In our last installment we talked about how to prepare for moving to another country.
I have to say for someone who is quite possibly the definition of laid back, ditsy and often useless when it comes to being organised and prepared, I got on the plane feeling pretty relaxed.
Yeah sure there was a large part of me that was burying my head in the sand. None of it felt real.
I’d packed my bags – with help from G who walked into my room, took one look at the pile of clothes by my suitcase and said ‘right, well there’s a hell of a lot of black wool in that pile isn’t there.
I’d hugged my cat so much that she had bit my nose causing a rather unattractive welt
I’d had three leaving parties (one of which I demanded that we get the tube across London to my favourite bar and then hugged the bouncer and cried)
And I’d had many a tearful goodbye (including one in starbucks where G and I sobbed so noisily that I think people must have assumed one of us was either dying or being dumped by the other).
I’d also attempted to have a tearful goodbye with the boy I liked but he essentially ignored me which meant I was just one-sidedly notebooking into the ether.
So now it was just the great unknown. As my mum drove me to the airport I felt physically sick. What on earth was I doing, what was I going to do when I got there? I had never even set foot in Melbourne before, I couldn’t even picture what it might be like.
It’s hard to be totally prepared for something as life changing as moving to the other side of the world. So here’s a few things I wish I’d known before I hopped off the plane in the land down under.
The first night is a danger zone
K and I landed in Melbourne at around 8pm. We were exhausted, smelly and pretty terrified. We were also in that weird holiday mode where normal tasks such as finding a taxi rank feel impossible and spent a lot of time wandering around arrivals like bewildered sheep.
When we finally found a cab and got to our air bnb we were greeted by our very nice but very sensible looking host (he was wearing a fleece – a sure sign of adulthood) and decided to go out for a ‘quick bite to eat’ to unwind before we hit the hay.
As we were leaving our host gave us directions to a nearby restaurant and eyed us worriedly: “You aren’t planning a big night out are you?”
“No of COURSE NOT” we proclaimed with the kind of outrage reserved for the Queen and her mates. “Perish the thought.”
The next time we saw him it was 7.30 in the morning and we were stumbling back into the house like alcoholic goats. He was on his way to work wearing a different fleece and looking at us disapprovingly.
The problem with jet lag is that it hits you with a big old injection of AWAKE at circa 11pm. Which meant that K and I had found the nearest bar, had a bottle of wine (each) and then suddenly found ourselves so awake it was not even funny.
Hey guys what do you get when you take two terrified girls, give them tons of booze and the inability to sleep.
An absolute trainwreck that’s what.
The rest of our night consisted of us making lots of new friends (i.e. attaching ourselves to every weirdo with the tearful warmth you might have when greeting a long lost relative) and me lying to every bartender that I was a top cocktail barista and racking up job interviews for the next day that I subsequently slept through.
So do yourselves a favour, stay in on your first night. Lest you too want to wake up on the first day of your new life at 5pm feeling like you’ve been slapped around the face with a wine soaked brush.
What an excellent start eh.
Book at least a month’s worth of temporary accommodation
I wish I had known this.
We booked an air bnb for….wait for it….8 days. 8 stupid days. We naively thought that we would find a house in little over a week and my god were we wrong. House hunting in a foreign country takes time and patience and the last thing you need is the pressure of being homeless looming over your head whilst you do it.
In Australia, you basically have to provide the equivalent paperwork to adopting a baby in order to secure a rental property. You also have to partake in ‘open houses’ where you turn up at a property and there are approximately eight hundred other people there miserably shuffling around the house in single file with their application forms already filled out whilst you desperately scribble yours whilst leaning on your friends back, hissing things like ‘well how the hell am I supposed to know my sodding TFN?!’
One particular highlight from our house hunting endeavours was the open house in the middle of nowhere that I attended with pal K and sister K. I arrived needing a wee and, unable to locate nearby coffee shop, decided that my best option was to sneakily pee in the house. This probably would have been fine had I not picked the toilet without a handle on the door and locked myself in.
Nothing says ‘I don’t think we got that house’ like an estate agent having to prise you out of a locked loo whilst you haughtily maintain you just went into the cupboard size room to ‘have a look around’.
Remember that there will be good times…but there will also be bad times
Moving to Australia has been one of the best experiences of my life. It is without a doubt the bravest move I have ever made, the biggest chance I have ever taken and, given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.
I have had some incredible experiences, been on top of the world happy and completely fallen in love with Melbourne.
However – like most things in life, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. Whilst a cursory glance at my Instagram might make life look 100% dreamy (and it really is most of the time don’t get me wrong), there have been hard times.
There have been tears; there have been phone calls home with desperate announcements of ‘not being able to do this’, there have been deeply unglamorous moments of working in bars and cafes just to scrape money together for rent. In one absolute bar shift from hell my pal O and I found ourselves inadvertently tasked with making bespoke cocktails for a party of 25 whilst our manager (whose main hobbies in life seemed to include lying about his accomplishments and admiring his acne in every mirrored surface he could find) refused to answer his phone.
Whilst I desperately made the weirdest concoctions known to man (burnt honey popcorn martini made with tequila anyone?), O ran back and forth from the supermarket like a deranged giraffe, buying ingredients for these ridiculous cocktails we didn’t know how to make.
I think if someone had offered to shoot us both in the face we would have accepted it gladly.
Starting your life all over again isn’t a walk in the park. And moments like this are par for the course. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or you can’t do it. You can.
All of a sudden everything just clicks into place: that might not sound particularly helpful but it’s true.
More than anything, if I had to advocate for making a move like this, packing up and starting again has completely changed how I feel about myself. In London I had started to feel somewhat rudderless, like I’d lost any semblance of control over my life. I wasn’t sure where I was going and I kind of lost faith in myself and what I was capable of. Moving here made me feel like I can do anything. I know I can do anything I put my mind to. And there’s real power in that.