Seven years ago our family moved to Brazil from Australia for my husband’s work. We have two boys who were aged 5 and 7 years old at the time.  It was a huge culture shock. We moved from suburban Melbourne to Sao Paulo into an expat community within a city of 12 million people.  For a farm girl this was a big change.  I had to learn to speak Portuguese and drive on the opposite side of the road – while also facing other relocation issues such as adapting to a different culture, finding somewhere to live, schools for the boys and something meaningful to do as the trailing spouse.

There are many stories I could share about our time in Brazil, but this one is about being in search of peace of mind…

There were carjackings carried out every day in Sao Paulo, we drove a bullet proof car and the street of our boys’ school, despite being a highly regarded international school, was renowned for bank robberies. Whilst within the compound where our apartment was I felt safe, but to venture out into the ‘real world’, especially with the boys in tow was super stressful.

One day while going through scenarios in my head and ‘escape’ options if I ran into trouble I realised that if I lost my phone or was mugged I would be rendered helpless to call for help.

What did I need to feel safe?

Something that would allow me to get out of any situation where I felt threatened… my husband’s phone number came to mind… I have never been great at remembering numbers – and know that when under stress they go straight out of my head… but more importantly I recalled I had the 24 hour access phone number to our host company’s head of security!  This became my lifeline…

But where to put it?

What stayed with me no matter where I went?

What could be relied upon when I was out and about to be constantly with me?

My shoes!

A jacket, socks, handbags, they all vary, my phone could be lost – but the constant thing that never gets washed and stays with me in almost any situation is my shoes…

So I set about creating tiny labels.  Each one with my husband’s and the company’s head of security’s telephone numbers on them and placed one in each shoe, underneath the inner sole.  On my few sandals and my Haviana’s I wrote in permanent marker on part of the sole.

Such a small thing… and yet it made a huge difference – I now felt prepared and in control – much more able to face the ‘outside’ world. I had peace of mind.

Often, we do what we need to do to face the world.

The funny thing is looking back I was a bit embarrassed to admit to anyone that I needed a lifeline – to show that I wasn’t feeling in control.  To lose face…

But it is ok, it is human to want to feel in control, especially when we have children with us, it is a huge responsibility.

Fast forward four years when we moved to the English Midlands – it was different.

  • Our boys were older (9 & 11 years)
  • I could already speak English (- well Australian – so only a hundred or so words to learn instead of thousands!)
  • We were not offered a ‘lifeline’ from the company, (bricks & mortar – yes, but support for hearts & minds – no)

Easier you might think, but in some ways more challenging.  Moving to an established community is in some ways harder than moving to an expat community.  They each have challenges…

Different challenges, but the principle was the same.

I was still in search of peace of mind…

As a trailing spouse, for the second time in my life I found myself in a hotel room with two young boys while my husband headed off to work.  I was in a strange city, knew no one within hundreds of miles and was left to construct a new life for us all.  I didn’t reach for a sharpie and my shoes this time, but in search of piece of mind I did reach out to my coach to help me sort through the buzz of questions in my mind…


So what have I learnt?

Having someone to turn to with these questions and easing access to the communities and services makes a huge difference.

An employer offering a lifeline to foster pace of mind within relocating families can determine the success or failure of an assignment.

Employees when their families feel safe and happy can focus on their new role much more effectively.

Families who have support are much more likely to thrive in their new location. Meeting other families going through a similar transition really helps.

Communities are often difficult to navigate for newcomers without someone there to support who has local knowledge.

What does it take for you to have peace of mind?

Let us be your lifeline at