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Laois Abroad: The Abbeyleix girl who headed Down Under and changed her life

Zoe Killeen from Abbeyleix is the latest to feature in our Laois Abroad series

The second instalment of our Laois Abroad series for 2021 is here and a woman from Abbeyleix is up next.

Zoe Killeen packed up her life shortly after her 21st birthday in October 2013 and headed for Brisbane in Australia.

With no degree or qualifications, moving Down Under gave Zoe the chance to start over and battle the anxiety that she suffered growing up.

Despite describing herself as a ‘real home bird’, Zoe stuck it out and now seven years later she has never been happier.

Her story is one of hope and shows people that making a dramatic and scary change – can turn out to be the best thing that you could do.

Where are you originally from and when did you move away?

I am an Abbeyleix girl at heart. I moved away just after turning 21 in October 2013.

How did you end up in Australia?

An ex and I decided to give it a crack. I never got a degree or qualification in Ireland, so I thought I would try to travel instead.

I was always a home bird, and a lot of people expected me back home within a month of leaving! Here I am, seven years later with my dog, cat, beautiful friends that I call family and a gorgeous partner Ed.

What’s the best thing about living abroad?

Usually people say the weather. For me, being able to build a support network, live on my own, move up the ladder in a job without a degree, have all helped me battle my anxiety that I have suffered growing up.

Living abroad allows you to conquer things you never thought you could, and when you do, it is the best feeling in the world.

Have you visited Laois much since you left?

The family hates this question! I have been back once in the seven years, Christmas in 2019 right before Covid-19 hit. There were other factors in my life which only allowed me to visit once.

I went back for around five weeks. I surprised everyone and it was a pretty special moment I will never forget. I will be back again for a visit when all of this blows over please God!

What is the Covid-19 situation like over there (Initial impact, restrictions, death etc)?

Compared to everywhere else in the world, we are very lucky here and on top of things. I honestly have not experienced much in the sense of lockdowns or restrictions thankfully.

The initial impact though was a bit rough, loss of jobs etc, but we are slowly building back to normality – touch wood. Death rates are nothing compared to other countries.

There is still loss of jobs and people are finding it hard to get work, but that is everywhere too.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing that has happened to you on your travels?

When I first started looking for work here, I was not really in tune with the way to go about it. I posted an Ad on a site looking for work.

Anyway, I get this phone call and this guy starts asking me my age, height, hair style etc. Thinking it was odd of course, I was still curious so I asked him what the job was. Turns out it was for a naked house cleaner … I hung up and never posted a job advert again!

What have you learned most since leaving Ireland?

Being around so many different cultures and lifestyles out here, it has taught me that everyone has their struggles, no matter where you are from and how you are brought up.

You learn a lot about different people and how they interact. Also, it has taught me you can never ever be so hard on yourself.

Life goes on, money comes and goes, but making the most of your days is what matters.

Do you meet many people from Ireland or Laois where you’re living now?

I have an amazing group of friends from all over Ireland out here with me and honestly could not be any luckier to have a great bunch of Irish by my side.

I do come across some Irish people on nights out, but my support network out here is from everywhere across the world.

What do you miss most about Ireland?

Of course my family and friends, but more so the things you miss out on. The weddings, birthdays, engagements, pregnancies and being there during the hard times for the people I love.

My greatest fear about being away from home is people forgetting me or thinking that I am not here for them.

I know they love me but sometimes you want to be able to hug them and tell them you are still here. I always need to remind myself we are only phone calls away.

Will you return to live in Laois at some point in the future?

Honestly, right now I cannot see that happening given my circumstances.

I obviously would love to be around my family and my amazing friends who still stand by me regardless of the distance, but I think right now my life is here for now.

Anything else you would like to add?

To anyone out there thinking of travel (when Covid ends) or trying something new no matter what it is, even a hobby, DO IT!

I did not picture myself where I am now, yes it was not easy, I went through times where I thought I couldn’t cope and was close to packing up, but it was SO worth it.

I have grown as a person, won battles I thought I couldn’t, and met people I can’t live without now.

You will go through tough times, even when you get sick you just want your own bed and your family – you get lonely, but it is only for a moment.

If you are from Laois and living abroad please get in contact with us to tell your story.

Anyone who is interested can contact us on any of our social media channels or email us on news@laoistoday.ie.

SEE ALSO – Laois Abroad: From The Heath to the Cayman Islands – life by the beach, GAA and missing a decent pint

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.