“Just book your ticket and work back from there.”
That’s the advice PR guru and communications expert Prasana Lee gives anyone thinking of moving overseas.
It was 2014 when Prasana and her husband Adrian relocated from Sydney’s Inner West to Manila in the Philippines.
Looking back, the move was more challenging than they could ever have anticipated. But four years on, it’s given Prasana the opportunity to quit her remote job and go it alone.
“The move has definitely changed my perspective on family, life and career,” she said.
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“I was working full time for a company for seven years, four of those years working remotely and I just burnt myself out.
“I realised that, as much as I loved my job, I was stuck in a rut working 24/7, and I was not clearly seeing the potential of this developing country.”
The young couple were living the typical inner-city life in Australia — mortgage, working 8-6, daughter in day care and the obligatory weekend trips to IKEA — when they began to desire change.
“There came a point where we were both worn out and over it! When the opportunity to move overseas through my husband’s work presented itself we thought, ‘Why not, let’s change it up!’” Prasana explained.
First came the logistics of uprooting their life to an entirely new country, starting with a trial trip to scout out potential areas to live, visiting day care and play centres, parks and supermarkets.
“We found it really hard to find rental properties online and communicate with the landlords, so we had to contract an agent to find us an apartment based on our budget and requirements.
“During our reconnaissance trip we viewed apartments within our budget. We compared them to living in a gated housing community and what we discovered was that pretty much all properties came fully furnished.”
From there, they set a moving date, booked their flights, and gave themselves three months to pack up their lives in Australia. They arrived in Manila with only their suitcases and stayed in a serviced apartment while getting set up.
“Since we were making the move through my husband’s work who already had an newly established office and network in the city, we were introduced to lawyers who helped us with the visa applications, which can definitely be a lengthy process.”
Juggling the move with her existing work commitments, as well as looking after the couple’s three-year-old daughter, meant settling into Manila culture wasn’t easy, not to mention adjusting to city’s infrastructure.
“Not many businesses had websites and if I was able to find a business I wanted a product from, their contact details were out of date and phone numbers were disconnected.
“From being raised in a developed country with advanced systems and processes to coming to a country where systems and processes are still developing has proven to be the biggest challenge and definitely the most frustrating to date.
“I also learned that although the Philippines is Asia’s largest English-speaking country, not many people understood the Australian accent!”
Ultimately, taking the plunge and moving overseas gave Prasana a renewed sense of purpose in both her professional and personal life.
“My background is fashion PR, strategy and communications, but I am also interested in the lifestyle and service opportunities this city has to offer, which can be better developed with new energy and concepts," she added.
“You don’t have to settle for the ‘normal life’. It’s OK to lead a different life and to take a chance and challenge yourself.
“You actually learn a lot about what you are capable of handling, and I think for us it has made our family stronger.”