mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Australia Bay Area Personal

Seven Year Itch

In a nutshell: After a lot of angst, back-and-forth, and false starts, we’re moving back to Melbourne next month, seven years and a few days after we arrived in San Francisco. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows us well, although many of our Australian friends have expressed that they won’t really believe it until we step off the plane.

The Long Story

In late 1999, Anitra and I were living in Australia, and I was working for Merrill Lynch and really getting into Web caching. When Peter Danzig offered me a job at Akamai — the hottest Web caching startup then or since — we thought “hey, there might be some money in that,” and took it.

We had already planned a trip to Europe for a friend’s wedding, so two days after we got back, I got on a plane and flew to SFO to start working in a place called San Mateo, California. Anitra followed a few weeks later; we expected to save some cash and move back to Australia in about two years, tops.

That didn’t quite work out, but we were having fun and liked living in the Bay area, settling in one of the best small towns in America, Burlingame. I started working at BEA, we had one and then another son, and life was good.

Like they say, though, all good things must come to an end. Burlingame is a great place to live, but the Bay area is also very expensive; a house you’d want to live in ends up costing somewhere north of a million dollars, and that doesn’t guarantee that the school your kid goes to will be good.

Moreover, once Charlie got to a certain age, we started thinking hard about where we wanted him and his brother to grow up. While we’ve made lots of great friends in the Bay area, it’s a very transient area; most people don’t stay here in the long term. There also tends to be a culture of work-and-nothing-else here (probably because the cost of living is so high) that isn’t good for a family.

In short, we’re making the decision that we’ve seen many others make; to raise their family elsewhere. We’re just going a little further than Portland or New Mexico.


So, we’re both excited and scared. Excited because we’ve always considered Melbourne our home; we have lots of friends and family there, and it’s one of the most cosmopolitan, young and community-oriented cities in the world, and it’s consistently ranked as one of the most liveable.

It’s scary because it’s such a big change; we’ve become very comfortable in California, and know how things work here. We know we’re going to miss Trader Joe’s, for example, and we won’t be able to hop off to Half Moon Bay at a moment’s notice any more. We know we’ll miss our friends; Hugo, for one, just got here, and we’re already leaving! Luckily, it looks like I’ll still be seeing him a fair bit.

We were prepared to go without jobs — mostly because the Australian school year starts in January, and we didn’t want to move Charlie halfway through — but Yahoo!’s Media Group is being very accommodating by allowing me to work from there, coming back to the mother ship a few times a year. Anitra’s employer — the Academy of Art University — is also trying to accommodate her in some fashion as well, so it looks like we’re set for the time being. Of course, we won’t know if it’s really working until we’re already down there, and that’s the scary part.

We’re going to be very busy for the next month or two; although most of the groundwork is laid, moving countries is never easy, and with children it’s doubly complex. I’ll post updates as I can.

P.S. Anybody want a cat?


Paul Downey said:

Wow! Having seen you in-situ in-mel-bun I can totally understand the move and I’m a little jealous. Great that you’ll still be with Yahoo! Congratulations and good luck to you all!

Wednesday, November 15 2006 at 10:44 AM

Glen said:

Congratulations, Mark! Your love for the place was abundantly clear when we were down there in 05, and I’m glad you finally decided to go for it. Best to the whole family; we here stateside will both miss you and look forward to ringing you up when in the neighborhood. :)

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 2:04 AM

karl said:

good on ya! Melbourne is indeed a very good city.

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 2:13 AM

Steve Winkler said:

Nice! I know that’s where you were hoping to end up. Congratulations on making it so!

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 7:20 AM

James Snell said:

Good luck with the move. With yet another person I know heading off to Australia I think the itinerary is already planned out when my wife and I head out that way in a few years for vacation. Of course, I’m not sure my wife is going to take too well to the thought of spending a couple of weeks going around visiting all my Geek friends.

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 7:27 AM

Mark Baker said:

Congratulations Mark - a brave move, and the right one for your family by the sounds of it. Kudos to Yahoo for being so accomodating.

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 8:43 AM

Dave Orchard said:

Congrats on the decision! I think that’s a great idea and long-term you will be much happier. We’ve made the same choice and so we completely understand. Though your commute to the mothership will be longer than mine :-)

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 10:14 AM

Dean Jackson said:

Crikey, we’re really going to have to investigate our immigration laws. I thought we’d managed to route everyone off to south pacific “processing facilities”.

Maybe once they heard you pronounce Melbourne correctly they figured you were better than the average Seppo.

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 11:44 AM

Yaron said:

I’m so jealous I could spit! Good luck and I intend to impose as often as I can manage! :)

Thursday, November 16 2006 at 12:53 PM

Stefan Eissing said:

All the best with the move and the repatriation!

At least I can read your posts on the same day then. ;-)

Friday, November 17 2006 at 2:09 AM

Anthony Baxter said:

Congratulations! You’ve been considering the move for a while now. Look forward to having you back here, and finally meeting the little ones.

Friday, November 17 2006 at 5:12 AM

Justin S said:

Congratulations on the big jump back, Mark.

It’s good to hear that Yahoo is being accomodating and helpful.

Friday, November 17 2006 at 7:11 AM

Lance Lavandowska said:

Beautiful cat! Maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention, but Male/Female? Neutered? I’d be happy to care for him (?) but you’d have to arrange to get him to Minnesota.

Friday, November 17 2006 at 8:05 AM

ian said:

All the very best with the move Mark, sorry to see you go but hopefully you’ll be back often enough for us to catch up once in a while!

Sunday, November 19 2006 at 11:36 AM

Geoff Halprin said:

Yay! It’ll be a little more convenient to catch up for /real/ coffee. :-)

Monday, November 20 2006 at 4:25 AM

Adrian Chadd said:

Welcome back! It’ll be easier to catch up with you now.

Thursday, November 30 2006 at 9:23 AM