What happens next?

Since arriving back in the UK after 8 months abroad I’ve struggled to fit back in. Probably because I wasn’t ready to, and I’m still not! Last year I began my journey in Australia, spent Christmas and New Years on an island in Fiji, campervanned around New Zealand, had a guided tour around Sri Lanka, and spent my last weekend away in Dubai, UAE.

Writing it all down like that, it comes out like quite a long list for 8 months away, but since getting back all I’ve done is miss the sunshine. I’m one of those people who thrives on sunlight and find myself in a depressive pit during the dark winter months. Therefore I’ve always felt that I’d find life a lot easier if I was based in a warmer climate.

My head’s currently all over the place and changing it’s mind every day, but I know that these thoughts aren’t fleeting, I have always wanted to do the following, it’s just choosing when to do them.

Work in America – Like Australia, I’ve always looked at the size of America and felt that to see it all I would need to work there. For some reason the USA doesn’t look too kindly on Brits going over to ‘New England’ to work, and make it slightly difficult to gain a working visa. I am however working on this, and have been on and off for many years. If I can get a visa to work in America, I can continue in my current career in LA, something I don’t feel comfortable doing in London anymore.

Work in Dubai – I’ve been to Dubai at least once a year for the last 6 years that my friends have lived there. Every time I go there I have a great time and love the humidity (I still haven’t been there in midsummer when you can’t even leave the house). Considering I’m a country bumpkin, I actually like the idea of living in a city of sand and coloured lights. Slipping on marble footpaths, and having the world’s largest mall as your local shopping centre sounds fun, at least for a little while. Dubai, however, will be a bit more difficult for me to work in. I probably wouldn’t want to work in my chosen career there, but I would happily have an office job, just to live the lifestyle for a little while.

Learn Italian in Italy – Many years ago, when I was a child, I made a deal with an Italian friend of my family’s that I would stay with her for 3 months and learn Italian, live the Italian lifestyle. Then, 10 years ago, she died suddenly with heart problems. This spurred me on to keep my promise and make it that I’d learn Italian whilst living in the country.
I’d planned on doing this on my way back from Oz but since arriving back home and contacting Italian schools, I feel that this is one thing I could do a lot later on in life. Sure, the idea of living in Italy sounds great. I’d get fat on pasta, pizza, pastries and the like, but then I’d be fat, and that’s one thing I don’t plan on doing until I’m a lot older!

Hopefully one of these will become a reality in the next few months and I can write all about it!

How I came to appreciate the UK again

During my travels I saw many sights and met many people from all different kinds of backgrounds. As I reached my final destination, back in the UK, I had learnt one very simple but important thing:

No matter where you go, the story’s always the same.

In each country across the world there will always be someone moaning about:

  • Immigrants
  • House/Rental prices and ‘foreigners’ buying them
  • Big companies buying up all the produce/land and hiking up the cost of food

It’s sad, but it’s true. As human beings, we can’t all get along and agree on the exact same thing; that’s what makes us human!

In learning that the rest of the world appears to have the same issues as home, I started looking at what the UK has, to appreciate it once again.

Free Healthcare – The NHS gets a bad rep, mostly by Conservatives, but if we didn’t have the NHS I don’t know how we’d survive. Over the years I’ve needed them for surgery, check-ups, injections etc. and although you get the occasional hiccup with waiting times, I’ve always felt looked after.

Food – We have such a large variety of food here in the UK. Not only do we have amazing restaurants bringing us cuisines from all over the world, but we also have great variety in our supermarkets.
I found Australia’s shops missing a lot of items which I thought were staple products, and their curries were nothing but heartburn to me. In Dubai however, they appear to have everything, and they have it beautifully presented. I’m always amazed at how neatly the fruit is stacked whenever I shop at Waitrose in Dubai Mall.
When you reach places like a remote island in Fiji you’re once again reminded of the ‘Western World’ we live in in the UK, and the amazing choice we get. For 10 days straight we were fed whatever the local fishermen had caught, and at some points the chefs struggled as it was the stormy season and no boats could come near us. Our fruit plates became banana plates, and the main courses diminished in size. Being based in the UK we have all of Europe growing fruit and veg, and we even have the specialised shops offering (highly priced) imported foods from America or China.

The BBC – Whilst living in Oz I couldn’t watch BBC TV over the net because I wasn’t in the UK. When I went on the BBC news website whilst in Oz, it was filled with adverts. When you’re in the UK looking at these things there are no adverts allowed as it is funded by us, the people of the UK. Other channels and countries have to have adverts all over their stuff to make money. I’m happy to pay for the Beeb as it’s given me Attenborough, Sherlock, as well as many classic TV comedies such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses. Now who can compete with that?!

The Countryside – I grew up in the countryside but have spent the last 10 years based in cities, rarely stepping out into a woodland or field. Over this time I completely forgot the fact that the UK is still at least 80% countryside.
When we drove around New Zealand I was amazed at how much was untouched. In the entire country there are only a few places heavily built on, the rest was just little towns or villages surrounded by mountains or lakes. It was stunning but also similar to the views of Britain. So as our plane flew in circles coming into land at Gatwick, I looked out at the land below and took in the fields and trees I’d forgotten about for so long. Now I’m back, I plan on seeing the country I grew up in.


We may all have the same problems of mass corporations buying everything out and hiking the prices, people buying out all the properties to invest and make more money, and an ever-increasing population from both immigrants and procreation, but the point is we ALL have that, and we’re ALL just people. If we can learn to respect one another and accept what’s going on around us (to an extent), then we will find a happiness within ourselves. I’m still working on this one but at least I’ve come to appreciate the land I grew up in and all it has to offer.

What’s still to come…

It’s now the end of September and I’ve been away from home for 3 months. In this time I’ve travelled to a few places but my original plans of always being on the move and seeing different sights were soon scuppered when I realised I didn’t want to see such things without my boyfriend.

When I first reached Brisbane I began an in-depth look into where to go down the East Coast and how to do it. An agency contacted me and suggested they plan it for me and after taking one look at their itinerary, I knew that I couldn’t have experiences like sailing around the Whitsundays or driving around Fraser Island without him in tow.

This led to a dilemma. I’d been in the country one week and already my journey had ground to a halt. My boyfriend is unable to travel out here until the end of November so I have 5 months in total before he arrives and we can start our epic journey together.

In coming to this realisation I had to re-think all my plans and ideas of how this trip was going to play out and work out how to keep going for all that time without it being seen as a waste.

As you may know from previous posts, I’m filling the majority of my time in Sydney; working and seeing all that I can on the weekends. When I’m not working (and mostly when I was house sitting), I’m planning our future adventures that we can go on together.

During the month of August I had little to do but keep some beautiful animals alive whilst house sitting in Townsville. This gave me the opportunity to organise our ’round the world’ flights and set dates for each location. After (what we thought was) careful planning, we felt that we’d budgeted enough and could do the following:

  • 3 weeks down the East Coast
  • 10 days in Fiji
  • 3 weeks in New Zealand
  • 3 weeks in Sri Lanka
  • A weekend in Dubai on our way back to the UK

So we booked our flights and set about organising the bits in between. My lovely agent from Peter Pan who’d already sent me an itinerary prior when it was just me looking, had now updated the trip details and given me an itinerary for the both of us – that was EC sorted.

Fiji was also fairly easy to organise. I did my research and learnt about each group of islands. I wanted peace and quiet away from the backpacking crowds, and somewhere close to good dive spots for my boyfriend. I found this website to be a brilliant source of information. Not only did it teach me about all the island groups, it also contains a brilliant search engine for accommodation. After settling on Kadavu island it was then a very small list of resorts to email and find out about Christmas specials. We chose Mai Dive which has nothing but 5 star reviews since 2011 and looks gorgeous.

My sister’s a travel counsellor, so she sent me across a 3 week itinerary of self drive New Zealand which was perfect. Next all we needed to sort was the camper which we found using a comparison site, then we downloaded a few apps which show you where you can park for free or fairly cheaply.

Having not used the app whilst in NZ yet, I can’t comment on how useful they are, but in preparation we’ve downloaded the Camping NZ and Happy Campers apps which both do pretty much the same thing. Camping NZ appears to be more useful as it allows you to download full maps, and I doubt we’ll have much signal while we’re there!

Sri Lanka is the bit we’re still working on but also the cheapest part of our trip. It’s expected that you can spend less than £50 a day in Sri Lanka, staying in the best hotels. Yes you can do it for less, but that could include accommodation with a toilet that’s never been cleaned (hygiene isn’t at the top of their priority list in SL) and possible hellish trips using their buses with no timetables. I’m not much of a camper so I couldn’t see myself surviving three weeks in camp-like hotel rooms.

Upon going through all these destinations it was soon evident that I’d need to cut back. Any plans of epic trips to Darwin and down the West Coast were closed off, and I am now living a true Aussie life, working a 9-5 and paying rent.

That’s not a bad thing though! I’ve always wanted to work in a foreign country, so I’m happy to be here and very happy to have work. It just means that from now until the middle of November, my travels will be limited to the streets of Sydney and beaches of the Northern Shores. It could be worse!

#JustDoIt

I’ve been told that I try to do everything now, that I need to slow down, and to hold off things until I’m older. But what I’ve always thought was…

‘What if I don’t get any older?

People try to save money all their life, intending to use it when they’re retired, then they find they’re not as nimble as they once were and can’t visit places they’ve been waiting to go to all their life.

Then there are the ‘off-putters’. The ones who say that now isn’t quite the right time for them. They may be waiting on a raise at work, or trying to raise a family. Either way they feel that whilst they’re doing one of those things, they can’t do much else. These people will never find the right time.

I was one of those people, and it was while I was walking around The Forum in Rome that I realised my mother was already at a point in her life where some traverses may be too difficult for her. As I scaled hills and hopped over relics in the sweltering heat, I could imagine my mother asking for a coffee break whilst trying to find a nice shady tree. She’s been retired for nine years, and in that time has taken every opportunity to travel. Most destinations aren’t too laborious, but she now has her sights set on Machu Picchu, a tricky place to:

a) Get to

b) Breathe at

I’m a firm believer that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. I’m also a firm believer of thinking outside of the box, and when people tell me you can’t just go off travelling the world after spending so many years forging a career path, I say yes you can! It’s difficult, and it certainly takes guts, but if it builds you more as a person, then it’s worthwhile.

The Ever Evolving Pack List

The Pack List

Getting your pack list prepared well in advance of setting off is probably one of the best things you can do right from the off. I made my decision to leave the country back in January, and since February I’ve been updating a pack list and purchasing items from the list as I go.

So far I’ve come up with the below. I’m yet to decide on clothing, so that will come into it closer to the date.

  • Clothes and Shoes
  • First Aid & Prescriptions – Make sure you stock up on any prescriptions you may need before leaving as the county you’re going to might not have the same kind of cost/service as your own. Australia’s healthcare is notoriously expensive so I’m hoarding whatever I can before I go.
  • eReader & books – I’ve got hundreds of ebooks already stored on my eReader, and currently plan to take one or two paperbacks with me for the beach
  • Phone
  • Chargers – Mostly usb cables to fit into my plug charger
  • Netbook
  • Passport, vaccination book, I.D.
  • Insurance and Visa Documents
  • Travel Pillow – I looked into the best one to choose and decided that a 2 in 1 would be good, with a loop to attach it to my bag. In the end I went with this one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007REVRGI
  • Ziploc bags – Great for keeping belongings dry and away from creepy spiders!
  • Microfibre Towel – Light and dries quickly. I chose this two pack so my boyfriend had one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00OXS67M0
  • Number padlock – I chose this one for a colour to stand out from the crowd, and ALWAYS chose a number one ‘cause it’s no good have a key padlock then losing the key for it… http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003KIUKMC
  • Ipod – My phone doesn’t have enough space for music (it’s kinda old!), so I decided to buy a 2nd hand ipod nano. That way I have music on the go, but can also change it every so often with my external hard drive of music and my netbook. I went for a 7th generation nano from ebay. I found that if it’s an auction finishing midweek you’re more likely to get a slight price reduction to the auctions finishing on the weekend. I managed to get mine for £65.
  • Make up & Remover
  • Nail Clippers
  • Hairbrush
  • Adapters – 2 should be suffice
  • Toothbrush & Paste
  • Shaver
  • Travel Guides – I’ve read through the guides already so might just write up notes from these/take pictures, and leave them behind.
  • Notebook & Pen – Always good to have a pen handy, but I might leave the notebook.
  • Moisturiser
  • Camera & SD Card
  • Travel Money – Just to start me off. I should have a bank card soon after getting there.
  • Sewing Kit – Something many people have said would be useful to have but I might just leave.

What’s missing? I’ll be revising the list again at the end of May.

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.