As I’ve mentioned, unfortunately my work visa for New Zealand didn’t pan out, and the past month and a half has been an utter whirlwind as I tried to sort out my path forward. I was waking up every morning with a knot of anxiety so bad it made me want to vomit.
I wanted to write down everything I’ve been dealing with to give you a better understanding of what life on the road actually entails. This list provides a glimpse into the million and one questions swirling around my noggin on a constant basis when I’m in a state of flux.
- Try to get my Chinese visa here in New Zealand. Figuring out all of the paperwork and correct forms on their less than brilliantly run websites, compiling all the ID verifications and invitation letter from my Chinese family, and the passport picture to go along with my application was a huge pain in and of itself because the passport places I went to were unable to provide a pure white background as specified by the Chinese Government. I spent several hours going back and forth to different places and having someone try to digitally get the background white (unsuccessful). I finally got a woman who was so warm and friendly and gave me pictures that were slightly closer to the requirements and I’d just have to go with that. She was a drop of sunshine in this dark forest of confusing hassle. I had to shuffle my work schedule around since the Consulate was only open very limited hours, all of which were during my work day. Thankfully, I had a phenomenal boss who was very accommodating. I even went into town to check out the Consulate ahead of time and suss out parking for the morning of. I finally have everything sorted to the best of my availability, get to the Consulate, wait in line for them to open, wait in line to be called up for processing, and am then told they won’t process me until November since I’m not a Kiwi. Head. To. Desk.
- So, now what? How and where can I get my Chinese visa? Do I still even WANT to pursue this visa? WHY am I trying to get it and is it still worth all the hoops? I’ve decided that YES it is absolutely still worth all the hassle to try to get it. So, is it feasible to leave NZ and come straight back on a visitor visa to get my Chinese visa here in November? But then I’ll need to be paying hefty rent while not working, and as my visa status is different (tourist not Working Holiday), I might not legally be allowed to get the visa anyway. Do I need to fly all the way back to USA and use my sister’s agent? Flights to AZ were roughly $600 USD, and the visa would take a minimum two weeks to process. Where would I stay for two weeks or more? I’d need a rental car to travel around while waiting for the visa to go through – how much would that be? And flying from AZ back to Cambodia would be another $700+USD. Should I head back to Wisconsin until it’s actually time to go to China? What would I do there? Was there another country where I could get my Chinese visa? I spent hours looking at different countries and their options for getting a Chinese visa, contacting visa agencies with my queries and waiting to hear back – Australia and Southeast Asia were out. However, Hong Kong was a possibility. So, was it more feasible to go to Hong Kong to get my visa vs going back to the US? Cue hours of searching flights to various destinations, factoring in accommodation, food, how I’ll be able to get around in country, converting prices into the proper currency, etc. etc. etc.
- While all this is going on, my current travel insurance is set to end so I need to buy some more. Go figure, the company I’m using no longer offers the plan I’m on (which was a great price and included everything I wanted and needed). So, I need to find a different plan but they have jacked up their prices, so time to see what other travel insurance companies are out there and finding a plan that suits my needs and budget. I spent countless hours researching and going back and forth with agents. At the same time, I’m trying to get reimbursed for some medical visits I had for an injury sustained here in NZ, which included compiling the documentation proving my injury and treatment and convincing the company this is a legitimate claim and answering all of their questions.
- So, I’ve settled on heading to Hong Kong next – flights? Where will I stay? Which agency will I use to get my Chinese visa? Will I get a sim card when I arrive – what are my options? How long will I stay in the country? Where can I convert currency? What is there to do/see/experience/taste in Hong Kong?
- Buying a flight to Hong Kong wasn’t as easy or straightforward as it should’ve been – once I’d finally done all my research and found the best flight for the best price, I tried to purchase it. The website kept saying it didn’t accept my type of card, waited 40+ minutes to chat w/ an airline rep on live chat, finally started chatting and their system freaked out and kicked me off, and getting in line again would’ve been over an hour wait. Third time trying the website it FINALLY suddenly worked, even though I didn’t do anything differently.
- The main reason I’m trying to get the Chinese visa is to be there for my brother and sister-in-law’s big Chinese wedding, since I was unable to attend their main USA shindig. They already have their visas and are making plans and booking reservations, so I need to coordinate with their plans, yet I don’t have MY visa at this point, so I need to do research but am wary about booking anything until my visa has come through (and not just for China, but all further plans – because if I don’t get this visa, THEN WHAT?). Their price point is also different than mine – so where can I be staying that’s nearby but better for my budget while still spending time with them? And when to splurge on a proper hotel and for how many nights can I afford that? Can I make these bookings in advance and have no-fee cancellations in case the visa doesn’t happen? What’s the local transportation like? And what other activities am I interested in experiencing while I’m there? My birthday is shortly after their wedding – what could I do that would be fun? Will I be on my own again at that point? Where do their plans and mine converge and part?
Now that I know where I’m heading (Hong Kong is as far as I’m able to get right now), what goes into actually leaving New Zealand?
- Sell my car – create a For Sale ad with good pictures (need to stage these) and descriptions, print out copies, find best places to post it and then do so, taking into account I still need to get to and from work so how does the selling time line work out. Also need to clean the vehicle, inside and out, and make sure all legal paperwork is up to date (WOF, Rego, Service history). Create a Trademe account and pay to post the vehicle for sale – so learning how to make an account and pay the listing fee. I can’t make anyone buy it – what will I do if it doesn’t sell at my price point? What if it doesn’t sell at all?
- Provide notice that I’m leaving my flat and how to get my housing deposit back – I need to close my bank acct before I leave NZ but the Tenancy Board takes over a week to deposit it back and the flatmate I’m leasing from won’t sign the papers in advance. So I had to write up a contract to broker a deal w/ him to have the Tenancy Board deposit it into his bank account and trust he’ll give it back the day I move out. Note: I’m not good with trusting people.
- Cancel my auto pay on phone – involved having to get in touch w/ Spark Mobile who has pretty abominable customer service.
- Find a rental car that needs re-locating back up to Auckland on my specific dates. NZ is pretty great in that you can basically get these vehicles that need re-locating for free, you just pay petrol and any additional insurance you want. So, I had to dig through the half dozen or more companies that offer this service and see if any had a vehicle for the specific dates I needed.
- Sort out hostels for my two day trip back up to Auckland. Make plan of where I’m going to visit on my road trip back up north. Also re-figure out the bus from Auckland CBD to Airport for the day I fly out. Where is the best place to convert currency in the CBD?
- Close my bank account – find out what I need to do to close it down. Also, needed to get my last paycheck into my account before I closed it. My bosses sent it through early which is nice, but when it wasn’t for the amount I thought it was supposed to be I had to talk with them about the days I was being paid for. I also had quite a bit of money in my account and was I going to be carrying that much cash around with me? Or was there some way to get it into my USA bank account? Thankfully I came across Transferwise so I could send my money here in NZ to my bank back home at the best conversion rate and for a reasonable fee, but I had to provide documentation verifying my identity and address here in NZ and it was getting down to the wire – would they verify me in time for the money to be completely transferred before I had to close my NZ bank account?
- Pack and clean my room. Air Asia has strict carry-on weight limits, so will I fall within the boundaries? Will they weigh my packs? Will I end up having to pay a small fortune if I am over the weight limit? What clothes will I keep and which get left behind? How will I take the clothes I’m leaving behind to the Op Shop? Finishing up all my groceries here.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything I’ve been going through, though it gives a pretty good idea. These are all just the basics that I needed to figure out so I could move on. And this isn’t taking into consideration the emotional toll of having to leave a place and a job I love before what I feel is my time. I’m still confused, indignant, and very sad. I love living in Wellington and honestly thought I was here for some “greater purpose.” While I’m physically prepared to leave, emotionally I’m still in shock. I also trained my replacement for the last week and a half, which was very bittersweet and included longer work hours for me since her contract was different than mine.
Maybe now you have a better understanding of what the travel lifestyle looks like. It’s not all fun and games and sexy beach frolics – it’s constantly looking ahead, planning and re-planning countless times, making sure all the details are in place to the best of your ability, wading through governmental regulations, being aware of each individual country’s requirements for entry, and knowing that passport picture requirements are not a universal size.
A lot of this is live and learn. Like how with this Chinese visa I could’ve sent my passport to the States months ago and gotten it all sorted from afar. I didn’t know I had the option, and by the time I figured it out, it was too late. Ah, well. Next time.