I am about to embark on the ultimate adventure. Tomorrow I will be flying to a completely unfamiliar country on the opposite side of the world where I don't know a soul, have no job and no place to live! I am participating in a Work and Travel program in Australia. I have an Australian Working Holiday visa, which is valid for one year. Once I arrive, I will receive two nights' accommodation in a centrally located hostel and attend an orientation to help with finding jobs. A tax file number will be set up so, by the time I arrive, I can open up a local bank account and have my paychecks deposited right into my account.
As you can imagine, I'm feeling a fairly wide range of emotions: excitement, apprehension, and a little sadness too at leaving my family and friends behind. Mostly it's this new feeling that I can only describe as openness, which is fitting considering I'm visiting the land of vast openness. It's a strong feeling of anticipation mixed with independence.
Before I left, I set up a blog to share with my family and friends so they can keep tabs on my Australian adventure. It will be a great way to communicate as they can also post comments, so it's almost like having a conversation. I will have free internet access through the program, so I'm not worried about connecting. Plus, supposedly there are internet cafes everywhere. I'm also bringing a mobile phone, which I borrowed from a friend who had studied abroad in Sydney a year earlier. If I didn't have a phone, I could purchase a relatively cheap mobile phone in Sydney for about $60.
As far as packing goes, I'm going with the "less is more" approach. I have a large camping backpack, which I'm stuffing with only the essentials: whatever clothing I will need for about 2 weeks in spring, summer, fall and mild winter, bathing suit, sensible but nice ballet flats, flip-flops (called thongs Down Under), sneakers, towel, sarong (to double as beach mat, bubble wrap for breakables, pillow, etc.), minimal toiletries since I can buy most things while there, a copy of Lonely Planet Australia, and a portable storage USB drive containing my resume and other critical documents including my scanned passport. Anything else I will need I can likely buy while there.
One last thing I want to say about the pre-departure process is how easy it is to get a visa to work and travel in Australia. No visiting a consulate, no appointments, just simply submit an application online, pay the AU$235 visa fee and wait up to 3 weeks). I found a flight with a student travel agency which allowed me to purchase a round-trip flight for around $1,600. I selected my return date for 4 months from my arrival but it's flexible so I can change it for a small fee. I may end up staying or going home in May, depending on how things go. I hope I end up staying.