Jazmin Wardlow and Evan Wardlow, a dynamic couple from Los Angeles, have embarked on a remarkable journey to Sydney, Australia. In an interview with Travel Noire, the Wardlows opened up about their experiences as Black expats in Australia.
Jazmin and Evan shared their perspective on their transition to life in Australia and their personal and professional growth as a Black expat couple.
Travel Noire: Can you share your journey from Los Angeles to Sydney? What inspired you to become expats?
Jazmin Wardlow: We’re both from California; went to the same university; both played overseas in different countries, and both probably could say we’d never thought we’d be here together. I was already playing basketball here, and I was playing in Italy. We were engaged at the time and really thought Italy would be the place for us to settle together. However, Australia looked like a much better fit. With soccer, I heard nothing but great things about Australia so I had my eyes set on the Women’s A League 23/24 season. It has worked out beautifully.
Ewan Wardlow: This question definitely has me reminiscing. So many things. With where we are right now, it’s all a blessing. We’re currently on the Central Coast, about an hour up from Sydney. I first gained an interest in playing basketball in Australia when I was in college in 2016. From Santa Clara to Cal State East Bay to Pula, Croatia twice. Once Jaz and I started dating, we talked about finding a place where we could both enjoy our professional athletic careers while building a life together. We’ve done the US, we’ve done Europe, and it had to be down under.
TN: Being a Black Expat can be both exciting and challenging. What are some of the cultural differences you’ve encountered in Australia, and how have you adapted to them?
JW: Driving on the other side of the road was extremely intimidating for me, but I adapted after two months. However, I haven’t gotten used to how slow they drive here and how there are law enforcement cameras everywhere. I’m not used to certain sports being played on TV in restaurants or bars like rugby (no one plays rugby in Cali), netball, Australian footy, and even horse racing (it feels like it’s always on). The slang, vocabulary, [and] dialect is different, but not life-threatening different. Some words that made my eyebrow raise were “keen” and “snag.” In America we have a big hustle, “secure the bag” mentality. I appreciate how Aussies have a very good balance of work and life. I’m not used to the cafes closing at 2/3 p.m. Imagine Starbucks closing at 2 or 3 p.m.
EW: For me, some of the cultural differences have been interesting. There were and still are some things I am getting used to. Some things that stood out to me as different are driving on the opposite side of the road compared to America and paying for gas after you fill up your tank at gas stations. There are rarely places that take tabs, like eating at a pub. You must walk up to order most times at restaurants, as there aren’t just waitresses [or] waiters.
TN: You’re pursuing a career in professional basketball and professional soccer. Can you tell us about your experiences as Black athletes in Australia and how the sports scene compares to what you were accustomed to in the U.S.?
JW: The first time I was the only Black person on my professional team was in Italy, and that was strange. It’s a part of who I am, so it does make me sad when I’m not able to connect with someone culturally from hair, food, music, etc. I believe representation is extremely important because it shows what is possible, so it would be great to see more black female footballers here. There is a gap that still needs to be closed from salaries and resources.
Evan: For me, there were no extreme differences being a Black athlete in Australia. Back in the States, basketball is a predominantly Black sport, so even though it’s not at the same level here in Australia (it’s less), there is still diversity.
TN: What do you enjoy most about living in Sydney, and are there any favorite places you’ve discovered during your time there as a Black Expat couple?
JW: We’re on the Central Coast, about one hour north of Sydney. I love the beauty, the nature from the beach to the trees. Being Californians, we love the beach, so it’s our favorite pastime, and the beaches here are stunning. I also love the people on the Central Coast. Everyone is so warm and friendly, so you get that family feel. We love going to Avoca for the beach. I love grabbing brekkie and shopping along in Long Jetty. One of our favorite spots is Mr. Shas Shas.
EW: I love how laid back and quiet the Central Coast is, especially where we live. Then there’s the weather and the beaches. There haven’t been any crazy hidden gems that I’ve found yet, but between the weather and the beaches, it’s pretty lovely here. We have the occasional rain, lightning, thunder, with a weird orange/purple sky, but nothing out of the ordinary. I did enjoy going to the Melbourne Zoo, as well as the Reptile Park on the Central Coast.
TN: Can you describe the role of sports in your lives as expats? How has it influenced your day-to-day experiences and interactions with the local community?
JW: Most days during the week I’m waking up early and heading to training where we have a 7 a.m. arrival time. The team will either start with a field session or gym depending on the day (how close or far we are to a match). Matches are mostly played on the weekends, and film sessions vary on the day. Because of where the money is financially in women’s football, it’s allowed me to find passions outside of football. So I’ll usually head home or to a cafe after training to run and build my online health and wellness business then do some personal recovery from getting massages, compression boots, contrast between ice bath and hot tub, infrared sauna, etc.
EW: I honestly truly enjoy the role that sports play in our lives. The focus is on working out, taking care of our bodies, and coaching/training kids in skills and the game of basketball. I’ve been able to meet more than a couple of handfuls of people in the local community who have been nothing but helpful and supportive towards me and Jaz. Being a basketball player has definitely helped me meet many different people within the community.
TN: Many people dream of living abroad. What advice would you give to aspiring Black expats who are considering making a similar move and pursuing their passions overseas?
JW: If the opportunity is there, seize it. Don’t overthink; take a leap of faith towards pursuing your dreams, even if it means moving to a new country. Surround yourself with supportive people and embrace the beauty of different cultures. Pursuing your passion is always a wise choice. You want to make a smart and wise decision logistically. But you’re not going to have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed when moving to a different country. I also advise to prepare knowing you might be the only Black person but there’s a lot of beauty in experiencing a different culture. You cannot go wrong pursuing what you love to do.
EW: Do it while you can and enjoy the journey. If you have a dream, go after it and help others along your way as well. If you’re currently not able to because of other priorities, then work to progress and be able to go after what you want. Find a way to build what you want through your effort and dedication. Enjoy the ride along the way; it might be a little bumpy.
This article has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.