During my visit to LA last week (was that only a week ago??), Katherine and I were waiting to order breakfast at a favorite place and started talking to the guy behind us in line. What do you know, he had spent three years living in Australia and had lots to tell me about Sydney. He recommended a few coffee shops and, boom, here I am eating brekkie at one of them.
I didn’t really mean to order a whole breakfast situation, but I needed to kill some time while waiting for a store to open, and the other option was to order takeaway and stand at this curbside counter, which is also kind of cool and nice to have, but not for journaling.
Word-of-mouth is one of my favorite ways to find out cool places to visit in a new city. I also like reading posters and all the little signs on bulletin boards. Now Instagram is helpful too, if you know where to look. I like to read off-the-beaten-path lists and local’s guides, more than say a “Top 10 blah blah blah…” a.k.a. things you usually already know about or know will be crowded with tourists like you. I’ll peruse those, too, and do a little extra research of reading reviews and other websites to see if it’s worth my while.
Here’s a list of things I worried about when I decided to move to Australia, mainly because I might need to consult it later if I ever move anywhere else or if anyone ever asks! It’s more of what I was concerned about before leaving, not getting set up once I actually arrive—that’ll come later!
My car: I went back and forth about whether to keep or sell my car. Since I am only planning to be abroad for a year or less, and I’ve only had this car for about a year, it seemed to make more sense to keep it. I’m also able to store it in my mom’s garage, so that’s a huge plus. I knew the registration would be up for renewal, so I found out that California has a “planned non-operation” option (CA DMV) for $22.
Car insurance: I was planning to cancel my car insurance entirely while it would be in storage, but after talking to the insurance company (progressive.com), I decided to keep limited coverage for $20/month that would cover events like break-ins or weather damage and keep me from paying a fee to reinstate full coverage when I get back.
Health insurance: I expected Australia to be a utopia with free health coverage for everyone, including international travelers, but sadly that is not the case. They do have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with certain countries, but not the US. I purchased a travel health insurance plan with Allianz for $100/month. Not sure I’ll ever end up using it, and I’m sure some people would avoid the cost, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.
An international phone number: Mike helped a lot with this one! Of course, I would need an Australian phone number and plan for jobs, banking, and general life here in Sydney, but I wanted to use my phone from home. I also wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss any calls or texts if someone tried to contact my old number. Mike swooped in to the rescue with two guides to phone plans in Sydney (1 , 2) and I chose Vodafone, because that’s what he chose and I was too lazy to research further. He also sent me a link to Tossable Digits, a service to hold your old number and port any attempts to contact you from your old phone to your new phone. It’s been working well for me.
Money transfers: I came over with about 300 USD in cash in my wallet, which I haven’t used. I’ve been using my credit card (Chase Sapphire) for almost everything and also took out some ATM money using my US debit card. I won’t want to do that for much longer, especially when getting paid or paying rent, so I set up a bank account here, again with Mike’s help. After doing some of my own actual research, I’m using Transferwise to send money from my US bank to the new one here. It seems to take 2-4 days and hopefully will arrive in time before I need to make any security deposits.
*Oh yeah, if you’re wondering, I saved about $12,000 in preparation for this trip (including helpful gifts from friends and family. Thank you!) I’m sure it could be done with less, but I like taking myself out for breakfast and having a bit of a just-in-case cushion. The working holiday visa requires that you have $5,000 in the bank or a departure flight booked, but they didn’t check either of those things upon my arrival. Actually, I just did the electronic check-in and didn’t have to talk to anyone in customs—what a luxury.
Prescriptions: I don’t have much helpful advice on this one. I tried to see my doctor and dentist in LA before leaving. I stopped taking my birth control this summer, so that’s one I may have to figure out here. I ordered four boxes of new contacts, which was kind of hectic and last minute, so just a reminder to make sure to stock up on your valid ‘scripts and maybe bring an e-copy with you.
Apart from what to pack, I think that about covers it. Did I miss anything?