For many of our parents and grandparents, Australia was the place that came to mind when dreaming of a better life.
Chasing a temperate climate, seemingly endless job prospects, room to grow a family and political freedom, many decided to scrape together enough money to pay for the plane and boat tickets that would carry them to their adopted home.
However, just a generation or two later, an increasing number of us are now choosing to leave.
According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost 265,000 residents emigrated in the past year alone.
This figure includes those who have headed overseas in hopes of furthering their career, joining large expat communities in cities such as Beijing, London, Mexico City, Istanbul, Paris and New York.
I help form part of the latter group and can confirm that the Australian accent, once as hard to find on the streets of Manhattan as a softly-spoken New Yorker, is now as common as the ever-increasing flock of screeching seagulls.
To drive home the point, as I write this from a downtown café, a fellow Aussie expat is chatting on the phone next to me, and another just placed an order at the counter. There are but six of us in the joint.
“Over the past two years the number of Australians looking to live and work in the US has increased greatly,” confirms Nick Louca, a vice president at recruitment agency Robert Walters. “I believe this is so because many people are under the impression that attaining an E3 visa is a relatively easy and an inexpensive process.”
But though there are a growing number of us clotting the city's streets, we certainly aren't wanting for opportunity. In terms of career - while there's certainly no shortage of other candidates - the number of positions opening up at organisations for which one could only dream of working back home is striking.
The opportunities have allowed me to accomplish more in 18 months than I did in seven years in Sydney, and things are the same for my fellow freelance journalists.
While some of this can be chalked up to my accrued experience and the contacts I made while completing a graduate degree at Columbia Journalism School, much of it has to do with location. Hardly a week goes by when I'm not in a room with an editor or writer whose work I'd previously admired from afar.
But do the rewards meted out to those of us who make the move justify the sacrifices we've made to get here?
Kurt Fulepp thinks so. Leaving his post as consumer marketing manager for NineMSN in Sydney two years ago, Fulepp is now a senior director at AOL in New York, leading the product team for AOL.com and AOL's lifestyle brands.
“I was looking for an organisation that had scale and size, and no matter how hard I worked in Australia, I'd always be limited by the market,” he says, adding that he's found what he was looking for in the US.
“My team is setting the strategy for a product portfolio that reaches an audience that I could never have imagined, especially if I didn't move overseas. In the US alone, AOL.com attracts over 70 million unique visitors a month.”
But it’s not all quaint, cobbled streets and bagels with lox and cream cheese.
Fulepp says the distance he's created between himself and his family and friends remains difficult, but it's still not a move he regrets.
“Risk often includes several sacrifices,” he said. “I've been fortunate that my hard work has paid off and the personal satisfaction and sense of achievement outweighs anything I sacrificed.”
Corey Birtles agrees it can take some time to find your feet. Arriving in New York via an intercompany transfer, he left the job after a year but doesn't blame the city. Now a product director at digital advertising firm VivaKi, Birtles loves his new role and what he's come to think of his second home.
“I've been back to Australia twice since I've lived here and each time it seems a little further away. I miss my amazing family and great friends, so I suppose that was my sacrifice, not seeing them every day,” he says.
He adds that between the relentless stream of visitors and hordes of fellow expats, there is always someone around to remind him of home—or what he now calls “home home”.
But before you pack your suitcases and say goodbye to your family and friends — not to mention the year-round mild weather you'll soon realise you've been taking for granted all these years — Louca of Robert Walters recommends that those looking to make the move to the US undertake some careful planning before taking the plunge.
“Thoroughly explore your own networks before making the move over to the US. It is very important to realise that Americans generally do prefer candidates with local experience, who are on the ground in the US and who do not require sponsorship,” he warns. “If someone in your network puts in a good word for you, though, with a prospective employer, you will increase your chances of securing employment.”