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In 2016, James Parnell returned to Dublin with his wife Anne-Marie and three children after 16 years in Sydney. He published several articles in the Irish Times about his experience, appeared on RTE, TodayFM, and Newstalk and participated in Irish Government forums helping emigrants return to Ireland. James contributed to Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project’s recent webinar on returning to Ireland with children.

 James now provides guidance and coaching for those thinking about returning at

 His book – a story and guide for bold movers – is at The following is an excerpt from his book about reintegrating into his new life in Ireland.

Headshot of James Parnell

James Parnell is the founder of A New Dawn in Ireland, and has written and spoken extensively on his experience of emigration and return.

Briskly, I dry myself by the car after an ocean swim.

OK, OK. It was just a dip.

People have corrected me on the term ocean. Here, it is the sea, but I prefer how the word ocean rolls off the tongue. When I say it, I believe I am back in an exotic, warm place. I am sticking with it.

A man approaches and asks in a Dublin accent, “Is the water warm?”

I tell him it depends on what you’re comparing it to – despite my best effort, I still think about Sydney’s Pacific Ocean. We settle on ‘fresh.’

Comparison is the death of happiness.

At its maximum, Dublin’s forbidding water reaches 15 degrees, just shy of the coldest waves rolling onto that stretch of sand that appears in my dreams. It turns out my new friend lives in Seattle. He is 22 years away and still thinks about coming home. Emigrant’s Ache.

It becomes clear these ideas usually arise on Irish holidays – the most dangerous time for rash decisions. Having said that, ours also arrived at such a time, the culmination of months of mulling over it.

I propose that maybe he is not seriously considering it and that it just floats across his consciousness.

In his American-Irish community, they have a name for it – The Question.

‘Would you ever go back?’

He asks if I am glad I returned. The pause lingers. If it is not immediate ‘yes,’ then is it a ‘no?’

In March, 2018, after the longest winter, I had to take a break for some sunshine and mental well-being.

That is not for one minute to suggest I am not happy or that this has been a bad move.

Amazing things have happened and continue to. Beautiful people have come into our lives. I put most of this down to the opposite of settling – not settling.

If I was to give one piece of advice to people worried about being stuck or afraid to make changes it is this. Move. Act, and keep moving.

Do not settle.

Here is what not settling has done in the past couple of years since returning.

I created my own business in corporate wellbeing, performance, and innovation. I coached over 100 people across several companies, both offline and online. I continuously experimented with new services and ideas. I had never written a diary before. Now, I get the opportunity to write for various publications. I still have to try to convince myself – whether true or not – that ‘I am a writer’ so that I will write something, anything – published or not.

I am not a good writer, but I improve by doing it while it helps my mental wellbeing. That is enough for now.

I applied for and completed a government business mentorship programme to help grow my business. I embraced personal development and completed a Diploma in Personal and Business Coaching. I even dined in the Australian ambassador’s house at his first, official function.

I contributed to a book about to be published. I have been interviewed by various radio shows about well-being and being a returning emigrant. I co-founded another company through which I met an amazing and diverse group of people, most of whom are completely different from me.

Each one stretches my mind, my heart, and my soul and raises my level of consciousness.

I am probably fitter, certainly stronger, than ever before.

Those are just on the personal and professional front. On the family side, we plan to take an epic caravan trip around Europe next year. It is too early to say it will happen, but the towbar is on the car and we just bought a caravan.

Update – it did happen!

I am blowing my own trumpet, but, you know, sometimes that is no harm. If this inspires one person to try something they fear, then good enough. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy what you achieve or who you help, even privately. Then, harness the confidence and move on to help someone new.

There have been days that have challenged me. Sometimes, I am defeated. On other days, I win, but every day my character grows. Two steps forward and one step back over a long time will bring you to places you never thought possible.

Like riding a bike, moving is the best way to keep your balance. I feel that way sometimes. Stop and I might fall over. I slow down when I need to take care of myself. Today is one such day – I am rugged up with a cold as winter approaches. I will not overdo it, but I prefer to have a goal to motivate me. Without one, I feel stagnant.

Not settling is my way of settling. Maybe the best way to move back to anywhere is to keep moving forward.


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