How can I decide if it's time to go home?
April 22, 2009 6:02 PM   Subscribe

When it is time to pack up and go home? I am at a standstill trying to decide on whether it's time to go home to visit and refuel, or to keep living the Australasian dream. Family is important to me and I'm worried about my grandma.

Almost a year ago, I was on here freaking out about doing a working holiday year in New Zealand. It turns out to have been the best year of my life (I'm almost 28.) The responses I got on that thread were amazing and true.

There were a couple rough spots to begin with (a bit of a struggle to get going at first, broke up with the boyfriend I came over with -- turned out to be for the best) but overall it has been the an amazing adventure and the richest and most rewarding year I've ever had.

I was able to work my way up to an amazing job as a communications adviser for a large government agency (best job I've ever had) and I have made some of the closest friends I've ever known. I've been able to travel to Thailand and Australia with new friends I've made, get scuba certified, and I've also seen lots of New Zealand. It's changed me a lot, for the better, most of all it's been really exciting, interesting, and fun nearly all of the time.

My work contract runs out at the end of June (can't get it renewed), and my visa runs out at the end of July. I've become really attached to a lot of people here and I get anxious when I think about leaving.

I've been thinking I might go do the working holiday in Australia, hopefully working in Melbourne. I've spent a bit of time in Australia (mostly in Melbourne) and loved it.

I only intended for this trip to last a year. I promised my grandma I'd come back to Canada, saying I was only intending on staying a year. (She was worried I'd move over here and never come back.)

I do miss my family, and I am starting to feel very detached from my former life.

I have always been very close with my grandma, closer than my own parents in some ways. She's an inspiration for me. I want to be able to spend some more time with her before she dies, which I hope isn't anytime soon.

She's 83, healthy - goes to the gym 3 times a week, sends me emails regularly, has an active social life, etc. We talk on the phone about once a week. But she's 83 -- should I go home and spend some time with her now, or keep going and spend a year in Australia?

More importantly, how do I get on with making a decision instead of in a state of paralysis?

I need to get going and apply for the Australian visa if I'm going to do it.

Some other points:

- Money is a factor. I've spent most extra money I've had on travelling, and if I go home, I'll have to spend 6 months or likely a year working to save up for the flight back.

- 'Home' in Canada (where my parents live, same town as my grandma) is a small town with a couple thousand people in it, an hour's drive from the closest city.

- I know the 'economic crisis' is also probably a factor but I can't be bothered to factor it in too much. It's bad everywhere, it's probably worse in Canada than Australia, and I'm content to take whatever job I can get.

- I guess Australia calls because I've had a great time every time I've been there, I love the crazy animals they have there that don't live anywhere else in the world, and the cities are bigger than in New Zealand. I've love to explore a lot of the country. Also, New Zealand is still close enough that I could come back and visit my friends here and travel around more.

- My family doesn't have the money to come and visit me so right now that's not an option (though I'd love to be able to save up enough to help bring them over here for a visit!)

- Cutoff age for working holiday visa in Australia is 30. NZ's is 35, and I can get another year long visa for NZ.

- Aside from being close to family and catching up with a couple close friends, I don't really have any desire to be back in Canada right now.

I'd be interested in hearing about people who have lived away from their home country for at least two years without a visit home in between. Or anyone else who has gone through a similar experience.

The 'worst-case scenario' voices in my head are screaming at me that my grandma is going to die and I didn't spend enough time with her, my dad is going to have a heart attack and I'm the last person to know, and something drastic is going to happen to my brother or sisters while I'm off gallivanting around the other side of the world.

Sorry this is rambled and incoherent -- my emotions are getting tied up and I really am having a difficult time getting anywhere with this decision.

How do I decide? How do you make decisions -- what works for you, pro and con lists?
posted by Flying Squirrel to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's so hard to disentangle love from worry. I have a hard time with this, myself. But when looking from an outsider's perspective at another person similarly afflicted, I find myself thinking: your grandmother loves you. She wants you to be happy. She wants you to live for your own goals and dreams; she most definitely does not want your dreams to be warped by the fear that she might die in the next year.

If you want to double-check that, I suggest you run your decision by your grandmother. Honestly explain to her that you feel as though everything within you is drawing you to a certain decision, but it's her welfare that is making you hesitate. I think her response will probably put your fears to rest. (And if it doesn't... well, then, six months in Canada making the cash for a return airfare is not the end of the world.)

As for your dad and your siblings -- this is misplaced anxiety and irrational guilt talking. If your dad did indeed die of a heart attack, your presence in Canada would not prevent it. (Nor would he die thinking you loved him less because you were abroad.) If your siblings fucked up, you would find a way to hop on a plane and get to them. Your ties are not severed because of distance. You can be a good, loving family member from 10,000 miles away.

It's pretty clear from your post that you know what you want to do, but you're wrestling with a guilty feeling that you're not entitled to do it. Share these feelings with your family, and see if they don't surprise you by telling you that their love for you is best honored if you follow your own dreams.
posted by artemisia at 6:12 PM on April 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: artemisia hit most of what I was going to say. In the meantime, I'd really make a huge effort to stay in touch -- even go *beyond* what you might talk about if you were there in person.

Start a penpal mail relationship (with letters) to your grandmother -- if she's able enough to go to the gym, my guess is she's able to write by hand still. Ask her about her childhood, how she met your grandfather, what growing up was like, her memories of you as a kid, her favourite recipes, etc. Take photos of your life there - your work, your apartment, your bakery, your gas station, your daily walk, your favorite restaurant, whatever, PRINT THEM, and mail them to her. She can show her friends at church/gym/library/town. Mail her little goodies (postcards, maybe some NZ money, a local coffee table book) too.

I've done this a bit with my grandmothers, and the letters are priceless -- they're written down treasures of her life, and they are subjects we might never have had 'time' for if we'd been in the same city. You can connect even without being there.

Does your grandma have any money? It might be crazy but maybe she would love to come visit you -- maybe you could split the cost. It's a long way for an 83 year old but I bet she'd be fine -- my grandma travelled abroad well into her 80s.

Also, skype. SEEING your family might make a big difference. Schedule times to talk with them and have one of them bring your grandma over so you can talk to her too (if she's not online independently.)

It's a really hard choice, I know - on the one handy you're following your dreams, on the other hand, you miss parts of home and family terribly. It's also important to remember that even if you were in Canada, it's not likely that you'd be in the same city -- so you'd have the delusion of being closer without it actually making much difference.
posted by barnone at 6:22 PM on April 22, 2009

I have done this. I think I was away from my home country for about five years or so the first time? Two of my grandparents died while I was away.

I still miss them terribly, we were very close and I loved them immensely, but I have no regrets at all. I had to live my own life and make my choices (I had similar visa age cutoff issues to consider).

This is probably not in the least helpful to you, but my point is that sometimes you have to make a choice for yourself and there's nobody who can help you with it. Sometimes you simply can't have it all. Some people live well into their nineties, but there are no guarantees for any of us. You just have to make your choice and live with it. What helped me to decide was an unshakeable belief that I had to live my own life and that sometimes you can't have everything you want. YMMV (I am not for a second suggesting that there is only one way to live or to make decisions), but that's how I made my choice.
posted by different at 6:40 PM on April 22, 2009

Australia will be there in 6 months or a year. Your grandmother may not. You won't regret spending time with her, ever.

My favorite high school teacher once told me, "There are only 2 important things in life: preparing for eternity and spending time with the people you love."
posted by mdiskin at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe the family could put together enough money to get grandma a plane ticket to Australia, sounds like she might be up for an adventure!
posted by ginky at 6:49 PM on April 22, 2009

Australia will wait.
posted by rokusan at 6:55 PM on April 22, 2009

I'm going through a similar situation right now. I came to Australia for university from Malaysia and didn't really consider staying here for the long-haul - I'm something of a nomad and hate to be tied down. My boyfriend and I have split up temporarily (we're back together now) because I wasn't sure where I'd be and didn't want him hanging around for a girl that could be somewhere across the world. This intensified to a million in my last year of uni - I was drained out from my social enterprise work, I didn't know what to do next, I was terrified and anxious.

I was all eager to go back to Malaysia after uni - not that I actually like Malaysia; I was just burnt out from uni and depression and just wanted to not do anything. My parents did ask me to consider Aussie PR but I wasn't ready to tackle the documents. It was all too much.

Then a few weeks before I was due to fly back home, there was an opportunity to perform in the Vagina Monologues. I took it and pushed back my flight to a few months later. That performance changed my life.

Because of the performance, I started doing more improv, and took up burlesque classes - which led me to a new fiery passion for burlesque and being creative on stage (I've always enjoyed performing but never really had many opportunities.) Through this, I found people who welcomed me into their world and supported me as one of their own. I was happy and wanted to get more and more involved.

I also applied for, and got accepted to, a circus traineeship. A year's worth of free training and paid workshop facilitation. This gave me the impetus to research ways of being in Australia longer, even if just for the traineeship.

Originally I was going to go for a temporary 18-month visa, intended for fresh grads. When my parents (who came down for graduation) and I went to the visa office to talk about it, my dad remembered that his sister is an Aussie citizen and so can sponsor me.

I'm currently applying for permanent residency. While I'm still a nomad, I would be so happy to have Brisbane as my base, a place to relax and recharge between trips. I get to be *myself* in Australia, without worrying about people judging me or being racist or whatever. And being Australian would make travelling a hell of a lot easier!

I'd only go back to Malaysia for the friends and food; nothing else appeals to me. I wouldn't be able to do what I want to do there. My parents tend to swing in opinion - on the one hand, "HAHA I KNEW you would take PR you should have listened to us a long time ago!" On the other hand, "Why are you so far away? We miss you! I cry for you every night! Come home, I can feed you, you can have a job here!".

It is hard - I can't seem to get a job anyplace (not having a driver's license and having to be away for 3 months in May for my sis's wedding isn't helping). Visas suck. My boyfriend and I fight sometimes. And I'm trying to start a small business but it's still early stages yet. But in the long run I think it'll rock. I'm doing things that I love, with awesome people, I have an adorable boyfriend, great is good.

Go for it. You only live once. It's your life. Your grandma will be OK.
posted by divabat at 7:01 PM on April 22, 2009

- Money is a factor. I've spent most extra money I've had on travelling, and if I go home, I'll have to spend 6 months or likely a year working to save up for the flight back.

I have no idea which part of Canada is your hometown, but running a quick check shows that a direct flight from Toronto to Sydney by Air New Zealand would cost you only $1793. Taking into account the cost of domestic flight from your home, I guess everything would come to about $2k ?

It is definitely possible to save up such amount in about 4 - 6 months.
posted by joewandy at 7:06 PM on April 22, 2009

It seems that I'm not getting my point across very well from the post above, but what I'm saying is ... do go home.

- I am about your age, almost 28.
- When I was 17, I left my small and remote hometown in Indonesia and came to Singapore to study.
- Fast forward 10 years, I have completed my secondary and tertiary education in Singapore, am have been working for the past two years in software development here.
- I haven't returned to my hometown for almost 5 years, but my parents regularly come to visit me twice a year. One of my siblings is in a secondary school here too.

By early next year, I would have completed my 3 years work bond with the Singaporean government, and I would return home and spend a couple of months with my parents first before leaving again.

All my time away overseas has taught me that spending time with family is important. The money you spend to fly halfway throughout the Earth from CAD to AUS can be earned back again easily in the future, but your grandmother is not going to live forever.
posted by joewandy at 7:29 PM on April 22, 2009

Oops, just saw that idea in the answer from barnone..

My first trip to Australia was with my Grandma when I was 14. I moved here 20 years later and have been living here for the last 15 years. (Scary age math...)

The problem for me is the distance and cost of travel, and I let those issues overshadow my need for contact with family and old friends. In hindsight I wish I had travelled home for at least 3 weeks every other year, as difficult as that is to manage.

Last year I planned a long holiday back home. My mother was old but healthy and I wanted to spend some time with her, I hadn't seen her in years. Two weeks before I was to leave for home my mother died suddenly in her sleep. I was devasted.

Your relationship with your grandmother sounds close enough that you two would enjoy a great holiday together, either in Oz or Canada. Flights are pretty cheap right now....
posted by ginky at 7:33 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's one correct answer to this question, and I'm sure you'll decide to do what you feel is best after you've read all the answers in this thread. I just came in here to share with you a personal story that may or may not affect your decision. Here goes.

My own grandmother, who I was very close to, passed away last October. She was 82 years old going on 83, not a gym-goer like yours but generally pretty healthy and able to take care of herself. Her passing was sudden and took us all by surprise. It's been about 6 months now and I find I still miss her terribly.

A little over ten years ago, my family and I moved from one ward in Tokyo to my grandmother's neighborhood in another. Before, my husband and then-newborn son and I lived about an hour's train ride away from her. But after the move, for the last ten or so years of her life, we lived about a five-minute walk (her pace, not mine. I could probably dash over in less than a minute door-to-door) away from where she lived.

We had lunch together almost every week. We went out for dinner occasionally. I dropped by for tea at her place whenever I felt like it, and vice versa. She watched my son, her first great-grandson, grow up. We chatted about trivial things. We were a part of each other's daily lives for the past ten years.

Now that she's gone, I feel that making that decision to move closer to her was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. I'm grateful to my husband for agreeing to do so. I can honestly say that I did everything I could possibly have done to be a part of her life in her last days. We even adopted her dog Charlie after she passed, so I still feel that she isn't completely gone just yet, because Charlie remembers her, too.

You know what? I didn't think I'd have to say goodbye so fast. She was so up-and-about that I honestly thought she'd be around to see my son get married for crying out loud. You just never know when someone will go. It's just the way it is. So the only thing we can do is to make a conscious effort to have as little regret as possible when our loved ones go. To be able to say to yourself "I did everything I could" when they pass. In your case, if that means going back to Canada to be closer to your grandmother and family, that's good. If it means staying in Australia for another year and sending daily letters to them, that's good, too. Only you know the right answer to this question.

It must be a terribly hard decision to make. Sorry for the length of my comment. Good luck to you and I hope everything works out for you.
posted by misozaki at 7:55 PM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I took my dad to the airport on the weekend with my 2-yo son. He wanted me to just drop him off and head home, but we parked and went inside for a coffee. Parking was $20. Tolls were $7. Coffees were $6 each. It was a 45 minute drive each way. We all had an extra hour together.

There is no way in hell I'll get to the end of my life and say "you know, I wish I'd spent that $50 on something else and spent less time with my dad." I don't think you'll get to the end of your life and say "I'm so glad I spend that extra six months in Melbourne instead of hanging with my family." I'd nuke Melbourne and everyone in it in a heartbeat if it got me an extra hour with my dad after he's gone.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:14 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Tokyo for 7 years, and Parents/Brother are in NZ. We always go home/NZ every 2 years or so, and we have had a great time (but doesn't take long to want to come back home/Tokyo either). Mum became really sick too, so I paid for them to visit which was superb. About 5 months after that she passed away. I feel bad that my brother and Dad had to deal with it all, but at the same time, really lucky as all my last memories of mum are good. I never had to watch her waste away. We still go home every 2 years, so that my kids can play with my brother's kids, and get to know grand-pa. But "the greater family" has always been travellers. We are Swedish, moved to NZ. In-laws are UK and Canadian, moved to NZ.

I don't have an answer sorry :)
posted by lundman at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2009

I think it's very easy to regret even the smallest things when a dearly loved family member passes away.

I was always very close with my grandparents and lived only a short drive from them. When my grandmother died, I spent a lot more time with my grandfather and I cannot tell you how much joy that brought both him and me. The fondest memories I have of him are the kind you simply cannot get from across the world. (Both of us falling asleep in the lazy boy chairs watching a James Bond marathon, or listening to his stories about New York from when he was a boy.) I cannot tell you how much I cherish those memories, and how much I still miss him.

About a year and a half before he died, I moved only an hour's train ride from his house and the rest of my extended family. It just didn't seem that far away, but I ended up going to see him only once a month, sometimes less. (I was working in midtown Manhattan! I had important things to do!) And my grandfather really was very proud to see my professional success. But he'd kid around admonishing me for not coming by more often. His life was better because of our time spent together and I very much regret not making the damn effort to see him more often. I really do.

Not sure if any of this helps, but grandmothers are really important and they don't last forever. And you miss them so much when they're gone...
posted by anthropoid at 8:43 PM on April 22, 2009

Reading some of the other responses (which seem diametrically opposite to mine) - it seems to depend on your relationship with your family. For me, I find it a LOT easier to deal with my family when I'm not in the same continent with them. I've found that when I'm in the same house, we get all stressed and tempers flare and all that...not having any recourse to do what I'd like to do doesn't help either. And my extended family, plus my sister (whom I'm especially close to), live all over the world, so I'm used to being far from family.

I'd be careful of those that say "Australia can wait" - yeah sure the country isn't likely to disappear anytime soon; however, visa regulations change very option and it might be harder for you to get a visa back in if they change the rules.

If it's any consolation - flights are really cheap right now!

(I feel a bit heartless reading the responses and I wonder if you may be too, since I advocated Australia over family. But I suppose, like misozaki says, it's a hard decision, and ultimately only you can really make the call. There'll be regrets either way, we all think the grass is greener on the other side. The trick isn't to find something you'd regret less - it's to be able to handle what you're dealing with and make the best of your situation whichever it is. Good luck.)
posted by divabat at 9:23 PM on April 22, 2009

Echoing the above posts, only you can really make the call here. That being said, my $0.02:

In the long run, do you think you'll say to yourself, "I wish I had spent more time in Australia" or, "I wish I had spent more time with my Grandmother"? As someone who lost their grandparents at a relatively young age, I cherish the time I had with them. If you dig your Grandmother, go home and hang out with her and have fun.

You will never regret spending time with a beloved relative.
posted by pianoboy at 9:47 PM on April 22, 2009

Another thing to note is that you do need some money in order to be eligible to apply for the Australian working holiday visa. From wiki:

Able to show sufficient funds for a return or onward fare as well as sufficient funds for the first part of their stay. A sufficient amount is regarded as being a minimum of AUD$5,000 (£2,200), although the amount may vary depending the length of stay and how much travelling is intended during that stay. A return or onward ticket or the funds for a fare to depart Australia if travelling on a one way ticket is also necessary.

So, taking into account this money, plus the fare for air tickets, then you're probably looking for something around the range of $5000+. Your estimation of having to stay for 6 months or so, should you decide to go back, is correct.
posted by joewandy at 11:38 PM on April 22, 2009

The thing is, this isn't really just "travel time" -- it's also allowing Flying Squirrel to develop job skills, a sense of happiness, friends, and independence.

There are so many threads on AskMe where the question is about how to escape, and how to strike out on their own, or whether or not to do study abroad (with lots of fears similar to yours about why it might be a bad idea), or stay at home, feeling somewhat trapped, doing the same old same old. In those questions, most of the responses are: get out, go see the world, keep in touch with your family, but you can't structure your whole life around the unknown future and health of those around you. If you wait for the right moment, you'll be waiting forever, etc.

I think there is a happy medium available here. Perhaps it's to go home for the 4-6 months and work or visit with family, with plans to leave again. Or bringing your grandma over for a visit.
posted by barnone at 11:40 PM on April 22, 2009

I'd go with Melbourne.

You have to live your own life. Parents / Family / Grandparents are all important for sure but for me you need to get on with your own life rather than just sitting around playing cards with Grandma.
posted by mary8nne at 4:24 AM on April 23, 2009

voices in my head are screaming at me that my grandma is going to die

She is. It could be tomorrow or in 15 years. So how long will you hold off? You have to live your life.

I suggest you look into moving here permanently, get another sweet job when the current one runs out, go back and visit your family in Canada a couple of times a year - or as often as you like, and spend the rest of your life in paradise.

But I like Canadians, so maybe I'm biased.
posted by The Monkey at 6:47 AM on April 23, 2009

I think it would be best to visit home as soon as you can manage it. Is there anything you can do to save up the money more quickly or have your parents help out?

The 'worst-case scenario' voices in my head are screaming at me that my grandma is going to die and I didn't spend enough time with her, my dad is going to have a heart attack and I'm the last person to know, and something drastic is going to happen to my brother or sisters while I'm off gallivanting around the other side of the world.

I totally understand this. I've lived abroad for a year and gone on two RTW trips. I cut my first RTW trip short because my dad was diagnosed with cancer halfway through. I took one more month to finish my trip and then flew back and spent my dad's last 3 months with him. At times I got mad living at home and dealing with the stress but those three months (not working, just living at home and hanging out with my dad) are something I'll never get back. I'm sure my sister who lives halfway across the country and only saw dad for a few days before he died wishes she had that.

After a year I left again for more than a year. I felt really guilty doing this, especially leaving my mom alone. She smokes too and could get lung cancer any day. But when it comes down to it if I didn't go then when would I go? She could live 5 years or 25 so do I postpone what I really want to do on the off chance that she dies? I understand that it's different with your grandma since she's so much older but what would you do if you were at home? Would you live in that small town? If not how often would you visit her?

So I'm not sure if this helps at all but I do agree family is important but I also feel like you can't live the rest of your life making compromises just in case something happens to your family. Since your grandma is older maybe go back and see her but if you do have a plan with a timeline for coming back. Believe me it's really easy to get sucked back into everyday life back home even if its not what you really want. In the meantime can you set up grandma with Skype and a webcam so you can video chat?
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: A lot of people are telling you what to do with no clear indication that they've ever been in the same situation..I'd be weary of that advice.

It's tough, I've lived on the other side of the country [6,000 miles] from my family for 7 years now. I see them about once a year. The thing is though, if I lived back where I grew up-I'd be miserable and I think my family knows that. Some people are destined to go off and do things on their own, some aren't. My grandfather who I was very close to got sick about a year ago and I only got to visit him right before he I wish I could have spend more time with him? Yes, but I know he was very proud of me for going off on my own and making a life for myself and not taking the safe route. That's how I manage, your family wants you to be happy and to do great things with your life, some of us just can't do that from where we grew up, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
posted by mattsweaters at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2009

Take a few months to go home and visit and schedule your time in Australia for after that.

It might be many years until your Grandmother dies, but it might not be so many years until she starts to have trouble getting around or has problems that make communication with her difficult. Go visit her now when the two of you can go do things together, it's so much easier to make happy memories that way than when you are visiting someone who is bedridden or whose sight or hearing have gone.

Someone being in good health is never a reason to put of visiting. Of course you would want to be there if she needed your help, but why wait until that day comes?
posted by yohko at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2009

do I wish I could have spend more time with him? Yes, but I know he was very proud of me for going off on my own and making a life for myself and not taking the safe route.

I'll second this. My dad was upset that my mom insisted I know he was sick. He was so proud of me and my travels and didn't want to tell me and make me feel like I had to come home. It sounds like your grandma will understand but I still think it would be nice to visit when you can.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: It is so obvious from your post that you are coming into your own and making great new relationships. For whatever the reasons, being there works for you. Some people thrive when transplanted to another place, you seem like one of them.

You are 28. That's young. You are supposed to be away from home at this point in your life.

There will come a time soon enough when you may feel far more obligated to return home than you do now, which is when your parents age and gradually need help to look after themselves. By that point you may have children, too. You will then be living for other people who need you. It's called being a responsible adult. So don't give up your dreams and current happiness for someone else's sake at this point in your life. You need to bank up years of being selfish and fulfilled to compensate for the coming years of being of service to your family.
posted by conrad53 at 10:18 PM on April 23, 2009

I can relate a lot to your situation, especially the feelings of worry. I also live in another country from my family, even if it is easier and more convenient for me to visit them. My parents are in their early 70s and I have worried a lot about spending more time with them. Especially since one of your worst-case scenarios almost came true, with a twist -- my dad ended up needing urgent surgery, and within days, before I had even arranged to go visit, I ended up in hospital myself due to a nasty accident and was unable to go anywhere for a long, long time. Happy, happy times indeed...

Luckily everything worked out for the best in the end, and when I was finally able to go visit I spent more time with the family than usual. It took me a while to get over all the regret, guilt, "if only I'd left earlier", etc. At some point I even considered dividing more of my time between 'home where family is' and 'home where I chose to live', just because my parents are getting old... But it would be crazy to live that way, I would be miserable, and it'd ruin the time we spend together. They're the only reason I visit, and I get restless and bored if I stay there too long. I am much happier where I chose to live, and they're very happy about that.

They'd also be insulted and would find it absurd if I treated them like old people who could die any minute. The accident brought home to me real hard that I could die any minute too. Anything could happen! That is exactly the reason you should not put your own life and happiness on hold.

So, moral of the story - in your situation, I would recommend you try and go visit, but only if and when it's compatible with your own plans, and not just out of guilt or anxiety or worry (what artemisia and others said about that already). Go see grandma because you want to see her, not just because she's 83.

When to go and for how long? that would be the hard part to decide... and it is very much a personal decision. My advice would be, once you weigh all the practical and economic aspects, and the visa issue, try and work out a reasonable balance between:

- the minimum amount of time you want to spend with family & grandma so that you can feel happy about enjoying some time together, refuel, and know you did both her/them and yourself a favour

- the maximum amount of time you can spend in a place that has nothing more to offer to you, without getting restless to leave again, or feel like you're forsaking your own plans and happiness in the new place (in other words, make sure it is a visit, a break, not 'going home' without a plan, you don't want to feel like you're stuck there and all your experiences abroad were only a temporary escape)

Six months sounds like a long time to me, but probably getting a job to save money to go back to Australia would also help you to feel those six months are a useful part of your plans, and not a way of stalling them.

If on the other hand you put Australia first, and postpone your trip to Canada to when you have more money, and make it a few weeks only instead of six months - how long would you have to wait to leave for Canada? Are you prepared to wait that long, and will you able to stop worrying in the meantime?
posted by bitteschoen at 6:47 AM on April 24, 2009

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