With winter creeping in and my work contract nearing an end, I decided to leave my home in Melbourne last month. This meant organizing the geographical shift, handing over my tasks at work, saying goodbyes to friends and the inevitable dip in funds (roughly $2500 from home to home and everything in between)…

But leaving is the easy part. Taking a step forward always means leaving things behind. What’s next is drowned in uncertainty.

Where would I live? How would I get there? Would I find a new job?

Photo Credit: Shulu Chen
Two and a half weeks of (impatiently) waiting revealed the answers. This post is a two minute debrief. For further reading check out my tips for settling in fast.

My new home is in Australia’s Northern Territory along the Gove Peninsula—not part of my original plan. I first tried to settle in Cairns, a gateway town to the Great Barrier Reef; but its overrun backpacker scene did not feel right for me.

Since the Peace Corps I crave adventures off the beaten track; often even a few kilometers farther and to the left.

My heart felt at ease by the proposal to work in a town with less than 4,000 residents (70% indigenous), inhabiting land where the Didgeridoo was invented. This could be an adventure different than “living in the US with an accent”, as my sister would say.

From the two weeks since my arrival, I can confirm: it is something different. No more nine to five. No more at-home wifi. No more tram tracking.

I stepped into 5am starts, sitting in parks to connect and a very valid fear of buffalo, crocodiles and jellyfish.

The greatest difference? Time feels like the strongest currency.



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

Where about? Melbourne, Australia. Months ago I claimed it as my next home and a rush upon arrival made 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 this 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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My wet weather gear. Photo Credit: Marjolein
Day 14: ~25 kms
(Ngunguru to Patau)

The day started well with blueberry topped porridge plus some delicious coffee! Rather than start down 8 kms of road, the campground owner took me directly to the Mackerel Track on his way to work.

The walk was easy enough but it was my wettest day so far. The weather alternated between sunshine and rain basically the entire time. Fortunately my $3 poncho made for the perfect bag cover (thanks for that tip, Maya). I arrived in wet shoes to TideSong where I called it a day. Lovely place and lovely people who have also done the walk!
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Day 15 : 25 kms
(Taiharuru to Urquats Bay)

Although a southerlie brought strong, cold winds recently, the day was quite bright and sunny. The Tidesong owners graciously drove me around the estuary so I could start the track without wet feet. It was well formed putting gorgeous views of rolling hills and ocean at my back.

I continued down the coast to beaches way more scenic than 90-mile. The water was clear and reflected beautiful hues of blue in the distance. Next was the most tiring bit--uphill 400 meters--the highest elevation climb so far! 

At the end, in Urquats Bay, a local picked me up with the offer of camping near his house. It was cold, windy and near dark when we arrived so he ended up allowing me to stay indoors instead. As a former Dept of Conservation employee, he shared lots of information about the plants and animals in the area, tools for tramping, and fun anecdotes about other Te Araroa hikers he's met.

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Day 16 : 10 kms
(Marsden Point to Uretiti Campground) 

The local who hosted me last night was a life saver again today. He took me in to Whangarei for a resupply, a library visit (to print the more detailed daily walk guide) and even to the local market. Then he dropped me on the other side of the harbor to restart the walk. 

The path continued on the coast with a bit of road walking to avoid yet another boat crossing. During this section I crossed my second TA walker. This one came from Germany just a few weeks ago and decided to start backward, from a city less than 100 kms away. He carried all the things he brought with him to New Zealand and looked quite tired and overloaded. I offered him a few tips and for once thought I was adequately prepared for this journey.
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Day 17 : ~31 kms 
(Uretiti Campground to Cove Rd exit)

Beautiful sunny weather and at times hot! The path went from beach to road to bush. All quite well formed. I was tempted to stay in the cute town called Waipu, where I picked up my Asics runners (thanks for dropping them off there, Maya!). However, it felt like walking on clouds with them on so I continued until sunset. Still, I was 3.5hrs away from the nearest town and I stopped in a vacant development site to pitch my tent.


Day 6: ~15 kms (Mangamuka Bridge to Apple Dam Campground)
I slept so well in Kaitia (Main Street Lodge - $30). If only I would have slept longer! I woke at 5:30am naturally, ready to start the day. Once I prepared lunch and dinner (rice), I stopped by the Pak N Save for more food and visited the Te Ahu iSite.

The representative there confirmed I should skip the Herekino and Raetea forest sections. "We don't advise anyone to go there. Especially if they don't have to", she told me.

I hitched a direct ride to Mangamuka within minutes and started to walk around noon. It was mostly uphill along a combination of paved, gravel and dirt roads. Apple Dam felt forever away but it was a clean, simple campsite. No apples though.
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Day 7 : 26 kms (Apple Dam to Puketi HQ/Recreation Area)

I woke up cold and wet from the moisture of the dam. Once packed, I set off around 7am for my most challenging day so far. It included a 2km river walk and getting wet couldn't be avoided. I tried without shoes but the rocks were too painful. The water reached mid-thigh in some spots but was generally mid-calf or less (I'm 161cm).

Then it got dangerous. In the forest section I  climbed, slipped, slided, squatted, and descended backward at many points. I felt like I was rock climbing more than hiking.

After 11 hours I arrived to the hut, where a small group was celebrating the end of their "farms skills" course. I learned all about possums (they must die!) and Kauri Die Back disease (they must live!). When I feel asleep, their conversations lingered in the background. Drunk people don't know how to whisper...
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Day 8 : 29 km (Puketi HQ/Recreation Centre to KeriKeri - Aranga Backpackers & Holiday Park)

I woke at 4am ready to start but after stepping outside to pee, I realized I still wanted to stay in bed. My feet ached from yesterday and while I slept deeply, it wasn't enough.

The trail started on a gravel road and after a fence hop I was on farmland. I passed many lamb, cows, and eventually a person too. My first Te Araroa cross! The Frenchman started backward, from Bluff six months ago. 

Most of the day alternated between dirt roads and hopping fences through pastures. The markers were a bit more distant than the forest and there wasn't paved through trail. I had to double checked my path often.

At the end of the day my shoes and socks were wet from the muddy cow printed land. My feet began to ache as I approached KeriKeri. I called it a night at the Aranga Holiday Park. The fee was $18 --too much for tenting, so I snuck in the lounge area to sleep.
Photo credit : Maya Yasur
Day 1: 20 kms 
(Cape Reinga to Te Paki Stream)

I arrived to Cape Reinga just after sunrise. The wind was intense but it was beautiful to watch the powers of the ocean and sea collide.

During the day I crossed several small streams and puddles (it rained at least three days before in this area). Sometimes I took off my socks and shoes to cross. When I didn't, I regretted it. 
First breakfast--cold oats 5km after the Cape

Once I tried going slightly off-tack to avoid a stream and got caught in dense bush. I basically had to fight my way out for about fifteen minutes. Not a small feat 15km in to my trek with a 20lb backpack.

The rest of the day showed me beautiful landscapes from pink sand dunes and empty beaches to manuka forest. It finished on the infamous 90-mile beach.

I freely set up camp near Te Paki Stream, seeing my first two people as I veered off to scout a place for the tent. They were far in the distance so I ended my day without human interaction since Cape Reinga.
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Day 2 : 20 kms
(Te Paki Stream to The Bluff campground)

The rumors are true. The beach makes an uninteresting walk. Only cars passed me by.

Other highlights include seeing a miniature "Hole in the Rock", a pack of wild horses and collecting seashells to occupy my time.

Besides the book, my only other company on the beach were dead animals. Fish, bird, and seal carcasses were eerily scattered throughout the walk.
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Can you see the rainbow?

Day 3: 29 kms 
(The Bluff to Utea Park Campground "Hukatere")

Long section but it ended well--in a real bed. After The Bluff I was pleasantly surprised to see the hostel-like camp ground with full kitchen facilities, hot showers and beds! 

They advertise that it's run on koha (donation) but that is really to say: $10 for camping, $15 for a bed.

I finished my book during the walk, so I was happy to find a small book exchange area at the campsite too.

I camped out at The Bluff site just opposite a bird reserve. The toilet was disgusting and the cisterns were dry. However, there was plenty of open space on the grass for my tent.

My body is OK but tight calves and slight shoulder pain from my backpack straps.
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Day 4 : 0 km 
(rained out at Utea Park)

It rained through the night and into the morning. I was so glad I splurged on a bed! By 10am there was no change in the weather, so I decided to stay put.

I was disappointed at first but decided it would be good rest for my body. Plus, I could utilize the kitchen to make a hot lunch with the plentiful shellfish, tuatua.

Then a friend of the owner invited me along for a leisurely day out. We stopped at the dairy (a small town store), where I stocked up on food for the next week. Next we went on to visit a few of his friends for "a cuppa".  We also did some fishing (we only caught a star fish and sea weed) and we wrapped up the day at a harbor for sunset.

Back at camp I feel asleep easily, with a beautiful starry view through the window.
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Day 5 : 29 kms
(Utea Park to Ahipara)

Feeling recharged from the uplifting day before, I set out early and ready to conquer the world!


The walk was long but smooth. I continued collectting shells, reading a bit, and simply doing nothing. Parts of the day showed a sparkle in the sand.

The last kilometer into Ahipara was the hardest on my feet. Fortunately, a nice local man offered me a ride to the shop (2kms from the beach) and helped me decide my next steps.

After much contemplation and advice from locals, I decided to skip the beginning forest sections. Apparently the trail can be quite over grown, muddy, slippery, and steep. A dangerous combination with a heavy backpack and off-season timing (less people for help and track maintenance).

Instead, I hitched a ride to Kaitia for the bigger supermarket, a visit to the Te Ahu Centre and a key hub for hitching to my next start-- Mangamuka Bridge.

Big thanks to Maya for all the love and support!!