There’s a particular terror that you feel when about to uproot your life and move to a foreign country – with no job waiting for you, no apartment lined up, no money in your bank account and no return ticket handy just in case you’ve made a horrible mistake.
Such a terror gripped me as I lay awake the night before my flight to Melbourne.
A new life upheaval
This is a move I briefly alluded to when I left Luang Prabang. While travelling through Southeast Asia for the past year, I started to hear a lot about Australia’s working holiday visa from other backpackers – a programme that allows travellers under 31 to come and work in Australia, moving about the country as they go. The most common jobs are hourly positions like bartending or fruit picking, though I also met people who worked as tour guides or dive instructors.
Listening to the backpackers who had already done the working holiday visa programme, Australia sounded like a utopia: jobs were in abundance, the quality of life was high, and average wages for hourly work hovered around $20/hour – more than enough for a hardworking backpacker to buckle down, work hard, and save up money for the next big adventure. In fact, I met one traveller who had worked on a Tasmanian bee farm with his partner, and together saved $10,000 in one month.
Yeah. Ten grand. ONE MONTH.
The more I thought about it, the more the working holiday visa in Australia seemed an obvious choice. Though I love Asia, after three years I was ready to live somewhere where I blended in, spoke the language, understood what the hell was going on, could get a job and set up a life, and where I could save money for the next big adventure (South America? The Subcontinent? Central Asia?).
Melbourne attracted me the most, after hearing the way people talked up its art scene, liveability, and friendliness. So I applied for the visa while living in Luang Prabang and got it within a week. I told my family and friends, sorted my one-way ticket into Melbourne, and then…did nothing.
To be honest, I was acting pretty cavalier about the impending move to Oz. I didn’t bother looking for an apartment or a job beforehand, because I just, y’know, kinda figured everything would just come together once I landed. After all, this style of scrappy travel, with few plans and a simple trust in the universe, was how I had been living for the past year.
But once the reality of my situation hit, I started to think I hadn’t made the best choices. The day before my flight was the worst. I stayed awake in my hostel bed, restless and a bit freaked out, wondering just what the hell I was thinking having organised nothing outside of a plane ticket before this move. My plan of just landing and winging it suddenly didn’t seem so appealing – after all, the only funds I had left in the world were just enough to cover a month rent & bond on a room in an apartment, plus spending money for about three weeks.
What if I couldn’t find a job? What if I couldn’t find a place to live? What if I couldn’t get my new life in Australia together, and found myself completely broke and alone and stranded on the opposite of the world?!
And so, terror. Sheer, unabating terror.
Arriving in Oz
Now, how did the move to Melbourne actually turn out, you might ask? Did I find myself out of money and out of luck?
Well, no. It’s officially been 3 months since I landed, and…thank you to the universe, the move has gone spectacularly.
First, I have to give credit to Alli Campbell of Illustrated Adventures. I’ve been a massive fan of her blog for more than a year, and right before my move to Melbourne, she sent me a Facebook message asking if I needed a place to stay when I arrived. The effect of this gesture CANNOT be understated – to actually see a friendly face as soon as you arrive in a new country, and have a place to stay for the first few days while you start your job & house search is a serious boon.
By the second day, I was able to hit the ground running: getting an Australian phone number, looking at apartments, and handing out resumes. For those interested in this visa programme, Gumtree is ideal to find housing, and Seek for jobs, though I personally dislike online applications and find talking with someone face-to-face much more effective. In fact, one job I was first offered came from literally walking in the store, talking to the manager, and having an impromptu interview right then and there. The same thing happened for my job in Luang Prabang.
So thankfully, after one week running madly around Melbourne, I’d been offered a place to live and three different jobs.
The terror began to abate.
Well, there’s a couple of reasons I haven’t updated this blog for over three months. One, I’m just a shit blogger (I’m sorry!!). Two, life here has been crazy. I’m working around 60 hours a week in order to save for travel, and my free time is spent out exploring this city. Melbourne has wound up being the absolute perfect choice for me right now – it’s a beautiful city, rife with creativity and art, easy to live in and somehow full of friends-of-friends. There are cafe dates, live music shows, outdoor film festivals, and cheesy bars to go to – and rarely a chance to be bored.
The current plan is that I’ll be living and working in Melbourne until the end of March, when I head off to the creativity retreat in Bali (SO! EXCITED!) After that? No clue. Maybe I’ll spend a month or two visiting Indonesia and Malaysia, or maybe I’ll come back to Melbourne to continue exploring this city. If I want to extend my Australian visa to a second year, I have to work in a rural area for 3 months, so I could also move to Tasmania and go work on a vineyard or farm.
Really, I have no idea what’s in store for the next few months, or which country I’ll be living in by August. For now, I’m just focusing on the present: exploring Melbourne, saving money for travel, and revelling in the uncertainty of where the next road will lead.
And enjoying the feeling of having a brand new home, even if temporary.