'I quit my life and moved overseas with $10k and a list of contacts. Here’s what I learnt.'

Listen to this story being read by Gemma Bath here. 

A week after my 25th birthday, clutching a one-way ticket to a city I had never been before, I told my parents in our parting embrace, "I don't know when I will come home, maybe never".

My poor mum and dad. I'm pretty sure that broke them in two right then and there, not that they showed any trace of that to me.

In the space of six months I had quit everything. My relationship of four-ish years, my job in breakfast radio (a position I had been working towards my entire career) and my whole support system. 

For a laugh: Horoscopes at the airport. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I'd decided to move to London; a place I'd never been, where I had no real connections or friends and that was cold... my least favourite weather. I had no job prospects, just a list of contacts I'd fumbled together after deciding on my new adventure.

I've always been a saver so I had a chunk of cash, about $10,000, in my account. I knew that would keep me going for a while if I struggled to get work, although I was keen to secure a steady income quick smart to fund my hunger to travel. I had a month-long European adventure already in the diary for around my four-month mark. I figured I'd have everything sorted by then. 


I was confident. High off a break-up that had been years in the making, I'd also reached a point in my career where I was confused as to what I wanted next. I was excited to try it all: new love interests, new jobs, new experiences. 

I lasted two years before eventually relocating home to Sydney, Australia. It was two of the best, hardest, most eye-opening years of my life. 

Here's what I learnt. 

1. Money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy freedom.

It took me three months to get a full-time job in my industry. I freelanced from about the one-month mark earning little bits and pieces, but nothing substantial enough to live off. 

It was the first time in my life I properly thought about budgeting. I'd always saved, but never mindfully. I'd never been faced with the prospect that I might run out of cash. My parents had helped me through school and university, and then once I was working I was always very careful to rent below my means, so a bill would never catch me off guard. Having no dependents also helped.

It was an incredibly privileged mindset to have been in, so it was an important life lesson that I am so glad I learned early on. 

It taught me that financial security was something I wanted as a non negotiable in my future. 


It taught me that I should always have control of money that's my own. 

It taught me that while money doesn't buy happiness, it does buy freedom. 

2. Lean in to spontaneity.

Three months into my English adventure, I was facing the prospect of an empty Easter long weekend. I hadn't really made many friends yet, so my calender was wide open. 

I'd joined a few Facebook groups for fellow foreigners living abroad, and in one, I'd noticed a post from a fellow Australian expat offering up a spare seat in her hire car. She and two friends were headed to Cornwall for the weekend, and they were open to someone joining them (and helping to split the costs). On a whim, I messaged her. And that weekend I found myself waiting at a train station with my green suitcase on show to signal who I was to my new friends. 

Taking a chance on three strangers beat sitting at home watching Netflix. It set the tone for the rest of my time abroad. Image: Gemma Bath. 

It was one of the most bats**t crazy things I've done, apart from moving to England spontaneously having never been there, of course. 


But it was experiences like this that buoyed me on to do even more spontaneous things during my two years overseas. It lit a fire and it made me make the most of my time there.

3. No amount of money is worth your safety.

There's a caveat to that spontaneity, however: do your bloody research.

I got too cocky, and in my first few months I was scammed out of about $3000 because I trusted the wrong people while trying to build my freelance career. 

I was devastated. It was such a huge chunk of my pot of money. A pot that wasn't at that stage being replenished with anything substantial. 

Up until then I'd always given people the benefit of the doubt, especially in business. But not everyone in this world is kind and honest. 

I put myself in a hairy situation trying to get that money back - meeting a stranger in a hotel lobby 50km out of London who'd promised to give me back half of my cash as long as I "came to him." He did, and it turned out fine, but I was lucky. I look back on that brazen act of stupidity now in horror.

Recouping a few thousands bucks is never worth putting your safety at risk. 


4. Travel will teach you more than 13 years of schooling.

No textbook or history lesson has taught me more than visiting Auschwitz in Poland. Or witnessing the daily goings-on inside a traditional village in Santo, Vanuatu. Or visiting the ruins of Pompeii, Italy. 

Because it's not just about the history. It's about the people. It's about the culture. It's about learning about experiences other than your own by immersing yourself in them. 

Travel gives you perspective in a way sitting at home and reading about it can't. 


Yes, it sounds clichéed and obvious, but it's a lesson I think many of us have lost sight of. 

Being a part of an international community is one of the most exciting and valuable experiences the modern world has to offer if you're lucky enough to be able to afford it. It teaches you perspective, gratitude, acceptance and tolerance. 

It has taught me how to be a better person both personally and professionally. 

5. Time with your parents is limited. 

I remember when I made the decision to move overseas I constantly reassured myself "if something happens, you're only a flight away."

I haven't lived in the same city as my parents since I was 18. But I'd always been within a few hours' drive. It took me about a year to realise that was invaluable. I realised that moving back to my family wasn't going to be a 'maybe'. It was going to be a definite once I had London and its proximity to Europe out of my system. 

Moving away made me ponder my parents mortality in a way I had never done before, and ultimately I decided that I wanted to be in their lives, rather than watching them from afar. 

You can keep up to date with Gemma Bath's articles here, or follow her on Instagram,  @gembath.

Feature image: Gemma Bath.

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