I think it’s time to follow my friends home to Ireland
I had planned to settle permanently in Sydney. But then my Irish friends started moving home
When I left Ireland five years ago, for a year’s working holiday in Australia, there were no tears or sad farewells at the departure gates. I galloped towards the plane, and once we took off I couldn’t wait for it to land.
I loved Sydney, immersing myself initially in the stereotypically Irish scene around Bondi Junction, drinking at the Cock ’N Bull pub at least once a week, and regularly finding myself on Scruffy Murphy’s dance floor at 6.30am. But after a year of partying I started to seriously consider living in Australia for the future rather than just for a holiday.
I was lucky to have a strong network of friends from home with me. My childhood best friend lived a 10-minute walk from my front door. My closest university friend arrived as I was settling in for the long haul, and slept on my floor until she too got a place down the road.
With them I thrived in Sydney. We explored the city and all it had to offer, dining on dumplings in Chinatown on a Friday, lunching in our favourite Lebanese restaurant on a Saturday, and spending lazy Sundays on the beach. I made some good Australian friends, too.
Occasionally I got homesick, but not often or for long. I sometimes talked about moving back, especially after a visit to Ireland at Christmas, but most of the time I was happy to think I’d be staying in Sydney indefinitely.
Around this time last year, though, whispers of change started to go around my social circle. Talk of “going home” became more real, more tangible.
When my college friend Patsy discovered the perfect job had come up for her at home I knew she would leave. I avoided meeting her for a week, because I didn’t want to hear the news. Watching her depart through the gates of Sydney Airport was incredibly tough.
My other best friend, Marie, quit her job and left shortly afterwards. She had been talking about it for a long time, but when she finally did it, it was a shock.
I hadn’t realised how lonely for home my friends were. Homesickness put them both on planes back to Ireland, even though one was a permanent resident and the other an Australian citizen. I now understand how they were feeling.
Unless you have lived at the other side of the world without a strong family network you cannot understand how hard it is to say goodbye to a close friend from home like that. They are your family: the ones around your table at significant holidays and events, your next of kin in an emergency, your financial safety net. Just as you are theirs.
So now I find myself in Sydney without my small Irish hub, and I am lonely. The shine of a city that was once so bright for me has tarnished. I realise now that it was my strong network over here that had kept my own homesickness at bay.
I thought that I had made a new life for myself on the other side of the world, but without my close friends I feel increasingly like a stranger in this city.
In the past five years I’ve become an Australian citizen and made some lifelong Australian mates. But they will never replace my childhood friends. I think the time has come for me to follow them home.
Thinking of moving home from abroad? Check out The Irish Times Returning to Ireland guide, with practical information on things like jobs, housing and schools, as well as first-person stories from people who have already made the move.