How I got my Australian Work & Holiday Visa

Standing in the Target store’s cereal aisle, the shoppers around me must have thought I was a crazy person. Admittedly, had I seen someone excitedly jumping up and down for no apparent reason at 1pm on a Tuesday, I would’ve thought they were crazy, too.

What they didn’t know, is I had just received an email from the Australian Department of Immigration. My visa was approved! I was ecstatic to say the least, though I’d really had no reason to worry.

You see, not many people from the USA apply to go to Australia on a Work & Holiday visas, so, as long as you’re not a psycho or a felon, chances are you’ll be approved.

When my phone buzzed in that cereal aisle, I didn’t think much about it. I’d only submitted my application about 90 minutes before, so when I saw who the email was from, I figured it was just an automated “We’ve received your application and will get back to you” message. Everything I had read told me that the application process usually takes a few days.

It’s insanely easy to qualify for a Work & Holiday visa

Yes, it’s super simple to get a Work & Holiday visa. There’s only a few requirements. You must be:

  • Age 30 or under
  • Have a passport from one of several approved countries (more on that below)
  • Fluent in English (or have passed an English as a foreign language test)

And that’s it! There are a few documents required; a certified copy of your passport, birth certificate, and possibly a medical exam, if you’ve been to a certain list of at-risk countries.

Wow, that sounds easy…too easy…

So, there are a few caveats:

  • The visa costs about USD$400 (actually it’s AUD$420 plus a transaction fee).
  • You have to have at least AUD$5000 in savings (but thanks to the current exchange rate, that’s
  • You’re limited to one year (or two, if you’re from a certain subset of countries; unfortunately for me, the USA isn’t one of them).
  • You can only work for the same employer for up to six months during the year (though you can work for as many employers, and as many hours as you want).

But if you really want to visit Australia for more than just a 1-2 week holiday, those hurdles aren’t insurmountable.

It costs a LOT of money

The hardest part for me was actually saving up the money. Basically, though, I started actively saving money with every paycheck, and stopped spending money on things I didn’t need. The biggest savings for me was not going to movie theaters, and canceling my Netflix/Hulu subscriptions. That alone, saved me about $50/month, or $600 for the whole year.

In total, though, I needed to save about $7500 to make everything happened:

  • Sufficient Funds for entering Australia: $4400
  • Visa Application: $400
  • Documents/Passport photos: $75
  • Travel Insurance (6mo.): $335
  • Transportation (Planes, Trains & Buses): $1150
  • Accommodations (Hostels, mostly): $980
  • Miscellaneous (suitcase, supplies, etc.): $200

But I scrimped and saved for over a year, and got it done. Ok, well, I admit–I got some help from my family and friends to the tune of about $1000, but I still did it mostly on my own.

But saving money is hard! (tl;dr; no, it’s really not)

When people ask me how I saved that much money, I turn it back around on them. “How often do you buy a Starbucks coffee?” If it’s even just a few times a week, that adds up to over $600 in a year. Eat out or order in a couple times a week? That can be over $1000 in a year. How often do you go out to bars and clubs?

It doesn’t take long at all to realize that you could save a lot more money than you think. It’s just a matter of setting your priorities, and, yes, sacrificing. But the sacrifices will be worth it, ten-fold.

Every once in a while, you might want to cave, and buy that Starbucks, or order out for dinner. When those times come around, remind yourself that $4 coffee might cover half a night in a hostel in Fiji (no joke; I’m staying at one for about $8/night). Get your friends and family in on the game. With them supporting you, you’ll be less tempted to spend money that could go towards your travelling.

Ok, so what do I really need to know?

If you’ve gotten this far, and still think you might want to get a Work & Holiday visa, congratulations! Most people stopped reading at “I have to give up Starbucks?!” If you’re one of those, or your one of my friends or family reading this post because you love me, you can stop reading here.

Ok, are they gone? Cool. Let’s get started.

So, I don’t know where you’re from. I’m from the US, so applying for the visa was insanely simple for me. Other countries might have a couple more hurdles to follow. Some countries, however, have it good, because they can stay for a second year.

Essentially there are two kinds of WHV’s for Australia:

Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)

  • Eligible countries: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, (South) Korea, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
  • The visa is issued for one year.
  • You can only work for each employer for up to 6 months during the visa period.
  • You can apply for a second year visa, if you’ve done three months of approved “regional” work (farming, fishing, mining, construction, etc.) during your first year.

If you qualify for a second year, you are allowed to repeat any employer from the first year, as long as you work for them for no more than six months during each year. If you’re from any one of the countries listed, you can apply for this visa online, via post, or in person at an Embassy.

Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)

  • Eligible countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Urugay
  • The visa is issued for one year.
  • You can only work for each employer for up to 6 months during the visa period.
  • You are not eligible to apply for a second year.

So the main difference between the two visas, other than which countries are eligible, is that 462 visa holders aren’t allowed to apply for a second year. Unfortunately, I fall into that category, so once my year is up, I’ll have to make plans to go elsewhere.

Education requirements vary by country. If you’re from the US, you only need to have graduated high school. Other countries require two or more years of undergraduate studies.

Only US citizens can apply for the 462 visa online. Everyone else must apply via post or in person at an Embassy. If you’re from a non-English-speaking country, you also have to be able to prove fluency in English, either by passing a test, or by having a certain amount of education completely taught in English.

Please note: The information above is current as of the time of publishing, but I am not a legal expert, and things change, so be sure to read up on the official Australia Immigration website, via the links above.

Whew! That was a lot of info! Have any questions? Feel free to let me know in the comments, or via my contact form.

Points of no return

Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone to see what I missed. This last week and a half, I’ve been in San Francisco, with a body that’s still on New York time, so I’ve been waking up pretty early.

This morning, when I looked at my phone, I was shocked. For the first time, the date said November for the first time (well, this year), and I was hit with the realization that this is the month I’ve been waiting for.

For almost a year, I’ve been saving, sacrificing, and scraping by to make my dream of travelling half-way around the world a reality. When you’re working so hard on something for so long, it never seems quite real.

In 10 days, I board a flight over the pacific ocean, leaving behind the continent and country I’ve lived in all my life.

Over a month ago, I quit my job.

It was a Monday. I had a short shift that day, which was a relief, as the weekend before had been, shall we say, intense (I was working at a major electronics retailer, that had a significant product launch).

Even that morning, the fact that I was leaving hadn’t really hit me. I’d been working there for over three years, and my coworkers were like family. About two hours before the end, though, my stomach started moving like there was a kickboxing tournament going inside.

During my last hour, I sat down to take care of some finalities. I had a talk with the HR manager to go over some details. I wrote a few emails to recap what had happened over the weekend.

And then, I had to write “The Email.”

You see, there’s a tradition that when you leave this job, you write an email to the rest of your team to announce that you’ve left. There are so many employees, and many of them won’t have been working that day, so they might not know you’re gone if you don’t write it.

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, because it brought home the fact that I’d made a life-altering choice.

I was leaving my friends, my home, my life, to go off and have the adventure of a lifetime.

Since leaving my job, I’ve slept in nine different locations in five different cities. I’ve spoken or volunteered at three conferences in three time zones.

But through it all, it still didn’t feel all that real. I was still in a country that I’m familiar with; a country that has been mine all my life.

This morning, when I looked at my phone, and saw the date was November 1st, it was like getting a punch to the stomach–in a good way, if that’s possible.

If I wasn’t nervous about flying 10,000 miles away, I’d probably have to have my sanity checked. A small part of me is thinking of canceling the whole thing, keeping my savings, and just flying back to New York.

But that part of me is drowned out by the rest, the part that can’t wait to set foot in the southern hemisphere for the first time. The part of me that is was born to explore.

I figure I can keep the fear in check, at least until I’m in a plane over the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know what’s ahead of me, or where I’ll be a year (heck, even a month) from now. But I’m not scared, and I’m not turning back.

I’m not going on vacation

It’s common in Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world to take a “gap year,” whether in between school and college, or after college before entering the work force.

In the US, it’s not so common–but it should be.

Long-term solo travel, whether as a gap year, or as a lifestyle, teaches personal responsibility and self-reliance. You learn to have backup plans, and backups for your backups. You have to plan and budget when you don’t have a regular paycheck coming in.

Whenever I tell someone that I’m moving to Australia, the reaction is usually one of the following:

  1. “Oh, I’m so jealous!”
  2. “Aren’t you scared?”
  3. “How can you afford to take a year-long vacation?”

I don’t think anyone should be jealous of me. If you want something hard enough, you will make it happen. Some want that corner office; some want to get married, buy a house and have kids. If you want it, and you work for it, it will happen.

Yes, I’m nervous, but I’m also prepared. I’m someone who plans everything out, so I’m fairly confident I’ll be able to pull it off. Worst comes to worst, I’ll come back home to US.

That last reaction grates on me a little, though. Yes, I’m making a life-style choice to explore and learn more about the world, but I’m not going on vacation. Making a jump like this is a TON of work, and the work doesn’t stop when I board that international flight. In fact, the work will be just beginning.

Even though I’ll speak the language (well, mostly; I still don’t know what Vegemite is), I’ll be in a foreign place, with different currency, unfamiliar streets, and no friends.

I’m not going for leisure. I’m starting a journey, one which, yes, I hope will give me a lot of stories to tell. But that’s what life should be about. Life is an adventure. There will be ups and downs, fun moments, scary moments, and times when I’ll wonder why I ever started.

But the reason I’m going is not just to be able to tell great stories. I want to learn about a part of the world that isn’t my own. I want to understand what makes another culture tick.

There are places in the world where “taking a year off” to travel isn’t just common–it’s expected. In Israel, it’s customary for young people to go backpacking for a year after their two years of military service. In Yemen, students are required to take a year off before attending a public university.

Taking time to travel later, like I’m doing (I turn 30 years old shortly after starting my travels), isn’t as common, but I certainly won’t be alone on the road. I think everyone, no matter how old, has a responsibility to go out into the world and learn about other cultures.

Learning brings knowledge; knowledge brings understanding; understanding brings acceptance. If more of us went out into the world, learned about each other, and shared each other’s cultures and beliefs, there would be less strife and pain in the world.

So no, I’m not taking an extended vacation. I’m embarking on a journey to learn more about the world and the people in it.

Goosebumps & Butterflies

Ninety days from today, I land in Sydney, Australia to begin my one year Working Holiday. 90 seems like a big number, but when you consider I first made the decision to move to Oz over 8 months ago, it’s a very short amount of time.

Am I nervous? You bet. Scared? Of course. Excited?

You’d better believe it.

Yesterday, I gave notice at my job. I’m working on getting a transfer (or technically, re-hire) at the same company in Australia, but officially telling my job I’m quitting without actually having another job lined up down under is just a little nerve-wracking. I’m confident I’ll be able to find a job, but turning in my notice just added one more layer of reality to everything I’ve done so far.

I have just over a month before I leave on the first leg of my round-the-world adventure. Every day, as the number of days goes down, I get more nervous–and more excited. I tell myself I’d be a lunatic if I wasn’t at least a little anxious, but that doesn’t help to lessen the effect at all.

I’d probably be a lot more worried if I wasn’t such an organizer. I have a spreadsheet with all of the details (and with over two days of combined long-distance travel over the course of 14 legs and 49 days, there are a lot of details to keep track of).

I’ve been tracking my finances, accommodations, flights, important details (visa info, required documentation, etc.), and even have a list and estimated value of all of the belongings I plan to sell before I leave. It’s all on one spreadsheet, almost like a dashboard of everything I need to keep track of for the next few months.

I’m about as ready as I could ever be. Part of me wishes I could just leave now, but I’ll have to be patient. As the days go by so quickly, I’m more confident than ever that I’m about to start the biggest adventure of my life. Bring on the butterflies.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”

–Henry David Thoreau

Suddenly real…

Today, I clicked the button.

What’s so hard about clicking a button? Most of us click lots of buttons every day. In fact, I do, too. This button, however, wasn’t just any ordinary button. This button committed me to a life-altering change.

I purchased my one way ticket to Australia. Non-refundable.

That single click is, I think, one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life so far. I’ve made purchases this large before (larger, even), but while losing a non-refundable ticket wouldn’t be the end of the world, it will surely be a great motivator to make my dream reality.

Let me tell you how it went down:

I’d been dream-searching for flights–you know, when you don’t have any intention of buying, but you’re looking anyway. I’ve been keeping an eye on what flights cost for some time now, for budgeting purposes more than anything else.

There’s a WordPress conference in San Francisco in October. I went last year, and wanted to go again this year, so I thought, let’s just check the price for a two-week layover in California.

The price was so much lower than any price I’ve seen before, even with all of the permutations of layovers, days of the week, and times of day I’ve been playing with forever. My first three thoughts, in order, were:

  • “I should book this while it’s available.”
  • “No, I need to save more money before I can actually commit to going.”
  • “How much money is in my savings account right now?”

When I realized I actually had the money, right then, to buy the plane tickets, I hesitated–for almost an hour. Arguing back and forth in my head (I’m good at that), I decided to keep looking.

After refining my search and playing around some more with the dates, I realized that, no matter what, there would be at least two layovers; one at LAX; the other, as it turns out, in Fiji.

I have friends (with a couch) in San Diego that I really want to see again before going overseas, so extending the LA layover was pretty much a no-brainer.

“Fiji,” I wondered. “Sounds like a nice place to be for a while.” In fact, inserting the extra week into my trip added just $94 dollars to the cost of the plane ticket.” I opened a new browser tab (by this point I had at least 30 or 40 open just on this one topic), typed in “Hostels Fiji,” and found that I could stay there for just $9/night, a little more than a third of what I pay for rent here in NYC. “$150 for a trip to Fiji?” I thought. “Yeah, that’s happening.”

I still hesitated. I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, moving around as if they were trying to escape a fire. I talked to some friends that I chat with on Skype, and they told me I should go for it. I debated, back and forth, in my own head. “I’m going to do it,” I said.

But I still hesitated. The butterflies were now frantic, as they tried to escape my stomach. I fought them back down.

I typed in my name, then my address, then my phone number. I clicked “Continue.”

I chose seats for each flight (four in all), and clicked “Continue.”

Now, I was presented with a screen; a terrifying, yet promising screen, filled with text fields labeled “Card number,” and “Billing Address.” The button at the bottom no longer said “Continue,” but rather “Pay and Book Flights.”

I must have sat, staring at that page, for–while it felt like an hour–at least five minutes. I had typed in the requested information, moved my mouse pointer to the afore-mentioned button, and waited. My mind raced, “Should I do this now? Should I wait? Oh hey, I got a notification on Facebook. I could use a sandwich. OMG, what am I thinking, my stomach is floating right now! I think I’m going to do it. I’m gonna do it! I’M DOING IT!”

I clicked the button.

And immediately, I felt relieved. All of that anxiety that had built up finally went away, and my stomach settled down to, well at least a light rumble.

There’s still a LOT I have a lot to do.

I need to line up ways to fund my life abroad, get background checks, certified documents, visas, etc. I have six months to raise about $6,000, so I can even make the trip.

But the hardest part is done. I have a plane ticket (well, four) that will take me to my destination, a life overseas.

My dream is suddenly something real, a tangible thing that still may or may not come to be, but is one giant step closer to happening.

Who knew a button could hold so much power?

A Decade of Pressing Words

Ten years ago today, I published my first blog post using WordPress,* just 10 months after the platform’s initial release.

It was a scary road back then. You had to create your own theme, there were no plugins, and we hacked core (!) to no limit.

It’s kind of cool how a blog post like that one can be just like a time capsule, showing you a snapshot of the person you were all those years ago. Back in 2004, I was 19 years old, working at a book store for $6.75 per hour. I was studying part time at the local community college in Manassas, Virginia, but I didn’t really know what I wanted from life at that point, so I honestly didn’t put all the effort into it that I should have.

It’s interesting to look back and see how I got from there to here. Shortly after my first blog post, I left the book store to go work at Target as a cashier. It wasn’t too long before I found my way to the pharmacy to help out as a cashier when the lead pharmacy technician was out for maternity leave. The pharmacist saw in me someone whose potential was being wasted as a cashier, so she encouraged me to learn to be a pharmacy technician myself.

So, I left the community college, and enrolled in a pharmacy technician certification program, got my certification before even completing the program, and started as a pharmacy technician with Target at $12 per hour. Not too long after that, I started a blog called PharmCountry.* Originally, I started blogging about news in the pharmacy industry, but eventually it became a place for me to tell stories about work, and eventually morphed into a personal blog.

I even started a blogging service aimed at pharmacy bloggers. The service never really got off the ground, but one of the first users of the site is still successfully blogging to this day. When I shut down the service, I bought her the domain and I still host it. It’s one of the most popular pharmacy blogs around.

Over the last ten years I’ve made several resolutions to blog more, and every time I kept to it for a while before letting life get in the way. Sometimes it was writer’s block, sometimes I was busy, and sometimes, I just didn’t have anything to blog about.

After seven years of working for Target, I left for a job at Apple, where I currently work as a mobile device technician. I’ve been there for three years, and make quite a bit more than I ever made at Target. I’ve made very close friendships at Apple, as well. These are people who share my passion for technology, and some of them even use WordPress, and come to me for help.

I became active in the WordPress community when I moved to New York in 2009 and attended my first WordCamp. I became a member of the local meetup group, and to this day have attended/volunteered at almost all of them. Since then, I’ve attended, volunteered, or spoken (sometimes all three) at more than a dozen WordCamps and various meetups around the US. I’ve made close friends in cities all over the country.

Thanks to the WordPress NYC meetup group, I met my four colleagues/friends at Tadpole, a development company we started two years ago. It’s been growing slowly, but surely. I’ve also taken on a part-time job at CyberChimps, doing support for their themes as well. Hopefully, before too long, I’ll be doing WordPress work full time, and I’ll be able to fulfill my dream of traveling, blogging, and helping WordPress users full-time.

It’s kind of amazing to think about all the different roles WordPress has played in my life. A place to collect my thoughts, a learning tool, a way to make new friends, a reason to travel to different places, a source of income, and who knows what else the future holds in store?

Only time will tell, but looking back at the last ten years, I’m looking forward to the next ten.

*Apologies for the links. I didn’t keep backups of my old sites.

Not all who wander are lost

I was born to be an explorer.

As a baby, I climbed all the way to the top of my family’s stand-up piano. From that perspective, it was like climbing Everest. Luckily, when I fell off of it, I managed to fall back down the front, and not over the back, which would’ve meant tumbling down a flight of stairs. I did manage to have stitches put in on both my chin and the back of my head.

When I was 2 or 3 years old, the family dog (a cocker spaniel/poodle mix, just a little bit smaller than me at the time) taught me how to climb the fence into our neighbor’s back yard.

Around age 5 or so, I scared my mom half to death by grabbing the hand of one of her daycare kids and leading her on an adventure around the block. One of the other daycare kids squealed, and we were found out before we made it half-way round.

A year or two after that, I added up all the pennies I had managed to save, enough for a bus fare. I just walked out of the house without telling anyone, got on the bus, and rode it all the way around back to my house (about a 90-minute ride).

For 11th grade (and the second half of 12th grade), I decided to transfer from my suburban Maryland high school to a high school closer into Washington DC for a magnet program. I ended up making closer friends there than I’d ever had before.

The summer between my 11th and 12th grades, I got to have a summer “job” at that school (I say “job” in quotes because it only payed a $120/week stipend). I had to take public transportation there and back, and every week or so, I’d try to find a different way to get home. Once, I almost got stranded because I caught the wrong train. I had to ask a stranger for bus fare to get home, but I got there.

I once went to a tech event in downtown Washington, DC, and had so much fun, I forgot to leave in time for the last bus back to my home in Northern Virginia. I ended up spending the night in the Union Station Amtrak waiting area. When the police came around making sure everyone had a ticket, I told them I had a friend coming in on the first train in the morning and was waiting for them to come in.

In 2008, I took a train from Washington to New York to see a movie in the Staten Island Film Festival. The film, despite the festival’s name, was showing at Brooklyn College, way out on the 2/5 line. I almost got stuck in New York on the way back, because I didn’t know about the redirection caused by subway work. I went outside, hopped in a cab, made it to Penn Station about 10 minutes after my train was supposed to have left. Luckily, it was 30 minutes late.

Less than one year later, I moved to New York, which has been the biggest adventure of my life.

There’s a quote from Doctor Who, when he meets Rose Tyler. He grabs her hand, and she gets a glimpse into his existence:

I can feel it, the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world.

Sometimes, I feel like I can feel it, too. If I close my eyes, I can visualize my position on the earth, or at least within the city. I can imagine that I’m not the one moving, but rather the earth is moving under me. When I fly across the country, the feeling intensifies.

The Doctor tells Rose to forget him, but who can forget such a feeling? I may not be able to visit other worlds, but that’s okay. There’s plenty to explore on the one I have.

Besides, I don’t really a timey-wimey blue box that’s bigger on the inside to get lost on an amazing adventure.

Photo credit: Gratisography

Devil in the details

Have you ever looked into applying for a visa for another country? As you’d expect, there are a lot of details to keep track of. Luckily, Australia’s immigration department keeps everything online, and it’s not that confusing.

On top of the cost of the visa (A$420) and the requirement of sufficient funds (A$5000), there are a lot of required documents I have to provide:

  • Certified copies of:
    • Passport Biographical page
    • Birth Certificate (must include parents’ names)
    • School Transcripts
    • Bank Statement (showing sufficient funds)
  • FBI Background Check (6-10 week turnaround)
  • Local Police (NYPD) Background Check
  • Two Passport photos (by far, the easiest document to obtain)

Of course, obtaining most of those documents comes with a fee, ranging from about $20 to $50 each. I also need to pay for health insurance while I’m in Australia (they appear to require it, or at least strongly recommend it; it’s hard to tell from the language on the website). The traveler’s insurance that comes highly recommended, World Nomads, will cost me about $900 for the year, which is just about how much my current insurance premiums cost.

My flight should cost around $1000 to $1300 (one way). I also need to buy a new (bigger) suitcase, which should cost a little over $100 on Amazon.

Altogether, I need to save at least $7,200 USD before I leave (and at least $5,000 before I apply for the visa). Since I started actively saving my money in early December, I’m already up to $1,900 (including money from web development, $150 or more from two paychecks each, and $300 in gifts), so I’m already about a quarter of the way there. Not too shabby for one month.

One Way Ticket

I love to travel.

Almost everyone who has met me knows this to be true. In any conversation, I usually find a way to talk about where I’ve just been, or where I’m going next. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, what I get distracted thinking about during the day, and the last thing I think about before going to sleep. Traveling even permeates my dreams (when I’m not having nightmares about work, that is).

So, this year, I’ve come to a decision. I’m going to start traveling on a long-term basis.

Why travel long term?

I read somewhere that Americans travel internationally a lot less than people from elsewhere in the world. In fact, only about 20% of Americans even own a passport (I’m proud to be one of them). Part of it is that our country is so big, most of us travel to other parts of the US before traveling internationally (and indeed, most of my travel has followed this pattern). But that’s not the only reason:

  1. We can usually only take one or two weeks off at a time, and a 14 hour flight each way doesn’t sound appealing,
  2. The media paints other countries as something to fear,
  3. We’re ignorant of cultures that aren’t ours, so we don’t think to go and explore them.

Traveling, for me, is a way to learn more about the world we live in, meet awesome people, and gain life experiences in ways I can’t do any other way. I’ve met people, learned lessons, and had experiences that would be impossible for me to have if I’d never left home. As much as I love reading, and learning, you can’t beat sitting down with someone over a drink or a meal and having a conversation.

I already travel more than most people, I think, and I’m grateful that I am in a place in my life that I can. Due to the fact that I work retail, I can schedule my work days around traveling, giving away shifts as needed, and optimizing my use of vacation days. This year I’ve taken 5 major (week-long) trips, and a few small ones visiting my mom in DC or spending a day somewhere nearby like Boston or Philly.

The most difficult part about traveling this way, is that at the end of a whirlwind week of activity, I have to return to so-called “normal life.” I spend the other 47 weeks of the year thinking about where I want to go next, where I want to go back to, and lamenting the fact that I’m not there now.

Maybe it’s just a case of “the grass is always greener,” but my thoughts seem to always be in another time zone.

Why now?

I’ve been wanting to travel long term for a while now. We’re talking at least a decade (or more). Once a year or so, I get obsessed, and plan out where I want to go. Then, I get a little distracted, or realize that it’s a lot of work, or I just don’t have the money.

So why is this moment in time different? Well, for one thing I’m much more financially stable now than I was even a year ago. I finally have the ability to save money decent amounts of my income.

I’m still young and foolish enough to do this. I don’t have a lot of responsibilities, either familial or financial. I don’t have a spouse or kids, and I don’t own a home or have a large amount of debt. While I do have some student aid debt, it’s not a lot, and if I plan right, I’ll be able to pay it off even as I travel.

Also, in the last two years, I’ve actually gotten to take trips on a semi-regular basis (4-5 times a year). In March 2012, I took my first (and so far, only) transatlantic flight to London (with a side trip to Paris). Since then, I’ve been to twelve other cities in the USA.

I’ve caught the bug, and I want more.

The main catalyst, though, is that December 12th was my 29th birthday. I know, you’re thinking, “What’s so special about 29?” Well, I realized that I only have one year left to make my 20s awesome. So, yeah, I’m having the “30 years” crisis-mode thing a year early. I don’t like being late for things.

The Plan

So, for my birthday this year I wanted to set a goal. I picked six months (because a year just felt too far off to be a tenable goal). So, I’ve decided; by my 29 1/2 birthday, June 12th, 2014, I will be jumping on a plane and heading away from the USA.

My goal is to travel the world! I’m going to try to get a Work and Holiday visa in Australia, which will allow me to live there and work short term jobs (lasting no longer than six months) for up to a year (allowing me more time to save money). That way, I can transfer to an Apple Store for six months in Australia as my gateway to the world. After that, I might hop around southeast Asia for a bit, or head to South America, Europe, or wherever my journey takes me.

I plan to use this blog to keep an ongoing journal of my travels, including my preparations leading up to the big jump.


I know what you’re thinking, though: How in this world can I afford it? It’s a matter of setting priorities.

We spend money on what’s important to us. That could be tech (like the iPads and iPhones I’ve bought over the past few years), movies, going out, ordering in, etc. If travel isn’t a priority, you don’t save up for it. Since I want to make travel a priority for me, I need to evaluate my priorities.

So, I’m cutting back on expenses. Every cent that doesn’t go towards food, rent, or bills (and the occasional night with friends; I don’t want to be a hermit). I’ll buy cheaper food, refrain from snacks, and cook as much as I can. I should be able to save around $150-200 from each full-time paycheck alone, and that doesn’t even include the “extra” money coming in from the freelancing.

I should be able to save around $8-10,000,enough to get me to Australia, between savings, selling some of my things (like my keyboard, my bed and desk, etc.), and the freelance work that I do. Plus, I’ll be able to keep working on the freelance stuff while I travel.

And I’ll be able to save more money in Australia, so once I leave there, I’ll have plenty of funds to take off and explore.

Thankfully, traveling in the parts of the world I’m going to focus on (after Australia, that is) is a lot cheaper than within the US or Europe. We’re talking places where you can live comfortably on $10-15 per day (including food, room and board).

A good meal is often the equivalent of $2 USD, and food at the market is pennies. Buses go everywhere for just a dollar or two, and who knows, maybe I’ll find new friends to travel or stay with for a while.

Even still, it won’t be a years long vacation. I’ll have to work hard to save up money, make it last, and find ways to earn my keep along the way.

There are extremely cheap hostels (I’m a card carrying member of Hostelling International), and things like couch surfing, etc. to help me save money along the way, too.

Aren’t I scared?

Well, of course I’m nervous, but I intend to live by the motto, “Do what you fear, don’t fear what you do.” I’m ready for an adventure. I have friends and family that love me that I know I can rely upon of I get stuck in a jam, and I have a job that will be relatively easy to come back to if times get too tough out on the open road (Apple is always hiring, and new employees you don’t have to train are always valuable).

The fact is, the world is a lot less scary than we tend to think it is. I want to get out there and experience it for myself. Will I get into tight spots? Sure, I will. But, to me, the benefits of seeing the world far outweigh the risks.

I need your help!

I’ve read a lot about being a lone traveller, and what I’ve learned is, the effort is rarely by just one person. I’ll have to rely on my friends and family for emotional support. A couple of people I’ve talked to about this have mentioned they have family in another country that would love to host me, but if you know of anyone else, or anywhere in particular I should go, please let me know!

In Conclusion…

I’m excited to begin this  journey, and I hope my friends and family are excited for me, too. I know there will be worried questions about my decision to do something different with my life.

While I’m sure there will be questions, roadblocks, and the like, I’m confident that I can make this happen.