Where Are All The Kangaroos Down Under?


This article was originally published in August 2009, and appeared in both the print and online edition of The International Telegraph.

Where Are All The Kangaroos Down Under?

Life Down Under wasn’t quite what teenager Brittany Stewart had expected.

It started out as an innocent holiday: a three-week trip to Melbourne, Australia, to visit the few relatives we have Down Under. Some of them we hadn’t seen for years, others never. A few days in, and yet another day visiting major tourist attractions – a typical Brit holiday.

It seemed we had brought the wet and windy English weather with us, and I saw the same view through every window: howling winds and torrential rain.

I wandered into the study to see Mum already on her emails. I stole a quick glance at the computer screen. It was a glance I instantly regretted. My eyes were greeted with the cold words: “I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to settle here.” I struggled to digest the information. My parents were, in fact, preparing to move the family here from Surrey, and it seemed to this 13-year-old girl everything I knew would be destroyed. I hurried out of the room, my tears in competition with the pouring rain outside.

Even as a holiday destination, Australia was not what I had imagined. The weeks we had chosen to go were notorious; July is the middle of their winter. It’s not all beaches and surfers! I was also surprised at the lack of kangaroos. Somehow, I had had the idea that they would be everywhere in the streets.

Five months later, everything we owned was being bubble wrapped and packed into boxes. Each day I returned home and something else would be missing. It was not until the final few weeks that it really sank in that I was leaving, moving 10,562 miles to the other side of the world.

One of the hardest things about the move was all the goodbyes. It’s only when you’re about to leave that you realise just how many people you know and rely on in everyday life. After a certain number, I just couldn’t cry anymore.

Another hard thing to deal with was the lasts and, at the other end, the firsts. Something you did daily but took for granted, like the bus to school, the walk home with friends. As they made plans for Christmas, I remember feeling left out in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be there.

Our final weekends were filled with day trips around London, visiting monuments and attractions, driving to Stonehenge and finally a weekend away in Paris.

While planning our emigration, Mum and Dad had made the wise decision about our route out to Australia. They chose to go via America and Canada for a month. It was an amazing experience: we saw New York and Toronto at Christmas; enjoyed skiing in Calgary; and had a few days in San Francisco before driving along the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles.

However, behind the holiday was a plan: doing all that travelling helped strip us of feelings of regret at the things we were leaving behind and gave us a chance to break old traditions and replace them with new ones.

The first few days after we arrived in Melbourne are a bit of a blur apart from one thing – the heat. As we got off the plane from LA, it was like a slap in the face. Luckily, Mum had anticipated this change in weather so had swapped our thick coats and gloves for flip flops and sunglasses.

The organisation of belongings, credit cards and cars happened very quickly. That first week, Mum and Dad were out every day visiting banks and setting up everything needed for us to settle in. We had already been accepted at a school, which we had visited during our “holiday”.

The period after arriving and before school started, was one of most miserable parts of the move. After months of being on top of each other 24/7, we were all ready for some space of our own. I yearned for people my own age to go out with, but didn’t know anyone. Everywhere I went, I saw other teenagers having fun with their friends.

I only started to feel more settled in Australia when I had made my own friends at school, although it was hard adapting to the new routines and classes that were so different from my English school.

It’s 18 months later, and, although I still refer to England as home, I feel a lot more settled. The thing that helped the most was making my own network of friends to replace the ones I had left behind. I still proudly speak with an English accent and have got used to being referred to as “the Pom”. The whole Australian atmosphere is more relaxed and the hotter weather and beaches are absolutely fantastic. The move was definitely the right idea and has given our family a new lease of life.

I want to return to the UK to go to university. I still miss lots of things about England. The culture and fashion are completely different here so it’s with a great feeling that I return home from school to find my airmailed British Vogue in the letterbox.