Back in March I was living in Gloucestershire in the U.K. and I was in the final stages of divorce. Whilst it was as amicable as can be in such circumstances, I was facing bankruptcy. I had no savings and during my separation and divorce I took my foot off the gas with my business. As I am a one-woman band it meant bills piled up to the around $50,000 (£40,000). I had no means to pay the debt back.
At that time I felt as if I had two versions of my life running simultaneously, on one side after years of separation a chapter was closing with my divorce. I had been struggling with my business during the separation and I decided to take a firm stand. I fought fiercely to save the online element of my business and turn my finances around—it was starting to pick up again.
On the other, a chance meeting with a Australian fireman called Christian a few months prior had ignited a new, unexpected romance.
Christian and I met in January, two days before I was due to leave Australia after visiting a friend. My friend and I were at a bar in Sydney’s northern beaches having drink before catching a ferry back to Sydney Harbour, when a friend of Christian’s approached our table and invited us to sit with them. After making it completely clear that neither of us were looking for anyone and that I was leaving in a matter of days, Christian and I ended up talking all night. Since it felt like harmless fun, we exchanged numbers, and whilst I was having lunch at Bondi Beach the following day, he asked to meet me again.
On my last night in Australia, Christian asked if I really had to leave and explained that if I were to stay he’d like to show me more of Australia. A month later, we were still traveling around Australia in his camper van and I was doing live streams and holding client calls on most of the beaches in on the east coast of Australia.
It was an amazing adventure, but when I returned home in February, we soon realised that a long distance relationship was not something either of us could get behind.
As I can run my lifestyle coaching business from anywhere that has WiFi, I decided that the connection between us was worth me returning to Australia to surprise Christian. I chose to fly out at the beginning of March because at that time COVID-19 was just starting to spread, and I thought it best to visit him sooner rather than later in case travel was restricted. I arrived around March 6 and sure enough, by March 20 Australia had closed its borders and airlines were cancelling flights.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved I chose to surprise him when I did. At the beginning of the pandemic, Australia felt quite relaxed in terms of COVID-19 restrictions, at least in comparison to what my parents in France and my friends in the U.K. were telling me about their experiences. But, there was confusion as to what I should do as a tourist, and I wasn’t able to find much help or advice for international visitors.
I called an Australian government helpline who suggested I apply for an extension to my tourist visa. I did that, and eight months later, I am still here, living with Christian. As the pandemic progressed I definitely had severe bouts of homesickness, but Christian certainly helped to calm me down. I am staying in Australia now because I have applied for a different kind of extension to my visa. As it is in process I have a bridging visa, which means I can stay Australia indefinitely until I receive an answer about my new updated visa application. If I leave, I cannot re-enter as Australia is still closed to international visitors. So, I have chosen to stay here, the other side of the world from my parents, friends and family for the man I love. Because if I left, Christian and I do not know when we would see each other again.
To many of our friends and family, it seemed like our romance progressed extremely quickly. But finding someone amazing and being acutely aware you live the complete opposite ends of the world, led to a “what do we have to lose?” mindset. When we first met, we were both going through the end stages of a divorce, mine was finalized in April and his a little earlier, so there was a real sense of fun and adventure. At the beginning, neither of us was looking for anything serious.
Then, when we were returning to Sydney from a road trip further up the east coast during my first trip to Australia, I started to cry. I knew the closer we got to the city, the closer we were to saying goodbye. Christian pulled over on the highway, walked around to the passenger door, opened it and held my head in his hands. I told him I had fallen in love with him, and he responded that he had fallen in love with me too.
So I know I made the right decision to return to Australia, and Christian and I have fallen more in love over the past eight months. During our relationship we have both faced going through divorce, and since I returned, we also experienced devastating and life changing Australian bushfires of 2020. Christian was one of the firemen working tirelessly to save lives and wildlife, so it was a very emotional time. We have also been together during the pandemic and experienced lock down together, in a situation where I am probably the furthest I could possibly be from those I love in the U.K.
This put enormous pressure on us as a couple and created really heightened emotions during a time in the relationship when most people are only contemplating a two week vacation together. We lived together through some of the most devastating events in both of our lifetimes, but it led to us feeling connected in a way neither of us have experienced in a previous relationship.
It feels utterly surreal to share our story. But all of this really did happen because I lived out what I preach as a lifestyle coach. I believe it’s important to say yes to the things that excite you and embrace your desires. Living life on your own terms does takes courage.
My desire was simply to travel to Australia to see my very good friend, I had no idea love was waiting for me. For anyone going through a separation or divorce and feeling utterly alone, my experience can hopefully show that the pain will pass and, on the other side of it, you will still be standing. Perhaps even stronger than ever. As Maya Angelou once said: “Every storm runs out of rain.”
As for my future, my relationship and life in Australia, I plan to continue to live my mantra of, “life on my terms.” Right now, I feel extremely grateful and blessed to have found my adventurous, fire fighting Australian surfer.
Stacey Sargison is an online lifestyle coach who helps people grow their businesses through Facebook Live. She currently lives in Sydney with her partner and is a participant in season two of a docuseries called The Social Movement due to air 2022. To find out more visit: staceysargison.com
All views expressed in this piece are the writer’s own.