There is No Manual on Becoming an Expat

Preparing to pack up your life and move overseas is hard. There is so much stuff you don’t readily think of that you need to do, from dentist appointments to cancelling gym memberships to working out what to do with my car and packing up my room. It is hectic! Don’t get me wrong I didn’t think it would be easy or anything but I am constantly thinking of new stuff I have to do that you completely forget about because you just take it for granted that its just a part of life, you forget how complex your life really is.

Then we had a slight curve-ball thrown at us the other week when we found out American citizens can’t get Working Holiday Visas… aka I can (being Australian) but Daniel can’t. Thank god the lovely Alex from Speaking Denglish pointed this out when she so kindly answered my long questions on Germany and visas, I honestly don’t know how we missed it when looking into it all but thankfully we had enough time to work out what to do. The plan is still pretty much the same except we’ll now have to get real jobs so we can get working visas, sad face! Downside less flexibility for travel, upside more money for travel! That and I think it makes our families feel a little better that we will hopefully be somewhat stable and not just live like Peter Pan forever. And well if we don’t find jobs we now have plan b… and plan c. Don’t judge me. There is no manual on becoming an expat! I’ve finally resorted to writing a scarily long running to do list and printing out a blank calendar of now until I leave and scheduling everything in. Let me tell you… it’s full. Its pretty damn full.

Then again I guess half the fun is the challenge, knowing that you are making this happen. That you really are ‘taking the road less traveled’.

One of the best but also strangest and saddest parts is trying to see everyone before you. I say best because I have had a great time the past couple of weeks, never saying no to anything because who knows when I’ll do it again or see them again as well as spending some really valuable time with my family who I will miss the most. Its been strange though seeing friends who I don’t catch up with on a regular basis and then having to randomly drop into conversation the fact that I’m moving overseas in oh you know 3 weeks! I do quite enjoy the reactions I get though haha! Here is a bit of a photo recap of from the last 2 weeks of all of the great quality family and friends time I’ve had trying to get a good dose of all things Sydney (and other parts of Australia) to last me until I’m back, who knows when that will be! Hannah-Perisher-Ski-Selfie

 Thats right we have skiing in Australia! Ski-whiteout-perisher Perisher-family-ski-lift-selfieGirls-high-tea-cruise copy High tea Cruise on Sydney Harbour with my girls
Girls-selfie-sydney-harbour-bridgemy-girlsUnleash girls with a view and a GoPro and let the group selfies run wild
Southhead-old-gun-stationA wonderful day with my family at South Head, Sydney HarbourSydney-harbour-rock-edgeElliot-Hannah-SouthheadGoing to miss my bro
Leaping-dolphinHannah-Alice-Anabelle-Southhead
Hornby-lightthe-gap copyBad-selfies Siblings fun, We’re so good at taking group shots.
bronte-beach-pool-large-swellwhitewash-tamarama-beachlarge-swell-bronte-beachCrazy swells at Bondi Beach

Saying goodbye is going to be the hardest part.

Discovering Arrowtown | Pie & Pint Festival

Lake-Hawea
Sometimes everything just goes right. You know those days where you can’t believe one thing after another just keeps getting better and purely by chance? Well pretty much our entire time in New Zealand was just like that. #blessed …I hope you read that with sarcasm, I cannot stand when people tag that. The best day though where everything kept going right was on our way to Queenstown. It actually started the night before, we had been driving through the beautiful countryside and took longer than we planned because we kept coming across amazing places like this, which we hit at the perfect time with the sun getting low.

We were about an hour outside of Queenstown when it started getting dark and after our bad experiences on our first day where we missed a bunch of beautiful scenery driving in the dark and ended up backtracking, we really didn’t want to miss anything this time. We had heard about the amazing tunnel that goes all the way through a mountain heading into Queenstown and did not want to miss it, so when we came to a fork in the road with both directions saying they were heading to Queenstown we weren’t sure which way to go.

We decided to follow the map and go left but only a few hundred metres down the road we changed our mind, turned around and decided to follow our gut and go the other way, via lake Wanaka. Best decision ever. As we drove through the town even in the dark it looked too cute not to stop so we changed our plans and found a holiday park to stay for the night. After making Daniel walk up and down the main road 3 times reading the menu of every place (he’s such a saint) we had a delicious dinner at Wanaka Speights Ale House, the place we originally picked for dinner. Lamb shanks and blue cod, New Zealand specialties so you can’t go wrong, though it wasn’t hard for it to taste amazing when we had been eating camping food in the rain the few days before.

The next morning we just happened to wake up in time for a stunning pink and red sunrise, for those of you that know me you know I don’t enjoy waking early so this was just pure luck again. And wasn’t it worth itLake-Wanaka-Sunrise-over-trees

Lake-Wanaka-SunriseGolden-sunrise-lake-wanaka

If you are in Wanaka you MUST get a hot chocolate at Patagonia, best hot chocolate (and free wifi win!).

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We then headed off for Queenstown, but once again got side tracked when we saw a sign pointing towards a detour through ‘Historic Arrowtown’ we figured why not, we could always turn around. Again following our gut paid off, as we drove through Arrowtown it honestly looked like a movie set with its cute house and autumn leaves. We decided to head in and try to find the centre of town to check out what real estate was like there, seriously it was so cute we were about ready to chuck out our Berlin plans and move to Arrowtown instead!

arrowtown-autumn-leaves historic-arrowtown arrowtown-light

Suddenly we turned down a street and it was blocked for some event, another stroke of luck there happened to be a parking spot right there so we parked and went to investigate. It was blocked off for part of their Autumn festival, that afternoon it was a Pie and Pint festival. Does it get any better than that?! Naturally we bought tickets beer glasses and joined the festivities. Local brewery stalls, gourmet homemade meat pie stalls and folk music, it was like my dream afternoon. I felt like I was in Gilmore Girls, small town just doesn’t get much better than that.

Arrowtown-autumn-festivalArrowtown-cider Cassels-Sons-Brewery-Arrowtown Milk-Stout-arrowtown Arrowtown-festival-beer-glasses Arrowtown-pie-pint-festival Venison-elderberry-pie Empty-glasses

We’re still off to Berlin but moving to Arrowtown is now our future settling down plan (where we’ll be para-gliders of course).

Life Lately | When It Rains It Pours

Nothing-worth-having-comes-easy

Ok clearly I’m not very good at the whole consistently posting thing but I swear I have a good excuse, I finally bought my one-way ticket to Germany! I’ve spent the last week organising that, who would have thought a one-way flight would be so tricky. When it comes to the visa issues that go with such a flight (Europe’s not so cool with you flying in without a plan to leave!), money issues trying to get the cheapest way there and timing it gets difficult. Thank god for the wonderful Erin at STA, so helpful. She managed to find the best and cheapest way to get me to Zagreb, Croatia. Its going to be long and painful as I’m flying Sydney to Singapore, to Helsinki, to Zurich where I’m going to stay with some family friends and leave all of my excess luggage there before catching a 14 hour overnight train Zagreb. Its going to be sucky but oh so worth it.

So today I’ve been off at the German consulate attempting to apply for my German working Holiday Visa, it didn’t go so well. Note for future expats: they are not the most helpful or patient (even though I was the only one in the 20+ person waiting room). Its ok I’ll come back next week, I’m sure she’s looking forward to it as much as I am…

Some really big news last week, my position at work was filled! Eek! No going back now. But its for the best, the new person brings everything I had to offer and more so I can leave feeling relieved that they are in really good hands.

I had a fun but kind of sad weekend fare-welling my 2 best friends as they set off to travel Europe. It was a great night with everyone, dancing, drinking and being merry. But it was sad because it was the last time for a while that the 3 of us will all party together. I’ll see one of them in a month when she gets back and then I’ll meet up with the other in Croatia for Yacht Week and the Greek Islands, but still last time all 3 of us will be together for a while! After almost 10 years of friendship this is so strange to think about.

Best-friendsThe ladies
Sydney-Departure-GateGood luck! Have fun!!

It was a bit of an odd night (besides all of the cocktails, speeches and sparklers) because I saw a bunch of friends who I don’t get to see on a regular basis so hadn’t had a chance to tell them I was leaving and since I may not see them before I leave I had to just randomly drop this news into conversations. Its kinda awkward telling people, its not like it naturally comes up in conversation so I have randomly dump it in like “that’s great your job is going so well oh by the way I’m moving to Germany in 6 weeks” this is usually followed by looks of shock followed by congratulations so its not all bad. Its nice to have such wonderful supportive friends, its going to be hard not seeing them for a while. Its not like the US where everybody leaves their high school friends to go to college then leaves their college friends etc, here most people go to University in Sydney so majority of people still live at home and go to the same Uni’s. This means my high school friends are still my main group of friends, our group has just expanded as people made new friends at Uni and added to it. Its really nice because I have a really strong core group of friends, its going to be tough not having them around in Berlin.

So yeah its been a little hectic, but this week I’m going to post more of New Zealand because I haven’t even gotten to the awesome parts yet!

MY PINTEREST IS ALL BIKINIS AND CAKE

wish-cake-went-to-boobs

This is pretty much the story of my life.

Today I noticed my pinterest feed was an unhealthy mix of bikini body inspiration (aka girls in bikinis with bangin’ bods) and cakes. I suffer from a very common issue, I want to eat all the time and still have that perfect bikini body. Thats not so much to ask yeah?? Well today I realised, holy shit its only 2 months until I leave for Europe! 2 months people! Thats only 8 weeks!! (crap just writing this makes me realise how close this is). And I may or may not have slacked off and gone more towards the cake side of my pinterest and less towards the bikini bod side and am now a few cakes heavier than I’d like. So I’ve decided its time to quit slackin’ and make shit happen! I have 2 months, thats doable (I hope, I’ve never really actually properly tried before). Don’t worry I’m not going to go crazy or anything, mostly because I never could I like food waayyy too much but also really all I need is to shed a few kg’s and tone up.

There are two main motivators here. One Daniel and I both got pretty slack with what we ate in the last few months he was here, no regrets it was a great time! So we made a bet as to who could be the fittest by the time we got to Berlin (relative to the person, I mean come on he’s training to be a pro athlete thats just not a fair competition). I told him yesterday I was getting serious and not going to bitch anymore but take action! He said thats sweet but I didn’t need to do that for him, I said I know! You like me just the way I am right? right?! I was kidding (sort of). Really my big source of motivation is happening before I get to Berlin. I have an awesome trip with a couple of my good girlfriends planned. We’re doing… wait for it… YACHT WEEK IN CROATIA!

Yacht-week

This obviously is not my photo its from The Yacht Week facebook

Thats right 8 of us girls (1 poor guy) have hired a fancy yacht and hottie skipper for a week in Croatia to partake in the awesome week long party that is Yacht Week. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what yacht week is check it out here. Basically its a whole heap of yacht hired out by groups of party  people all sailing from port to port during the day and partying at each port/on the yachts at night. Can you say best week ever? (probably not you’ll be too drunk busy.)

But of course what yacht week also stands for? A week of constant bikinis… and photos to document the best week of our lives. So thats why I am busy trying to ditch this winter inner tube for a Victoria’s Secret worth bod (maybe aiming a little too high).

Taking a leaf out of Karli Bell’s book from September Farm I’m writing and publicly declaring this goal of eating healthy and actually making it to the gym at least 3-4 times a week in the hopes maybe this will make it stick. So let it be known!

Motivational tips to keep on track or healthy tips send em this way!

Winter is Coming

Sydney suddenly got cold. Its officially winter people! I had the ugg boots on, heater out, hot chocolate, soup, you name it! Winter warmers I was all over it. You’re probably thinking wow I didn’t know sydney got cold! I just thought Australia was hot all the time, I mean isn’t it all just beaches and desert with people riding kangaroos (if your nodding your head right now stop. just stop). Contrary to popular belief we have winter! The temperature today was a high of 17 degrees Celsius (62 Fahrenheit). And I. Was. Freezing. (I think I hear some crickets from northern america, Europe, parts of Asia and you know what probably right here in Sydney too). Yep I said it, today it was 17 and I was freezing. You know what the average winter temperature in Berlin is 2 degrees C. Shit. How am I going to survive?!

I’m clearly not built for these temperatures. My hands turn blue at even the slightest hint of cold. I shiver when there is a coolish autumn breeze. My feet permanently feel like ice cubes. How am I going to survive Berlin?!

I keep telling myself I’ll be ok because I’ll be able to buy appropriate warm clothing there (obviously I won’t be able to buy anything even remotely suitable in Australia). But I had pretty much appropriate clothing when I was In New York over New Years a few years ago and I was so cold I almost cried one day. I wore 3 layers of pants everyday (it still impresses me that I managed to get them all on everyday) and felt like I wasn’t even wearing pants. This picture looks like it was staged and we were making a joke about the cold. Nope. I wish. It was literally too cold to unzip our faces even for a photo. Our other photos we had down to a science mad unzip, smile, snap the shot, quickly zip back up and blow out warm air to warm our now frozen faces.

too-cold-show-face

We really mastered the whole ‘smile with your eyes’ concept.

Even last month in New Zealand I wore my ski jacket the entire time (not to mention all the layers underneath) and that was autumn, in New Zealand!

Franz-Joseph-Glacier-area

I’ve just resigned my self to the fact that gone are the days of fashionable dressing ( or at least attempting) I am going to permanently look like a marshmallow person in Germany. Think Michelin man, Pillsbury Doughboy, that will be me.

Winter is coming. I think I’m gonna need a lot of gluhwein.

Anyone have any tips on surviving a real winter?

When Spontaneity Doesn’t Go to Plan

When we planned our New Zealand trip we didn’t really plan anything. We booked plane tickets and the van and that was pretty much it besides a vague idea of what we wanted to do. This is pretty unlike me, I’m a big planner, and a big procrastinator, but once I sit down and start planning I get pretty into it (trip advisor is my bible). We wanted this particular trip to be spontaneous and just go where we wanted when we wanted. It all started great…

roadtrip beginning

And then we realised we’d driven an hour in the wrong direction. Thats when Daniel started driving and I took charge of directions (men!).

We were off to Hamner Springs. On the way we read all about it and its natural hot springs, which came highly recommended in the free pamphlets guide books. That’s when we got to thinking, did we really want to go to what sounded like a real touristy destination or would we rather continue a bit further to what looked like a smaller potentially more unique hot spring? We were umming and ahhing when we drove right past the turn off to Hamner Springs, it was a sign!! A sign that that was our first mistake.

Our second mistake was not turning around when we started to rethink our decision as we were driving along a dark winding road through the forest that we could barely see a couple feet in front of our car. Finally we reached Maruia Spring … and drove right past it. What looked like a small town on the map was in fact a one building resort. We should have just cut our losses and turned back for Hamner Springs at that point, but no! We were on the road there was no going backwards!

I’m going to blame it on our exhaustion from driving in the pitch black on seriously windy roads but for some reason we thought that the next ‘town’ on the map, Springs Junction, would be better. Nope, once again New Zealand had gotten the last laugh. Springs Junction is in fact, just a junction. Two roads meet, there is a little roadside shop and a petrol station. That is all. That bitch spontaneity failed us again. So we went back to the original plan and drove to Hamner Springs and it was the best decision we could have made. The drive back sucked and desperately trying to find somewhere to stay for the night was stressful. Luckily the family that owned the holiday park paused their game of twister to take pity on us and let us stay the night in the field with the goat.

Hannah with goat

Hamner Springs was worth it all. I can’t believe we almost missed it for the sake of spontaneity. It was beautiful and I swear if I suddenly woke up there I would think I was in North America. Our one bit of spontaneity did pay off though, we skipped the springs. They were touristy as we had thought, not the natural rock ones you imagine, they were just giant pools fed by the springs filled with kids (human soup, not appealing).  Instead we climbed Conical Hill and had the best view out over the valley.

look out Hamner Springs

red and white mushroom Hamner Springs

Conical Hill

Conical Hill Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs

Hamner Springs Cafe

For the rest of the trip we didn’t give up on spontaneity all together but we did try to have a basic idea of where we were going to stay each night with at least one potential caravan holiday park there. We definitely learned our lesson about these supposed ‘towns’ on New Zealand maps.

A city in ruins Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch.jpg

 

I was really interested to see Christchurch and how it was progressing 3 years on from the tragic earthquake in Feb 2011. I hadn’t been to Christchurch before so didn’t know what it looked like prior to the earthquake, but I still remember hearing all about the devastation when it hit. Its really hard to comprehend what a city might look like after such an event.

It first became apparent to me how much damage had occurred when I had difficulties finding a hotel in the heart of the city that was more than a small 2 story motel ( I really wanted a high floor to be able to look out over the city). We ended up staying at the Ibis, which is right downtown and one of the few hotels to have been rebuilt. This was good and bad. It was great for really seeing the impact of the earthquake, as we were pretty much staying in the epicenter, however this also meant it was basically a ghost town around us so finding restaurants was tricky (especially without a car).

You really cannot understand just how devastating the earthquake was until you see the city. At first it felt like we were staying in the ghetto part of town. Its very open ( lots of parking lots), kind of dirty, everywhere is still boarded up, there are funky little makeshift places, basically it just feels dodgy. It wasn’t until we had been there a day and wandered all around the city that we started to stop and look closer and realised where we were would have been the heart of the city, the trendy, up market area. You start noticing dusty signs to boarded up expensive restaurants like Wagamama, what would have been artsy extras like trendy benches, flowerbeds, rubbish bin covers, now all run down. This sounds naive but if you haven’t seen the city before as we hadn’t its hard to picture what it was like.

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Christchurch construction collage

Three years on and the city of Christchurch is still a virtual ghost town with blocks of abandoned buildings or empty blocks where buildings have been torn down, old buildings propped up with scaffolding to try to keep them standing. Sure there is quite a bit of construction happening but considering the time frame it just doesn’t seem like much.

Building held up by scaffoldingpropped up building The poor people of Christchurch, what happened to them? Where did all the businesses go? There are so many large corporations who’s buildings are abandoned, what happened to the workers? It was sad to see the city in ruins, but it was also fascinating. They have done a great job at trying to maintain some of the vibe of the city. They have pop-up style marque covered clubs pumping at night and a creative shipping container mall which had some unique shops. There was even a bank in container with a built in ATM.
Shipping Container Mall

 

They also don’t have simple fencing around, most of it has colourful patterns which stops it from feeling too depressing or ghetto-like.

colourful fencing

I was particularly impressed with the lack of graffiti and vandalism.

Christchurch in its current state shouldn’t be discounted, it was still a cool city with really beautiful botanical gardens that we spent an afternoon exploring, they are huge!

Harry Potter Tree

IMG_3003water wheel

 

 

Christchurch Cityscape

We also stumbled upon the most delicious Italian restaurant, just thinking about the amazing pasta and pizza we had makes me drool. It was super trendy style inside as well with exposed brick walls (seems to be the rage right now) and artsy pictures all over. It had a great vibe (and I’m all about the vibe).

Christchurch has a long way to go, but for now its pretty unique.

New Zealand by caravan

New Zealand Collage.jpgWhat’s the best way to be sure you can handle living with someone? Spend 2 weeks in a caravan. Before announcing to my family that I was going to move to Berlin with Daniel, I wanted to be sure we could actually handle living together. Sure we had practically been living together the last couple of months he was in Australia, but that doesn’t compare to the stress of moving to another country and only having each other to rely on. Living in a caravan in a foreign country for a couple of weeks I’d say comes pretty close if not goes beyond. And so came our first trip… 2 weeks traveling around New Zealand’s gorgeous South Island.

Now I say ‘caravan’ pretty lightly, because in reality it was just a glorified mini-van (mini being the operative word).

Happy Camper

Not a full picture of the caravan but you get the idea. Clearly I was pretty excited about the whole living in a van concept at this point.

You know what else was mini? The bed. And guess what’s not mini? Daniel and I. With him being 6’3″ and me almost 6′ it was pretty damn cosy. I love cuddling as much as the next girl but sometimes I just want to sleep and in a position that isn’t dead straight with my arms stuck my side. Anyway needless to say we more than survived. We had a truly amazing 2 weeks together and just loved New Zealand. Seriously I keep recommending it to anyone I talk to. New Zealand had never really been on my ‘must see’ travel list (even though it seems to be the latest trendy location on everyone else’s) but it was so much more than I expected. I’d always thought of New Zealand as a similar but smaller version of Australia but it isn’t at all. It is completely unique with the most diverse geography. We’d go from mountains, to ocean, to rainforest, to rolling grass fields all in one day. Keep posted, more of stunning New Zealand to come!

 

And so it begins…

I want to travel the world My blog! Ok and the next step in my life (which really gave birth to this blog). I recently decided to quit my job, sell my baby (aka my new red convertible, every girl needs one at some point in their life right?), and leave my cushy life living with my family, close to all of my friends to move to pretty much as far away as you can get… Berlin, Germany!

I started working full-time my final semester of university and soon realised I was so not ready to be an official member of the workforce for the rest of my life. That’s when I met my boyfriend Daniel who had been on the same path headed for full-time work when he decided he wanted to spend his life traveling and pursuing his other dreams, number one being professional water polo. I met Daniel while he was playing water polo overseas in Sydney (he’s from California). It didn’t take long for us to discover how similar our dreams were (no not water polo, I’ve tried it, pretty much drowned) but traveling, living all over the world and just making the most out of life as we possibly can. We want to be those annoying old people who are constantly saying “that reminds me of when I was living in [insert obscure country] and I [insert even more obscure event]“. So when Daniel said he was moving Berlin to continue water polo the decision for me was difficult, scary, huge easy.

So here we are about to start the next stage. I just told my family and friends the news last week that I’m headed out in August, which also meant I gave notice at my job (oh yeah I work for my parents, talk about making the decision to leave doubly hard on them and me!). Bring on Berlin!