Friday, 4 April 2014

Planning the Big OE (also known as The Gap Year)

I first dreamed of doing my OE when I was 19. The OE, or overseas experience, is seen as a rite of passage for Kiwis, something that you normally do in your late teens or early 20s. I've decided to do mine at 30.

It's official. I am a late bloomer.

Even though I won't be leaving until next year, I've already started looking at travel tips. Yes, I am THAT excited! I'm so excited, I may have even bought my backpack a little too early... Anyway, the more I'm reading up on travel tips, the more I'm thinking, "Holy hell!" My to-do list is steadily growing, and there's not a lot I can do until a few months before I leave and some I can only do once I get to the UK. But at least I have a rough idea of what I need to take care of, and hopefully this will save me from running around in blind panic a week before I go.

Here are some of the practical, common sense questions and points I came up with so far.

1. How am I going to pay for all this? It's good to come up with a ballpark figure by estimating how much everything will cost, from flights, travel insurance, down to groceries when you get there. Don't forget to actually take into account your current realistic expenses. For the sake of your health, I would not recommend trying to live off 2-minute noodles for the rest of the year.

2. Banking. It might be a good idea to start looking up which bank to choose before you get there. Try and find who is offering no fees for everyday banking, and work out what their criteria is for opening an account. The best one I've seen so far for the UK is Lloyds. At the time of writing, they offer a no fees every day account, and if you have a New Zealand passport, that's all you need to bring with you to open an account with them. Fingers crossed it's still the case when I get there!

3. Still on the topic of money... some other things to consider: how much should you bring in local currency? Most websites I've seen recommend taxi fare from airport, including 1-2 night's accommodation. Just in case your credit card declines, etc. Also think of how to access your money while you're waiting for your bank account to be opened. I've come across comments that it could take a few weeks for an account to be opened!

4. Suitcase or the big backpack? I've seen this one in a lot of travel forums.  I came across one comment that it's down to your destination. If you're going to a lot of remote places and doing a heck of a lot of hiking/tramping, the common sense thing to use is the backpack. Mostly cities? Save your back and get some luggage with sturdy wheels. At the end of the day, I guess it all comes down to personal preference.

5. Keeping in touch, the old school way. I love snail mail. Nothing beats getting a letter from someone on the other side of the world. But how to get mail when you've got no permanent address yet? There's this beautiful little FREE (in the UK) post office feature you can apply for called POST RESTANTE. Save yourself the hassle and expense of trying to open a P.O. Box (they're only for residents anyway). You're welcome.

6. Insurance! It's not enough to just get it and not read the ridiculously tiny fine print. You need to ask if you're covered for things like flight/train cancellations, which may affect your pre-booked accommodation. Also find out if you're meant to pay up and then get reimbursed, or if they'll do all the payments for you.

7. Of course, the visa. Probably the most important bit. Before applying for the visa though, find out if there's anything you need to do. I read that for the UK, you need to do a biometric scan before applying for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. So if you don't live in either Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, a trip out of town is in order. I've always been looking for an excuse to go back to Wellington! Yes!!!

I'll probably do a part two, or update this list as I do more research. Please do share your travel tips, I'd love to hear them! 

take care,

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  1. Oeh! Sounds fun! Enjoy the planning :)

  2. I definitely prefer luggage with the four wheels especially if you're staying in urban areas. :) unless you plan on going on multi-day hikes. that's the only time i use a pack.. but man they kill your back!!

    BTW i got your postcard. too funny that you think that NZ is not as exotic as galapagos islands. TO ME, it's just as exotic.. since I don't live there!! :) I really want to go back one day and spend a good chunk of time there.. at least a month. but plane tickets are SO expensive from the us.

  3. Oh heck yes, luggage with wheels, especially spinner wheels. I think I'll end up with a pack and suitcase. Both for coming over, and at least once I'm settled in I'll have a pack for weekend trips away. And yay that you got my postcard!

    Ok, promise if you come to NZ and decide to spend a month here you'll wait until I get back so I can play tour guide? :)

  4. Oh I am so envious and at the same time so excited for you! I never got to have an OE. I can't wait to hear about your travels.

    Still Just Us

  5. Thanks so much Tracey! Never say never, who knows what could happen? :)

  6. I've heard of Americans doing a 'gap year' which sometimes entails going overseas, but I never did one. Of course, then I got lucky and we got stationed overseas, which in a way is even better for me because, although I still had sufficient things to stress over, at least with these things I mostly knew that either I could keep using the same people I always had (banking, insurance, although the latter did require switching to an overseas policy) or that someone affiliated with the military would be sorting it out (the visa, housing, etc.) It's good that you're thinking of all this ahead of time, which should help you be prepared and hopefully also help keep you excited.

    As far as the backpack/suitcase thing, if you opt for a backpack, make sure it's a good one with a lot of padding. I walked around Copenhagen not long ago for about 8 hours with a backpack that I figured would be good because it was pretty light and all I was carrying was a couple changes of clothes (so I didn't have to wear the clothes I wore on the bus to walk around or the clothes I walked around in on the bus) and a few other things, none of them heavy. I ended up with red marks on both my shoulders, one of which was bad enough to bruise.