Travel Magazine

A Month for Milestones and Reflections

By Russellvjward @russellvjward
July has been something of a month for milestones.
It was the month in which Milo, our intrepid black lab and traveling companion from the UK to here, turned nine. Well on the way to becoming an old man, he has grown a chin full of white whiskers and an increasing paunch to boot. He has excelled in the Aussie environment, even after the passing of old man Murph, and I am ever happy that he came with us to this far-flung land.
It was the month which saw my wife and I celebrate eleven years since our first date. Set in my hometown of Basingstoke, England, the date included a 'no expense spared' meal of lamb shanks straight out of the freezer bag followed by a lively pub quiz - and all hosted at my 'local'. Those were extravagant days.
It was also the month in which I reached a personal expat milestone. I have now lived overseas for more than eight years. If I'm honest, the time has flown and, in no small part, due to the number of moves we've made at different stages in the adventure. But it is a significant milestone and one which has been hard won and high on the emotional stakes.

A month for milestones and reflections

Image: Ross Haddow /

Much has changed since I left the UK in 2003 but one of the things that has transformed my expat life over this period has been the technological advance in communications, allowing me vastly improved contact with loved ones back in the UK and around the globe.

One of the most impressive of these changes has been the arrival of Skype. Telephone calls were previously made using the exorbitantly priced national operator or through the purchase of an often unreliable and confusing international phone card. Making calls to England over the holiday periods was particularly frustrating. Lines out of the country were not always available. When they were available, they would be riddled with static and, more often than not, the call would unexpectedly end due to a poor connection.
Skype has revolutionised the way expats can communicate with those at home and is (for now) completely free. It also helps that Internet connection speeds have vastly increased enabling the Skype platform to deliver a fairly reliable service. 

A month for milestones and reflections

Image: Idea Go /

Social media applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also altered the technological landscape for us expats. Friends and family at home are able to keep up-to-date with my whereabouts and activities through regular tweets and the frequent posting of pictures online. The reverse is also true and I feel more connected with my peers than eight years previously when occasional emailing or letter writing was the norm.
I've also recently discovered another technological innovation called ADTelly. This handy little online subscription allows me to watch the live streaming of UK and North American television shows over the Internet and, with a little technical jiggery pokery, through the flat screen television in my living room. The time difference is always going to be an issue but at least I can enjoy my fill of English morning programming, albeit at dinnertime in Sydney, and whet my appetite with the odd Coronation Street omnibus or the occasional Eastenders double header (sad, I know).
For this expat, the world has become a smaller place over a relatively short period of time and I no longer feel quite so disconnected from my homeland or as detached from friends and family as before. Improvements in technology have transformed my expat living and strengthened relationships with loved ones left behind.
These advances have also given me a new found respect and admiration for those expat pioneers of a time long past who left their homelands not knowing when, or how, they would communicate again with family and friends.
While we may complain about poor Internet speed or whine about ropey Skype connectivity, we'll never have to deal with the lengthy Kangaroo Route facing 1950s immigrants to Australia or uncertain ship crossings endured by post-WWII war brides to Canada. And, for that alone, I am grateful.
Has technology improved your life abroad? Do you remember when the telephone and letter writing was the only way to communicate with loved ones? Are you aware of new technologies on the horizon that may further improve an expat's deal?

A month for milestones and reflections

Image: Winnond /

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