11th November 2014
Stepping off the plane at your destination can sometimes be the most daunting part of the trip, particularly if you’re arriving in a place you’ve never been before and when you’re travelling solo. Arriving at Kyoto airport recently on my own, being confronted with a million signs in Japanese and not really able to get my hands on someone who spoke English could have been a scary disaster, but with a few steps before leaving Hong Kong I was able to make sure that everything went smoothly and to plan – even when it didn’t go to plan at first!
DO YOU HAVE?
1. Currency of your destination
About 5 years ago when I was living in London I went to meet friends in New York, and after arriving at a deserted JFK airport at 2am, I realised I didn’t have any US dollars, and when I tried to get money out of the ATM my cards all got blocked by the bank, and when I tried to use my phone I found it wasn’t on the right band and it didn’t work either. If it wasn’t for the kindness of a shuttle bus driver who let me get on and pay him when I got to my hotel (lucky my friends were there!) it would have been one cold, creepy night on the steps of the arrivals hall. Needless to say since then I always always get the currency of my destination out at home, and fair amount so I have options in case on an emergency. I also always carry a few hundred US dollars in my passport wallet, as most people recognise that currency if you’re really in a bind.
2. Printed Hotel information
Ok so this is probably an obviously one to but printing your hotel/accommodation information (address, phone etc) prior to leaving home is key to piece of mind, and you’ll use it way more than you think. Don’t rely on your phone to show you the way, phones get lost/lose battery/stop working.
3. Options for getting to your accommodation
Naturally most of us take a look at the best way to get from the airport to our accommodation, but researching for a few different options, such as which shuttle, train, or car to take in case your first choice isn’t available. Even though hotel transfers can be expensive, if you’re particularly concerned about the place you’re going or how you will handle getting to the hotel, they’re not a bad thing to splurge on. You can always cut costs later on in the trip once you have your bearings.
4. Charged Devices
Arriving with a phone that works (and with a good amount of charge) is key in the event something happens and you need to check in with your hotel, friends or family (hopefully not but, the emergency services). One way is to keep your phone/laptop charger in your bag instead of your luggage, as some planes have plugs you can use (but you’ll need an adaptor if the airline isn’t based in your region). If not, make sure your phone is turned off completely while you’re on the plane. I also like to make sure my laptop is fully charged and then switch off when I get on the plane, because worst comes to worst I can charge my phone using my laptop.
5. The right Visas
There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination only to find that you’ve forgotten to get the right Visa. Sometimes you’ll be able to get a visa on arrival, however this is rarely an efficient undertaking when it comes to time. Always make sure to check what Visas you need before you travel!
6. Let your bank know you’re travelling
Ok so this can be annoying and tedious, but everytime I don’t let my bank know I’m travelling they inevitably block all my cards, so that I’m stuck in the middle of a city without access to money. Not such a major issue when you’re travelling with friends, but if you’re on your own you really can’t risk it. Once quick call has saved me mountains of time in the past!
Anything else you guys think is essential to a stress free (and safe) flight arrival?
27th October 2014
You’ve arrived! Congratulations for making it so far, you’ve done so much to be here and you are going to have a blast! You’re now in a crazy exciting city and I bet you can’t wait to go out and cycle those dutch bikes everyone goes on about or eat baguettes and drink wine in a cafe. But first! There are things you need to do. Read on for the third post in my series about moving to another country.
1. Get yourself a house
Sooo obvious but maybe the most annoying part, a flat share is a great place to start as it will often allow you to move straight in without waiting or massive down payments, so start looking at Gumtree, Craigslist etc. Whether you decide to share or not, I would recommend finding somewhere with shorter and more flexible lease terms at the outset (unless you find a killer, basically free house in which case you need to lock that down forever) so that you can take a few months to confirm your choice of neighbourhood – you’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn in the beginning about where you want to lay your roots.
2. Get a job
Getting yourself some incoming cash will take the definitely pressure off, because moving to a new city will see your savings pretty much disappear. In the world of job hunting, it really pays to be persistent. Like, annoyingly persistent. Getting up in the morning and making a plan and attacking it like crazy is the only way it’s going to happen for you. Hopefully your profession is in demand in your new city but don’t be disheartened if it isn’t – I moved to London during the GFC looking for town planning jobs and let’s just say they didn’t exactly fall at my feet. I tried to be super persistent and worked with recruiters and on my own to get a role. Be ready to look sideways or at variations on what you’ve done if you’re finding it really hard. And don’t be afraid to jazz up your CV a little (no lying of course) – make all those things you did seem as amazing a possible! (cos they were right?).
3. Do ALLLL the paperwork
Legitimising your life in a new country is the most annoying part of the whole process, but the most important. Hopefully you’ve got your working visa sorted, or it’s being sorted (sometimes these things take time or rely on you getting that job). Once you have that you need to go about getting that bank account, your new phone plan, medical cards (if applicable), social security numbers etc etc etc. This can be a frustrating process because often getting all these things sorted relies on getting one of them in place first – you need proof of address to get your phone plan, you need a visa to get your bank account etc etc etc. Do as much research to work out what the most important element of paperwork is in the country you’ve moved to. In Hong Kong it’s the HKID card, you pretty much can’t do anything with out it.
4. Cope with your homesickness
Moving to a new place is really tough, regardless of whether it’s a few states or a whole continent away. Particularly if you’ve moved alone, but even when you move with a friend or a partner, the feeling of being out of place and away from the ones you love can take it’s toll. When I first moved to London even though I had my boyfriend with me I missed the cocoon of my parents and my brother and all those familiar things. To cope with it I stayed in touch with my family a lot (used my Skype account like crazy), I focused on planning some fun things in the future I could look forward to and I treated myself every now and then to something nice, like a yummy meal or a massage, which is a big ask when money is tight.
5. Meet New People
Living so far away from home, your friends are going to be your family now more than ever, so invest as much time in making new ones. You already have a few? Great! But more is more when it comes to friends (as long as you’re not sacrificing quality for quantify that is). This is the perfect time to link up with friends of friends (remember that awkward friend date?) or join a sporting team, do some group fitness, go to that wine and cheese mixer – do whatever you can to just meet new people. They’ll be the people who will make you feel better when you’re having a down day, and the ones who’ll drink cider in the park with you during the summer so yay to that!
6. Don’t lose contact with people at home
But don’t be too busy with your new friends/life that you lose contact with your old ones. Ever feel like someone dropped off the face of the earth when they left town? Or ever returned home after a long trip and felt you didn’t know your friends anymore? Both have been me and both can also be solved by dedicating an hour per week to keeping in contact with friends, easy these days with Skype, whatsapp, wechat and viber, you’ve literally no excuse now! Oh and forgetting someone’s birthday is hurtful no matter how far you live away (I say that as both the forgetter and the forgettee…).
7. Get out and explore
Wandering the streets is the best way to get to know your new home, so although it might seem scary at first just dedicate time to understanding your neighbourhood and the new city you live in! But check to see if there are any unsafe no-go areas before you do this. Hong Kong doesn’t really have any areas like this but London does so it’s worth checking.
8. Try not to stress
Moving cities can be stressful. Money, job hunting and bureaucracy are pretty much the tri-fector for massively high stress levels so don’t be too hard on yourself. These things will work out over time and everything will be fine. Trust. Oh also meditation and yoga do wonders for stress levels, perhaps there’s somewhere you can do a free course? And meet people too!
Photo by Marion Tessier
24th October 2014
I was so happy to read last week that so many of you have taken, or are planning to take, the leap of moving to a new country. AMAZING! However for those of you thinking about it I would be wrong to pretend that everything about moving is great, one of the annoying things about it is the actual moving part. MOVING SUCKS! However, it’s clearly a necessary evil in terms of actually relocating. Here I share a few thoughts on things to remember during your move.
Square Stuff Away
Whilst the thought of running off to another country and leaving all your worries behind may sound appealing, trust me when you eventually come back (even for a trip) it will all be there waiting for you. Probably costing you money the whole time! So remember to square away memberships, mail, university debt, credit cards, phone bills and anything that’s going to mount up while you’re away. If you have outgoings that will continue while you are away make sure you leave enough money in your account to cover at least the first few months.
Pack Up Your Things (and cull)
Moving is the perfect opportunity to become the minimalist you’ve always wanted to be, I promise you you’re not going to need everything from your whole house in your new country. I moved with just a suitcase (twice in fact) and I honestly don’t miss any of the clutter I got rid of.
Ship some favourites
If you need to, ship some of your favourite pieces that will make it feel like home to your destination, just make sure you pack in your suitcase that climate appropriate clothing as you often have to wait up to three months for boxes shipped by sea (i.e. the cheap way).
Plan where you’ll stay when you arrive
Getting off a bus with only a suitcase and nowhere to go is only romantic in the movies, and having somewhere solid to lay your head when you arrive is key to feeling good. Hopefully you know someone who will let you mooch off them for a week or two (or three!) otherwise a short-term rental is your best bet
Take a trip before settling
If there’s one thing I regret not doing both times I moved countries is taking an extended trip away before settling in. In my experience those between jobs phases (hopefully) are few and far between in your life/career and as you get older the chances of doing a three month journey around Canada or wherever diminish as your responsibilities pile up. If money is tight, why not do a little working holiday where you go and do some casual work, my friend did a few months running the desk of a backpackers in Croatia as she moved countries and still dreams of her days at the Gecko hostel.
Practice your new language
I probably should have mentioned this in my last post because honestly, language is key and has always influenced my decisions about where I would live. If you’re going somewhere where the dominant language is different to yours, now’s the time to cram that phrasebook, it might help to put it under your pillow too!
Don’t forget your family
Your friends are going to want to have like 5o leaving parties but in reality your family are probably going to be the people that you miss the most while you’re away, so make sure to pencil in time for some TLC with them. Chances are your mum/dad are concerned you’ll go away and never come back, and now’s the time to tell them that you definitely plan on coming back in a year or so and settling down just around the corner from them (revisions can be made later!).
Say bye to that guy you fell in love with last week
Ok so invariably if you’re single and planning on moving countries you fall head over heels in love with someone in the few weeks before you leave, allowing just enough time to have an crazy whirlwind romance that will leave you in pieces on the plane. Trust me this is textbook, and sods law, and proof of the ‘when you’re not looking you find it’ adage. Don’t let that stop you going – you’re an independent woman! Being apart will be the perfect test of your relationship, leading to him perhaps moving too or you perhaps moving back sooner than expected and either way lots of meeting in the middle. Just go with it!