Approximately 5 minutes reading time
In 2017 I decided to leave London. I was suffering with anxiety and that feeling of not belonging had come to haunt me once again. Regardless, I was hopeful, positive, optimistic and was looking forward to the future. A future I very much had romanticised. I wanted to believe. That innate need to find my calling was still burning strong after all. That’s not to say the decision to leave was irrational or not weighted. To this day I believe it was the best decision I could have made given the circumstances. At the time it felt possible. In hindsight the chances of that future materialising were really really slim.
After years of disappointment with the software industry I wanted to take a different path. A path to personal growth, doing good, generating value and bringing positive change in this world. A way to find my place in the universe.
I love to create. I love that software development gives me the power to create. I don’t love software development in and of itself. I love software development that is purposeful. I love software development that satisfies a need. I love software development in the service of the people.
I also need to be able to make a living. Given that software development as a skill has the potential to earn you money I decided Windmill could help me with that. It was important that the two came hand in hand, doing something purposeful while also making a living.
Since I wasn’t looking for employment, I had to minimise expenses while living off my savings. I also wanted to eliminate distractions. I gave away, donated most of my personal belongings and went on my way with a suitcase, a carry on bag, my laptop and around £15k of savings heading east to Australia.
I travelled on a tourist visa, which granted me access for 3 months into the country. Once there, I would apply for a “Skilled independent visa”, which by the way takes 7-8 months to be granted from the application date. Effectively this visa gives you permanent stay and the right to work. In order to be invited to apply you need to accumulate a certain number of points. You get points based on your age, education, work experience, English language etc.
To prove knowledge of the English language I had to take a test on reading, writing, listening, speaking. This is a test that, even as a native speaker, you can’t just walk in and out expecting to get an almost perfect score. You have to study and prepare so that you are familiar with what will be asked of you. I didn’t and my anxiety got the better of me.
There is a quota on the number of visas issued each year. Everyone is sorted, descending, based on the number of points. Invitations are sent out starting from the top. If the number of applicants is high, someone that has even the minimum required of points may never get an invite. At the time, the effective minimum required me to score an almost perfect score on every subject in the English language. On top of that, the number of applicants was only getting higher which meant that no matter what, there was no way to accumulate the number of points required.
Now this created a very real situation that had to be dealt with. There was a high chance that sooner or later I had to leave the country. Suffering from what I would call mild depression at the time wasn’t helping either.
There was one more thing. The decision to visit Australia from the UK had to do with the fact that my partner has a dual citizenship. She too was on a path of self discovery and needed some time off to figure what she wanted to do next. It was also an opportunity for her to spend more time with family and friends after many years away. Having a home to stay while going through this transition in our lives was really really important. It provided stability and safety, gave us peace of mind.
Suffice to say it didn’t play out the way we both expected. By that time, it had been 3 months since we moved to Australia and 6 since we had left London. Yet again forced to make a decision not under the best of terms, with anxiety and depression looming.
We could stay in Australia, where the cost of living wouldn’t be significantly cheaper than London, where only my partner had the right to a full time job and a high risk of having to deal with a situation where I’ll be forced to leave the country.
Or retreat back to London, a city that I love dearly, but demands your full attention, with Brexit incoming, give up on our dreams, ignore the reasons that lead to our departure.
Lastly, move to Athens with lower cost of living, doubling down on our dreams, using the remaining savings we had left to rent and fully furnish an apartment.
Bruised and scarred, we opted to move to Athens.
Within 4 weeks we flew out of Australia and into a rented apartment. It turns out you can’t outrun anxiety and depression.