Natalie Lowe has revealed her joy of relocating to her native Australia with her husband James Knibbs and their adorable one-year-old son Jack.
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In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO!, the 11-time ballroom dance champion who moved to London to join Strictly in 2009, reveals the opportunity to relocate was "a blessing in disguise".
Her wish for her parents Patricia and Graham to spend time with their grandson came true at the end of last year when her husband was asked to move to Australia to lead the commercial launch of the business he works for. That initial three-month stay has now been extended to a year.
WATCH: Behind the scenes with Natalie Lowe and her family in Australia
"In my heart, everything happens for a reason and when we were given this opportunity, it was a blessing in disguise," says Natalie. "The way the world is going, you just don't know what the future holds.
"For Jack to be able to have this surf-and-sun lifestyle that I had growing up is incredible. And now this will give him a bit of continuity and consistency by being here for 12 months. It will be such an amazing experience for him. And for us."
Another bonus is that James is still looking after the UK part of the business. "So when we're able, I'm going to be shimmying between two countries I love," she reveals.
Natalie, James and Jack are delighted to be living in Australia
Even though she is very familiar with the long-haul flight to her homeland, the journey in November was unlike anything she had ever experienced.
After 40 hours of travelling via Germany and Japan, the three had to spend 14 days in quarantine, unable to leave their hotel room.
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"It was so strange but also, I'm so impressed with how the Australian Defence Force has handled overseas guests," says Natalie. She and her fellow travellers were escorted from the plane "by people in head-to-toe PPE" then "questioned in great detail by airport officials" before being put on a coach to assigned hotel accommodation in Sydney, which was their home for the next fortnight.
However, all thoughts of being in isolation disappeared when they were eventually reunited with Natalie’s parents.
"My mum and dad have a spring in their step – it has given them a new lease of life," Natalie says. "They came over to the UK for two weeks when Jack was first born and literally the size of my hand. So now to see them meet him, with his little personality, it's been incredible."
It took Jack, who turned one in December, a while to settle in.
"He was on edge, a bit clingy and really sensitive to sound – even if someone just closed a door or sneezed," Natalie says. "But now he is happy and giggling. He looks around as if to say: 'What is this world and who are all these people?' For so long, it's just been James and me."
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