[Transcript of video recorded on 11 April 2020]
This is the story of how I, an American/Peruvian, ended up moving to Australia and becoming a citizen.
Today is a very special day because it marks the 11th anniversary of the day I first moved to Australia. If someone had told me that day in 2009 that I was still going to be here 11 years later, I don’t think I would’ve believed them. So, what’s the story? Stick around and find out.
Hi, I’m Leslie and I am a life coach based here in Brisbane. I’m originally from the US. I’m also Peruvian and I’ve lived in a few different countries. But Australia is where I’ve lived the majority of my adult life.
I became an Australian citizen in 2014 and since becoming a citizen I’ve gotten married. I’ve had a child. I’ve changed careers and started a business. So a lot of things have happened since I officially became an Australian. However, the lead-up to that is something people ask me about a lot. I didn’t move here for a job and I wasn’t even in a serious relationship when I decided to come here. I’ve never been in the military either. I say that because those are some of the assumptions people make when I tell them that I live here. So, here’s the story:
I spent the early to mid 2000’s in and out of Europe: Traveling, studying, working… and in the beginning of 2007 I had planned to move to Edinburgh, Scotland…because I LOVE Edinburgh, but a couple of weeks after I arrived, I ended up getting back together with my Ex-boyfriend, who was English. So I got on a train to England, to York, and moved in with him. I got a job with Network Rail, and I had a nice time but I knew I couldn’t legally stay in the UK unless we got married, which we did NOT want to do, and we eventually broke up again.
I wanted to live somewhere more interesting and at the time it was a toss-up between Morocco, Turkey, Dubai and somewhere in Southeast Asia. In the end, I chose Vietnam. I did spend some time in the Middle East on my way there, I entered Southeast Asia through Singapore and travelled through Malaysia, Thailand and Laos before entering Vietnam and eventually setting myself up in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City.
I was in Ho Chi Minh City for 4 months before I started looking for work and at some point I got on a bus to Cambodia, and ended up in Siem Reap, which is homebase for people visiting the temples at Angkor Wat.
Back then, I was very much a solo traveler [check out my video about that], and I was staying in this lovely little guesthouse where I met three Aussie guys from Melbourne. We hung out, traveled to Phnom Penh together, I finally got to eat a tarantula… and I became quite “friendly” with one of them.
After we all went our separate ways, That Guy and I stayed in touch and a year later, he came back to Vietnam and we spent some more time together. That’s when he floated the idea of me coming to Melbourne to visit him. I was tempted, but at the time it made more sense financially for me to get a one year visa to live and work in Australia rather than just pop down for a visit; But I didn’t leave right away. It was a really hard decision and it took a while to commit to it. I didn’t know this guy that well. We had only spent a couple of days together by that point. I had no idea what I was going to do to make money at that stage and frankly, I didn’t think Australia was going to be a very interesting place to live. I was considering going back to the Arabian peninsula or North Africa after Vietnam, or just somewhere much less culturally Western. And I was still enjoying living in Vietnam, but spending just one year in Australia didn’t seem like THAT big a commitment in the grand scheme of my life. I also know I could go and do my own thing, and travel around the country for a while. It didn’t have to be about THAT GUY.
So I told all of this to my friend/housemate Mike one night when we were hanging out at a place called Le Pub. And he said ‘okay, we’re gonna flip a coin. Heads, you stay in Vietnam and tails, you move to Australia.’ And I remember that when he went to flip the coin, I was thinking that I would be…disappointed if ‘the coin’ had told me to stay in Vietnam. So, even before he flipped the coin, I knew what I needed to do. Now, I’ve also told part of this story in a video I made last year about how I met my husband, so [make sure to watch that one]
On my way to Australia, I flew to Bali and spent about a week just decompressing, giving myself a little holiday before beginning this new chapter of my life. It was a slower pace of life than my life in Saigon, so it was a nice transition, because when I arrived in Melbourne, for the first month or so, it felt like life had just…stopped. I was living in Boronia, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, and it was sooo quiet. Compared to a place like Saigon where so much life was being lived outside, it felt like everyone in suburban Melbourne was just hiding. It was kind of depressing.
It took a while for me to find my flow in Melbourne. I got a job after about a month and that gave me some semblance of having my own life but I still had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. “The guy” and I were officially a couple at this point and, in hindsight, I think we just fell into a relationship. We did do fun things and have good experiences but there was no…honeymoon period…and I had this persistent feeling of being dragged down pretty much the whole time we were together. When we left Boronia and moved to Camberwell, things were a little better for a while, but that didn’t last. There was a lot of emotional abuse and, in fact, one of the reasons I applied for permanent residency at all was because HE insisted on it and I didn’t have any pressing reasons to leave at the time, or nothing that HE thought was valid. So, I just rolled with it.
The process of applying for permanent residency was…PAINFUL, partly because “The Guy” was my sponsor. So I felt… beholden to him. The visa I applied for was a de facto partner visa, which meant that I had to prove that we had been in a committed relationship for a certain length of time. Then I would be granted temporary residency and, If I stayed out of trouble for a bit, then permanent residency. I had to compile all of our emails from when I was still in Vietnam, all of the pictures of us in Cambodia and at his family events, social media posts and every document I could find that had both of our names on it: Event tickets, bills, greeting cards, etc. What was especially difficult about that process was that I wasn’t even sure that I still wanted to be in the relationship. When I lodged the application, I was granted a bridging visa which meant that I could stay in the country while they assessed my application, but I was still bound by the restrictions of my original visa. It also meant I couldn’t leave the country at all during that period. I was in limbo on a bridging visa for about 9 months because I had a hell of a time getting a clear police check from Vietnam and immigration would not grant me a waiver despite all of the proof I provided showing what I had gone through to try to get this thing. But, I eventually got that damn police check. And I eventually got my temporary residency, and then my permanent residency.
I’ll be honest, I thought the issues I was having in my relationship at the time would dissipate somewhat after I got my PR, because now I was a bit more independent. Even if we had broken up, I could still stay in the country. But… things didn’t get better. By then, I had grown a friend group of my own, through my university job and also through the Melbourne parkour community, but for about 3 and a half years at that point… I had been stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with a guy who had never once in that whole time told me he loved me. Those were words that neither of us said to each other…ever; Not once, in 3 and a half years.
The thing that finally gave me the push to leave the relationship was meeting my husband, Tony, on a Parkour trip in Townsville and magnetic island. [Watch the video where I tell that story]
After the breakup, I moved from Camberwell to Coburg North, where I lived with a couple of friends in this amazing warehouse where we did our indoor Parkour training, stunt training and a bunch of other things. Tony was based here in Brisbane at the time, so we had a long-distance relationship for a year. Then, I moved to Brisbane in December of 2013 because we realised that it would be easier for me to find a decent job here than it would have been for him to do so in Melbourne; And also because his parents live around here.
I had been approved to apply for citizenship while I was still in Melbourne, and the paperwork for that was MUCH easier than my first residency application. So I was just waiting to hear back, but I wasn’t in a huge hurry at that point. Then a funny little thing happened. I was unpacking my backload that had just arrived on a truck from Melbourne and I had this big mirror that my friend Chippa had made a little secure packing system for. So when I unpacked this mirror, I found an envelope. It was my invitation to attend my citizenship ceremony on Australia Day, 26th of January, 2014. Someone had slipped the envelope into the mirror thing when it was propped up against my bedroom wall back in Melbourne and it must’ve slipped into the packaging. Thank fuck that envelope didn’t slip out of the package when it was on the truck to Brisbane, because I would’ve missed my citizenship ceremony!
So, that was that. I made my citizenship pledge and became a triple citizen that day. I friggin’ cried during the ceremony, okay? I applied for my Australian passport immediately and, I’ll tell you what, if I had understood fully how much I would benefit from becoming an Australian citizen, the decision to move to Australia back when I was living in Vietnam would have been an absolute no-brainer. Australia is not perfect, but I LOVE living here. It is not like living in the United States. My little family may move to another country, but we may just stay here. Either decision would be pretty fantastic.
Alright, that’s the story of how I became an Australian citizen. Let me know if you have any questions about my story. Follow me on my socials to find out more about my Life Coaching practice, and check out my website to request a free consultation.
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Have a most excellent week and I’ll see you in the next video!