I came home to Ireland last March 2011, after living away for eight years. I left in 2003 for New Zealand, mainly because I wanted to travel and New Zealand had always been one of the top 5 places that I wanted to live. Nearly 3 years later I moved from there to Sydney. Like New Zealand, I found it fairly easy to get work and build a good lifestyle. Hot, sunny weather helps, and it never takes long to get used to good things! I'm now 35, home, starting from scratch - trying to learn about and develop a new career, build a new social network and find that sense of belonging, which, I have to admit, is still proving pretty elusive. I loved my time away, but despite the recession and all the warnings not to come
back, I haven't for one second regretted the decision to come home.
There was no huge catalyst around making the choice to come back. Life had just started to speed up and I realised that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in Australia. Sitting at the beach in the sunshine, the recession seemed awfully far away. People told me I had no idea what I was facing and that I would quickly regret giving up what I had in Sydney. One friend asked, half seriously, whether I was determind to move back to Ireland just because everyone told me I couldn't. (I'm still not sure whether that didn't play a little part in it.)
Its now been nine months since I arrived home. In lots of ways my friends were right. I had no real idea of how bad things were economically, and found the stories of so many people in financial distress frightening. It was strange, while basking in the novelty of being home and being welcomed by family, hearing radio and TV programmes advising on how best to leave again. Advice on how to apply for working visas abroad, and phone in's from those who were out there, finding their feet in a new country – some for the first time and many not through choice – were everywhere. It was unsettling to listen to. It was also a bit like walking into a room ready for a party only to find everyone else is not in the mood and heading somewhere else.
I was very lucky to find work within a month of coming home, helping organise peoples holidays exploring the best that the west coast of Ireland has to offer. (Yes, I landed on my feet! See www.connemaraadventuretours.com) It's funny the things you find yourself appreciating. I can speak at a normal pace again and not worry about slowing down so that people can understand me. I like how Irish people are always up for a debate over anything, and keep you on your toes with quick wit and a great sense of humour, even in tough times. I like walking into the local and have everyone know your name, but mostly I like just having a local again! Being around family and old friends is great. Being able to call up my sister and hang out for a weekend, spending time with my brothers again, or arriving home to my parents house unexpectedly, knowing that there will be some dinner kept in case one of us pops in, is a fantastic luxury. I'd forgotten what it was like to have support, be understood (often better than you understand yourself) have people to ring up and ask advice from and not have to struggle to make things work in unfamiliar territory on your own all the time. It takes time to settle in and there are alot of the same challenges to face as you would settling in anywhere, and some bigger ones, particularly in Ireland right now, but it's still early days.
Catching up with friends who were home from various countries for short visits over Christmas I was glad to find that that I didn't envy them flying away again. It can be tough not feeling completely on solid ground yet ... but someone told me that it takes 18 months to really feel at home after a big move, so hopefully I'm halfway there!
by Claire Riordan (Connemara Adventure Tours)