Relocating for ‘better’: This Bluey episode reminds me of my own complicated feelings about starting over

relocating-for-a-better-life- little girl with suitcase at airport and bluey in the car
Black Salmon/ Shutterstock/Disney/BBC

By now, you might have seen that episode of Bluey (The Sign) where Bandit’s been offered a new job in a different city, and the family has mixed emotions about starting over somewhere new. As someone whose life has been uprooted many times before, I felt particularly struck by the Heelers’ conflicted feelings about moving away.

We relocated from Canada to the Netherlands five years ago when our oldest son was just a year old. My husband had been offered a new job opportunity, and we decided to pursue it for a “better life.” I left behind my own career, said to everyone that asked, it’ll be an adventure, and headed to a country I had never been to. It could have all been a mistake. However, it was a risk we were willing to take together.

Through the birth of another child and the uncertainty of a global pandemic, we steadily built our lives again. This spring, we purchased our first home in this new land. We formed new friendships. The kids have settled into their schools. You could say we’ve arrived at a happy ending of sorts.

Restarting my career, however, has proven to be harder than I anticipated. While my husband’s career has flourished since moving, my decision to intentionally pause my own career—a choice I was happy to make to stay home with our children—has been incredibly challenging to get past. As a healthcare professional, my health license must first be approved before I can begin to practice but that process has involved jumping through a million hoops, with no end in sight. My limited proficiency in the Dutch language has also restricted my options. There are times when I question if this move was a mistake. Watching Bandit tell Bluey that their move would mean a better life for them all has made me question whether our own move truly has been better for all of us.

Why is it that some people are happy to stay and others would rather pick up and go? When I was eight, my parents left Korea for the Philippines, and I was forced to say goodbye to extended family and friends, most never to be seen again. After you’ve been uprooted once, it becomes easier to do it again. At 16, I relocated again, this time to Canada for studies, separating myself from my parents and friends. I didn’t know then that it would take 20 years for me to celebrate my birthday with them again.

Eventually I became a citizen, married a Canadian and when job choices became scarce, we chose to uproot ourselves to the Netherlands—the land of my husband’s distant relatives. The week I moved into a 100-year-old house in front of a canal, I felt something shift inside. Whose life was this? How had I arrived at a place so far removed my aging parents and everyone I knew? With each move, I have grown increasingly further away from the future I imagined for myself as a little girl.

I once asked my father how he felt about the pursuit of a “better life” taking us so far away geographically and culturally from our family. My dad replied, “I have been lucky enough.”

Bluey lives in a fictional world that is wonderful and idyllic. She lives in a beautiful home, grows up in a beautiful neighborhood, surrounded by the kindest, most amusing people around. And yet, her father says they must move for a “better life.” I can’t help but wonder if I’ve made a similar choice.

Summers in Vancouver are beautiful—I can picture myself biking over Burrard bridge, the sun shining over the water as the mountains stand tall in the distance. Last night, my son said to me, “I wish I had more English [speaking] friends. I wish grandma and grandpa lived close so they can come over. Last summer we saw my cousins for six days. It felt long but I was so sad when it was time to leave.” His wistful words highlight what we’ve left behind in pursuit for “better.”

Like generations before, we all have a choice to make about staying or leaving, pursuing “better” somewhere else or deciding to find it right where we already are. Some families, like Bluey’s, ultimately decide to stay and others, like mine, take the risk of moving on.

The choice seems impossible. At night, I sometimes feel like I’m floating in the universe, pulled along by outside forces. Then, daybreak comes, the sunlight streams into the kitchen and I feel a sense of connection—to all who came before me.

I am my mother, Chilli and my husband’s immigrant grandparents—all of us shining in our golden cities.