I unpacked my bags again last week. It feels like the millionth time since graduation but now it has a sense of certainty. For the first time in five years, I committed to a place. I actually pay bills too.

Whereabout? Melbourne, Australia. Months ago I claimed it as my next home and I rushed upon arrival to make it so. Within two weeks I got a (few) jobs, moved into a flat, and immersed myself into the city life.

That was 3 years ago??!!!
This two week whirlwind is a process I will call "The Express Moving Guide". In addition to examples from this move, it combines lessons learned from my five years of moving around the world. I think it can be applied to any new city and hope it is beneficial for your journeys!

Pre-Arrival:
1. Book a temporary place to say.
Find a hostel, a friends place, couch surf, or even try a work exchange. This gives you a local address for mail, your CV, and important registrations like national ID numbers and bank accounts.

Lock in a deadline at this place to plan around. I booked one week at a city hostel and would either extend a second week or find a work exchange while sussing out work and long term housing options. 

2. Get a local number.  
The sooner you have one the sooner you get call backs. 
I wasted no time and purchased a SIM at my first Australian airport. Then I spent the 3 hour connection updating my CV and applying for jobs.

Week 1:
3. Open a bank account and get a national ID.
The rules for these vary by country but in Australia they can be done from the first day of arrival. Applications for a Tax File Number (TFN) are available online. Bank accounts require solely a passport/photo ID.

I received the TFN at my physical address in about a week. The bank account was quicker, ready in less than 30 minutes at a Bank of Melbourne branch. Appointments can also be scheduled in advance.

4. Work 9-5 looking for work.
I find job hunting as intense as actually having a job. 
My first week was devoted to researching jobs, stalking websites (like seek.com.au & ethicaljobs.com in Australia), and meticulously tailoring my CVs and cover letters. 

Bonus tip: Apply for the most time desirable positions/organizations first. For me, these positions required more back end work and had longer processing times. I find quick jobs are not the most desirable (though necessary sometimes).

5. Step away from the computer. 
Spend "business hours" primarily glued to job sites and emails but by mid-week start scoping the land.

I did a free city tour to get oriented, keeping my eye out for staff vacancy signs. Getting out also gave me a feel for different neighborhoods and helped narrow down the most interesting for housing and work.

6. Make a new plan.
How did the first week go? Were there any patterns in work locations or sectors? Determine whether or not to extend your current housing based on your callbacks and general observations of the job market. 

Week 2:
7. Meet people.
This week, I spent less time applying for jobs and more time attending interviews. I expanded the job hunt to include leads from friends, locals, and fellow job seekers in the hostel. I also signed up with several recruitment agencies.

8. Find a flat.
Think seriously about which part of the city to live in. If you are fond of a specific area, start there (GumTree and FlatMates are great resources). For the cheapest flats in Melbourne look inside the CBD— yes living inside the city is cheaper than the suburbs here.

Otherwise, consider this great advice I received from a friend: live near your work. Even short commutes in Melbourne can become long with public transport. I chose a place half way between my job and the city.

Week 3:
9. Work or wait.
By the end of the second week I had some job offers and others with real potential. While I waited for confirmations from the more interesting positions, I took up casual event/waitress work with a staffing agency. The money helped tie me over before starting something more serious, “Student Experience Officer” at a university.

10. Settle In
By now the hard work should be done. Relax. Get to know your housemates. Organize your flat. Make more friends.

At the end of week three I applied for more than 50 jobs, received about 15 call backs/interviews and accepted 3 positions. I plan to work two jobs at any given moment and continue receiving callbacks.
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With good effort and persistence, living and working abroad is achievable. Especially in a country like Australia. I look forward to the next couple years here, beginning in a beautiful Southern Hemisphere summer.

Cheers.


"Please swallow your pride if I have faith you need to borrow. For no one can fill those of your needs that you won't let show..." ~ Bill Withers

The literal light to my fires on a 60km trek
It is not easy for me to ask for help. In fact it is one of my greatest struggles. I avoid asking for directions when I am clearly lost—I can find my own way, thanks. Nor do I like asking for favors—I do not want feel like a debtor, sorry.

Inside I crave independence. I pride myself on it actually. That was until New Zealand knocked me down. 

My first year in the country was cruisey. I worked mostly part-time, travelled a fair bit and spent most of my time in good company.


Then I hit a series of unfortunate events… I found myself with nearly two months and nowhere to go. I got terrible, terrible hives. I broke my phone then I lost my phone. I even got lost in a forest overnight.

These were some of the lowest as well as the loneliest moments in my travels thus far; a combination that forced me open and receptive to help.

I said yes when strangers invited me into their homes. I hitchhiked. I called in favors. I accepted gifts. Quite simply, I relied on others and all I could do was hope for the best.

A surprise river crossing made easy with this group
It was a shock to me at first but when I put pride to the side solutions surfaced. Most times things worked better than I could have imagined. To boot, I met wonderful people and leave with fonder memories during these tough months than the rest of the year.

There were some big curve balls and I am glad I took the hits. Bill Wither's song says it best: "sometimes we all have fails, we all have sorrow. But it wouldn't be long till we're gonna need somebody to lean on."
Day 21 : ~25 kms
(Kraak road to Puhoi)

This was a day of trials. First I discovered I went 4 kms in the wrong direction (from Smyth's Reserve go down, not uphill!). Next was the weather-- all day rain.  It was forecast for a week but I decided to take my chances in "light, scattered showers..." I arrived to Puhoi completely drenched and ready to call it a night.

The only place I could go was the town Pub. They offer rooms at $60/night and while I took one it was a matter of convenience rather than value. Sure the building is a bit rustic but the place is comparable to a city hostel of $25-30 value.

The last major setback was discovering my phone water damaged. I put it in a ziplock of rice and woke at 1 am to discover it mostly functional again. I did not sleep well and spent the rest of the night catching up online.
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Day 22 : ~30 kms
(Puhoi to Stillwater Motor Camp)

It's funny how much can happen in a day. This time I started on the freeway, feeling like frogger as I walked a few kilometers. At one point I tried hitching but soon relented. It was prime "running late to work" time--6:45 am--on the direct road to New Zealand's biggest city. 

Later the path involved some beach but was more hopping rocks than walking on sand. At the end of it I find myself up 60 steep steps (yes, I counted) and in someone's personal driveway. She gave me a lift to the public road and back to the beach I went. This is still before 10 am.

Then I made it to the first city of the day (Orewa) where I stopped to splurge on a soy cappuccino ($5.50 NZD). I had a lovely chat with the café staff who were quite curious about the walk. One basically convinced herself to start as soon as she finishes her studies (let me know when you do, Megan!).

The rest of my day can be summed up as: more chats with curious strangers, more road walking, a bit of getting lost, wonderful trail angels, and a very long day with lots of stops. The best thing was coming to the motor camp in Stillwater. The owner lets walkers stay for free (indoors!) and tops it with lots of great tips and info about the trail and outdoor survival. Before turning up here I planned this post to have a sour ending. One act of kindness changed it all.
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Day 23 : ~8 kms
(Waiake Bay to Albany)

I wanted to stay in Stillwater to rest but the weather seemed okay for walking (overcast but no rain). I figured it best to keep moving while I could and took a lift with the motor camp owner to bypass track closures. Bad idea.

Light rain started before I even got in the car and continued for the first hour. It grew stronger and I arrived to Brown's Bay soaked. From there I had the choice of continuing at least two hours in the rain, or waiting it out and calling in a few favors... I took the latter. I stopped over at the library to get myself organized then headed off-trail to my old workplace, a retreat centre 5 kms away. There a friend warmly welcomed me to her place, offering me a chance to recover until the storm passed.


Day 18 : 25 kms
(Cove Rd to Te Arai Beach)

I started early today to avoid getting in trouble with my makeshift camping spot. The weather got hot on the road sections but the last few kilometers ended on overcast beach.  A local guided me from horseback and advised me to camp at Te Arai point. Although there were signs stating this was not allowed I took her word for it. I was comforted to notice camper vans also sneaking in to the area after dark.
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Day 19 : 31 kms
(Te Arai Beach to Matakana)

Long, tiring day! I took my time but walked from sun up to after sun down. Lots of the up and down hills I despise! This combined with a muddy off-season track lined with thorn bushes made it dirty and painful too! Instead of hitching, I walked the extra 6 kms to Matakana until after dark, thinking all hope was lost. Fortunately, another kind kiwi saved the day, offering me a room in his beautiful 200-acre farm home.  :)
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Day 20 : ~15 kms
(Matakana to Kraak road)

Today was short in distance but a full on day hike. I started out feeling fantastic after my night indoors and a delicious breakfast (poached eggs, potatoes, and mixed veggies). This combined with a better formed track made all the difference in my mood through all the up and down hills. Just before dark I lucked out when a family offered their garage to me as protection from the rain. I'll just keep my fingers crossed so I can walk tomorrow!!
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