In four week’s time, all being well, I’ll step blinking from the air-conditioned cocoon of an Emirates 747 into the warm afternoon sunlight of Auckland. Ahead of me will lie a three week road trip across New Zealand, from Auckland in the north to Dunedin in the south – a trip in search of future opportunities for myself and my family. Eighteen months ago, after years of idle wondering and speculative talk, we decided that we would take a serious look at the possibility of quitting England to build a new life elsewhere. Though a variety of destinations including Australia and Canada have been considered over time, New Zealand remains the favoured destination.
Some of the motivations behind this decision are complex, individual and will not be explored here but, in general, I suspect that our reasons are not so very different from many would-be émigrés. Despite it being our lifelong home, we have become increasingly disillusioned with life in the UK and the grind of living in Central London. Property and property prices are one key factor. Over nine years, we have transformed a near-derelict council flat into a warm comfortable (if small) family home. Somewhere along the way and in an effort to recoup the considerable sums we had spent to make the place first habitable and then comfortable, we waived our political consciences and bought the flat. The local housing market is fairly buoyant thanks to the proximity of Canary Wharf. However, this and the fact that a new 21 storey luxury development 500m to the south will rob a fair amount of our south-facing daylight means that we are caught between Scylla and Charybdis – too cramped to stay but too expensive to go. In order to afford a decent-sized family home, we would need to move to move to areas that, whilst they might desirable or suitable, do not have the requisite employment opportunities to fund a family of six. No matter how hard we work, it would seem that we can’t build and maintain the kind family life we want here unless or even if both of us hold down full time jobs. And therein lies the rub. Dedicating every waking hour away from the kids working is self-defeating if the purpose of the exercise is to spend more time with them and provide them with an improved quality of life and better opportunities.
Phrases like ‘improved quality of life’ and ‘better opportunities’ are all well and good but what do they really mean in our case? Our hopes for our family’s future are not grand, expensive or fanciful, rather they tend to be simple ones defined by values we hold to be worthwhile. Our overarching desire is to provide our children with a safer, happier, more secure daily life than we can offer them living in a small flat in London’s East End. In real terms, this means that we are looking to raise them in a community that is less threatening and where they can be lead more independent lives; to live in a cleaner, more cared-for local environment that has more offer in the way of pastimes and pursuits; to explore and enjoy the outstanding natural beauty that a country like New Zealand has to offer and to experience life from a new perspective that will challenge as well as confirm our values and beliefs. Beyond these fundamentals, there are less tangible elements that cannot be denied as contributing factors: the expectancy and thrill of undertaking a leap into the unknown, the making of a deliberate move from the familiar and a change in circumstance that many would shy away from or simply not entertain.
Over the months, we have talked through the myriads aspects of emigration, first as a couple late at night when the kids were in bed and later, as a family, across the dinner table or in the car. During these conversations and after, we have given much consideration to exactly how such a move would affect each of us, balancing pros against cons, benefits over drawbacks and assessing the impact on our lives and those of our extended families. I believe that we have approached this task from a different angle than most do, in that we looked into the more difficult emotional issues before moving even considering the more practical aspects of moving half way round the world. The logistics of packing up a home and transporting it some 13,000 miles is nothing when compared to discussing the impact of such things on the 80 year old grandparents of our children. As for the more mundane tasks, it is strange but no sooner had we made the decision than a rash of ‘reality’ shows about families relocating suddenly appeared on British TV. There is no denying that these shows have a great entertainment value, such the woman who moved to Oz only to remark ‘It’s too hot here…and the money’s all funny’, but they are more akin to holiday shows, tending towards the rosier post-relocation aspects of emigration rather than the whole process. In my experience, they could never prepare one for the sheer amount of research and information gathering that is required when one doesn’t have TV researchers and professional relocation specialists on hand. But that’s another post.
For those wondering about No.8 wire, a brief explanation can be found on New Zealand Tourism Online’s Kiwiana page.