An English girl in Sydney: Annabel Symonds, full disclosure

Expat of the month
Published on 2019-02-15 at 11:00 by Anne-Lise Mty
Behind the blog Londoner in Sydney, is Annabel Symonds. Seven years ago, travel enthusiast Annabel followed the love of her life to Sydney. Since then, the pair have travelled the world, taken Londoner in Sydney to new heights and attempted to move back to England. Annabel's blog has been featured in the Top 25 Expat blogs in the World by Feedspot and Top 10 Australia Expat blog by International Money Transfers. She tells us all about her thrilling expat life in the Land Down Under!

Pretty obvious but we will ask anyway: Where are you from and how did you end up in Sydney?

I'm from England and became an accidental expat in Australia. I've just moved back to Sydney after travelling the world with my Australian fiancé Steve. We also spent 6 months living back in England.

What brought you to Sydney in the first place?

I left England in 2011 to embark on a 6 months trip around the world. Within the first month of being away I met Steve, an Australian right on the foothills of the Himalayas in India. We were both attending a Buddhist meditation retreat for Westerners in the town where the Dalai Lama resides. When we bumped into each other a few weeks later right in the middle of the Himalayas in a town called Leh, we decided to go on a four day trek the following day together. It was then we shared our first kiss 4,000 metres above sea level and have been together ever since. In fact, we've rarely spent a day apart since.

A few months later, Steve took me to his hometown of Sydney to meet his family. We've spent the last seven years living in Sydney and have since travelled around the world together on two separate long trips always gravitating back to Sydney.

Why did you decide on moving back to England after so many years?

As any expat can relate, it's so hard to be an expat. The guilt we put upon ourselves about leaving friends and family is so hard. I spent a lot of those years in Sydney wondering what life would be like back in England. Because it wasn't planned and I just ended up moving to Australia following my travels, I didn't get to say the goodbyes properly.

I went back to visit a couple of times and really loved catching up with family and friends. As much as I love Australia, it's always hard to connect with people from another country and I really missed the charm of the English people a lot.

During our recent travels in 2018, we'd been travelling non-stop for six months and we were both exhausted. Steve had the light bulb moment and suggested we move to England as we were going to visit England on the trip anyway. I didn't think it was an option to actually live there as I suppose I always thought it wouldn't be good for him as he's not a fan of the cold.

Why did that not work out for you?

When we decided to move to England, we were in Cuba at the time so access to internet wasn't great. We thought the visa process might be similar to what I did when I came to Australia (I came in on a three months tourist visa and then applied for the partner visa). When we arrived into England, we found out it wasn't as simple. It's a long story but we would have actually been apart for at least 4-6 months and neither of us were keen on that idea.

During my three week holidays back to England before, I'd see family and friends non-stop. Now I was living in England, I didn't actually see many friends at all. It wasn't quite how I remembered it being, surely because when I saw everyone last it was summer, and this time it was cold and miserable. Speaking of, the weather in England really got us down. We missed being able to go outside which is what Australia is so good for.

I got back into everyday life although it was weird because I honestly felt like I had literally disappeared for seven years. The ironic part – I felt like I didn't feel like me in Australia but it was when I came back to England I realized that Australia is in fact now my home. I also loved how healthy people are in Australia and we really struggled with keeping fit and eating well in England because of the pub culture and unhealthy food.

We originally moved back to England with the dream of living in the countryside and having a quiet simple life. We also wanted to take advantage of being able to visit a lot of European countries as much as we could but the reality was, most European countries were actually really expensive to visit. If we were having a great time in England, we would have given it a shot but with our age, we're ready to settle down now. Given the opportunity, we'd prefer to bring children up in Australia where they can swim every day and live a healthy happy life so we decided to call it quits and move back.

What made you want to start Londoner in Sydney?

I originally started Londoner In Sydney as a fashion blog. When I wrote blogs about living in Sydney and visa advice I always felt more passionate about writing about them and decided to end the terrible fashion blog idea and turn it into an expat blog. This was the best decision I could have made!

Tell us about the actual version of Londoner in Sydney...

Londoner In Sydney is the one of the leading expat blogs in Australia. We are very open and honest with our writing and it's here you'll read first hand experiences of our expat journey to and from England. We also offer practical information to make your move easier with a lot of detailed blogs about everything from visas to shipping companies to use. We also write about life in Australia and write huge guides on topics like hidden gems, secret beaches, hikes, best places to eat and more. Although Londoner In Sydney is currently a NSW blog, we're expanding to offer up more experiences from other expats living in other parts of Australia.

Any projects?

One thing I always struggled with was making some real Australian friends. In Sydney people can be very cliquey and I found most Brits like myself were mainly friends with other Brits. So, we're going to start opening up Londoner In Sydney to meet ups and tours. We'll host meet ups once a month to meet our readers and make some great friendships. Because we write about so many things to do in Sydney, we want to start taking people to some of these places. So we're literally bringing Londoner In Sydney to life with an affordable tour service. We cannot wait for this!