Thanks for visiting my blog. Here is a bit more information about me and my story.
The Short Story
I am from a small town in England called Frome in Somerset. Our claim to fame is that Jenson Button is from there too. He was in the year above me at school and when we were younger he stood on stage at a school assembly and said that one day he would be Formula One World Champion, and by heck did he achieve that. I’m further proof that people from small towns can do big things in life. Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you like it. 🙂
The Longer Story
I woke up one day very close to my 30th Birthday a few years ago, when I was living in London and I didn’t want to get out of bed.
On paper, I had everything anyone could ever wish for. A highly paid job in the city, a boyfriend that loved me dearly, a beautiful dog, amazing flat, a fantastic set of friends and a very close and loving family. However I was miserable. I felt empty, I felt hollow, I felt unfulfilled. And most significantly, I wasn’t sure why I was here.
I knew that I needed to find my purpose and live a more happy & fulfilling life, but I wasn’t sure how. So I did the only thing I knew I could do, and that was to change my current situation as it clearly wasn’t working for me.
I broke up with my boyfriend on my 30th Birthday, left my job a couple of weeks after, packed my entire life up into boxes and moved back home to the West Country to stay with my parents.
I took a trip to Machu Picchu and trekked the Inca Trail and didn’t really want to come back, but Google wanted to interview me, and my friends kept telling me that they get 1 million applications a year, so I should do them the courtesy of showing up.
I had quite a few interviews with them, until the role got filled internally, interviewed with the lovely people at Skype and Mozilla as well as working for Sky for a few months while I worked out what the heck I wanted to do.
I had thousands of pounds in the bank and I was completely clueless. The only message that kept coming through to me again and again from my friends was, ‘Kat, go travelling! You may never get this chance again. You don’t have a boyfriend or a husband, no kids, no pets, no mortgage, no dependents, no ties, nothing!’ So I did.
I bought a Round the World ticket on 31st March 2011 and left a few months later on 19th May 2011. I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I had NEVER been away from the UK for any longer than a month, and I had NEVER been backpacking by myself. After about 3 days into my trip in Bangkok I had a huge panic attack and nearly got on a plane home. I was so scared of the unknown. Scared of what lay ahead of me. I had had to plan my life for the last 7 years that I had been living in London, and now, anything could happen. All I had to do was let go. Which is what I did.
I knew that if I had got on a plane home, my friends would have told me what a numptie I was, and I would have probably got straight back on a plane out again. So I thought I would save myself the time, bother and money, and just suck it up and start to enjoy my time travelling, rather than worrying about things that may never happen.
Although, the two biggest things I was worried about was a) getting Malaria or b) getting an infected insect bite as I am prone to them.
The first three months were awesome. I travelled around South East Asia and visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Malaysia. It was in Malaysia where b) happened. And as they say, be careful what you wish for (or don’t wish for in my case). I got bitten by a spider in the Cameron Highlands and became critically ill. After some emergency surgery in Singapore, and a nearly fatal helping of Septicaemia, I was well and truly off of the backpacker trail for 6 weeks while the hole in the back of my leg healed. It was about the size of a pound/dollar coin and about an inch deep. It turns out that I had ended up with a flesh eating bacterial infection that very nearly killed me.
At the time I was devastated. I couldn’t understand why it had happened to me? I was having such a wonderful time, loving life, meeting amazing people and seeing incredible places. I had just spent a week volunteering and teaching English at an NGO school in Siem Reap, and I was really excited to move on and back pack around Australia.
Life however, had other plans for me. I didn’t realise it at the time, but if it hadn’t been for that spider bite, I might not be writing this blog. 🙂
So, luckily my doctor let me fly from Singapore to Perth, which was the next destination on my trip. I stayed with friends there for 3 weeks and went to hospital every other day for treatment. They wouldn’t let me fly to Cairns to continue travelling and trekking, but would let me fly to another big city for further hospital treatment, so I flew to Sydney and stayed with more friends. It was during the 2 weeks that I stayed here that I started to fall in love with the city. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is definitely something very beautiful and magnetic about Sydney, and Manly in particular for me.
Once I had been giving a clean bill of health I was ecstatic and back on the backpacker trail. I went up to Airlie Beach to visit my cousin who works on a yacht that takes people out on trips to see The Whitsunday’s. I then went down to see Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, before leaving Australia for New Zealand. I then spent a month on the North Island and enjoyed the Rugby World Cup, going to the All Blacks vs Aussie Semi Final, which was just epic. And I was then due to fly to Buenos Aires on 8 Nov 2011 for the next 2 month leg of my trip.
However, my heart said Sydney. I still don’t understand it to this day. All I know is that it didn’t feel right continuing my trip. I was running out of steam, running out of money (the operation in Singapore had cost over $5000 and I hadn’t got everything back through insurance), I didn’t really want to go and encounter a tonne more bugs after I had just recovered from Cameron (I named the hole after the Cameron Highlands). And I also wanted to be with friends for Christmas.
So, I applied for my Working Holiday Visa, 2 weeks before my 31st Birthday and it was granted within 24 hours of me applying. OK, I thought, this is a good sign.
I then bought a flight and flew in the opposite direction to the one I should have been flying in, and arrived in Sydney on 14th November 2011.
I then decided that if I could get a job easily, it was meant to be. If not, I would cut my losses and either carry on travelling or fly back home to England.
I was told by all the recruitment consultants that it was November and that I would be lucky to find a job before Christmas, if at all before Australia Day (end of Jan). This is because the whole of Australia pretty much shuts down in December and January. News to me as a Brit and someone who has rarely had much time off over Christmas and New Year back in the UK.
I also don’t like being told that I can’t achieve something. So this gave fuel to the fire inside of me that wanted to give Australia a bash. We were coming into Summer and I didn’t fancy going back to a cold UK, nor was I going to be able to continue my travels easily with a big hole in my bank balance (despite the hole in my leg having healed).
So I pulled all of my contacts and networks through Linked In, worked super hard and dedicated every waking hour to finding a job. And sure enough, it all paid off and I had a 6 figure Digital Marketing role with News Limited and started on 5 December, with a lovely advance payment in time for Christmas.
Yes! I had made the right decision! I am meant to be in Australia!
I went back to the UK for a friends wedding in Feb 2012, and was missing Sydney and referring to it as ‘home’ within about 2 or 3 days of being away. I had never called London home at any point during the 7 years I lived there. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE London and had a fantastic time when I was there, but it was always somewhere I lived and worked. Frome was home.
This was the first time that I had felt like somewhere else was home. It seemed now that Frome was where I was from, and Manly was home. And as they say, home is where the heart is.
When I came back to Australia I knew that I wanted to stay and make a life for myself here. The question was how? I went to a fantastic weekend seminar called Live It Now, which awakened me to the possibility that I could set up my own company. And with the help of my coach and mentor Mr Ben Khodeir I started to work out how I could do that on a Working Holiday Visa.
I got amazing advice from my Fairy Godfather of a Migration Lawyer Mr George Lombard who confirmed that I could indeed set up my own company here in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, and theoretically sponsor myself through that company for a 457 visa.
He also did point out to me that that was going to be the hard way, that I was probably a bit bonkers if I did do that, and that it would be much easier to take the sponsorship that was being very kindly offered to me by News Limited.
I never do things the easy way and I had a new lust for life and was keen not to waste a second of it. Especially as I had also found out that the only way I could achieve self sponsorship would be while I was still on my Working Holiday Visa, of which I only had about 5 months left.
So, I left News Limited on 8th June 2012 and registered Thought Cloud Collective on 15th June 2012. I then set about fulfilling all of the criteria that George set me in order to be able to apply for sponsorship status for Thought Cloud. The list was long, arduous and understandably difficult to fulfil, because I guess the Australian Immigration Dept don’t want to make it to easy for anyone just to come over here and do this.
I would be lying if I said it was a walk in the park. The entire process tested me every day, and quite rightly so. I was constantly needing to be sure that I was 100% committed to growing my business and making it a success, so I could sponsor myself to stay.
I had lived my entire working life following someone else’s rules & working for someone else. I had the opportunity to make my own rules and work for myself and I wasn’t about to waste that opportunity. Furthermore, if I did happen to meet a lovely guy, I didn’t want it to become complicated because I didn’t have a visa or the right visa. I wanted to be here on my own terms and be navigating my own ship.
So, to cut an even longer story short (don’t worry I’m going to write a book about the entire process I followed when setting up my business), it got to the 1st November 2012 and I went back to visit George for the third time. This was D Day. I needed to have a healthy enough Profit and Loss Account, have an Australian Director and have written an Auditable Business Plan projecting that I would make at least $100k in the first year of operation (amongst a tonne of other things).
I had been working so hard at making money in the first few months, that I left writing my Business Plan to the last minute and wrote it in 48 hours, on about 6 hours sleep at the end of October, just before I went to see George. I was exhausted.
He knew I was tired and put me through an arduous 1 hour meeting, running through my Business Plan, checking things, asking questions and checking that I was absolutely sure I still wanted to put in the application. Yes George, yes I did. I’d come this far, I might as well go the whole way.
There were a tonne of other things that I needed to do over the next couple of weeks which included getting a letter of comfort from my Accountant, obtaining a line of credit letter from someone to the value of $106k in case I ever got into financial difficulty and needed bailing out. I needed reference letters from all of my previous bosses (including those back in the UK), written on letterhead paper, signed and scanned. I needed to write a job description for myself and an employment contract too. This list seemed endless as well! I barely had enough energy to fulfil these tasks in time for 13th November when my visa ran out. Somehow I managed it.
So on 13th November 2012, we lodged the application for sponsorship status for Thought Cloud and a bridging visa for me, which would extend my Working Holiday Visa while I waited for the application to be processed.
George said it could take between 1-3 months for an answer. So I began waiting.
Oh, and it was going to cost me around $3500 in legal and visa fees. This was all I had to my name. It cleared me out.
What happened next was tough. Probably the toughest time I had encountered in life, since my 30th Birthday. And that involved having to move out of my flat because I couldn’t commit to any kind of lease, nor could I afford rent anymore as I had spent everything I owned on my visa application. All my chips were on my 457.
I was devastated. I didn’t want to leave my beautiful flat, it was where Thought Cloud had been born. It was where I met with my clients and made them nice cups of tea. It gave me my independence. I didn’t want to pack everything up AGAIN and put it into storage. I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase. But unfortunately, I had no choice. I had prioritised my visa above everything else.
So I moved out of my flat on Fri 23rd November 2012 and went to stay with my beautiful friends Ben and Pia in Manly, with the intention of spare room and sofa surfing until I had an answer on my visa, which could have taken months. It was an interesting time to say the least. And there were definitely times when I thought to myself that I was absolutely crazy to have risked everything, my home, my finances in pursuit of a pipe dream to live and work in Australia by my own steam.
On 13th December 2012 I got a phone call from George at 8am. I missed it as I was making breakfast and so called him back as soon as I realised. I could barely breathe. ‘Tell me George!’ He asked me what time Thought Cloud starts work, and I told him that I’d been up since 6am and had just left my phone unattended for a few minutes while I made breakfast. He then told me that he had had 3 emails from the Immigration Dept the night before (12.12.12). My mind went totally blank. I couldn’t breath. ‘And?’ I said to George.
He said that one confirmed sponsorship status for Thought Cloud, another confirmed my sponsorship through Thought Cloud and the third confirmed my 457 visa through Thought Cloud. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT! I burst out crying and sobbed uncontrollably. My mind was a scramble. I couldn’t actually believe what I was hearing?! George tried to calm me down, but to no avail. I just couldn’t process what he had told me. I hadn’t ever wanted anything as much as I wanted this, and I just couldn’t believe I had achieved it.
To our knowledge, no one in history has ever come to Australia, set up their own company on a Working Holiday Visa and then successfully achieved sponsorship status for that company and sponsored themselves for a 457 within 6 months of starting the company. It was unheard of. I had made history!!! I had achieved the seemingly impossible!
I then spent the rest of the day calling friends to tell them the good news, and was met with a very similar message every time I made a call – ‘OMG I can’t believe it Kat. Is it true?’ quickly followed by ‘I KNEW you’d do it! I just KNEW it!’.
And the rest, as they say, is history. I know it’s a bit of a long story, but as they also say, everything happens for a reason. And it is very important for me to share the entire story, for people who want to read it.
I am living, breathing proof that you can wake up one day and decided to fundamentally change your life, FOREVER. All you need to do is decide, and then take action.
I am now living the life of my dreams in a brand new apartment in Manly, which I moved into just days ago, after spending the last 3 months living out of a suitcase and replenishing my bank balance. I run my own company that I love and adore, along with all of my beautiful clients. I have an amazing set of friends and I have met the most incredible Kiwi, who is an absolute angel, and the love of my life.
I have set up my company and am writing this blog to inspire anyone and everyone that it is entirely possible to live a life that you truly love. And even if I inspire one person to make a change in their life I will be a very happy bunny indeed.
Thanks for reading and continuing to read.
Wishing you lots of peace, love, joy and light (and sending you big hugs from here in Manly too),
Kat x x x