Moving back to Australia was always something we said we would do. Our parents had given up hope of our return after each 5 year period passed.
Now 25 years on, the time had come.
The USA has been our home base for 25 years. It has been not only our place of work, but where we found adventures, security, opportunity and most of all really good people who became our family.
Our journey in the USA began in 1993 when I, Marissa, took a contract as an Occupational Therapist in Florida. I was eager to travel but had no money to do so and needed more experience in my line of work. The USA was recruiting therapists to fill their demand, so I took the chance to travel to and live in another country. This meant parting with my family and Mike who I had been dating for 9 months. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and looking back I am not sure how I got on the plane.
Mike who couldn't live without me, followed me half way round the world (literally) 7 months later. That was some stalking range!!!
We spent 10 months in Florida, then moved to North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota and then found a way to New Mexico. New Mexico, "the land of enchantment", or as some people say "the land of entrapment". Either people fall in love with New Mexico or they hate it.
We fell in love with it. To describe New Mexico, I could use one word "diverse". Diverse in landscape, alpine forests to Lakes and high dessert; diverse in culture, from pueblo Indians, hispanics, alternative medicine communities and healers to scientists, artists, and people from all walks of life who have been born in New Mexico or who like us chose New Mexico for its diversity and alternative way of life.
New Mexico really was home. It was where we raised our amazing daughter Keira for 8 years.
As is our way of life, we worked for 1-2 years, saved our money and would take off for extended bouts of travel to various parts of the world. Each time we returned we thought about moving to another location but New Mexico and our family there drew us back in.
In the past year things shifted for us and Australia became a talking point. I won't lie, the current political situation in the USA had a lot to do with it. Also the fear that was so ever present. The school and other random shootings that were becoming a common occurrence were a real concern for us. When Keira at age 8 starting doing lock down drills at school for preparation in case of a school shooting, and we began thinking about escape routes at concerts, community events and even when at everyday places such as going to the bank, it was time to re-evaluate. I also found myself now justifying my presence in the USA. Making sure people knew that I had been in the USA for 25 years and that I am a citizen. There is only so many times that you can hear "Why are you still here, you have somewhere else to go?".
There is so much more I could say but I will stop there. The USA has been good for us and the people we have met and the interactions we have had have been truly amazing.It is and still will continue to be home for us.
We had an eventful last 2 years, with highlights being:
- a month long trip up the West Coast of the USA (see blog entry)
- getting our new family addition- Maddie
- a visit from Els and Gerrit our Dutch traveling companions
- many school events for Keira
- a trip in Maine with our Dutch family- Marco, Miranda, Maartje, Marijn, and Marjolein
- balloon festivals each October
- a visit from Mike's Aussie cousin Kim
- many events at Keira's school
- Keira homeschooling with Marsha
- many "nibble nights" and events with friends
- many camping trips
And our Halloween farewell party before we left, that was a blast!
I will include a few pics.here and see the gallery for additional ones. (you will need to scroll to the end in the gallery to find the USA pics but still working on gathering these)
Our journey back was an adventure in itself. The past 6-8 months before we left were spent planning and preparing. Moving half way across the world after living in a country for 25 years is no easy feat. Completing Maddie, our border collie's, quarantine requirements was certainly a challenge. Our local vet clinic was so supportive and helped us through the process.
We drove across country with our possessions in a rental truck and Maddie in tow. Not an easy task to drive a 16 foot truck in LA traffic!! Other challenges were finding pet friendly accommodation that had parking for such a vehicle, scrubbing our bicycles in the parking lot of the shipping warehouse (told that customs in Aussie would not let them through with any spec of dirt), and having a small glitch in Maddies paperwork even after being diligent and thorough. Each challenge we took on and we seemed to have people at each step who went the extra mile to help us out. Hotel staff that looked the other way and classified Maddie as a service dog; a truck driver that gave us supplies to clean our bikes and a government official vet that took the extra time to get our paperwork in order. Thank you to these people who did little things that meant so much!!
We sent Maddie ahead of us to start her 10 day quarantine in Australia. It was so hard saying good bye to her, knowing what she was about to go through and knowing some of the horror stories of pet travel. We were all on edge until we got word that she had arrived safely.
Disneyland and Universal studios kept us busy for the next 2 days. We had a great time and it was wonderful to have some family time after such a hectic 6 months.
Then the real challenges began.
We started our journey to Hawaii which was to be our stopover with a full afternoon to explore. An hour and a half into the flight the plane was turned around due to a malfunction in a generator. We arrived back in LA with rescue vehicles stationed along the tarmac with lights flashing. Fortunately we landed safely. Unfortunately we had a delay of about 6-7 hours before we could set off again, making for a long day of travel and no time in Hawaii to explore.
We awoke the next morning early to head to the airport for our morning flight to Australia. We were excited to surprise our parents who were unaware of our return. However this was not to be. The airline cancelled the flight due to grounded aircrafts and could not get us out for 5 days. Being stranded in Hawaii at any other time would have been great, but we just wanted to get back to Australia and weren't really in the exploring mood. Problem solving we were able to book ourselves on another flight with a stopover in Auckland for the night. All good!!
The following day we headed to Auckland airport promising Keira a visit to the beach when we got back and excited to be completing the last leg of our journey. And there it all went pear shaped again. I bent over at the baggage check in and my back went out. I tried to make it on the plane but the pain was excruciating and I was unable to get up and down without extreme pain and assistance. Paramedics were called and we decided to return to the hotel and seek out help from a physiotherapist to get my back in alignment again.
Our wonderful friend Genevieve came to our rescue again. Through a Skype call she was able to guide Mike through a treatment to help correct my alignment. (This task she has now performed in Argentina, Costa Rica and now New Zealand) A local physiotherapist also assisted. We got medical clearance for me to fly. Next hurdle overcome.
Calling the airlines we were told that it would cost us $1500 USD to change our flight. That was more than the original flight from Hawaii to Australia and we had already completed the longest leg of the journey. AHHHHHH!!! Problem solving again, we are able to get another flight with another airline for $900 NZD. We are still waiting for compensation from airlines and travel insurance.
Muscle relaxers and pain killers were my saviors on that flight and the airline staff were great. Mike and Keira were amazing and very patient.
The relief we felt when we finally landed was huge!!!
To all the people that helped us with this transition. There are too many to name individually but you know who you are.
Marsha- our everything!! You are amazing and were there every step of the way
Ashlee- Keira's person. Always there for all our milestones as well as all the everyday stuff
Nora, Mike and Francesca- for being our family, our friends and our support
Genevieve- your skills as a therapist are incredible; always there when I need you the most
Leif- the help packing meant so much
Mary, Daniel and Max- nibble nights won't be the same; thanks for all the daily support
Jesse and Breeze- for all the little and big things; party support, paper airplanes, and peas!!
Elizabeth and Tom- years of support and friendship;
Murphy: family and long term friendship; being there for the ups and downs
Sarah, Paul and James: thanks for assisting with Mikes motorcycle; thanks to James for being Keira's oldest friend
Jenn, Charlie Ann and Hayden: for daily support; and adding a little crazy!!
Hope to see you all in the Land Downunder!!
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.