Massive price to pay for being so far from home
LIKE so many families affected by the recession, Tralee couple Lorraine Heffernan and Adrian Doyle decided to up sticks with their then nine-month-old baby Ava in September 2011 in the hope of making a new home for themselves in New Zealand.
Adrian flew out to Christchurch first to get started in his new job, with Lorraine and baby following eight weeks later. Lorraine's mum joined her during the transition and stayed for three weeks - but she very nearly changed her entire plans when the city suffered its most devastating earthquake ever.
"Mum stayed with us for three weeks to help settle us in which was nice but while she was here we had the earthquake, which frightened the life out of us and I honestly thought of re-packing my bags," she said. "When she left I was pretty lonely but I got in touch with the Irish Society and met up with all the other Irish mums, so that was nice and helped a lot."
Two years on and Lorraine (30) is working for herself as a personal trainer and as head instructor with an outdoor fitness bootcamp company, while Adrian works for a Project Management Office.
Although the move to New Zealand to find work has clearly paid off, there's a massive price to pay for being so far from home, Lorraine concedes.
"I miss my family and my great circle of friends. I feel bad at times that my family are missing out on Ava growing up and likewise her missing out on sharing her childhood with her grandparents and cousins," she said. "I miss the support of my family and especially my friends who are all getting married and having kids and I'm missing out on all these milestones for them. The hardest part of being away though is definitely when someone at home gets sick. You are so far away and feel so helpless. Both my parents were sick last year and both had big operations. It was so so hard being away, but thankfully both have made great recoveries ."
On the plus side, however, she and her family are enjoying a fantastic way of life.
"It has its advantages too though. The weather is great here and the lifestyle of the outdoors is amazing. We love it so so much," she said. "We do lots of competitions and spend most of our weekends hiking, mountain biking, running and exploring the great outdoors. We are both really, really busy with work and the opportunities to get ahead are endless. New Zealand is really family-oriented, with most events and weekend gatherings focused around families."
With that in mind, coming home to Ireland certainly isn't on the agenda just yet.
"We will hopefully come home next year, but only for a visit," she said.
Offering advice to those thinking of emigrating, Lorraine says it's vital to research where you are going and be sure it's the right move.
"Sometimes the lifestyle is not for everyone and the cost of emigrating is significant, so be sure it's for you," she said. "When you do move you need to be patient. It takes a while to get set up and settled and quite a long time - at least a year - to see the finances improve. So get yourself out there and make friends."