A County Down Under and sunrise social: How Caroline McKenna hit the global trends

A Northern Ireland woman has spoken of how a 15 minute "rant" transformed her life.

Caroline McKenna is behind A County Down Under, one of the world's top podcasts.

On it, the teacher has been detailing her move, work, social and personal life on moving from Co Down to Australia for almost three years.

She is also behind the 'Social Sunrise' trend which sees people gather around the world to see a new day break.

"I never saw any of this coming," she says, "I moved to Sydney, to Australia, I planned to only be here for six months and it has been seven years.

"I came through the pandemic when I was locked away from my family in Ireland - just like so many others and couldn't get home and decided to look on social media and podcasts for people who were struggling living abroad and struggled to find content anywhere so decided to do a podcast."

Caroline had no experience of producing podcasts. She bought a microphone and with the help of her students learned how to record.

"I never thought anyone would listen but I just went on this little rant for 15 minutes of how we show these picture perfect lives of living abroad and sometimes it is really hard.

"Those 15 minutes changed my life."

Caroline's more than 125,000 followers have come to know her closely. As well as talking about her experience of living abroad, she also opens up on her personal life. She decided to leave Northern Ireland because of a lack of teaching opportunities.

"It is only when you have all those people in front of you you see [how big a number it is].

"I was in Croke Park with my dad and I looked around and there was 80,000 people... that's less than the following I have.

"So it makes you cautious on what you do post. I am very humble about it, I do not see it as fame, I don't call myself a blogger. I am teacher and that's my passion.

"I use my platform to try and spread my message of positivity and promote positive mental health.

"It is easy to get caught up in it all. When I got my first 10,000 followers I though it was cool and started treating people different.

"It takes a few knock backs to realise that kind of lifestyle can all go within a minute. What I am trying to create is everlasting and something that will leave a legacy for ex-pats to know there is somewhere they can go."

Caroline, who works at an all-girls' private school, said she "followed her heart" in deciding to move to Australia. She revealed that relationship had broken down on her social media channels.

"It was really tough," she added.

"We were together for four years. A life in Australia moves really quickly... four years can seem like a lifetime. There was no handbook on dealing with a break-up abroad.

"I could find all of the podcasts on dealing with a break-up. But when it came to being abroad your whole life was living with this person and you are living together... you can't just take a break, go to your parents down the road until you figure it out.

"You are on the other side of the world, on your own and you have to figure it out, start again.

"That was a rock bottom moment... it was easy just to get on a flight... but my heart remained in Australia, knowing the opportunities that I had.

"That was one of the reasons I started a podcast, to be that person that I looked for on those social media platforms that I just couldn't find. I was looking at these picture perfect lives, these Irish girls going out to Sydney with the perfect relationship and never showing any of the struggles and I thought 'why is my life not like that?'.

"But the thing is we are not always honest on social media a lot of the time and we only show our highlights. So I thought it was time to break the system and start being real."

While hitting trends can bring many new likes and followers, there is also a dark side to social media.

Just before a dinner with her mum, Caroline checked her phone to see some negative feedback to one of her videos.

"Someone had sent a message just basically saying you are a dose... for the next three or four days I didn't want to do anything, I started questioning who I was... I felt everyone was laughing at me after that I took a break from social media for a month."

Over the coming weeks UTV is hosting a special digital series on some of the top Northern Ireland influencers. Just follow UTV News.

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