Three Days to go!

N.B. This post has been delayed by two weeks!

22nd June 2015

Today was the only time this week where I had the whole day to myself to lay all my worldly possessions across a bed and whittle them down until I could fit them into one backpack.

The backpack I chose was this one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Berghaus-Jalan-65-Womens-Rucksack/dp/B003AM8DGS/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top I believe it’s now been discontinued, which is a shame because it’s really handy for short women as a backpack with wheels. I searched for a while, checking all reviews, and trying other backpacks on in the shops, but I was sold on this one from the start.

One of it’s bonuses is that it has a detachable day bag on the front. The day bag itself could have been made with more compartments and zips but it’s good enough. I easily packed my on board bag with the following items:

Hand luggage

  • Travel pillow – 2 in 1
  • ASUS netbook
  • iPhone
  • USB Stick & 1TB HDD – good supply of films, music and important documents
  • Pebble on the go charger
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Pocket Diary
  • Book
  • Sunglasses
  • Flight socks
  • 1 litre water bag – this brilliant bag comes with a carabiner attached so it can attach to my bag as well as be rolled up when not in use. It also stands up on it’s own when full! What a water holder! https://vapur.us/
  • 1 change of clothes – you never know if your checked in luggage will make it with you!
  • iPod nano
  • Toiletries – lip balm, moisturiser, anti bac, minimal makeup.
  • Tissues – For the tears at the airport!
  • Eyemask
  • Extra set of shoes

Then came the outfit decisions. These started off slightly excessive, then got cut by one jumper, dress, a few tops, shoes, and a pair of jeans. In the end I managed to pack:

  • 3x jackets – waterproof, warm, light
  • 1x light blue jeans (I plan on buying a black pair over there)
  • 1x dark blue cutoffs
  • 3x shorts
  • 4x dresses – 2x smart, 2x casual
  • 3x long sleeved tops – 1x jumper, 1x cardi, 1x light top
  • 4x smart tops
  • 7x casual tops
  • Shoes – 1x trainers, 3x Toms, 2x sandals, 1x flip flops (thongs!)

I think a lot of people will say that I’ve packed too many clothes, but as I’m heading to Oz at the beginning of their Winter, I’ll need more layers, and I also need the mix of smart and casual for the different things I’ll be doing whilst out there.

After getting the clothes right, I could finally ensure that all the other items I’d collated over the months would all fit in ok. Here’s where you’ll REALLY tell me I’ve packed too much!

Luggage

All in all it still comes in at under 20kg which means I’m ok flying on any internal flights whilst I’m over there too.

Other Preparations

Banking – I’ve already set myself up with a Commonwealth Bank account and have organised to pick up my card at one of their Brisbane branches as that’s my first destination. All they ask is that you print off their Welcome letter, and take that along with your passport as proof of identity.

Even though I’m yet to set foot in Oz, I’ve already arranged for some of my savings to go across into my new account. I researched into Transferwise, HiFX, and Currencies Direct for transferring my money without the extra bank charges, and after going back and forth on who to use, I ended up going with Transferwise for my first transaction.

Transferwise were estimating that they’d give me more than the others once converted, but this will always be an estimate as it fluctuates with the current rate. All I had to do was give them my Aussie bank account number and code, tell them how much I wanted transferring, then arranged through my bank to send the funds to their UK bank account. Once they received my money, which was fairly quickly, they could then continue the process of moving their money around and getting me my converted dollars. By the time I reach Brisbane, I should have a healthy amount of money sitting in my account to keep me going hopefully for a few months.

Work – I don’t intend to work straight away as I’ll be helping out at a relative’s for a few weeks, but I have already put feelers out for volunteer work, and found that the local animal sanctuary would like video editors to make some short films on their wildlife. I contacted them the other day and they’ve already replied saying that they’ll see what I could film when in the coming weeks, so that’s exciting!

House Sitting – Over the last few months I’ve been going back and forth as to what to do for accommodation and how long to spend where. As I had no real plans until around Sept-Oct, I finally made the decision to apply to be a house sitter. I looked into all the sites online and www.trustedhousesitters.com seems to have the most activity on it and, if I get enough house sits, it’ll be the cheapest accommodation out there! You have to sign up for either 3 months or a year, and it’s used all over the world. I’ve gone for the yearly signup and am now trying to get my profile top notch so that people will be willing to use me to look after their home and pets. It would be awesome if I could be staying at someone’s place, walking their dog each day, and getting to know different areas along the coast line whilst I do it!

Other than that, I’m saying my goodbyes, hugging my boyfriend as much as possible, and slightly dreading that Thursday morning flight.

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Planning the Big Move!

 With new year’s resolutions come new ways of thinking. Most people plan to be different or make a change, but the majority of us forget these resolutions and go back to how we were. Change is difficult. It’s not easy to break the habit.

For me, this year, I decided to make a change that I can no longer back out of – or at least not very easily. I decided to leave my British life behind and go to Australia.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I have always wanted to work in other countries, and over the last few years become a little addicted to travelling, so after spending most of last year at home waiting for my boyfriend to return from yet another production abroad, I’d had enough being the one holding the fort, and decided 2015 was my year.

I began my destination search by looking up working visas. As a beginning destination for my lifetime away, I wanted somewhere I could easily integrate into. I narrowed it down to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. America was out of the running as I was only able to get a working visa if I was still in education. Canada only allows a small amount of people in each year, and only process requests at certain points of the year. Australia and New Zealand however, are very accepting of British Citizens, and would process my visa at any time and offer up to 23 months on a working visa. So the decision was made. I would start my journey in Australia on a 12 month working visa, and extend it from there if I so wished.

I made a preliminary plan of places to visit. I have a relative in Brisbane, and friends in Sydney and Melbourne, so it was set. I’d start in Brisbane and work my way down the coastline.

Once this decision was made, I applied for the visa, which cost $420AUS. I received confirmation of acceptance in less than 2 weeks. As soon as I was accepted, I started organising my trip.

I began my research by popping into my local STA travel centre. STA are great for tour groups, and handling the details you may not have time to go through yourself, but I must stress, that while they offer ‘the cheapest deals or your money back’, these are not compared with online deals. If you’re still a student, look them up. They’re great for student deals.

After speaking with an STA advisor, I knew that I’d need to sort out the following things for my working holiday:

  • Flight with stopover
  • Comprehensive Travel Insurance
  • Bank Card
  • Phone SIM card
  • Vaccinations

Booking the best flights

STA helped me determine the best time of year to leave. Our summer months are expensive because of the school holidays, and from September onwards is expensive as it’s Australia’s summer, so it seemed best for me to leave in June.

STA had given me a fly cost of £780 to Brisbane with a 3 night stopover in Dubai. I took this information and searched with the following websites:

www.skyscanner.net – I always find the easiest way to search for fluctuating flight costs is by going to sky scanner. On their site you can search for the whole month for your destination airport and be as broad as all airports in the UK, narrow it down to London, or minimise it even further by setting it to your nearest airport only.

From searching on here I narrowed down my dates even further.

www.kayak.co.uk – To ensure I get the best deal I always need to compare it with another site. My favourite comparison site is Kayak as I usually find the exact same flights but a tiny amount cheaper. Every little bit helps, and in this case, a saving of £20 could be a night’s accommodation!

I managed to find flights with Emirates for £740 with the three night Dubai stopover from www.lastminute.com, via Kayak. Once I was paid, I booked my flights and moved onto the next part of the process.

Comprehensive Travel Insurance

When it comes to insurance, it can get very confusing as to who includes what and the things you do and don’t need included. A lot of people will use a price comparison site to compare insurance quotes, but these companies weren’t offering the specifics that some people might need.

For me, I wanted to make sure my insurance covered the following:

  • Stopovers / short trips outside of my destination country i.e. Fiji
  • Passport & cash cover
  • Extension cover
  • Personal Liability Cover

I scoured the internet for people with previous travel experience, and who they suggested getting insurance with. Most suggested were these two sites:

Nomads – www.worldnomads.co.uk

True Travellers – www.truetraveller.com

Yes these companies are a quite a bit more expensive than most, but they’re higher for a reason. I found True Travellers website really helpful, as they had an online chat service to answer any questions I had before going ahead and choosing with them.

As I’m stopping over in Dubai for more than a day before heading onto Brisbane, I wanted to make sure I was covered already, but I was also looking into a mini holiday on the Fijian islands whilst I’m still in the area. True Traveller can cover you for up to 7 days depending on the duration of insurance. Having this on top of my cover for Australia and New Zealand really calmed me as I knew I’d always be covered the entire time I was out there. On top of that, I’d also be able to extend my insurance no matter which country I was extending it from. You’ll find that most of the cheaper insurance companies won’t allow any extensions and require you to return home before taking out any more insurance with them. This is no use to people who have no real plans to return!

During my research with what other backpackers had said about passport and money cover, it was decided that it was worth the minimal extra to cover such an important document and small cash I may have been carrying.

Having never really taken much notice of any previous insurance I’d taken out over the years, I was suddenly made aware of ‘Personal Liability Cover’. This freaked me out. As soon as I read what it was for, I imagined myself accidentally killing someone with a wombat! No one would want that. So this cover immediately became one of my top priorities in my search for the perfect insurance.

Bank Card/Money

You must create a bank account in Oz within the first few weeks of arriving so that you have a tax file number and account to actually get paid into. One of the biggest banks around is the Commonwealth bank, so these generally seem to be the best one to go with for ease of access to money.

I’ve also been introduced to Transferwise by a friend of mine who’s out in Oz already. By using transferwise to move cash from your UK bank account into your Australian account, you’re not losing as much money in the process as you would if you just transferred the cash directly from your British bank.

‘Transferwise converts money at the real mid-market exchange rate’

This is something I’ll be able to report back on better when I’ve used it a bit.

Phone or Sim card

Telstra has the best signal overall in Australia, and that’s VERY important. Australia is HUGE, and you’ll see from this map how vast the areas are without any signal at all.

http://opensignal.com/coverage-maps/Australia/

When I’ve been looking through volunteer listings, I’ve seen a few mentioning whether they have signal or not and they always mention TELSTRA, so this is clearly the best by far, and the one I’ll be buying a sim for.

Having an old iphone 4, I was undecided as to whether it was time for me to buy a new phone with more storage or just stick with what I’ve got and just make sure it’s unlocked for other sim cards. In the end, it just didn’t seem worth turfing out the extra cash for something I already owned that was still working perfectly.

My contract runs out a week after I leave the country so in May I’ll be telling O2 that I’ll be cancelling my contract. As a pay monthly customer I’m able to request for my phone to become unlocked free of charge. I just need to fill in this form:

https://www.o2.co.uk/apps/help/help?qid=1&q1=2&route=unlocking&case=Handset%20Unlocking%20Form

Vaccinations

Last year I’d received my first jab of Hep A, meaning that if I topped it up this year, I’d be covered until 2025. So off I popped to my local Doctor’s for their Saturday morning travel clinic. Each doctor will handle vaccinations differently, and depending on where you live or how much time you have until you travel, you may find it easier to book into a private travel clinic such as Nomad’s.

My local doctor allows you to book an appointment letting them know there and then which countries you will be visiting, and they will order the correct jabs for you. Oz and NZ don’t really need anything, but I wanted my Hep updated so that if I did go onto Fiji, I’d still be covered jab wise.

Planning ahead and organising your vaccinations through your doctor means that you won’t need to pay for anything. There are the more exotic jabs such as yellow fever for example that will require a small charge, but all of these will be minimal compared to a private clinic, so it’s always suggested that you try and sort them with your doctor first.

That’s where I’m at so far! If you think there’s anything else I should be considering, let me know. I’ve made a preliminary packing list which I’ll share soon, then will probably update closer to the time.