13th October 2014
Living overseas is one of the most rewarding things you can ever do – it gives you so much perspective on life, helps you understand people, places and cultures other than your own and tests your limits and boundaries. Without these life shaping experiences (both the good and the bad), I have to say I would be such a different person. For one, I doubt I would have had the courage to make the leap from town planner to blogger, and all those different experiences helped me understand what the world out there is about, something that I can’t put into words let alone put a price on. When the concept of moving to London came up, my boyfriend and I jumped at it (a pair of Glastonbury tickets picked up last minute was the incentive) so you can imagine I’m more of a fly by the seat of your pants type person than an over-planner, but luckily when it came around to us moving to Hong Kong three years later, the experiences (ahem, trial and error) of moving to London had imparted many lessons, including what to do before, during and after the move. Read on to see the first part of my tips. I hope you’ll seriously contemplate relocating, if only for a year!
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Get qualified/experienced
Unless you’re lucky enough to be relocating with work (the dream!) or already have a job lined up (go you!), when you move to another country, you want to put yourself in a position where you’re as appealing as possible to employers – cos seriously, girls gotta eat right? And never so much as when you live in another country away from the cocoon of your family and friends. Yes you could head off with zero experience and zero skills but chances are you’ll find yourself working in roles that don’t quite pay the bills, let alone allow you to travel and give you a sense of achievement. Whether or not you’re going the university route, do whatever you can to extend the length of your resume – take that course, work in that job, say yes to that manager role, do that out of hours work, all so that your prospects are better when you arrive. I moved to London at 21 with no job lined up (same when I moved to Hong Kong – that’s how I roll!) but I had done my Bachelors and Honors degrees, and bolstered that with two years full time work in my field of Town Planning. Although job hunting still sucked, having a few different experiences and qualifications made it much easier to get my foot in the door at interviews.
2. $ave Money
This is probably a pretty obvious one, but saving money is the one thing you need to do in order to have the freedom to go and live somewhere else – that is if you want to do it without a constant feeling doom and a rock in the pitt of your stomach up until the point you get a job. Setting up a new life can be expensive, from organising a new house to funding your coffee habit (which will go hand in hand with job hunting) so as a basic rule, try to get three months of your salary down so you give yourself a nice buffer – this will probably mean forgoing nice clothes and dinners with friends, but your overseas jaunt is sooo worth it!
3. Decide on the country
There are so many options when it comes to where you could go, on this score the world is literally your oyster. A few things to think about when deciding what country to move to are:
- Where can you go that would support your field/work/interests? Look for vacancies in your profession/job.
- Is there a community of people from your home country that would make it easy to link up and share info? Don’t underestimate the power of a mutual love of Vegimite/Marmite/Twinkies.
- How easy would it be to move there? Some systems are designed to be easier than others.
- What is the climate like? Can you handle two layers of tights in winter or not?
- What are the pollution levels like?
- What is the medical system like? This is particularly important if you have any major medical conditions, but accident and emergency is also important to consider.
- How long do you want to move for?
- How easy it is to get a visa (see below)
- What part of the country? Obviously bigger metropolitan cities will have the greatest concentration of opportunities, but don’t overlook more regional locations which may have less competition (nothing like being a a big fish in a small pond).
4. Get your visa
One of the biggest barriers to being able to move to a country is obviously Visas, and getting that sorted at the outset is key to a happy trip (trust me, visa dramas are the worst). Do some research about places your home country has reciprocal arrangements with – I know Australia and the US has reciprocal arrangements with many countries which allow people to take a working holiday, thus allowing them not to be tied down to a single employer – this is the best scenario. However, if the place you want to go has no such arrangements, a lot of people find the best way to live in a country is to get sponsored by an employer. This has varying levels of difficulty depending on the place, where you come from and what sector you work in so it’s worth checking before you go. A lot of people in this situation travel to the country as a tourist and look around for jobs at that point, and then reenter the country when they get their visa. If you live in Europe or have multiple citizenships you’ll have more options, and I would suggest you take the easy one!
Nothing is better than a quick trip to a country you’re considering to moving to as a way to crystallise your plans and help you decide if a) you want to move there at all and b) if so, where should you live? where should you work? where will your favourite coffee shop be? etc etc. Just go!
6. Research, research, research
Once you know the country you want to move to, the next step is to understand all you can from a far about what you need to know to live there. Research online about the place and all you need to do to prepare including local customs, languages, cities, regions and laws. Obviously forums are a good way to hear directly from people about their experiences, however I would use them with a pinch of salt – usually it’s the people with the worst experiences who spend the most time on forums.
7. Apply for Jobs
Ok so this one is pretty obvious, and is something you should start doing before you go. That said, in my limited experience it’s not that simple to get job when you’re far away. Unless you’re in a super sought after profession or you know them, often people want to see you land and be on the ground before they’ll give you the opportunity. However, there’s nothing like getting a feel for your industry than linking up with recruiters or emailing job advertisements. If you’re in a creative sector, looking up and following companies on social media that you want to work for is a great to way stay up to date.
8. Reach out to people
In this day and age it’s really easy to find out if you already know someone living in the place you’re moving to, simply have a look around Facebook and ask friends. Although those blind friend dates that are part and parcel of moving somewhere else can be a tad awkward, there’s nothing you’ll appreciate more than tips from a local about areas to live in and how to go about setting up, and you never know, maybe you’ll make some much needed new friends? Some of my best friends in different countries I’ve met this way so just do it!
Stay tuned next week for the next stage of your move and what to keep in mind, but above all remember that we’re very adaptable beings and whatever it takes, you can make it work. And you’ll succeed!
9th October 2014
No trip to New York is complete without a lazy day spent in the West Village, where all you’re required to do is eat, stop yourself having to re-mortgage at Diptyque and top it off with a glass of wine. Funnily enough, for me the West Village feels like a small pocket of respite in the middle of such a hectic city, with leafy streets and gorgeous ivy-covered brownstones. Just make sure to take a map with you, the grid layout you’ll have come to love North of 14th becomes a tangle of gorgeous, and yet bewildering, streets.
Take the A, C or E trains to 8th Avenue and 14th streets, which lands you in the north of the west village, from where you can easily make your way to Bleeker streets and begin your wandering.
The key to an amazing day in the West Village is to wander, finding all those cosy corners that make it interesting and delightful. We started on Bleeker Street, took a left at Christopher Street and wandered down until we got to Grove Street then walked back up Hudson, branching off to check out the side streets as we saw fit. Just get lost I say! Make sure end up at gorgeous Washington Square Park!
The major stores in the area are located on the top half of Bleeker Street where you’ll find a heap of high end fashion boutiques, Book Marc, Diptyque and lots of others to get excited about. Once you’ve had your fill of the more recognisable stores, wander a bit more to find
- Greenwich Letter Press: Gorgeous stationary to remind you of your NY trip, we went ker-razy here!
- Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks: we loved all the vintage cookbooks here, but sadly didn’t have any room to bring them back.
- Aedes De Venutas: Candles and fragrances
- Bleeker St Records: An institution
- Goorin Hat Shop: Best panamas around, they have another store on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg
Eat & Drink
- Jeffreys Grocery:
- Hamilton’s: Gorgeous new soda shoppe (open til midnight!)
- Tartine: Very cute brunch spot, but just as perfect for a glass of wine
- Magnolia Bakery: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you anything about Magnolia, one thing to know is that the Banana pudding is the BEST thing on the menu.
- Mary’s Fish Camp: lobster roll goodness.
- Frankie’s Sputino 570: The perfect place for an evening drink.
- Sockerbit Candy: Oh so minimal Swedish candy store.
Wearing: Club Monaco jacket, top and shorts
Brunch at Tartine…
The ubiquitous white box
I have this thing with floors
Soda fountain shops that take me back to my days of reading Archie comics
It’s not possible to choose just one!
Addicted to the facades of the West Village
One of each please
Taking a load off
Make sure you take a friend along with you for your day off
Soda shoppe love
More perfect brunch spots
29th September 2014
Every year my mother and I travel to Japan, first she visits her friend who lives there and then we meet and see a new city. This year it was the beautiful Kyoto that was the focus for our annual mother/daughter trip, and I have to say, we could’t have picked a better place! Last year Tokyo captivated us with its intense energy and nightlife, but Kyoto was a whole different ball game, more subtle and relaxing than Tokyo, a lesson in zen and the art of imperfections – and a few bottles of wine!
Apparently the best time to visit Kyoto is during Cherry Blossom season (March/April/May) or during the Autumn when the leaves are a flaming red. We visited at neither of those times, instead went in August (i.e. high summer) which was still gorgeous. Although I expected to, I actually didn’t find it too hot to explore and enjoy ourselves, with the help of a shaved ice every now and then.
We stayed in a traditional Japanese house (via Airbnb) in the Nijo area, which was lovely because we got to experience a neighbourhood in a way you wouldn’t if you stayed in the main area in a hotel. This sort of accommodation does come with its own cons – locks that get stuck when you arrive, a loooooong list of instructions which makes you feel a little more like a prisoner than a guest – but overall I have to say it’s a great way to understand a place better. Although, TBH I was reminded how bad my posture is when forced to sit and eat on tatami mats with no couch in sight. However, if you are after a more atmospheric experience, I would recommend a traditional Ryokan, if I ever go back with my boyfriend that’s what we’ll do.
Walk the Philosopher’s Path: We did a walk around and along the Philospher’s path (Tetsugaku no michi), a path alongside a gorgeous canal in the Northern Higashiyama district, on the first day we arrived and visited all the different temples (including the Silver Pavillion) and surrounding gardens and shrines.
Visit the flea markets: We were lucky enough to time our visit when the biggest flea in Kyoto is held at Kitanpo Tenman-gu Shrine. You guys know how much I love a flea right!? The market is held on the 25th day of the month every month, and is well worth planning around with lots of gorgeous antiques, and piles and piles of kimonos at much better prices than in other places. 7:00-16:30.
Delve into Gion : Made famous by the book Memoirs of Geisha (although as many of your pointed out in this post that book is disputed as to how accurate the portrayal is ) this picture perfect area is a series of weeping willows, lanes and canals, with small doors leading into Kyseki restuarants and drinking house. A great place to spend sunset and watch the Geisha come out to play.
Visit Kibune & Kurama: This day trip was the highlight our visit to Kyoto, and I’ll definitely writing it up on its own, but for now know that taking a day out of the city to do this is well worth it. Your itinerary will include visiting an outdoor Onsen, hiking the gorgeous mountain paths from Kurama to Kibune and dining on the platforms over the water. A must!
See the temples: Kyoto is famous for its amazing temples, shrines and gardens including the Golden and Silver Pavillions and Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine (a must). If you feel like you just want to see a few, know that you’ll get a good glimpse of them along the philosophers path.
Bamboo Forest: An utterly breathtaking vista greets you at the Bamboo forest, and although you’ll spend hours trying to get a photo of it nothing will compare with what you take away in your head!
Visit an Onsen: Visiting a gorgeous Onsen is a great way to understand Japanese culture and what binds them together (i.e. a need for zen and relaxation as well as a deep respect for etiquette and rules).
Omen – This traditional noodle house located along the Philopspher’s Path (with another at the back of Gion) is the perfect way to end a day of wandering the gardens, temples and shrines. Order a tempura set and sit back and relax.
Okonomiyaki – We absolutely fell in love with this traditional, savoury Japanese pancake with a multitude of fillings that is cooked directly at your table. One place we visited and loved was Nishiki Warai, within the Nishiki Markets.
Kaiseki Ryori – This is a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner and is a must for at least one night you are in Kyoto. It’s not something you’ll forget easily, although they tend to be pricey. We visited Yoshikawa for the most memorable tempura experience, it was utterly amazing.
Wander the Nishiki food market: Check out this mile long enclosed food market in the Downtown area with more then 100 stalls for all the weird and wonderful delicacies that the region is known for.
Kazigen: A gorgeous tea room with delicious sweets in the Gion area, it was the perfect mid afternoon break.
The Cat Cafe: Ok so this was a random thing for us to do but we just had to visit a cat cafe – it was actually kinda creepy and more like a cat play school where you could stumble in and have a cup of tea.
Sangano-yu: A gorgeous cafe in an old bathhouse, we had a delightful iced chai here prior to going to the nearby Onsen.
Lunch on the water at Kibune (heaven much?)
Lanterns in Teramachi Arcade
The gardens of the Silver Pavillion
Our neighbourhood bakery in Nijo.
The Canals of Gion
Visiting the Gardens of Nanzenji Temple
Lunch at Omen
The Bamboo Forest
The Silver Pavillion Gardens
A simple travel outfit
The gardens behind Nanzenji
Wandering the streets of Gion and peering into people’s gardens. As you do.
Lunch in Kibune
Evenings in Gion
The flea markets stalls
Eating all the yummy Japanese sweets
The cafe Sangano-yu in the Arashiyama district set in an old bathhouse
Everything was so cute!
One of everything please, at the flea markets.
The shrine in Kurana (more on this soon)
The Philospher’s Path
Ahhhh serenity… Can’t help but get a district monkey magic vibe!
Shaved ice, every hour on the hour.