Tag Archives: expat life

A Guide to Getting a Work Visa in New Zealand for Americans

How to Get a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand for Americans

SECURING A ONE YEAR WORK VISA DOWN UNDER CAN BE AS EASY AS FILLING OUT AN ONLINE FORM IN 15 MINUTES.

My second installment on how to secure a work visa down under for Americans, this is my New Zealand edition!

Last time, I talked about how easy it can be to get a work visa for Australia, but if you also want to work & travel to that place from The Lord of the Rings, keep reading to see how it’s even easier (and much cheaper!) for New Zealand.

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Thoughts on coming home

When I first left home, I wrote this post the day I left San Diego.

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When I left San Diego on a train taking me to LA, which would be my departure city from the States, I remember watching the sun fade under the canopy of palm trees, and feeling like I knew, at least I was 95% sure, that I was doing what was right and leading myself to where I was meant to be.

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I feel that way again now, but in the opposite direction. I have an underlying notion, a hunch I can’t shake, that my life is meant to be at home right now.

In a month, I’ll be walking on a plane that will take me back to the US. I’ve never felt the ache of homesickness as much as I have since I’ve been in New Zealand.

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There are little reminders, a quote, a picture, little things that come back to me and remind me of a specific memory of home, and I get an ache like I’ve never felt before.

An ache that something is truly missing.

I never thought I was someone who got homesick, but then again, I had never been abroad for (almost) two solid years before, with nothing so much as a visit.

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I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my life has lead me to where I find myself today, and that I’ve had the tenacity to keep myself financially afloat while traveling the world.

But, without a doubt, it’s time for me to see home, at least for a little while.

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It was not an easy feat to leave San Diego behind, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it again very soon.

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The taquerias with the best Mexican food I’ve tried in my life, the sandy beaches that are perfect at anytime of the day, but especially at night when you can look up and see all of the constellations lit up in the sky.

The microbreweries, my college friends, sorority sisters, and Taco Tuesdays, even La Jolla, the slightly snobby suburb of San Diego where I went to school, I spent 5 years of my life there and it still holds a lot of fond memories.

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North Park, with one of the best live music venues and hip bars filled with whiskey, mustaches, and black and white movies. A suburb brimming with art, or at the very least, a unique take on society.

Even with all this love for San Diego, I think it would be hard to move straight back to the last place I left, so I’ve decided to try out a new city. You can bet I’ll be spending my brief time in San Diego to the fullest, and seeing it in a new light I never appreciated when I actually lived there.

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Instead, I’ll be going into unknown territory, probably Portland, Oregon, and bringing my Kiwi boyfriend with me who has never seen the West Coast before.

Portland sign at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at night, Oregon
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I’ve never lived with a boyfriend before now, let alone moved across the world with one, so it’ll be an interesting next year, but one that is sure to be heaps of fun.

He has been planning on coming to North America to explore the craft beer in the US for over a year now, it was actually one of the first things we bonded over when we were still just friends, and now that we’re a couple we’ve decided to plan our trip together, it worked out quite serendipitously.

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There’s also the case of visas and everything that comes with a multicultural relationship, but his dual Canadian citizenship should hopefully help a bit, we won’t know until we actually get to the States.

It may still be up in the air, but we’re just happy to be able to travel with each other, and hopefully he’ll find a sponsored job in a brewery once we arrive in Portland.

With that said, being able to show someone I love where I come from, where I grew up and went to school, my family and friends, it’s a profound feeling of joy, an experience that I’m greatly looking forward to.

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With the unknown bits and bobs that make life interesting, I sometimes feel that I’m more excited than I should be to be coming home. I have had a lot of time to build it up, after all.

Maybe after spending two years of life abroad, I’ve realized how much I appreciate and love where I’m from in sunny laid-back California, but perhaps I’ve been away long enough to sugarcoat it as well. I guess I won’t really know until I’m physically back home.

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Most people dread the thought of having to go home after an extended time abroad, but I guess the difference is that I’m choosing to.

Just imagining seeing the look on my mom’s face when we see each other again, walking the dogs and playing guitar with my dad, going out for Thai food with my stepmom, drinking a beer with my brother, and laughing at another inside joke with my sister while devouring delicious Mexican food. I can’t help but get the feels.

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I guess those thoughts make me think I’m not building it up in the least, that it’ll be just as good as I think it’ll be, as comforting as a steaming plate of mom’s homemade enchiladas.

The reason for this post is to emphasize how important home is to me, and how honored I feel to be able to write about it for you readers as it’s something clearly very dear to my heart.

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Regardless if you’ve never wanted to visit the States, I hope my writings about Hawaii, California, Oregon, and American culture in general will touch you in some way that’ll make you keep coming back.

I’ll be back to the Northern Hemisphere in a month’s time, full of new adventures, plans, and experiences. You can bet I have a lot of further travels planned along the way to keep things interesting.

Near our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

2014: a year of growth

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” – Mary Anne Radmacher

2013, to be sure, was a year to remember. I was constantly doing things and traveling, it was my first year of living abroad and everything was new and exciting.

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2014 was a bit more sedated, focused on slow travel and settling down in one place for awhile.

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2013 was lively and full of new experiences, but I felt burnt out towards the end of it, with so much traveling and the need to start over constantly in new places. 2014, although a nice change from the chaos of the previous year, was mainly a year of growth.

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This year I finally realized how much I miss home and how ready I am to go back, at least for a little while. This year I had a lot of random misfortunes that made me find my humility again and realize that no matter how much you plan, you can never account for aspects that are simply out of your control.

This year I moved up to management in the bar world, worked full-time at one job instead of a couple of part-time jobs at the same time, and learned that I don’t function well with a high level of stress in the workplace.

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I also realized that I’m not quite as ready as I thought I was to settle down right now. After finishing up my time in Sydney, and a jaunt up the East Coast of Australia at the start of this year, I moved to Wellington in April and have been living here ever since.

I was only able to take one trip since I’ve moved to New Zealand, and that trip to Taupo has been the highlight of my time here.

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After jumping head first into the life of a traveler and expat, this year was a time of finding my footing again, a year to ground myself, and tackle whatever I could with what grace I had left to muster.

This year I fell in love. After leaving behind a bruised heart in San Diego, I wasn’t wanting anything of substance for a long time, by the time I arrived in New Zealand I had even convinced myself that I’m better off alone. I saw myself as a better person, friend, and more willing to step outside my comfort zone when I didn’t have anyone else to take into account besides myself.

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Well, somehow I let my guard down along the way and now I find myself living with a boyfriend for the first time, and spending a lot of time with someone else.

It has truly been a year of growth. As someone who is most productive as a loner, it has been a process trying to find a balance in my life between my relationships that I hold dear and my passionate creativity that makes me who I am.

2014, you haven’t always been easy, but I’ve learned a lot from you.

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Here’s my year in review:

January – Byron Bay, Sydney

January started out with a bang, ringing in the new year with my Canadian best friend, dancing to The Roots playing at Falls Fest in Byron Bay. It only seemed to get better from there with the amount of friends and new relationships I made in the month.

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It was about the halfway mark for my time living in Sydney, not too close to the inevitable end date when my visa ended, but enough time under my belt to make me feel really comfortable and happy living in sunny Sydney.

Although I had to get used to humidity, it was almost perfect weather every day in Sydney, with the occasional summer lightning storm.

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I took advantage of all the time off I could with taking a day trip to Manly, and an overnight trip a bit further up north in New South Wales, to see Newcastle and Terrigal.

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I celebrated Australia Day for the first time, and really took the time to explore Aussie culture and the beautiful nature on hand in and around Sydney. I took advantage of the company when a couple of my friends from back home came to visit me in Sydney, and spent a day walking around the Blue Mountains with them.

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“One aspect I’ve grown to love about Sydney is the amount of coastal and scenic walks at your disposal in various neighborhoods. The Bondi to Coogee walk is still a favorite activity of mine. Even though I’ve been here for three months, I still love going out there to write or just enjoy the views.” – Postcard from Manly Scenic Walk

February – Sydney

In February I delved even more into finding the best hiking trails and historical treasures on my days off. This included going to the creepy Cockatoo Island, which used to be a convict prison, and learning more about the rich convict history in Australia. I also spent a day checking out the gorgeous Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park a little ways from the city, and got lost while bushwalking in The Royal National Park.

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“I’m ready for a slightly slower pace and a smaller city to while away my days for the time being. I think it’s easier in a big city to lose the essence of why we’re here to begin with, to enjoy life in the simple yet beautiful ways, withholding judgement as to what that means for some and what it could mean for others.” – Adventures in NSW: Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

March – Sydney, East Coast Australia

My last month in Sydney was a bittersweet one. On one hand I knew I didn’t want to stay in Sydney longterm, but I also wasn’t quite ready to leave yet either.

I found myself wrapping up a romance that was harder to say goodbye to than I thought it would be. I went to my first show at the Sydney Opera House, seeing Yo La Tengo on one of my last nights in the city, and I found it to be the perfect way to say goodbye to my life in Sydney.

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I took off on my own after settling down in Sydney for the last 5 months, and bussed up the East Coast of Australia, all the way up to Cairns. I couchsurfed, stayed in hostels, and tried to sleep on overnight buses as best I could.

I fulfilled my lifelong dream of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I was able to hold a koala and feed a kangaroo, and I tried crocodile, emu, and barracuda for the first time at a traditional Aussie barbie for my last night in the country.

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I left Australia not really knowing what to expect in New Zealand, and not thinking I would spend more than a couple months in the Kiwi capital of Wellington.

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“I know I’m not ready to settle. I’m inspired or not inspired by so many things pulling me in every direction. I think I can be happy everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the delusions of choice my generation and nationality has given to me. It’s the fate of a Gemini and the indecisive spirt I’ve always relied on. I get flashes of the past more often these days, wondering if there’s meaning behind it or if it’s simply the necessary romantics of the road.” – Random musings over an iced lemon croissant

April – Wellington

My first month in New Zealand was filled with trying to start over and get everything sorted for my new life in Kiwi land. I found a job at a craft beer bar my first week in the city, and it only took me a few weeks more to find a cozy little house in the suburb of Newtown to move into.

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I made a good few friends from the hostel I was staying at for my first month, and that was how I first explored all there was to see around Wellington: the waterfront, the cable car and lookout, the botanical gardens, and the first glimpse at my spot in Welly, Mt. Vic.

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The biggest transition for me to get used to was the weather. Coming from a summer in Sydney, it was quite a change when I didn’t see sunlight for the first week and a half I was in Welly, and even then I only had about 2 nice days of weather to enjoy out of my whole first month I was there.

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“Luckily, with the amount of times I have started over in new places this year, I have it down to an art on how to settle into a new city right away. The weather is much much colder than what I’m used to in Australia, I don’t think I’ve even had to wear pants in the last 6 months, but they have Tim Tams here so I think I’ll be just fine.” – My first 36 hours in Wellington

May – Wellington

I used the month of May to settle more into my new life in Wellington, and my new job at The Bruhaus. I went through management training and received my duty manager’s certificate.

I turned 24 and had one of the better birthdays I’ve had abroad with a lot of new friends to spend it with.

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I explored more of my own backyard, and realized with glee just how many hiking trails and beautiful vistas there are to find around the outskirts of Wellington. I went to a lot of bays and beaches around the city, which I think was due to me starting to become genuinely homesick for the beaches back home in California.

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“I’m a fan of simple aspects that happen every day, I call them daily doses of beauty. In my 23rd year, one of my favorite things was to watch the sunset and/or sunrise in every new place I traveled. Each one containing the same structure, but holding a unique awesomeness that never seemed to fade even with how many I witnessed last year.” – Take a moment to enjoy it

June – Wellington

This month was all about work, I stepped up and dived into management head on, there was a noticeable increase in stressful days at the bar. It was also the start of winter, so the weather had grown cold and blustery real quick. Luckily I had recently bought myself a onesie, so I used the weather as an excuse to curl up and read a lot of good books throughout the month.

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I grew closer to my coworkers, and said goodbye to some that were going their own way. I became used to my life in Wellington, I had my own room, a full-time job, and even a guitar and ukulele to keep me happy when I wasn’t working.

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“I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter where you decide to go in New Zealand, you will be rewarded with awesome views and stunning scenery. I’m partial to coastal views especially because of where I grew up, so I’ve recently been drawn to day trips that usually have the word “bay” in them. Luckily with Wellington’s location, you’re spoiled for choice.” – A journey from bay to bay

July – Wellington

July was a month of not a whole lot, to be completely honest. It was the middle of winter now, and I was still saving up like crazy for my travels in the summer.

I celebrated 4th of July for the 3rd time abroad, and decked out the whole bar with American paraphernalia, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my coworkers just as into dressing up as I was. It was also a coworkers birthday on July 5th, so we had quite the epic night.

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Even though the weather wasn’t great, I used my time to explore more of the Wellington region, and went to craft beer classes for funsies. I got together a group of friends and we checked out the quirky mini-golf and paintball industrial playground that is Carlucci Land.

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“That homesickness creeps in sometimes, especially on cold nights like tonight. I think back to those warm San Diego nights, exploring beautiful beaches and eating burritos under the moonlight, swinging on a playground, laughing, trying to pick out constellations on our smartphones, and unaware of where a year and a half later would lead me, and where my heart would be.” – Walkabout: Oriental Bay edition

August – Wellington, Taupo

August was a turning point for my time in New Zealand. On the 1st, me and a group of other coworkers and friends went to a Katchafire concert at a local venue. During the concert, my coworker leaned over and decided to kiss me, and really, the rest was history from there.

My coworker’s name of course was Kendall, my best friend in New Zealand at the time, and a guy who would become my boyfriend in October. That was the start to our romance, and one that has been the highlight to my time abroad.

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August was also the first time I was able to get out of Wellington properly. Me, Kendall, and another coworker, Mats, decided to take a weekend trip to Taupo, and it ended up being a great time in the little mountain town up north.

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We hiked the Tongariro Crossing in the snow with ice axes and crampons, bathed in natural hot springs, and I jumped out of a plane – did I mention, Taupo is considered the skydiving capital of the world? Needless to say, it was a ridiculously good trip, and a weekend that is still one of my favorites of all time in New Zealand.

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The rest of the month was filled up with attending festivals and conventions around Wellington, including the craft beer convention called Beervana, and the stellar Lux: Festival of Lights.

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“In almost a year and a half now, I’ve been blessed with witnessing some of the best street art around this side of the world. I don’t know what it is about cities in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are so many that produce intriguing and talented street artists.” – A look at Taupo through street art

September – Wellington

September was when some of my luck began to change. I severely injured my achilles heel during night adventuring at Mt. Vic with a few of the guys, and it’s an injury that would give me pain and cost me quite a bit of money for the next few months.

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I spent a decent amount of time off work because of my injury, and that’s when I started putting more energy into this blog, and realized that it’s an endeavor I’d like to monetize eventually.

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“These are the adventures that keep me traveling, a little off the radar, a little wacky and random, and a whole lot of awesome.” – Carlucci Land, the industrial fantasy playground of Wellington

October – Wellington

At the start of October, Kendall and I decided to take our romance to a relationship, and we spent a hell of a lot of time together, simply happy in each other’s company.

Halloween was one of the best I’ve had in years. I somehow managed to convince everyone at work to dress up in 1920s bartender zombie wear and makeup that scared more than a few customers.

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Kendall and I also went to a concert later that night, decked out in our zombie get-ups, and we were hilariously the only ones in the building dressed up for Halloween since it’s not so big of a holiday over here, but hey, at least we got a shout out from the band.

We also endured gale force winds on a daily basis as per usual for Wellington, and I realized that I’ll probably never get used to that much wind in my life.

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“If Wellington as a city was a character in the Captain Planet crew, it would most definitely be Linka, the planeteer that possesses the power of wind.” – A hike to the Brooklyn Wind Turbine in Windy Welly

November – Wellington

In November I bought the first car I’ve every owned for my upcoming travels around New Zealand at the end of December and the start of January. Within two weeks, that car was totaled by a drunk driver, and I’m still currently in the long process of waiting to be reimbursed for her reckless decision.

In the short life span of that car, I managed to take a day trip to Cape Palliser to test out my skills of driving on the opposite side of the road, and to see a beautiful place that can only be accessed by car.

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I entered into a beer tasting competition (can you sense a theme here with craft beer?) with a few other friends, and we made it to the top 5 in the competition, and even won a free imperial pint glass for having the best name: “I thought this was a wine tasting…”

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I celebrated Guy Fawkes Day for the first time, a holiday I didn’t even know about until I moved to New Zealand. For the festivities, I witnessed some of the best fireworks I’ve seen in long time, and had some classy drinks with new and old friends over a good view of the harbor.

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I also put on a proper American Thanksgiving for all of my Kiwi friends and made them personalized pumpkin pies and turkey & cranberry sandwiches.

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I went back to exploring more of the Wellington coastline with walking out to the Red Rocks Reserve and getting up close and personal with some male fur seals.

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“I love this area of the Wellington coastline, looking out towards the South Island, it always promises grand views and many bays, no matter what the weather may do that day. It’s also a coastal walk that’s loved by locals and travelers alike, so I’m happy I was finally able to tick it off the list” – Red Rocks and Seals, Oh My!

December – Wellington, Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua

December has basically been a whole lot of getting ready for summer travels around New Zealand. I managed to squeeze together enough money to buy another car, and my friend from back home is about to get on a plane to come visit me. Everything is finally coming together and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

I celebrated my first Kiwi Christmas, and actually had a great holiday with the people I was able to share it with.

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For the remainder of December, I’ll be making the long drive up to the Coromandel Peninsula to check out the famous Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, and driving through Rotorua and Hobbiton on my way back to Wellington for New Year’s Eve.

I’ll be ringing in the New Year in Wellington, and immediately from the 1st of January will be on the road for a couple of weeks. I’d say it’s a good vibe for 2015 if I’m starting out with travel from the beginning.

“And it’s important to note that I’m still incredibly grateful that my life has lead me here. For the friends I’ve made, the relationships I’ve created, and the new culture I’ve grown fond of, I don’t regret moving here for a moment.” – Walkabout: Paraparmumu Edition


I don’t have any idea what type of year 2015 will be, but I already have a lot of exciting plans for the upcoming year so I’ll take that as a good sign.

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So far for 2015, January will be filled with a South Island road trip with one of my best friends from home, February will consist of the remaining travels I have around New Zealand’s North Island, and March will be my last month in the South Pacific.

From March I’ll be traveling to Hawaii, California, and Oregon on an epic West Coast road trip that will end with living in Portland, Oregon for a little while.

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I’ll be posting my goals for the upcoming year in a follow up post, but let’s just say I think I’m well set-up for a good 2015, and a return to my adventurous tendencies.

Hope you all had a great 2014, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

xo

The Atlas Heart

Walkabout across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

As I write this, I’m listening to the song Resolution by Matt Corby, a fact I find fitting for this post as he was one of the first Australian artists I discovered when I first moved to Melbourne. I used to listen to this song every day when I woke up, it reminded me to keep an open mind, an open heart to what I might find out of my time here. To live in the present, and enjoy it to the best of my ability. Two lines specifically always stuck out to me:

“Control your fear. It’s clear that you do not know where you’re going to.”

“Turn around, put it down and see that this is really the place to be. I’m not you, nor you me, but we’re both moving steady.”

I love every lyric in that song, but those two lines quickly became the mantra to my life abroad. If there’s anything I’ve learned from moving abroad, it’s that nothing is guaranteed, nothing lasts forever, and the most bittersweet moments are the ones you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

I’ve been feeling more nostalgic lately about how quickly my time in Australia is flying by. If Americans were able to do a second year visa, I would without a doubt be doing it. The reality is that it’s not a feasible option because of my nationality, and I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do with my life come April.

I have three options I’ve been pondering.

1. Move back to San Diego and resume my life back in Cali. 

2. Move to Oregon and live with my dad outside of Eugene for a bit to be closer to my family and my loving grandma. 

3. Move to New Zealand, do a year visa, and see how life is in Kiwi land. 

And my secret option which I don’t actually admit to because I know it’s very unlikely, to get sponsored by a company in Australia in the field I want to go into (read: music event management). I don’t want to get sponsored in just any field simply so I can stay here, because I also want to progress as a person, and I think I would just see that as putting my life on hold for a little while to extend my time here.

I walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge the other day, and when I looked out over the harbor and out at the Sydney Opera House, it really hit me just how much I’ve come to love Sydney. It was never a place I expected to like, especially after I lived in Melbourne, I was expecting a city that was superficial and slightly boring. And although the city can be superficial in some ways compared to Melbourne, there is so much more to love about Sydney once you get past the surface beauty – a big draw in its own right.

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Melbourne will always have a soft spot in my heart, like a first love, it was my first introduction to Australia, and I still feel like Melbourne gets me in a unique way. However, there’s something soothing to the soul about Sydney. When I walk from Bondi to Coogee, go down to the beach around the corner from my house, or just take in the daily beauty constantly around me, I have this overwhelming feeling that everything is going to be just fine.

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I was walking around Circular Quay, one of the main tourist areas in Sydney, and despite the droves of tourists, I realized how surreal my life sometimes tends to feel here, that I live in as beautiful a place as where I currently reside. I remember looking at the picture travel books when I was little, and seeing the Sydney Opera House, thinking it was a place as far away as a fairy tale, and one that I would never get to.

Who knew that deciding on a whim to move abroad and working towards that goal until I achieved it would lead me to this. However, that surreal feeling is usually followed by the bittersweet reality that I have to leave one day, and how exhausted I am not feeling like I can call a place home.

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When I was walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I thought back to when I was 13 and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my dad at one of my many basketball tournaments in San Francisco. When I think back to where I was at that age, a decade ago now, it’s remarkable the changes I have gone through. From an anxious, hesitant little girl who had no idea what was ahead of her, to where I am today, I hardly recognize that person anymore.

Two serious relationships, one degree, a supportive sorority, 21 countries, countless irreplaceable new experiences, and 7,420 miles away from home later, it was overwhelming what I felt walking over that bridge.

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An exchange between Joel and Clementine from my favorite movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, popped into my head.

Clementine: This is it Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.

Joel: I know.

Clementine: What do we do?

Joel: Enjoy it.

And that’s all we can do, what I plan to do for the rest of my time in Australia, enjoy it. I don’t think I’ll be ready to leave when the time comes, but I’ve already decided if I end up going to grad school, there’s a very good chance it will be in Australia, so I’d like to think that April doesn’t mean goodbye per say, but more along the lines of see ya later, mate.

It’s always important to remember that there are far better things ahead of us then what we leave behind.

As I write this post, this is my view.

I think I’m perfectly happy with living in the moment right now and letting my life take the direction it will. What’s meant to be is meant to be, and sometimes we just have to be content with letting it be.

Today I am thankful to be where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going to.

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy

This is going to be one of those brutally honest posts that I needed to write, not just because writing is therapeutic for me, but also because I think it’s important to document the good and bad sides of moving abroad, especially when you make that leap by yourself.

People never hesitate to tell me how lucky I am that I get to live abroad and travel so much at such a young age, how jealous they are that I was able to just get up and go do exactly what I wanted. And I’m not saying I don’t consider myself incredibly lucky that I was born in as rich of a country as America, and into a middle class family that supported me and allowed me to go to college, and grow into the person I became today, that all this good fortune led me to have the confidence to move abroad on my own. However, moving abroad is not just the bumming around, laying on the beach all day in Australia that most of my friends seem to imagine my life over here to be.

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Some days are ridiculously hard, some days I just want to curl up into a little ball and go back to before I stepped on that plane to Melbourne, some days are overwhelming…I find it hard to catch my breath some days, especially in the last week settling into Sydney. Moving abroad alone is still one of the best things I could’ve done for myself and my character, because if anything, this year has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. I’ve had some unbelievable good times, and new adventures, and I’ve met so many new people that have opened up my perspective and my own goals in life.

Sydney has been a harder move than I thought it would be, and I knew from the get-go it wouldn’t be easy. Perhaps it has to do with how long it has been since a reunion with my one true passion, music & guitar. Perhaps, it’s due to my current living situation in a hostel dorm with three guys. My bunkmate, an Irishman, snores so loudly it shakes the bed, and tends to wake me up at 4 in the morning drunk and acting creepy. Regardless, I am still incredibly thankful I found a job right off the bat, or I would be in dire straits right now, but sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this to myself when I could fly home to San Diego tomorrow and call the last 6 months a good run.

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But then some little bit of serendipity reminds me of why I’m here, a chance encounter with a friendly stranger just when you need it, the best latte you could never find back in the States, being a boss at your job as a bartender, and finally being an expert in Australian beer. I know what I came here to accomplish isn’t finished yet, and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye because I’m as stubborn as they come, and I know I have more good times, perhaps even the best of times, ahead of me in Oz.

I’m officially a little over my halfway mark of my time abroad, and even though I’ve said before I don’t get homesick, more and more these days, and especially on days like today, I just imagine being home with a burrito in hand, watching the waves from my favorite spot on the beach in California, having lunch with my mom and sister at our favorite restaurant, or chatting over a beer with my best friends and old roommates in San Diego.

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The hardest part of my time abroad so far isn’t the uncertainty of my finances, or my housing situation, or diving into a new culture, it’s the relationships with the people I’ve met – romantic, friendship, and work related. I can’t remember a time in the last 6 months where I’ve felt that I 100% belong here, and honestly, why should I? Although Australian culture is similar to American, it’s still nowhere near my upbringing and it’s a country multiple time zones and thousands of miles away from my own.

What I’ve found to be the most disappointing part of moving abroad is that when people learn you’re only going to be here for a year, they a lot of times use it as a reason to treat you as disposable. This was especially evident with a couple of my jobs back in Melbourne that I lost without warning, one a few weeks before I left for Asia and which I was counting on for income. However, if you’re a casual worker in Australia, it’s just business and you’re not supposed to take it personally.

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In terms of friendships, I’ve made some great friends in Melbourne that I look back on fondly, and I still stay in contact with a lot of these people. But again, right before I left for Asia, one of my best guy friends since I first arrived in Melbourne turned into someone I didn’t recognize anymore, and became someone I no longer have contact with.

I’ve realized that on-the-road romances are the worst in terms of feeling like you don’t belong somewhere, because they all inevitably end unless you’re destined to be part of  a cliché romantic comedy, which doesn’t actually pan out in reality. I’ve never been good at casual relationships, I had enough of them in college and I vowed to never go back to that after I graduated, but when you’re abroad, mostly you’re seen as unavailable for anything more than casual because your time isn’t permanent.

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I originally was planning on having this year be my year of singledom, and to only focus on being alone and enjoying my time in Australia. After getting out of a longterm relationship back home it seemed like a reasonable and sensible plan. Of course that idea is harder to put into practice when you’re on the road constantly meeting new and intriguing people, it’s hard not to find romantic connections along the way.

The last decade has shaped a lot of how I live my life today, especially when it comes to  my relationships with people. After losing a grandfather and two separate friends unexpectedly at different times in college, I’ve accepted that nothing in life is permanent. In my mind, it’s best to enjoy the present, and appreciate what you have, instead of waiting on a nonexistent someday. I feel like so many people are waiting for their “real life” to begin, once they graduate, or get married, or they get that big promotion at work, but don’t truly appreciate just being happy in the moment.

But then again, I also understand why that’s not practical for a lot of people, and more often than not, they want solid proof that you’re still going to be there when the day is done.

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After I was feeling a bit run down over a romance in Melbourne that inevitably ended after lasting longer than I thought it would, my roommate comforted me by saying, “you’re doing a lot better at life than you think you are”.  Those are some of the best words someone can say to you, and I’d like to believe that’s true.

Everyone is dealing with their own battle every day, but we’re also our own worst enemy. In reality, when you gain some perspective, you tend to realize you’re doing much better than you think you are. I for one, know I’m incredibly hard on myself sometimes when there’s no need to be. And to be fair, I’ve only been in Sydney for a little over a week, so it’s no wonder I still feel a bit out of place.

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When I moved to Australia, yes it was because I wanted adventure and to try something new, but I think it was also a way to escape from everything I felt wasn’t quite right with my life back home: my relationship, my nonexistent career, and the lack of a clear path of what I wanted to do with my life. What I’ve learned in the last 6 months is that you’re going to find shitty guys, horrible bosses, disillusionment, and still not a clue to what your future entails with your life abroad as well. Lucky you, you can find these things everywhere!

Sadly, there’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.

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Before I left for Asia, I was telling everyone that I was going to try and find sponsorship in Australia to stay for at least another year, or possibly go over to New Zealand to live a year over there. I’m not saying those still aren’t possibilities, but at least today, I feel like I’ll be ready to come home after my year abroad is done. And I think I’ll finally be okay with that when the time comes. Until then, I have summer, music festivals, new friends, finding beautiful places to get lost, good beer, and travel lined up for the next 6 months in Australia, and I’m not backing down now.

As my roommate in San Diego used to say:

When life is rough, just remember, it could be worse…

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Walkabout: Sydney edition

I heard about the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk before I even left California, thanks to the extensive collection of travel bloggers I follow. It was one of the first things I wanted to do whenever I made it to Sydney, and I did just that on a perfect day during my week in Sydney. It’s 6km in distance and it took me about 2 hours to complete, including taking a lot of pictures along the way. There are heaps of cafes, swimming pools, and benches on which to rest your weary legs and take in the view.

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I plan on walking it many more times when I go back to Sydney, it was simply beautiful. I love walks that overload you with daily doses of beauty, and the Bondi to Coogee Walk is one of the most gorgeous I have been on.

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I’ll even go so far as to say that during this walk is when I first started to appreciate how much I love Sydney, partly because it reminded me of my weekly walks to the cliffs in La Jolla, San Diego, partly because of the perfect temperature of the day, and partly because I was grateful to feel right at home in a place across the world from everything I know.

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I don’t think I can truly put into words the impact my year of travel has had on my life as of yet, but it is something profound. I left San Diego a bit bruised and directionless, and I’m not saying that I’ve “found myself” because I believe that’s a lifelong journey in itself, but I am such a stronger and more confident person now than I can ever remember being in the past.

Perhaps that’s what growing up is supposed to feel like, all I know is that the realization of your inner strength is one of the most important discoveries you can make about yourself.

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These were the thoughts that were running through my head as I took in the views on my walkabout from Bondi to Coogee, and mused about my journey around the world this year, and maybe even a more permanent life in Australia. I guess time will only tell if my nomadic heart will ever rest in one place for good, right now I’m happy soaring above all the expectations and judgements, both from myself and others. As always, it’s important sometimes to just be free

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I think my favorite artist, Bon Iver, said it best, “Ain’t this just like the present to be showing up like this?“.

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4 month wrap-up, my life in Melbourne

Although I didn’t travel in Australia as much as I thought I would for my first 4 months, due to a lack of finances and trying to save for my upcoming travels to Southeast Asia, I still have had a hell of a time so far in the land down under. I’ll be coming back to Australia in October, whether I’ll make Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane my home base from there on is still to be determined, but I’m happy to find my way along the ride. There’s always a romantic notion attached with moving abroad, and although it is one of the top experiences I’ve had in my life so far, I think that I’ve come to realize that it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Here are my thoughts on the last 4 months of my life abroad.

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Places Visited

Melbourne,  Victoria

Geelong, Victoria

The Great Ocean Road

The Yarra Valley

Sydney, New South Wales

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Highlights

  • Finding my bartending job at Deja Vu bar. It has been a beacon of light through the turmoil that is casual work in Australia, and my coworkers were some of my first true friends in Melbourne.
  • Celebrating my birthday in a foreign country for the first time, and actually having people to celebrate with after only being here a month.
  • Having my first motorcycle ride at 3 in the morning
  • On-the-road romances. I originally thought this year was going to be my year of being alone, but I’ve found that I go on more dates abroad than I ever did back home. I think it’s the general attitude I hold while abroad, “Well, why not?”. I’m young, free, and single for the first time in a long time. I’ve dated Brits, Italians, Kiwis, and of course, Australians, in the last four months, and those memories and good times are some of the best to look back on when I think of my time in Australia thus far.
  • Making so many close friends in a short span of time. I never thought I would have such a great network of people in my life after only being here for a few months.
  • Having my friend from California come visit me for a few weeks, and being able to show her my love for the city I now call home
  • My first time ever going wine tasting, and being able to see the beautiful region that is the Yarra Valley

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  • Going on one of the best, most epic and hilarious road trips I’ve ever been on, the Great Ocean Road
  • Lucking out with finding my housemate in Melbourne on Gumtree (the Australian version of Craigslist), and immediately becoming best buds. She is the person who is always there when I need advice or simply someone to talk to.
  • The coffee. Once you come to Melbourne, or really, anywhere in Australia, you’ll understand. There is no going back.
  • Going to my first footy game with an Australian, having him explain the rules of AFL, and sharing his love for the game with me.
  • A gorgeous, sunny time in Sydney for my last week in Australia for awhile. I felt right at home, although slightly nostalgic, about the beach culture I found there.

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Lowlights

  • Losing not one, but two of my jobs without any notice, and realizing how poor the casual workforce is treated in Australia.
  • Having the logic board fail in my MacBook Pro, and thus having to use my travel savings to buy a new computer.
  • Getting a call from my mom that my grandmother had a stroke and was in critical condition, and feeling so incredibly helpless being so far away.
  • Waking up to news of the Boston Marathon bombing.
  • Not being able to do the one thing I’ve been looking forward to for about 6 months simply because I didn’t have enough money, hot air ballooning over Melbourne at sunrise (still hoping it will happen when I get back!)
  • Finding out my backpacking backpack was going to cost $700 to send overseas, and thus having to buy a new one in Australia.
  • My budget. Realizing just how expensive it is to live in Australia (even when making Aussie dollars), and that discouraging feeling I get every time I compare my bank account to all I want to do while I’m here.
  • Sending my passport to Sydney for my Vietnam visa, only to find out that my friend sent me the wrong address…don’t worry, it’s back in my safe possession now (I can still go to Asia, yay!)
  • The weather. I didn’t think it would be a big deal living through two back-to-back winters, but I can definitely feel 6 months of winter weather affecting my daily mood, and especially with how cold it has been in Melbourne this winter. I’m ready to feel the sunshine for days on end, and to chase summer to my heart’s content.

What’s Next

I’m flying to Malaysia tomorrow morning, the next two months will be an adventure of a lifetime backpacking through Southeast Asia. Keep checking back, it is sure to be an interesting next few months ahead! And as always, thank you to all my readers for following along on my journey, I appreciate each and every one of you.

Backpacking through Costa Rica at 18

Living the life of an American Abroad

Since the Fourth of July landed on a Thursday this year, I figured I would make my Throwback Thursday post about my first experience celebrating American Independence abroad in Italy, and in general what it means to be an American overseas when we don’t have the best reputation to begin with.

Stereotypes are commonplace in our society. They are an easy way for us to put places and people into organized categories. However, it does seem that Americans have more negative stereotypes than most, and to be fair there are definitely Americans I’ve met on my travels who have made me embarrassed about my nationality and do fit into the worst possible stereotypes, but there are so many more who don’t. That can be said for any nationality stereotype, I’m sure.

I think those who feel animosity and irritation towards the States tend to forget at times that all those judgements are generalizations, and each person you meet no matter what nationality is still going to be their own individual entity.

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There’s an ongoing “joke” that everyone hates Americans. It’s something that I nonchalantly grew up hearing in school in the States, something that I’ve always believed, and used to not really question because it was just a fact of the world. Even now, I still catch myself saying I’m Californian as opposed to American, when I’m abroad and someone asks me where I’m from, as if Californian has less of a negative connotation somehow.

When I was in Italy for American Independence Day, I was a little worried that it would just turn into a trash talking-fest of anti-American sentiment. Instead, there was a huge concert in one of the main piazzas, people were lined up for blocks on end, all in celebration of America. It gave me this gushy feeling of togetherness, like maybe this world isn’t as screwed up as I think it is, and maybe not everyone hates Americans as much as I think they do.

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I can understand the underlying resentments against Americans due to our history, our politics, Bush, our need to get involved in things internationally that we really shouldn’t be sticking our nose into. Our consistent issues with health and obesity, a great amount of plain ignorance, and our general ethnocentric attitude instilled in American society, especially when it comes to reporting world news and understanding what else is going on in the world besides just at home. Oh and of course, our lack of holding valid passports.

With that said, it’s a horrible thing to grow up feeling ashamed of your nationality, feeling that other people want you to be ashamed of calling yourself American. Traveling the world has caused me to face this head on, to take a step back and think of what it really means to be American, and in a way, to try and prove the judgmental naysayers wrong. It’s quite the task when you don’t find that many Americans to begin with on the backpacker trail, and all anyone has to rely on is the negative stereotypes, but I hope I’m proving at least a few of those stereotypes wrong.

Even just the other day I went into a bottle shop in Australia to buy a bottle of wine, and the Australian behind the counter asked me where my accent was from. I told him I was from California, and he replied that I should really tell people I’m from Canada because Australians like Canadians so much better. I get that kind of half joking banter constantly while I travel. Thankfully, I don’t take myself too seriously, so it’s usually just something I accept as I travel, that I just laugh off and make myself numb to, unless it’s said maliciously, in which case there is no way I will let it fly.

It’s an unsettling thing when people attack your nationality, because it’s not something that you should be ashamed of or that you can change. It’s something that you’re stuck with, like your personality, your appearance, and especially for Americans, it’s a part of who you are as a person.  

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When I was in Europe, there were a few cases of anti-American sentiment. One instance in Budapest, an old Hungarian man sneered something about stupid Americans at our group because the Irish girls at the front were talking a bit loud and animatedly. They told him they were Irish, and suddenly his scowl turned into a smile and he said thank god, well Irish is better at least. Me, being the only American in the group, completely quiet and hanging at the back watching all this go down, spoke up and let him know that I was American, thank you very much as I walked past.

What I always remember is that there will always be closed-minded and ignorant people in whatever country you travel, and if they want to categorize millions of people into one negative stereotype than that’s their issue. Although I’m not proud of a lot of aspects of my country’s past, and my nationality is something I’m constantly aware of when traveling abroad, I’m not ashamed to be American.

Now in Australia, it’s my 2nd time celebrating the Fourth overseas, so we’ll see how it pans out. It’s always strange celebrating a national holiday abroad, but as odd as it sounds, experiencing the Fourth of July in Italy changed the way I saw my nationality and how I believe outsiders to view it. It made me proud again to be an American, and to be thankful for my roots, my passion and pride that comes with being a Yank.

My first 36 hours in Melbourne

My first 36 hours in Australia have been wonderful, yet trying and tiring, and full of hilarious fails that I’ll just label as “new experiences.” It started when I got to my apartment and it looked like a closed up store front. The door was locked and the windows looked like they hadn’t seen daylight in months. When I called my housemate, a little panicked that I was given the wrong address or that this place didn’t exist, he instructed me that the actual door to the apartment was just around the corner, the next door down. Phew, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
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I’m living with two Australian guys, who are both chill and friendly, no complaints here. Although, I’m sure it’s going to be quite the difference from living in a house full of sorority girls in San Diego, to a house of Aussie dudes in Melbourne, but I think it’s going to turn out to be a great living situation. I’m already in love with my room.
And today, I met up with a friend of my brothers, an expat who has been living here for the last couple of years, and who spent most of the day showing me around lovely Melbourne.
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Here are a few things I’ve accomplished in my first day and a half in the city.

I learned that you can’t outsmart jet lag

After I was able to have a few precious moments of shut eye on my 13 hour flight from LA to Auckland, NZ, I downed more than one free coffee on the four hour flight to Melbourne. I figured since I was arriving at 10:30am, if I could last the whole day and not go to bed until a regular hour, I could trick my body into not being jet lagged. I tried, I tried my best and I did pretty well. But by 5:00pm, I was passed out and slept for 14 hours straight. To be fair, the 17 hour time difference is a hard one to adjust to.

Went grocery shopping

It’s always strange going grocery shopping in a foreign land, but I think the weirdest thing about Australia is that it almost feels like I’m still back in the States, but in an alternate universe that has different names for everything and does everything opposite in a cool accent. Going grocery shopping, I recognized similar labels on my favorite food products, but it was as if they were all off brand. Of course, they were simply all Aussie brand names that I didn’t recognize, but I could find almost everything I could find back in the States. 
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Learned how to cross the street

This is something I’m still working on with the whole driving on the opposite side of the street thing that’s so popular in Australia. Crossing the street properly is a skill you learn from a very young age, so having the cars coming in the opposite direction you would expect goes against every instinct in my body. Even when looking both ways, there’s always a car that pops out when I’m least expecting it. It doesn’t help that the way you make a right hand turn in Melbourne is to go to the furthest left hand lane and cross multiple lanes of traffic. As I’ve said, cars literally come out of nowhere.

Ordered coffee the wrong way

I’m sure this is a common mistake with Starbucks cultured Americans coming over to the land down under, but they do not use the same names for coffee as we do, at least for the most part. I went into the coffee shop down the street this morning and ordered a black coffee, “a long black, you mean?” said the girl at the counter. “Yes…?” A long black is not American drip coffee, it is a shot of espresso diluted with hot water (kind of like an Americano but with less water). Note to self, study over Aussie coffee names before applying for barista jobs, or ordering any more coffee. 

Opened an Australian Bank Account

I walked into the National Australia Bank (NAB) and opened an account this morning. Recommended by my expat friend, NAB is nice for Americans to use in Australia because they don’t have any hidden fees when opening an account, such as banks like ANZ do, and there is no minimum balance to open an account (especially ideal for unemployed backpackers). If you plan on working at all while in Australia, I would highly recommend opening a bank account. It’s free, and you get your own local debit card so you can avoid all of the nasty international fees banks and credit cards like to charge you.
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Applied for an Australian Tax File Number

This is a necessary thing to have if you want to legally work in Melbourne, as opposed to under the table (which is actually quite common but also usually less pay). I am choosing to have more of an official presence in the Melbourne work force, so I applied for one of these today. The bummer is that I just finished filing my taxes in the States, and apparently the tax day in Australia is in June, so I have to go through all of that fun again. 

Bought a local SIM card for my phone

Telstra is the recommended carrier in Australia because they have the best coverage, they are basically the Verizon of Australia. So I went into a Telstra store today and for a measly $30 a month, I have a plan that will let me text/call locally to my heart’s desire. And I officially have an Australian phone number, I’d like to think that makes me a semi-local.IMG_3493

Learned how to use the extensive tram network in Melbourne

Maybe I haven’t learned all the ins and outs, routes and timetables like I have in San Diego, but I at least know how to get from my apartment in Port Melbourne to the center of the city (CBD) on the tram. It only takes about 10 minutes. And I also learned that the Metro card in Melbourne is called a “Myki”, and that you’re able to re-load it online as well as at any local convenience store (they have 7-11s here!)

Went sightseeing in the CBD

My expat friend Eric spent most of the morning and afternoon teaching me the ins and outs of Aussie life, and showed me around the major sights in the CBD. According to him, Melbourne is almost exactly like San Francisco, just without all the trash and hobos. I couldn’t agree more. Melbourne is an incredibly clean and safe city, especially when it comes to the public transit. I was able to eat at the Queen Victoria Market, sit at Federation Square, walk by Flinders St. Station, walk through the famous street art at Hosier Lane, and my personal favorite, go inside the State Library of Victoria. I’m also pretty sure I saw Mr. Bean, or at least a pretty sweet look-alike, as I was walking along the Yarra river this afternoon.
I’m sill adjusting and getting used to the subtle differences that Australia has to offer. I was confused when I woke up this morning and heard multiple Australian accents outside my window. I still have to pinch myself from time to time and realize that I’m actually here. That I’ve made the leap and traveled thousands of miles from home to have an unforgettable experience in Australia, but I’m enjoying every minute of it while it lasts.