The Call to Place

Cathy from ~wander.essence~ is re-inventing her travel blog(s) and encouraging us all to think about the ways, the reasons and the whys about how we travel. Her posts are certainly making me think about how I blog.

The Call to Place: “I invite you to write a 500-700 word (or less) post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a recently visited or a future particular destination.”

There is one place that has had a very strong pull on my emotions pretty much the whole of my life. And still does.

The Land Down Under

I was ten years old when my parents told me that we were going to move to Australia. The other side of the world. I was so excited. There lived kangaroos and wallabies and parrots. The sun shone every day, everyone lived by the beach and doctors flew in planes.

It didn’t happen. At the last moment my dad backed out. He was fifty and worried that he wouldn’t find a job and with a wife and three kids to support he decided that being a £10 POM wasn’t for him. Or us.

For years I dreamed of that big island continent. I learned about Australia in my geography classes and the more I learned the more I wanted to be there. A friend in the same class as me emigrated when we were both fifteen. She was a Judith too. I was so jealous.

Several years later and I was ready. I had just finished six months working in a hotel in Norway and had saved almost every penny (or kroner) I earned to make the journey to Australia. I was going overland with a someone I’d met who was returning to South Africa. We made it to India together which was where we would split up. He to the west, me to the east.

It didn’t happen. At the last moment I chickened out. I got scared of travelling alone in India where Europeans disappeared from trains, never to be seen again. I joined him and headed west. To South Africa. I met some New Zealanders in Cape Town. They were moving to Australia and invited me to stay with them once I got there. Which meant returning to Norway for another summer season and then flying out to Sydney. I wasn’t taking any chances.

It didn’t happen. Instead I met a man and fell in love and returned to England and got married and returned to South Africa and had a baby. Australia was still in my heart, but life was too full to dwell on it for long. We discussed moving there, but it never happened.

Fast forward several years and I was living back in England with my four children. Broke. Homeless for a while. Desperate to get to Australia I made a plan. I went back to college and studied for my A levels. I applied to university and got myself an Honours degree. I worked in IT for ten years to build up sufficient points to be able to apply for a migrant’s working visa to Australia. I filled in all the forms, I got copies of all my certificates and then I sat down to complete the visa form.

And then I came to the third or fourth question on the form:

‘ I am 45 years old or younger’


If the answer is No do not proceed with this application.

I had turned 46 only three months before.

I was gutted. Heartbroken.

I cried.

I was numb for a long time. Over a year.

For fifteen years of my life I had only one goal in mind and now that had been taken away from me. The Aussies had changed the maximum age requirement from 49 to 46. I was too damn old. My skills were not wanted. I was not wanted.

It couldn’t happen.

There is a sort of happy ending though, I am sure you will be glad to know. My eldest son moved to Australia, married and had a daughter. I visited him for the first time when she was eight months old and got to see Sydney and we took a  trip up the coast as far north as Noosa. We visited Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. I stood on the ‘eighty mile’ beach. Got annoyed by all the flies. Sat on the Opera House steps, walked over the Harbour bridge and took a ferry to Manly where my old Kiwi friends moved to all those years ago.

They had sent me a postcard telling me there was a spare room waiting for me.

Marine Parade to Shelly Beach

Looking up at the building where they had lived I thought about why it hadn’t happened and how I have always felt that Australia should have been my home.

But it will never happen.


Published by


I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

58 thoughts on “The Call to Place”

  1. I’m glad that finally, after all those stumbling blocks, you were able to visit the land of your dreams! Things do happen for a reason…and this gives me much hope that I can also see those places I long to see — i just have to get over the nagging fear of traveling by myself… Thanks for this post!

    1. I was single for a long time and realised that if I didn’t make the effort to go alone I would never go anywhere. You actually meet more people as a solo traveller.

        1. Go somewhere you’d feel safe in, or maybe go on a tour so you are not alone. I think once you have done it you’ll be fine.

  2. What a ripper of a post Jude. wanderessence is inspiring us right left and centre. I’ve just spent the day bussing to Sydney, haunted by her “intentions”. I had no idea your longing to come here was so great. My heart wept with you when you discovered you were too old – at 45! Give us a break! Your photos do the country of your dreams proud. The pull of place lasted so long, and you worked so hard to make it happen. You’re sad refrain structures the piece beautifully.

    1. Sigh… it took me a long time to get over the fact that I couldn’t emigrate. I felt I had to escape from England, but even that didn’t work out as planned. Oh well, life goes on, and indeed did. And I have had some great holidays in your country.

  3. Oh Jude, what a sad story and how wicked of our government to say anyone over 45 is too old to be a valued contributor to Australia. At least you can visit as often as you like and there will always be a welcome at my place for you.

    1. Oh, thank you for that Carol. I have to say I looked at several ways to enter your country, but none of them feasible. As for a retirement visa, you have to be a millionaire to get one of those! And maybe it all worked out in the end as it is possibly too hot there in the summer for me nowadays 🙂

      1. Maybe, but we’ve found when we’ve moved interstate that we acclimatised very quickly. If you’d come at that age, you would get used to it. Lucky you can choose when you want to come and visit.

  4. A compelling personal memoir, Jude. I was lucky, as I always wanted to live in London, and did. I felt a pull to the coast later in life though, and regretted not making the move earlier, as I couldn’t afford to live where I really wanted to be.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Sadly I couldn’t make the move earlier as I needed all those years to pass through their point system. One reason why I was determined not to leave it any longer to move down to Cornwall was that I figured we would be outpriced.

  5. Your childhood imaginings of the land down under sound not unlike how NZ was sold to me as a child when my parents decided to emigrate. I was promised endless sunshine, hot pools and Christmas on the beach; the last a blatant bribe when I apparently said “no thank you” to the offer of a new home.

    It is sad that you haven’t been able to fulfil the dream of living in Australia, and I’m glad you can visit. Forty five does seem terribly young to be the cut-off age for migrants. What a wealth of experience the country is missing out on.

    1. The cut-off point had been 49 for years, so it was a complete shock to me that it had changed. I tried for New Zealand as the cut-off point there was/is a more realistic 55, but could not reach the eligible number of points until close to that age and things had changed in my life by then. I was remarried and the OH not keen to leave England. Apparently now you need to be under 45 to apply for a skilled migrant’s visa in Oz and under 56 for NZ.

      1. Nice to know NZ isn’t quite so ageist. But I wonder what “skills” actually import. All we hear on the news is that we need more instruction workers, fruit-pickers and farmhands.

        1. Not sure, but I know my son (who works in corporate travel management) couldn’t get a job with Air New Zealand and he says the wages there are very low and there are very few positions so it is competitive. He has Aussie nationality now so can work in either country (lucky boy!!).

  6. Oh Jude, this piece is fabulous! I love it so much. I can just feel the yearning and the ultimate disappointment when you found you couldn’t emigrate to the land of your dreams. You worked so hard to make it happen! That age limit is really low. I’ve encountered age discrimination so much in working abroad. In Turkey, for example, the age limit to teach there is 50. I couldn’t even go back to Oman now as the age limit is 60. It’s so frustrating especially for those of us who are in good health, energetic and young at heart. How serendipitous, though, that your son moved there and lives there, so you can visit at any time. How life leads us down so many convoluted lanes! This is really great. Thanks so much for writing it and sharing. (Of course, you and I have shared this story by email before, but it’s so nice to see it here!)

    1. Thanks Cathy. Glad you liked the piece, and thank you for your invitation that inspired me to write this. Given how long people need to work now before being eligible for a pension you would think they would raise the limit.

      1. I’m so glad you were inspired to write this in response to the invitation, Jude. As for the age thing, it infuriates me as to how unreasonable these limits are. How frustrating it must have been for you after working so hard to realize your dream! And how serendipitous that your son ended up moving there. Your dreams must have been embedded in his genes!

        1. Actually he disliked Australia for many years, finding it ‘sterile’ culturally. He would have move back to South Africa in a heartbeat, but no work there for a young white male. He has grown to appreciate his second adopted home now 🙂

  7. Oh, goodness, Jude…what a heart-rending piece…..I, too had no idea that your desire to emigrate was so strong…I agree with Tish about regrets.

    1. I had to let it go eventually Sue, but it was hard to accept that I would never move there. Still, life moves on and there are many reasons that makes England a good place for me.

  8. A block buster of a tale, hon, and I do feel for you. Except that you are such a contented Cornish gardener now. What’s meant to be, and all that… Wierd, isn’t it? And I would never have thought of South Africa as a cultural place, so it’s odd that your son felt that. Like Cathy I thought you must have infected him with your enthusiasm. 🙂 🙂 All’s well that ends well, Jude, or we wear ourselves out in the process. I’m doing a bit of that now. Beautifully told, darlin, and thanks for giving me a nudge.

  9. Wow, this reads like the plot to a movie. I’m glad you got to visit in the end, and perhaps will again, because of your family ties. However, the last time I asked, your son in WA had been made redundant and may have moved on.

    It’s funny how life has its twists and turns. And sometimes the Holy Grail is never what it seems.

    1. He’s back in Sydney LD and I am hoping to get over there at the end of the year. Just letting them settle in before I spring it on them 😀

  10. Thanks for sharing your story. It is interesting where life takes us, how decisions made by different generations impact our own story. Glad you finally got to Aus!

      1. I had seen more of the country than my Aussie husband. We did a big family trip when our girls were early teens, to the Red Centre and the Barrier Reef. Now one daughter and I have visited every state and territory, while both our Aussie husbands have not!

        1. Funny that! They are not really big explorers are they? Despite living in a fascinating country. I took a trip to Broken Hill and a friend of the family from Sydney asked me why on earth would I go there?
          The Kiwis are much more adventurous. I used to meet Kiwis all over the world, but rarely Aussies.

  11. What a story Jude so sorry you never made it, life can certainly have its ups and downs, but never say never… This really is a glorious country, of course it has its faults, doesn’t everywhere, but it also has so much going for it too. My heart is now here, but NZ is embedded in there too. My ex husband went out to NZ as an immigrant in 1960, didn’t even have to pay $10 in NZ, we were engaged and I followed him at age 18 and married him a few weeks after arriving in NZ…. I hope you get here later in the year and I do hope we get to meet.

  12. Wow Jude. You revealed so much of yourself in this story … the heart-break but deep resilience. I hadn’t realized that when you went to Australia it was actually for the first time. As we get older, it’s strange how our mind tends to wonder about the paths we didn’t follow.

    1. 1998 was my first time, and I was hoping to emigrate in 2000, but…
      Went back in 2000 and 2003 and then 2014. Hoping to be back again later this year.

  13. Oh this makes me so sad. I’ve just turned 35 and am making the move hopefully in the next 6 months (as soon as they let me in!). I know what you mean I always new Sydney was my ‘need to live’ place and it took until my early 30’s to get the courage to leave the UK. Its so nice your son shares your love and you can now visit him there and see your grandchildren living the life you always wanted for them. They can possibly apply for a parent visa for you? Not sure if you’ve looked into it or not? On my first few blog posts (no 1 and 3 I think) I have links to the immigration webpages if you wanted to look into it? Good luck!

    1. Not eligible for a parent visa and even if I was they only accept a few each year. Good luck with your new adventure, I hope it all works out well for you. Sydney is very expensive though. My choice would be somewhere around Cairns / Port Douglas 🙂

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