If you could go anywhere….?

Where would you go?

If you could go anywhere, live anywhere, work anywhere, where would it be? Imagine you had no family obligations, no partner to consider, no more exams or training hoops to jump through. Just yourself and a suitcase…. where would you choose?

After finishing my rural bonded time, I found myself able to ponder this question for the very first time.  I’d gone directly from high school into six years of university, five years of post-graduate training and four years of rural work and then, suddenly, I was at the end. Having spent so many years on a relatively straight road, this new world was both liberating and terrifying.

Now, there is no road. There isn’t even a path. It’s more of an empty field, or maybe an impenetrable jungle. Either way, I can’t really see the horizon, it’s just too hazy.

So, where do you go? And how do you even begin to decide?

The obvious answer would be to stay in Broome. Why would you ever leave this paradise?! And yet, after nearly 4 years, my experience had begun to plateau. I had became fatigued by the regular turnover of transient friends, the remoteness, the seasonal predictability of it all. I knew it was time to go when I started waking at night, panicking, at the thought of still being in the same place in 5 or 10 years from now.

Going back to Perth would certainly be the simple option. I could go back to my old job, hang out with my old friends, even move straight back into my apartment. But something inside me baulked at the idea. Perhaps it feels like too much of a backward step. Maybe it’s the feeling of loss that so many friends have moved away or moved on with their new family lives. Or, if I’m totally honest with myself, perhaps the painful drifting apart of my own family makes it easier to keep running away.

So I turn to a blank page in my mind and sketch out all the things I would look for in a new home. It would be bigger than Broome, but small enough to find a sense of community. It would be an English-speaking place with a reasonably functional health system where I could practice both GP and obstetrics. It would be a tolerant place, with intelligent, compassionate and friendly locals, progressive values and plenty of access to both culture and nature. It would have an awesome farmers markets and beach volleyball and a choir and a cycling club. Proximity to mountains and snow would be a definite advantage.

A casual conversation with new friends at last year’s SMACC conference planted the seed… “Don’t worry Penny, you’re never really alone when you are on Twitter. Look around at all the potential friends you have from everywhere in the world.” Well, I’ve never lived outside of Australia, and since that chat, the idea of not just travelling but living overseas has just kept niggling at me.

And so, I’m moving to Canada.

I’m going to the city of Victoria, BC, on the spectacular natural playground that is Vancouver Island. It features on various “best city” lists and ranks highly for women, hipsters, and millenials. It has one of the mildest climates in Canada. The local ski slope is only three hours away. It’s a place where maternity care by GPs is the rule, not the exception. On paper, this place ticks all the boxes.

But the unknown is always scary, and in an ironic twist, I’ve chosen somewhere I actually don’t have ANY twitter friends. As the final pieces of paper are being shuffled and stamped by faceless Canadian bureaucrats, the anxiety is mounting. What if I don’t make any friends and spend every weekend crying with homesickness in some tiny apartment? What if I can’t stay afloat in a new medical system? What if something disastrous happens to loved ones back home and I’m too far away to help? Will this turn out to be the worst decision I have ever made?

But. What if it really does turn out to be my perfect place? What if I find a bunch of wonderful like-minded people to go hiking and snowboarding and dining and making music with? What if I become a more well-rounded doctor by seeing things from a whole new perspective? What if the man of my dreams is a flannel-shirt wearing Canadian hipster / Mountie / hockey player…? Canadians are nice! They make great FOAMed! This could be amazing!

If there’s one thing that I’ve always believed, it’s that you get out what you put in, and that the hardest things are sometimes the most rewarding.

And, as one colleague wisely said “Penny, you won’t learn LESS by going”

At the very least I’ll feel like I earn the title of “Nomadic GP” again, and hopefully I’ll have some interesting observations to share on the blog.

In the meantime, all words of encouragement, local contacts and practical advice gratefully received!

And tell me, where would YOU go?

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11 thoughts on “If you could go anywhere….?

  1. Penny, I’ve got GP friends in BC. Happy to ensure you have a connection over there for hiking, boarding, commiserating about the bears, learn about hockey, etc. I may forget to follow this up so check at GPDU!

  2. In the words of Forrest Gump’s mama – life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get!
    Keep opening them boxes!

  3. Love BC! I lived on Vancouver Island for five years, a wonderful place to be. Not sure if your weather down under, but it’s likely going to be cooler here!

  4. Hey Penny, love the blog as I have found myself asking that question for about 6 years now! Having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years I’m sure that you will have a great time 🙂 And I’m venturing to say that Vancouver B.C. probably has nicer people than Seattle! SO have a fantastic time!!

  5. I’m so excited for you! I know you’ll be great!
    Canada is actually on my list of places I’d like to work someday. Loads of South African doctors do stints there. And I have friends in BC.
    Besides that, I’m quite happy with South Africa… although some experience in other African countries could also be nice.
    By the way, your nomadic approach to work inspires me ❤

  6. I’m not in Victoria anymore (moved back to Saskatchewan), but hope you have a wonderful time there! I can’t wait to move back, it’s such a lovely city. I think I gave you a few names previously, hope you can get set up in one of the female GP / OB group clinics in the city.

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