Pausing my life for a year
July 11, 2009 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm a twenty-something American guy who has been considering an extended trip to Australia, ever since I visited for a few weeks in 2008. Last night I decided to be bold and finally applied for a Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462). I woke up and found the visa approval email in my inbox. Talk about fast! Excellent... so now what? How do I pause my established life and go on an adventure? How do I let people know, especially at work? I have a fair amount of stuff tying me down at home, but I think I need to leave in a few months or it's never going to happen.

I didn't go backpacking after college, opting to enter the work force. I always said that I'd make some money, and THEN travel... the former has happened, but all of my adventures have been short trips after big projects at work. The student loans are finally paid off, so I figure I have no excuse not to go on a 6-12 month adventure. Plus the USD is doing better against the AUD than it was last year when I visited, which may help me at the start of my trip.

I expect that the adventure may involve a few months of backpacking around, and a few months of living and working white-collar job(s) in either Sydney or Melbourne. There are plenty of resources for how to survive once you embark on your adventure, how to plan your stay, etc., but I'm not finding much on how to line things up before then. Dealing with all of the logistics is a bit overwhelming!


Job: I have a nice job, but obviously I'd need to leave it in some capacity. I could quit on good terms, or perhaps stay on as a part-time remote consultant (small software company). I have plenty of vested stock options, and plenty that haven't vested yet. I also have a fairly absurd quantity of paid vacation in the bank. I could start using that to go on vacations, or cash it out when I leave. I'm also wondering about how much notice I should give regarding my plans. (This is the main reason this is Anonymous. Some people at work read MeFi, and may not like to hear that I'm planning to go. Yes, this is far from foolproof, but I'll deal with it...)

Timing: I have twelve months from now to show up in the country. I'd like to spend a bit more time at my job saving up money, and I have committed to visiting family in the midwest this coming Christmas. So I'm looking at January as my earliest visa start date. I have an important family wedding here in the states in Fall 2010 that I'd want to attend, perhaps leaving Australia for good at that point, or using it as a holiday from my holiday. Should I buy my flight sooner or later? Buying it would probably light a fire under me in terms of making sure the trip actually happens!

Breaking my lease: I'm currently in the process of finding a new apartment at home. All of the places I'm looking want me to sign a 1 year lease. Obviously, I'd need to leave the country before then. Should I be disclosing this ahead of time, even though it may hurt my ability to find a place? My neighborhood is popular, so finding someone to sublet or take over the lease may be reasonable.

Stuff: I have a lot of money invested in material possessions, but I don't need to sell stuff to be able to afford this trip. Obviously I'm only going to be able to take the essentials with me. No car, no furniture, no art, no entertainment center, no multi-computer multi-monitor setup. If I'm planning on coming back, should I just get a storage unit? Find friends to babysit the nicer stuff while I'm gone? Sell the stuff that I don't have a strong attachment to?


Advice, anecdotes, warnings, links, etc. appreciated. Feel free to write me at:
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have no real advice about how you go about pausing your life but should you ever need any hints or tips on travelling around Australia for cheap, feel free to mefimail me. I went there in 2003 and had the time of my life. If my experiences can help you to have a similarly awesome time then I am only too happy to help.
posted by gergtreble at 2:58 PM on July 11, 2009

Just a few tips -

V Australia can get you to Oz for cheap, compared to "normal" airlines. You'd be going at the height of their summer, so it may be pricey. Check the conditions of your visa - you may only need a one-way ticket to enter, and then would be free to shop around for a good deal once you're on the ground.

Sell/donate what you can get when you get back. Keeping a car registered/insured/maintained may be a huge hassle so might be worth selling; things like photo albums and stuff can go live with friends/relatives.

Consider too that you may change physically while over there - you may gain or lose weight, or become incredibly He-Man/She-Ra-like if you take up a sport or do a lot of walking, so perhaps think about redoing most of your wardrobe when you get back too.

Talk to an accountant about your taxation situation.

Find out if you need a permanent address to buy a car if you want/need one.

What's their Craigslist/Ebay/Freecycle?
posted by mdonley at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2009

Organise your financial stuff as much as possible before you leave. The two banking systems are very different and it can be difficult to deal with if you don't have some internationally accepted financial arrangement in place.

The summer holidays finish here when school returns at the end of January, so early February is a good time to come here as the peak season rates stop applying to everything. In Sydney, February is often the hottest, most humid of the summer months.

Arrange your health insurance well. Even though health-care is relatively cheap here by American standards, a hospital stay could still end up seriously expensive as you won't be covered by Medicare. Get an international driver's licence.

Work is a bit of a crap-shoot in Sydney at the moment, and it's not possible to predict what it will be like early next year. If possible, leverage your connections so that you have particular companies you can contact when you get here. If you're happy to just pick up any kind of work that you can, keep a couple of hundred dollars aside in case you need to need to meet some legal requirement to work in a particular industry - you'd need a responsible service of alcohol certificate to work in a bar here, for instance.

It's expensive to travel to the more remote parts of Australia, but well and truly worth it if you can afford to "do" the Top End.

Above all, enjoy.
posted by Lolie at 5:03 PM on July 11, 2009

Here is how I did it:

You don't say what type of Job you have. I quit my regular and took a side job in a related field for the few months ramping up to my departure. I was a great employee, and was invited to come back after my adventure. I felt clean, because employer knew my plans and required my expertise for exactly the amount of time I had to give (although, they would have kept me on if I wasn't leaving.)

I kept may apartment, had the pets seen to (friend lived at my place) and left my return date open within a few weeks. I required no rent, but if opportunity knocks, you could accept a sub-letter if they are trustworthy (to leave when you come home.)

I saved for 6 months prior to leaving. I stayed one months longer than planned because it was great, and I could.

American Express checks. Money in account. Proper visas.
posted by jbenben at 5:45 PM on July 11, 2009

Depending on your landlord, you may well be able to negotiate a 6-month lease. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to tell him/her that you have no firm plans to leave, but may be moving "for work" sometime after the new year. You may have to pay a little more, but they might also be in a hurry to get it rented and figure the economy will be better next year anyway. Alternatively, make sure you'll be ok with your new landlord if you find someone else to take over the lease. A major advantage to subletting is that you'll still have your apartment when you come back--no need to find a quick place in a hurry.

You said you work at a software startup. Depending on just how flexible they are and how well you can do your job from anywhere, it's not that uncommon in the industry to have people working from all over. If you like your job, and think you may want to return to it when you come back, arranging to work remotely for a time may really be your best bet. Perhaps you could come to an arrangement where you: first use some of your paid vacation time to get there, get settled, and such; then work full/part-time from Australia for a period; and perhaps take paid and/or unpaid vacation to travel around the country. This would give you a nice balance between work and play. Putting procedures in place like weekly status reports to your manager and/or weekly 1-on-1 checkins by skype help keep your employer confident in you and keep you connected to the office.

OTOH, do consider doing something radically different: helping out at a school, doing trail maintenance someplace remote, or essentially anything that gets you away from a computer and out of an office. This probably won't pay nearly as well, but if you can afford to do so, even for a while, it might be a refreshing change of pace. You are flying to the other end of the earth after all. Why go all that way to do the same work you do at home? It's certainly worth considering.

Have fun!
posted by zachlipton at 7:44 PM on July 11, 2009

I think the best advice about setting up to leave, is to recognize that life will continue in the USA after (and during!) your departure. You might say "yeah yeah, duh!" to that, but subconsciously our brains like to wait for a stop or a pause before moving on- maybe our bad experiences on playground equipment in childhood set that up! That stop/pause just won't happen, you've got to just get on the plane and go, even though stuff is happening at home. You can't actually pause your life, just have some of it happen other places. :)

That said, definitely schedule in your "must be there" events on the calendar (the wedding) and work out what sort of time schedule you want. The VISA starts when you land, as far as I can tell, and you can hop in and out as many times as you want- it just remains whether you want two 14hour+ flights (that are expensive!) or four. I would suggest after Christmas 09, Feb-Feb might work (you may as well use up all of your 12 months of the visa) with a break for the wedding. Depending where you are, June/July/August (even May) are pretty cold (southern bits anyway) and September, October and November are really nice weather wise so it would be a shame to leave just before then. I like Aussie summers, can be a bit hot though.

Flight wise, check out if flying through Europe is cheaper, it might not be, but something to check out. LA-Auckland(NZ)/Sydney/Melbourne is a common route. Flight prices rarely dip as the time gets closer, so buy sooner than later. As you say this might make you bite the bullet and organize stuff. :)
posted by titanium_geek at 9:07 PM on July 11, 2009

« Older How do I deal with a phobia that came from being...   |   So hungry I could eat a, well, horse. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.