Moving far away from home to build a new life is equally thrilling and intimidating. Is it easy? Not exactly. A lot of careful planning, saving, and effort goes into making such a huge shift. But it’s not an impossible feat, especially when you have a clear goal in your hearts.
Chai Santiago-Gamo and her husband, Patrick, had living in Australia as an image on their vision board for a long time. Long before they even got engaged. Their eyes were set on raising their own family and building a life there. Three years after they officially became husband and wife, they make the big move, approximately, 3,892 miles away from home together with their two-year old daughter, Cassie.
I was able to have a very enlightening conversation with Chai one evening. She shares how they achieved their first major family goal, and the different stages of their plans from simply dreaming about it to finally getting there.
While Patrick was taking up his Masters in Melbourne, Chai would visit him regularly. It was during those trips that Chai realized how she felt so at home despite being in foreign surroundings. She and Patrick both admired the laidback environment, and the sense of work-life balance people seemed to have. They weren’t even engaged yet at that time, but they began to sow the seeds of their big dream: Living in Australia permanently.
“Iyong time na nag-aral si Patrick, it was also the year when my brother moved here to Sydney. Doon na nagsimulang ma-plant yung dream sa amin. Dito nakikita namin yung balance na parang they’re able to enjoy family life even if nagta-trabaho sila,” says Chai. “For example, my Kuya. Nakikita ko yung every morning siya yung maghahatid sa anak niya sa childcare. Tapos, around 3PM susunduin na niya. IT siya, ha. IT work niya. Pero nagagawa niya iyon.”
One other reason why Chai felt that Australia was the ideal place to raise their family is because of her brother’s six-year old daughter. Since it’s common for neighborhoods in the land down under to have their own parks and outdoor playgrounds, Chai’s niece would always choose playing outside over watching television. Now that she’s a Mom herself, Chai also hopes that her own daughter would grow up surrounded by quality play areas, and a community where she’s encouraged to enjoy being active outdoors.
“We have a lot of friends here who have families. Tapos nakita namin how much they thrive. Naisip namin ang sarap din mangarap na ganoon yung future family natin,” says Chai.
It took a lot of prayer, and contemplation before Chai and Patrick became fully decided on moving away. It’s not that easy to build a completely new life in unfamiliar territory. Chai admits that although it’s exciting to visualize living in a different country, there are so many details to iron out before you could even fulfill that dream. They had to think about how much money to save so they could afford the move, where to live once they get there, what job opportunities are available, and who will be their support system.
Chai and Patrick also had to consider how their families would feel about them moving so far away.
“Early 2021 parang nagsabi na kami na magsisimula na kami mag-process ng papers. Nag-set na kami ng timelines for them, it could be as early as 2022 or early 2023 latest. Para may expectation management,” Chai shares. “Yung kailangan namin gawin was to spend more time with them, yun nalang yung pambawi sa kanila kasi nga aalis. Very supportive naman sila. Siguro sa side ng family ko, siguro nga kasi dahil nandito yung brother ko, parang happy sila for us kasi nakita nila how my niece is.”
There’s also the fear of plans not working out the way they wanted them to, and the risk of the ideal life they envisioned not being so ideal after all. But what kept Chai and Patrick motivated was working as a team. “Kung sobrang solid yung decision, alam niyo na ginusto niyo talaga yun kahit na may hiccups or mishaps, you go through it together,” shares Chai.
With their families’ love and support, and a vivid goal in their sights, Chai and Patrick proceeded to working on entering Australia through permanent residency. The normal processing takes up until one and a half years, but it only took them five months. Call it fate or destiny, their plans finally started falling into place.
“Patrick is a Psychotherapist. Dito sa Australia, actually, yung work ni Patrick parang nagkataon na post-covid, naging in demand talaga siya. Feeling namin one of the reasons iyon kung bakit medyo relatively mabilis na-process papers namin,” she says.
As for Chai, being a financial coach still allows her to assist her clients in the Philippines remotely. The good news is there are several opportunities for her to explore in Australia after they’ve fully settled in. Fortunately, Chai and her family are also able to live with her older brother, in the meantime, while they save up for their own property. It makes the whole adjustment much easier because they have family members who lend a hand.
“Part of the reason why we transitioned kind of quickly kasi yung Kuya ko yung sumasalo sa amin. We’re staying with them, ambag-ambag lang kami with groceries. Parang hindi siya yung sobrang nakakapressure,” she says.
As a Mom, the only thing Chai worried about so far was the weather. But it turns out, Cassie really enjoys the cooler climate!
“In terms of parang managing Cassie’s expectations wala kaming difficulty doon kasi sobrang bata pa niya. Ang fear ko lang as a mother is number one yung weather na Lord please sana hindi siya magkasakit,” shares Chai. “Happy siya dito. Kasi kapag hindi siya naka-aircon talagang pawis na pawis. Generally kids perspire a lot, pero siya talaga mabilis pagpawisan. Feeling ko dito sobrang enjoy niya yung malamig.”
Cassie instantly had a best friend and playmate, too.
“First time that Cassie met her cousin, sinundo kasi namin yung pamangkin ko sa school tapos nagmeet sila. Nagpababa siya sa stroller tapos sabi niya gusto niya mag-walk na hawak yung kamay ng Ate niya,” she recalls. “Na-amaze kami na parang best friends na sila. Sobrang cute.”
It hasn’t been that long since they flew to Sydney, Australia. As of writing, it has only been one month since they made their big move. Right now, Chai is relishing the moment and the fact that what they’ve prayed for and planned for so long has now become a reality.
“Minsan magigising ka nalang din na parang nandito ba talaga ako? Yung sobrang tagal mo pinag-pray, pinag-ipunan mo, and then finally you’re here,” says Chai.
Of course, they still need to deal with necessities like opening bank accounts, acquiring health insurance, and getting all their documents in order. Getting used to new protocols and processes may be quite tedious, but Chai and Patrick are embracing all the new learnings that come along with it.
Now that they’ve achieved such a major goal, naturally, the question is: What’s next? Well, Chai gladly reveals that they’re expecting baby number two! And with a growing family comes new, big dreams. Chai tells us, “Before hindi ako masyado nangangarap na I want to buy my own house, I want to buy my own car. Pero ngayon because we want to stay here and we want to build our roots here, yun na yung next. Given na yung next goal ngayon.”