At the beginning of 2022 I wrote with great excitement that we were planning on moving countries again. As you may have read in my original post, we were planning to go in May and were very excited!

As it is now May, I am understandably getting a LOT of questions about what’s happening. I’ve been meaning to write this update post for a few weeks. But I didn’t even know where to start, or how to structure it, with all that’s happened this year for us.

This is my attempt to explain a long story in the most digestible way possible:

The really short version of the update is:

While we are not afraid of a challenge, we came up against too many of them to make the move work, and we are no longer going to the UK with one way tickets.
As it happens, we are actually no longer even going there on holiday in 2022 😞

The longer version is

The first snag to our plan happened when we went to apply for our UK passports and learned that it was going to take 13 weeks for them to arrive!!
Luckily, I didn’t go ahead and book our tickets for May because it was exactly 13 weeks at the time until we wanted to go, and that seemed like it was cutting it a bit fine.
As part of our UK passport application we had to send ALL of our passports and important documents to the UK for processing, including our NZ passports. So, we couldn’t travel anywhere even if we wanted to, until all of that stuff arrived back.

As a result of this delay, we decided to create a plan B – go at the end of Term 2, around the 2-3 July.

Spoiler alert – the passports wouldn’t have arrived in time for our originally planned departure date of the morning of May 10th.
Because the UK passport only arrived in the afternoon of May 10th,
And all the rest of our important documents, including NZ passports only arrived back yesterday on the 17th May!
Just as well we hadn’t booked the Plan A flights!!

So, as a result of discovering the passport delay, we set about planning the trip for July instead.

‘Planning the trip’ included:

  • Researching what we’d need to do to transfer Neil’s electrical licence over
  • Looking at options for places to live
  • Talking to Neil’s family members about how much things cost in England, so we could make a budget
  • Reaching out to the local schools
  • Contacting dance schools
  • Trying to find an orthodontist to take over the girls treatment plans’
  • Trying to plan an itinerary through Europe of all the places we needed to go
  • Looking at all the different options for getting our stuff to Europe, and transport options for Theo

I’d already started quite a lot of these projects before we announced the decision. But it only became apparent over time just how complicated things were going to be.

(Side note: moving or travelling with teenagers is SO MUCH MORE complicated than travelling with younger kids. I can’t even tell you how much easier it was when they were smaller!)

Right from the beginning we ran into challenges making it all work…

Challenge number 1: Neil’s career

Turns out it’s not as simple as the website initially makes it seem, to transfer all Neil’s electrical qualifications over to the UK. It started to become clear that he has to sit about 5-6 different qualifications and local council papers. This was going to require him to travel to all different parts of the country for different training and exams, to a cost of about $6,000 NZD just for the exams themselves.
Worth it if we were to go indefinitely, but enough to a questionable investment if we only stayed for 6 months as originally projected.

Challenge number 2: Abbie’s teeth

Our youngest daughter, Abbie, needs to have oral surgery to remove 5-6 of her baby teeth that are sinking into her jaw and won’t fall out naturally. She was originally scheduled to have the surgery in August 2021, but at the time she needed 12 teeth removed and was feeling very anxious about the surgery. Several of the teeth had started to fall out naturally, so we discussed it with her orthodontist and decided to delay surgery to this year, to give more teeth the opportunity to fall out naturally, so that it wouldn’t be such a huge surgery for her.

This was another one of our main reasons for putting the trip off to July. Because after consulting the Orthodontist in February, it became clear Abbie needed to have the surgery this year, because several of her sinking teeth have started to fuse to her jaw and they need to come out before complications arise. Unfortunately, with all the Covid delays affecting our healthcare system, we are not even booked into see the surgeon until 20th June and a surgery date before 2-3 July is now impossible.

Challenge number 3: Hannah’s teeth

Carrying on the theme of our kids teeth, we come to Hannah’s teeth… Hannah just got braces at the beginning of December. I reached out to so many and do you think I could find an orthodontist willing to take over her care with her existing braces?
No!
They either wanted to take off her existing braces and fit her with new ones, or they flat out couldn’t help.

Just having had paid $10,000 for Hannah’s braces in the first place, it seemed silly and unnecessary to have to start that process all over again in the UK

Challenge number 4: The Kid’s Willingness to Move

As time passed from the decision, the kids started to freak out and change their mind. At first they were totally on board with a move. But reality understandably started to sink in as time went on, and they had to miss out on opportunities because of the move, and they became very resistant to uprooting their lives here.

I get it. They have great lives.
They both have outstanding teachers, friends, dance troupes, and they are both doing really well at their schools.

We always agreed that when it came to making the decision about moving permanently, the decision would have to be unanimous. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair, because we know we can all live her comfortably.

I wanted everyone to give it a proper chance. Which is difficult to do without actually getting there – which is why we initially agreed we would trial it for 6 months.

But, at the same time, I was not having a lot of luck finding schools or dance schools that they’d just be able to slot into, to replace what they had here either.
So, the kid’s resistance to moving, very quickly became a big challenge to overcome.

Challenge number 5: The War On Ukraine

Bloody Putin!
When we had originally planned the trip, we had worked out our budget. With plenty of fat for contingencies and unexpected expenses. We thought we were sweet financially.

What we hadn’t planned for was Putin deciding to invade Ukraine and the global soaring of prices of everything that ensued.

This has at LEAST made the cost of the trip double in price. For example our base flights alone have gone from $8,000 to $16,000. Then you start to add in the cost of all the other travel we had to do for Neil’s qualifications or exploration, and the cost of the trip just started to get a bit out of control.

This would be fine if we were still intent on moving to the UK.
But, over time it became clear that there were just too many challenges to overcome to make that likely.

Clearly, the problems that Putin’s actions have resulted for us, pale in complete insignificance to the impact of the people living in Ukraine, around Ukraine and even in Russia.

We do not take our safety and freedom for granted.

Challenge number 6: The final nail in the coffin – our collective health

In January when we made the decision to move, we were all in a pretty great place with our health.

For the first time in a long time, I finally felt like I was over the worst of my injuries from my fall in July 2020, which had been a long road to recovery from. I was about to go back to full working hours again after having a great month off. I was pumped for the year ahead both in business and personally.
Things were all on track with our health.

My covid booster reaction & pneumonia

Then I had my Covid booster and reacted really badly to it. I had 2-3 weeks of extreme headaches and migraines and just couldn’t think straight. I had suffered from headaches and migraines in the past, but nothing like this! It was also affecting my ability to sleep because of the headache pain.

One night, in mid February, after a particularly bad run of sleeping, desperate for some sleep, I decided to take some (prescribed) medication to help me. I also had a glass of wine with my dinner.

This turned out to be an extremely bad combination, and at 2am I had a reflux incident and woke up choking on stomach acid. It was really scary and took me quite a while to be able to breathe again, but my breathing eventually settled and I got back to sleep.

The next day I developed a cough, shortness of breath, and really painful lungs.
I had forgotten all about the incident in the middle of the night and thought “oh no – I must have Covid”.

So, I booked myself in for a Covid test the next day. We sat in the car, waiting in line for the test for about 3 hours and then I went home to bed. By this stage my breathing was getting pretty bad and I was starting to have chest pains. I was already considering getting Neil to take me to ED because I had been monitoring my oxygen levels and they’d been hovering around 92-93%.

At 9pm I got a text to say that my Covid test was negative.
I was shocked!
– If it wasn’t Covid, what was causing these breathing difficulties!

That’s when I remembered the choking incident and realised I was most likely developing pneumonia caused by aspiration.
We headed off to ED where a chest X-ray confirmed it.
So I was sent home with a two different types of antibiotics and clear instructions to come back if my breathing got worse or if I started to run a fever.

Cue two weeks of recovery from that during which I put my lower back out coughing and could hardly walk.
So that was a super fun twist.

Covid enters our house

On 7th March, about 10 days after I stopped my antibiotics for pneumonia, Abbie tested positive for Covid.
I still could hardly walk because of my sore back, and Abbie was scheduled to see the orthodontist about her teeth later that week, so had ironically already decided to keep the kids home from school that week to avoid getting it.
But it was too late…

One by one, over the following week, Abbie, then Hannah, then Mum succumbed to Covid and all became sick.

Neil’s covid induced collapse

A week after Abbie tested positive, it was Neil’s turn to test positive.
His symptoms appeared mild – he just seemed like he had a mild cold.

Then, all of a sudden, while he was making his morning coffee, he just collapsed and went all stiff.
We immediately called an ambulance, because he wasn’t responding.
Chucked the oxygen monitor on him and could see his hear rate was only in the 30s – starting to come up. So we wondered if he’d had a heart attack or some other kind of heart event.

The kids were screaming.
Neil was bleeding from the head.
Then, when he became conscious again he started vomiting.
So, when the ambulance took him to hospital he was barely with it.

Because of Covid we weren’t allowed to go to the hospital. And Neil was in no condition to be updating us what was going on, until late in the morning.
So, we had a very tense wait for about four hours, to find out what was going on.

Bottom line is, they don’t really know what caused him to faint.
All his tests came back normal, and he was discharged about dinner time the same day.
They think Covid just made his heart rate drop, causing him to faint.
The vomiting was most likely caused by the shock, and the fact that he hit is head and gave himself concussion.

So yes, once again, concussion entered our house, and 10 weeks later, Neil is still off work with concussion.

He’s doing well, but his vision has been affected. This makes it difficult for him to do a lot of driving – and as a service electrician who drives to different jobs all day, that makes it pretty hard for him to do his job!

So, he’s been doing some hours from home, but mostly he’s been focusing on doing rehab to get back to full health as quickly as he can.

My covid experience

Two days after this happened, on day 9 since Abbie tested positive, my body finally succumbed to Covid too.

Unlike the others, who appeared to have more a heavy cold, it went straight to my chest.
Surprise, surprise, since I’d just had pneumonia!

It was never as bad or scary as my breathing was with pneumonia, but it was also no fun either. I found myself coughing up gunk constantly and it was really hard on my neck and back.

It took me 8 weeks to shake the worst of the cough. After trying every natural method in the book to shake it, I ended up giving in and going back on antibiotics.

Along with the cough, I also got another decent dose of headaches, migraines and brain fog.
I just could not think – in a way I’d never experienced before.
Or, at least in a way I hadn’t experienced since I’d been pregnant with my first child 15 years ago.

Hannah’s lingering covid fatigue

Of all of us, Hannah had the mildest symptoms of Covid at the time. She had a mild cold, and really only felt awful for one day. The rest of the time she was pretty bored, which indicates she wasn’t that sick.

For her, the biggest challenge became apparent 2-3 weeks later. She just could not concentrate on her school work, and she was tired in a way I haven’t ever seen from her before.

She came home one day from school with her first migraine, and slept on the couch for four hours.
She’s been having regular headaches ever since, for the first time in her life.

So, where to from here?

When we made the brave decision to move to the UK, we did it with excitement and commitment.
For example, one sign of commitment was that we took the sign writing off my car in preparation to list it for sale that weekend. And we sent all the important documents we own over to the other side of the world to order our UK passports.

But, after months of uncovering challenge after challenge, and poor health across the entire family, we had to make another hard and brave decision – it’s just not the right time to go, after all.

Good health is everything.

You don’t realise how much you take your health for granted, until you don’t have it anymore!

We were scheduled to go on a road trip to Taupo and Auckland in the last school holidays. But, we decided that we just didn’t have the energy or capability to go anymore, because neither of us were well enough to drive all that way.

That was the wake up call we needed. Because – if we are two tired to drive 8 hours to Auckland, how can we have enough energy to fly and travel to the other side of the world.

The bottom line is: it seems really silly at the moment, to spend all that money, going on a trip of a lifetime, that we are all too tired to properly enjoy.

So… while we are gutted about it.
And, while we know we’ve hurt people’s feelings by changing our mind,
We had to make the tough call, and we are not going…

Our time will come.

Our health and our immediate family unit come first.

Our journey back to health

Our energy has changed from planning a big trip, to being as healthy as we can be so that when the timing IS right, we can enjoy our next adventure…

I am working with a naturopath, a physio, a personal trainer and an osteopath to recover from my injuries and get back to good strength and fitness.

Neil is working with a physio and an occupational therapist who are supervising him in a return to work.

Hannah is being fed all manner of vitamins and supplements to get her back to full energy, and has her first pair of glasses on order, which will hopefully help her headaches.

Abbie – well, she’s just bouncing around us, and hopefully some of her youthful energy will start to rub off on us soon haha.

Until next time,
Kat

About the Author

Kat Soper is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of The Helpful Academy. She lives with her husband and two daughters in whichever country they're calling home at the moment.

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