our neighbours. Of course, there will be the big life decisions to make too. Where shall the children go to school or which school has a place for them? Will one family car be enough? Jobs?! When can we get a mortgage to buy our own place? I’m not moving home to live in a rented house – I’ve done that for years and now it is time to have our family home where we can nest and create a safe space for us all to grow and fall in love with the ceol and the craic.

One thing is for sure, I never laugh as much as I do in Ireland and laughter is medicine for the soul. The decision has been made. To the children there will not be a whisper of doubt. Over a glass of wine before bed, we parents talk and share our fears and dreams. A toast to the Ireland that I knew and the Ireland that I am excited to meet: ‘To the green, green grass of home, we’re on our way!’