Planning on moving back to Ireland? Here's some advice
Moving home to live is completely different to coming back on holidays
‘Planning and research will alleviate a lot of stress when you touch down on home soil.’
Jimmy Hayes and Mary Lloyd moved to different UK cities from Co Cork in 1957. Chance brought them together again, romance blossomed again and they have recently moved back to Ireland.
Five years in production, filmed over four years spanning four continents, my dream of making Coming Home, a documentary about Irish emigration and return, is finally a reality.
I never anticipated the extraordinary people and stories I would encounter when I set out to make the film. Last year I wrote for Generation Emigration about some of the lessons I had learned so far while making the documentary. One surprise wedding, one near-death experience, one couple reunited after 54 years apart and several plot twists and turns later, here are some more follow-on lessons I have learned since then, about emigrating, living abroad, moving home and life in general.
Expect the unexpected
Anybody contemplating returning to live in Ireland should plan and research the move in as much detail as possible. Leave no stone unturned in your preparation and when you’ve done that buckle up because the best laid plans you’ve made for moving home will not prepare you for the huge transition you are about to undergo. The longer you’ve been away the bigger the transition will be.
Of course there are always exceptions and some returning emigrants make the move back look easy. Planning and research will alleviate a lot of stress when you touch down on home soil. Keep in mind coming home to live is a completely different experience to coming home on holidays.
Several of the film subjects made comments that suggested the move back to Ireland mirrored their original experience of leaving Ireland. Recall the challenges you encountered settling into a new country after you originally emigrated from Ireland, as you are likely to experience some of these again on your return.
Bureaucracy, red tape, high cost of living and lack of variety when shopping around cropped up in feedback from some of the returning emigrants. Organising driving licences, car insurance, healthcare plans, broadband and phone connections can be time consuming and challenging. Medical costs, heating and electricity bills and the cost of food and drink were observed as high or excessively high in some cases.
A spike in rural crime was a noticeable new development flagged by one returnee who contrasted leaving her home unlocked as a matter of course as a young girl growing up in Mayo.
A scarcity of work opportunities was also observed, though factors such as where you move back to and the type of work experience you have can lessen the impact of this challenge significantly. Definitely do your homework on this front before returning if you need to work in Ireland.
A positive frame of mind is essential if you are to have any chance of making the move home a success. A clear understanding of the reasons why you want to return will also go a long way in helping you get through the inevitable challenges that will follow. Fully commit to the move. Keeping one eye on the country you left behind will leave you feeling torn between two places. This is easier said than done, particularly when leaving family and friends behind.
For some the move home was idyllic, with one emigrant’s return journey culminating in a fairytale ending (did I mention a surprise wedding?). For others the experience was more up and down, with one cast member left pondering a return back to the country they had just left by the films end.
As I came to wrap up the film my thoughts shifted more and more to the millions of Irish emigrants who dream or dreamt of returning to Ireland to see out their days, but will never get the opportunity for various reasons. During the film’s production I attempted to capture a dream-like quality through the Irish landscapes I filmed and eclectic music I sourced. I realise now on reflection that this film is really principally for all of those emigrants who will never get to fulfil that wish and return to the land of their birth on a permanent basis.
What does it mean to leave your family, friends and all that you know to risk it all and start anew in a totally strange environment? What impact does this have on a person leaving? Equally what impact does this have on those left behind? What does it mean to have a place you can call home? I have attempted to address all of these questions as best I can in Coming Home.
Many people leave Ireland, build extraordinarily successful lives for themselves abroad and never look back. Others are left with a burning desire to return to Ireland one day. To anyone who has taken or is contemplating taking that journey away from or back to Ireland I wish you the very best on your path.
Coming Home will be released in the coming months. See cominghomedocumentary.com for more details.