I wondered how I’d react when I heard the news.
Where would I be? How would it arrive to me? Would it be the yes I longed for? Would I fall to the ground in a heap of tears or leap with joy?
When we finally submitted the paperwork for it a week before, my heart panicked.
What if it was a no?
Even though our chances were high, I couldn’t help but fear the shattering of my life plans if we heard we weren’t getting a green card.
I couldn’t foresee any other path but us living in the USA. It had been our dream and journey for 14 years.
Despite not knowing how it could happen, we kept believing and working to find a way.
We finally found the right path; a NO would have devastated us.
And then it came
I was walking to the TBEX (travel blogging) conference in NYC. I had on my fancy dress and red heels.
No, the shoes were in my bag and the my flip flops were taking me the short 15-minute walk. I was first on the speaking stage after the keynote and had only about an hour to slip into the zone.
I hit the footpath out the front of the Corning Museum of Glass when my phone signaled an incoming message.
I usually ignore them when I’m walking, and trying to get into speaking zone, but for some reason I pulled it out.
I didn’t even need to open my email account as my phone gives me a one line insight into its content to help me decide whether I want to slip the phone back into my purse or not.
The one line from James, our immigration lawyer, read.
“We did it.”
My reaction was not like I imagined. There was a pause. A long, silent, pause of nothing.
You know when you’ve spent your life working on a goal and it’s been so normal that you feel like you’ve achieved the goal anyway.
Was this one of those moments? Was I just going to put my phone away, shrug my shoulders and keep walking?
Would the magnificence of this achievement reach out and grab me? Was this just a pause giving me time release the years of pain, failure and struggle and let the victory sink in?
My footsteps slowed and I looked around for someone I recognized to become my anchor point to what I was feeling. But it was just me alone on the pavement.
I took a few more steps and found the anchor.
We did it.
The relief poured up from my gut through to my chest and up into my eyes.
Oh my god we did it.
The Extraordinary Fight
Most people only see the glamour of what we do.
They don’t see the fight it entails.
The struggle to grow something from nothing; to believe in it when everyone else thinks you’re mad; to take the punches of failure and rejection and still get up fighting, to deal with the ridicule and insults that come with dream creating and vulnerability.
To believe in something so much that you keep walking forward despite all the messages telling you you’re not good enough – most of those coming from yourself.
It takes courage to listen to your heart and inner voice, without question, as it leads you to places and dreams that don’t make sense logically, but are the only ones that make you feel most alive.
A 14 Year Journey
14 years ago we arrived in Raleigh. I immediately knew I had returned home. Craig felt the same way.
After a life of gypsy wandering I’d finally found the place I belonged.
It was uncanny and I felt like there was nothing Caroline could do about it. This was the place and that was all there was too it.
It didn’t make sense at all, but the heart is not here to be logical, it’s here to be free and full and joyful. Only it knows where that is for you and how it can help you become the best person you can.
Back then, our only option to live in the USA was for me to teach on a short-term visa. While I loved my students and the teaching program I was on, teaching was not what I was born to do and I didn’t want to be restricted to a five year visa.
We had no other skills or opportunities for other sponsored work. Getting a permanent work visa for the US is not an easy task.
Getting a Green Card is even harder.
How to Get a Green Card
We investigated how to get a Green Card many times. But, our options were very slim.
- Marry an American – that was kind of difficult, although I guess possible.
- Have a child in the USA. Unfortunately no. Children can’t sponsor their parents to live permanently in the US until they are 21. Besides, it’s way cheaper to have a child in Australia!
- Invest a million dollars starting a US company and employ 20 Americans. Of course we were working on that one. Still are.
- Or, we could win the Green Card Lottery, which we entered each year with 8+ million other people without fail just in case we were lucky.
I mean if I felt Raleigh was my soul home then surely the magic would make my dreams of living here a reality.
Not on the easy path, but on the extraordinary path that helped me to become the person who could make this happen.
On a path that brought me to share what is unique about me to the world, to live with passion and purpose, to experience joy and to somehow bring that to others.
This is why I will never advocate short cuts. Short cuts take away the beauty and growth of the journey and lead you to a place of disconnect and un-fulfillment.
What we do goes deeper than just travel. It’s about helping people follow their bliss and reconnect to their values.
Just the other day an email subscriber replied that.
Some days when I feel like the road ahead is too hard, or I feel guilty about my past, or that I have done the wrong thing with my children. (You know the should have been a better mum moments.) Up pops one of your stories to keep inspiring me to move forward positively.
This is why I do what I do.
Not for the green card, or the travel lifestyle (although I love that it’s a part of it) but so I can help others.
I never knew this would be the thing I loved most when starting this travel blog, but that’s the heart leading you to the fulfillment of the dream.
When you do that, your results become extraordinary.
Our Extraordinary Ability in the Art of Travel Blogging
You’ve heard me mention the word extraordinary a few times in this post.
Getting a Green Card is not easy, nor is it cheap! I may make it sound that way, but you do have create something extraordinary or offer something extraordinary in order to get it.
That’s not my choice of words either. That’s the US Immigration’s term to describe it!
At the beginning of 2017, after a 500 page application, and nine month process, we were given a three-year, non-immigrant 01 visa for our extraordinary ability in the art of travel blogging.
There were no sweeter words that could be said to describe us and what we do.
This is the visa actors, athletes, doctors, scientists etc get. You have to prove that you are at the top of your field.
It did feel great to have our work and accomplishments recognized.
Developing that extraordinary ability in the art of travel blogging took us ten years of intense work and growth. We truly got to where we are with travel blogging by just doing that little bit extra than many others.
Perhaps that sign I always hung on the wall for my students impacted me subconsciously
Getting a Green Card is not a fluke, nor something that can happen overnight. (Unless you do win that Green Card Lottery.)
You can read more about how we got the non-immigrant O1 visa here.
Even though our O1 visa was only for three years, we had a game plan in mind to just keep renewing it every three years. It wasn’t ideal, but at least it let us live in the US.
Last year we finally met with James, our immigration lawyer, in real life over dinner in Nashville.
He told us that the O1 visa was a foot in the green card door. He thought our chances were high to get it and as soon as we appeared on television in the US to validate our extraordinary ability, we would apply.
Not long after we appeared on Fox Business TV and Cheddar TV in New York, we sent him the email,
“We’ve been on TV James, let’s apply for that Green Card.”
And it was so darn easy (remembering the journey to here though wasn’t!!)
We basically resubmitted our O1 visa application with a few updates, including traditional media coverage in the US. Remember, it’s about proving your extraordinary ability in the art of…. [insert your industry here].
You have to prove you’re at the top and have something extraordinary to offer. I can’t stress that enough.
You also have to be completely committed as it takes a long time to gather all your documentation as well as go through the tedious application process.
You also have to invest quite a bit of money to make it happen – and it could be a possible no. Are you really willing to risk that? Will the rewards be worth it?
We paid to expedite our Green Card application just in case there was any issues this would give James an avenue to speak directly to the case manager – expediting meant we’d get an answer in 15 days.
That’s when the nerves hit me each day. My stomach churned every day as I thought,
(Note. We still don’t have that green card in our hands yet. We have the approval just not the documentation yet. We have to transfer from our O1 visa to the green card, which is a process that can take up to 8 months! See this stuff is not easy!)
Celebrating the Green Card
It meant the world to us to hear that James and his team were celebrating our win in their office. To know someone is fighting in your corner for your dream is extraordinary.
He thought they’d come back with some more required information and was surprised we got a yes straight away. It’s the darn magic!
The hour after I read that email until my TBEX talk was excruciating.
I could barely concentrate in Cory Lee’s keynote, which was extraordinary. But, I was scatter brain and having trouble breathing and the tears would just hit me and well up and unravel me.
I had to walk outside to try to pull myself together. I as grateful to a few people, Kevin Wagner, Rob Taylor, and Anton Diaz who crossed my path with normal chit chat, not knowing what was going on, but thankfully helped me anchor.
I couldn’t say anything as I hadn’t even spoke to Craig yet. He was still asleep in Las Vegas, but I shot him a quick Facebook message for when he woke,
“We got the Green Card.”
I thought about announcing it during my talk just to highlight the possibility that can come through travel blogging, but we hadn’t told our parents and I’d have hated for it to somehow have gotten to them through a social media update rather than from us.
So I held all the tears and joy within.
Until later, when we had told our families and I could talk.
Before I knew it people were coming up to me saying they’d heard – news travels fast at a travel blogging conference. I could then celebrate with my travel blogging friends in the evening. I was delighted with how happy people were for us.
I think there are more people in your corner than you realize.
Supporting people pursuing their dreams is easy to do and makes the world of difference.
I am filled with so much gratitude for this extra long journey we have taken to get to our dream.
Because through it we have met the most extraordinary people who have supported us in many ways and helped contribute to making our dream happen.
How does this help your dream?
The impossible can become possible.
Never ever cancel dreams out even if you can’t see the clear path. If you are dreaming it, it’s a sign you were meant to live it.
There’s a greater source that will guide you there, as long as you take the path that leads you to the better version of yourself and helps you serve in a way that helps others.
And just do that little bit extra.
We may not be physically in your corner, but energetically we support you in pursuing your dreams and believe that you can do it, despite all those things making you feel like you can’t.
Be persistent and focused, show up to do that little bit extra each day, and then let go and trust a little.
I love this recent talk by J.P. Embrace your weirdness and choose extraordinary over normalcy.
Let your uniqueness shine and choose EXTRAordinary.
Will we ever return back to live in Australia?
I never say never. But right now in my heart, I feel like I’m in the place I’m meant to be. On a soul level we love it, on a business and lifestyle level it is the best thing for us.
I know my life was meant to be lived in Raleigh. I never realized it until recently, but that feeling I always had in my own country, was one of just being a temporary visitor.
I never quite felt I belonged and there is no other reason for that except it was part of the journey that lead me to here.
The Green Card gives us 10 year permanent residency, which is easy to extend. Or, we can apply for citizenship in 5 years time.
At least now we have it and we’ll always have two incredible countries to live in.
We view being an Australian living in the US as a gift and a privilege. We have the position to be positive ambassadors for a country we will always be in love with and grateful for.
We can share so many cool things about our culture and country – like this recent post on all our dangerous animals.
Americans love Australians so we have the opportunity to talk about our amazing country all the time: in person, on our blog, and whenever we are interviewed. How cool we get to do that for a country that has given us so much!
But, living here means our loved ones have loads of excuses, support, and reasons to come visit.
My parents had a fantastic road trip from Dallas to Boston with us in May for a month, and we just finished a fantastic five week trip with Craig’s family that stretched from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, to Vegas, to Disneyland and Santa Barbara.
You always have a place in our hearts and homes and travel adventures.
Hey, we’ve now got a crazy cool 34 ft travel trailer with loads of room for visitors!
We also recognize the privilege we have in sharing the US with the world at a time when the image portrayed of it is not so nice. We want to push all of that aside and showcase what we know to be true – America is a diverse and beautiful country that is filled with people who are passionate, curious, and kind.
That is why we travel – to break down barriers and images we’ve allowed media and leaders to define for us. To show what is similar about us more than what is different.
To overcome ignorance and hatred and replace it with tolerance, love and peace.
I am so grateful that I chose this extraordinary path so I may leave a positive impact and help to change the world for the better in the manner that Gandhi taught us.
Join the Journey
As you can tell, I’m about pursuing the dreams of the heart and loving where the journey takes you.
These are the kind of inspirational stories I share with my VIP email tribe each week.
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