Sometimes its who you know, not what you know

I have been in the USA for eight months now and I have finally started to settle in, well kind of.  I have a job, an income, an apartment in a cute Chicago neighborhood and a few new friends, but it is still hard being away from home.  It’s something that I ALWAYS have on my mind.  I have to remember it is a mind game, something I prepared for (see my post on How I Prepared to Move Overseas).  Despite that, I am loving the change it has bought to my life.  I am doing things that I enjoy, taking my life day by day and paying attention to the little things, as they say, I am stopping to smell the roses.  It is February, the dead of winter and I am surviving, waiting out for spring which I heard does come!

I wanted to tell you how I got to this point.  I moved over to the USA with no job, no plans and all of my savings.  About 5 months in I had traveled around the USA and Canada, hung out with family and enjoyed the summer, but I was starting to freak out a little.  I was running out money very quickly.  I applied for a few jobs, but for some reason I didn’t take it seriously (I blame it on my quarter life crisis).  Luckily, I had a place to stay and food to eat courtesy of my grandparents!  Fall had begun and the weeks were flying by, I started to wonder what I should do with my life.  There is only so long you can stand living your days watching day time tv, sleeping in till 11am, and looking forward to the weekly trip to town to buy beer and mrs mikes chips (a Freeport, IL favorite) with my grandpa.  At this point I was looking for farm hand jobs or waitressing (surely the aussie accent would bring in the tips) just to get out of the house.  But seriously, I was starting to think it might be easier to go back to Australia.

Before I moved, I knew that I had a couple of genuine contacts that I could reach out to.  People that I know that would look after me if they could.  Almost four years ago I did my final year placement for my Health Information Management degree in Chicago.  I had been in contact with my supervisor over the years, always updating her on my progress. I told her I was moving to Chicago and was looking for a job, never had I imagined she would have a job available.  Turns out I was literally in the right place at the right time, because a position became available and I was the perfect candidate.  I didn’t have the job yet.  The company’s annual convention was only a couple of weeks away in LA.  I was very low on funds but I decided to take the risk and buy the $600 convention ticket, plus travel expenses and go! I was able to volunteer, network and get my name known within the profession.  I got back from LA and waited, was the risk worth it? Finally, I received a job offer in Chicago and within my field of Health Information Management.  My plan to move to the USA, to travel, spend valuable time with family and find a Health Information Management job was a success, but I was cutting it very fine!

There are three life lessons I learnt from this.  Number 1: networking is the key to the world, until you get out there and see the world, you will realize how small it actually is.  Lucky for me I love to network so this came easy for me.  Number 2: take risks! You never know where life is going to take you, so you might as well test it out and found out what it has in store for you.  Number 3:  make your dreams happen, do you have an idea? Well go out there do it!  The only reason I moved to the USA with no job and no plan was because I knew it would work out.  Secretly I did have everything worked out in my head.  I knew exactly what I wanted but didn’t try to force things, instead I lived in the moment, enjoyed my time day by day and let the opportunity come to me.  This is something that doesn’t come easy for everyone but if you let it happen, work hard, stay positive and believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything, including your dreams.

IMG_3253^ Life in a winter wonderland


How I Prepared to Move Overseas

Have you ever thought about how awesome it would be to stop everything in your life right now and move to a foreign country? Well, that is the first step to moving overseas.  First of all you have to want to do it.  A lot of people will think this but will do nothing about it.  I don’t blame you, leaving your life, comfort zone, family/friends, career, savings, stuff, the list goes on, is by far the hardest part.  So how did I get past this point? Well, I analyzed my current situation and then mentally prepared myself.  I looked at my life, where I was heading, my goals and what I’d be doing next year.  For me I saw uncertainty or other words I had no idea.  I had no plans and the only thing I was committed to was my job, my apartment with 6 months left on the lease and my car loan.  All things I could leave without much of a consequence.  So I decided if I didn’t do anything now, I might not ever have the chance.  So I made the decision and I stuck to it.  I decided I would wait until my lease was finished, which was in 6 months time during May.  That would also mean I have been at my job for 2 years, a good number to have on your resume and I would be arriving in the USA during their summer so this would give me a chance to ease into their winter.  Now that I had a time frame I had to plan! This is what I did:

  • Saved my Money.  I am usually good with saving and I always save for travel, so I already had 6 months worth of solid savings behind me.  The next thing I did was plan out how much I would earn between now and May so I could get an idea on how much I could save.  To me it wasn’t quite enough so thats when I decided I would stay for an extra 6 weeks after my lease and stay with family/friends.  This gave me an extra $2000 just from not having to pay rent and bills for 6 weeks.  I didn’t take any annual leave for the whole year so I received an extra month of my salary from the payout.  I sold my car about 3 months before I left because it was costing me about $600 a month with the loan, insurance, petrol ect and I could get around fine without it.  Unfortunately I didn’t sell it for what I owed on my loan so I did have to pay about $1000 out of my savings (don’t buy a car unless you really need one, they really are a waste of money).  The last thing I did was sell all my stuff, which made me $4000! (I will be going through the process of selling my stuff in another post)  So just with strategically planning out my timing I was able to double my savings in a 2 month period.
  • Sold all my stuff.  I made the decision that if I was going to move overseas I didn’t want anything to hold me back (I will be talking about becoming a minimalist  in another post, but ‘stuff’ will hold you back in life, you just don’t know it until you get rid of it!)  I also wanted to make it harder to move back home then it is to move overseas.  This was another mental tactic I used.  If I didn’t have anything to go home to, meaning I would have to start again with buying furniture ect, I could avoid convincing myself I could easily move home if I went through any tough stages.  I eventually sold/donated/gave away all my stuff except for a few sentimental things and my three suitcases I was taking with me.  I could simply walk out of my apartment, jump on a plane and go. So thats what I did, I even went home to my parents and went through all my old stuff and got rid of probably three quarters of everything I ever owned.  Honestly, you need to try it, it’s so freeing!
  • Researched.  You can’t move to another country if you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.  I researched things like taxes, driver license, super, healthcare, bank accounts ect.  (I will be writing a post on what I researched and what I found out)
  • Made a To Do list.  I created a To Do list separated by month of all the things I needed to do before I left.  It included things like changing my addresses, book a doctor check up, purchase travel insurance, cancel subscriptions ect.  (I will be writing post on what I had on my to do list)
  • Quit my job.  For me this was one of the hardest parts about my move.  I had a really good job and I loved everyone that I worked with so it was really hard leaving.  It was also scary quitting a job and not having one to go to.  This is where all my uncertainty about moving overseas was.  Will I be able to get a job in the USA?  Will I run out of money? Am I going to be able to find a job when I get back? But I had to have full confidence in my experience, skills and professional contacts would lead me to finding a job in the USA.
  • Created a ‘Melbourne’ bucket list. Another thing I did to mentally prepare myself was create a bucket list of everything I wanted to do in Melbourne before I left.  I did this for two reasons:
    1. I have lived in Melbourne for 7 years and I had never been to things like the National Art Gallery, Phillip Island which is only an hour away and going to restaurants that I walked past everyday saying I need to go there but never do.  So what better time to do these then before I moved away.  I didn’t do this alone, I had invited friends because it was also a great way to spend quality time with them, plus they hadn’t seen a lot of this stuff too! There were so many times I got the comment “Bekah you should move away more often because I feel like I’ve seen more now then I ever have!”
    2. I didn’t want to get the case of FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media when I moved halfway across the world.  I knew this would make me homesick, even though half the time I would miss out on things when I’m in the same city.  So I wanted to mentality prepare myself.  I went to my usual annual events such as the Night Markets or the St Kilda Fest and really made the most of it, knowing that I would probably miss out on it next year, so I took the time to really enjoy it.
  • Said Goodbye. Do it! Don’t ever leave without telling people, you will regret it! If you do ever move away, you do not want to regret anything, because it will make it harder to be away.  The final month before I left I had something on nearly every night after work and weekends just spending quality time with my friends and family.  I also had a going away drinks where I could catch up with a large group of people at once.  That last month was probably one of the best months I’ve had in my entire life! I always knew I had good friends but now I know for a fact, I actually mean so much to so many different people, which is probably one of the best feelings in the world.  I was absolutely spoilt!

A couple of things that I didn’t have to worry about which are critical when planning to move overseas is obtaining a Working Visa and working out where you will stay after you arrive in your new country.  Since I have a Dual Citizenship with the USA I walked into the country with a ‘Welcome Home’ greeting and I had my family I could stay with indefinitely.  These are two things that are extremely important when moving overseas and shouldn’t be overlooked.

For anyone who is reading this and isn’t planning to move overseas, there is another message from this experience that I want to share.  I was living life and I had so many good times but it wasn’t until I decided I was going to leave that I really ‘lived’ it.  I started to really appreciate the people around me, going to events like it was my last time and savoring every moment of simple things like having a pot and parma at the local pub.  This was something I never really did and I enjoyed life on a complete different level.  Something I will try to continue in every aspect of my life from now on.

Make sure you check out my post on Why I Decided to Move Overseas 

IMG_9240^ One of the places on my Bucketlist! Warburton is only 1 hour from Melbourne and I had never been.  We packed up the car and camped for 1 night.  It was so much fun and so easy to go! I wish I had done this more.

Why I Decided to Move Overseas

That look I get when I tell people I quit my job and moved to the USA with no plans or job  prospects.  That look is why I created a short scripted description to explain why I did it (even though I don’t really know myself) but people look at me and think I’m crazy, the last thing I want in a new country.  So this is what I tell people:  Well I have no commitments, an American passport, family and it is an awesome career opportunity, so why not!

For most people, especially in rural USA where I am staying with my family, that sort of thing is unheard of, so unfortunately they still think I’m crazy.  But that is one of the main reasons of why I wanted to move overseas, to experience another culture!  The USA is known to be similar to Australia, but really it is completely different (I will explain differences in another post).  I think experiencing another culture helps you realize how good you actually have it at home.  So when I do eventually decide to go home I will appreciate it so much more.  Some of the other reasons:

  • I don’t know what I am doing with my life. Now and when I was living in Melbourne.  I call it my quarter life crisis.  The time after you go from High School to College to Graduating to working and wondering okay whats next? Suddenly an end date disappears, something that existed all your life until graduating from university.  My life was going to work, hanging out with friends (which I do miss), having another messy night out, waiting for the same social events to come up every year, eating the same avocado on toast brunch, and traveling home to my parents to escape the city life once in a while.  Don’t get me wrong I loved my life in Melbourne I had everything I ever wanted, well I thought I did! But thats it, the same thing year after year, nothing was changing.  So I made a change.  Something that isn’t easy for everyone.  Plus I can always go home, I can’t always move overseas!
  • I have an American Passport.  I would be stupid not to use it, especially since it is extremely hard to get a working visa in the USA.
  • Family.  Another big reason.  Having grown up without my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and other extended family around and missing out on family events my whole life, I wanted to experience what it feels like to have them by my side without just a 4 week holiday with a time frame and then not seeing them for another 2+ years.
  • Career Opportunity.  For me my career was a fluke.  Like a lot of people I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I just put a random assortment of  courses on my preferences.  Good news, I got accepted into University! Health Information Management, don’t know what that is? well neither did I.  Turns out it is one of the most progressive careers you can be in right now.  If you didn’t know, with all the technology around, majority of hospitals in Australia are still on paper! Seriously, iPhone 10 is out with facial recognition and patients are still being examined on a piece of paper.  Point is, in the USA majority of their hospitals are electronic, but they are only at the start of their journey, there is still lots of work around organising and using the health data correctly, which is what a Health Information Manager does.  So instead of living in the past of what paper is, I wanted to take that step forward and work directly with the future of Health Care.  The opportunities are endless!

So turns out my short scripted description is spot on, but I think moving overseas for anyone even if you don’t have one reason but to make a change in your life, you should do it!  I’m only at the beginning, but in the past 5 months I have learnt more about myself then I have in whole life.  If you have the urge to just do it, then do it. Live life, thats what its there for.

21458134_10159536256290529_4378782344421834159_oOne of the reasons why I love Chicago ^

The Journey into the Unknown

For me travel is a huge part of my life.  It has given me opportunities that I thought would never be possible.  I grew up traveling consistently to the USA to visit family since my mum is American.  This meant I am also a dual citizen.  Being a citizen of the United States comes with so many benefits, especially now with strict visa/immigration laws in the USA.  In 2014 I went to Chicago for the first time (even though I had been to the Chicago airport 10+ times before that) and I absolutely fell in love.  I had spent 4 weeks living in River North while doing a Health Information Management Internship in the Loop.  From then on I decided I was going to move to Chicago.  I went back to Melbourne, finished my Masters and got a job with an American Health IT Company.  Right away they sent me to Kansas City for training and then from there I was traveling to Brisbane every other week with trips to Cairns, Mackay, Sydney and London fully paid for (I did work hard though, of course).  It just goes to show there are jobs out there that allow you to travel.  After two years I decided it was time.  I had some experience, I quit my job, sold all my stuff and said goodbye to my awesome friends/family and life in Melbourne.  I bought a one way flight to Chicago with no plans.  It has now been nearly 5 months and I have had the freedom to travel around the USA and Canada while also spending quality time with my family.  So here I am, not knowing whats next so I thought id start a blog and share my experiences.  I plan to include my experiences of moving overseas, solo backpacking, minimalist travel, itineraries and planning, Contiki reviews, volunteering overseas, along with past travel experiences to other countries around the world.  So stay tuned.