I left Ireland in 2011, quitting a good job in Paddy Power. I was ready for excitement and new opportunities, and so I set off for Australia via South America and New Zealand.
I was the quintessential backpacker back then, though I landed on my feet working with an Australian bookmaker Paddy Power had just bought over in Melbourne. I settled into the Australian lifestyle quickly and over the next four years I transitioned from backpacker to resident, living a stable, enjoyable life in Sydney.
I work with the Australian Trocaire now, putting my MA in International Development to good use. I've jumped up the ladder quicker than I could ever have hoped for at home.
There is no “single story” for all the Irish who have left home, no one narrative that adequately sums up the experience. But there are commonalities, loose strands that resonate with those living away which tie us together.
For me living away from home is about moments: the text message, photo, a five-minute conversation over the phone from home that can make you laugh but all too easily make you cry too. I wish you could bottle those ten seconds when you walk through arrivals in Dublin Airport and see those faces that are waiting for you. That is genuine joy.
Living away from Ireland has a way of bringing people together who would never cross paths back home. Whether we are from Dublin 4, Crossmaglen or Bangor Road, we all share a pint here, comparing notes on visas, bars and weekend plans.
There are the tougher moments too. Not a single day goes by without thinking about family and friends. I can't count the times I've laughed on Skype only to hold back tears as soon as the laptop closes, feeling so near but so, so far. Don't misinterpret the exotic photos on Facebook, there is a sadness to being away from loved ones that burns deep inside.
Some will stay here, some won’t. My dad asks why would I ever come back. “Better jobs, better lifestyle over there,” he says. All I can tell him is that it isn’t home.
It’s amazing how many things that word “home” encapsulates: your mam, your dad, your brother and sister, your nieces and your nephews, a thousand strangers on Grafton Street and the frost on your windscreen in the morning.
But for many, if not most, living abroad is essentially a choice. I could book a flight tomorrow and be back for next weekend. You weigh up the pros and cons and you make your decision to stay or go.
Many of us hold onto the plan to eventually return. So you stay in touch with everyone as much as you can. You read The Irish Times online and you get up at 4am for the Irish matches. You join the local GAA team and you go to Scruffy Murphys or PJ O’Briens or anywhere else that reminds you where you have come from. I’m confident I’ll move back eventually, and find a good job and my place in Irish society again.
Tommy Tiernan put on a show in the Sydney Opera House last year. It felt like a dose of home and it was packed with Paddies. He didn't finish with a joke though. He said "It's been great to see you all out here. But don't stay away too long, you know? We miss you."
I think that’s what we want most of all, is for every one of you to know we miss you, and we hope you still miss us too.