Believe it or not (and I barely can myself), my one month Melbourne anniversary passed by on the 19th of February! The funniest part is, I didn’t even realise it until yesterday. My life has been turned upside down and inside out in all the best possible ways over the past few weeks – and clearly, I’ve been having so much fun that I didn’t even get to celebrate my first milestone! I suppose I’ll have to make it an extra lavish celebration at the six month mark to compensate (can anyone say, champagne?).
While I’ve mostly been gallivanting around the place like a unicorn in a cotton candy field, it’s time to get real: not eveything went exactly according to my plan, or lack-thereof. If there’s one thing that moving to a completely new city has taught me, it’s that there is definitely not one thing I needed to learn.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and excitement of making a huge snap decision like moving away. Maybe you bat away a few idle thoughts of budgets and transport and making friends that drift by in-between planning goodbye parties and packing your suitcases. Maybe you sit down with a spreadsheet and a bottle of vodka every night until you leave, obsessively planning all the itty-bitty practicalities of your move.
However you decide to do it, you may as well face facts, sweetheart – there will always be something that you haven’t prepared yourself for!
I’ve learned a lot of lessons very quickly in the first month of living away. I have a few pearls of wisdom to impart: I hope you find them useful…
- You are not as prepared as you think you are
Just face it, and own it. No matter how much research you do, you are still going to get in to it – be it two weeks, one month, or six months – and feel unprepared. New friends, new priorities, new job, new lover, new house, new responsibility, new shopping centre – something new is always going to come up. Don’t think you’ve sorted it all out, because believe me, you haven’t. Just be aware that something, somewhere, is going to surpirse you – be it for better or worse.
- The culture shock will shock you
Even moving from one city to another in the same country is going to throw you. There’ll always be something different to how things were at home – the way people dress, the way people talk, the way that clothes are displayed on mannequins, the way they serve coffee. You may thing that you totally get it: fun fact. You don’t. I’m still awed that people don’t stare at me incessantly in Melbourne, and that 24 hour pho diners are totally normal. There’ll always be something, so absorb it and utilise it. It’s all part of the experience.
Find your local late-night grocer, emergency doctor, fish ‘n’ chip shop, petrol station, hospital, train stop, pharmacy, liquor store and late-night pizza joint are. Would you rather wait until you crave pizza so badly you’d eat your own arm, or chop off your finger in a freak onion slicing accident? I don’t think so. Sort that shit out in the first week. You’ll thank me later.
- Travel cards are your number one priority
The first day you arrive, chuck as much money as possible onto your travel card. In Melbourne, it’s called Myki. In London, it’s Oyster. Once the money is on there, you can’t transfer it off – meaning, you can’t get drunk and accidentally spend your train money on scotch before your first week of work is over. Getting from A to B is an integral part of living in a new city – so make sure it’s a priority money-wise!
Here’s mine: wake up, shower, dress, travel to work, make coffee, work, travel home, get groceries to make dinner, get home, glass of wine, write, cook, shower, read, bed. OK, so maybe it varies a little from day to day – obviously, I’m not a hermit – but establishing a routine will help you to feel more settled more quickly. Even if it’s just rising at the same time every morning, or always getting coffee from the same place: it will help to ground you and imprint your existence onto your surroundings. It’s all about where you distribute your energy, babe.
- It’s okay to ask for help
Whether you have to call your parents and ask for a hundred bucks to see you through till the end of the week, or call a friend and admit you’re having an anxiety attack about being in a new place – it doesn’t matter. What you’re doing is scary as shit. Own it. It’s okay. When you announced you were leaving, no one expected that they’d never hear from you again. Asking for help is not the same as admitting defeat. If anything, it proves the exact opposite - that you care enough about what you’re doing to go to any lengths to make it work.
- Don’t discount your new neighbours
During your first few days in your new place, make the effort to go next door and introduce yourself. (Full disclosure: I did not do this – to my detriment.) Whether it’s a simple ‘hello’ in the doorway, or you invite them over for coffee and cake, establishing rapport with your neighbours will go a long way if you accidentally lock yourself out of your new apartment
(not that this ever happened to me) or can’t work out how to use the built in microwave. They’ll probably also keep an extra eye out for you, so if you work full time or travel a lot, there’ll be someone to watch the door and let you know if there’s any funny business going on.
Rubber bands. Paracetamol. Matches. Saline drops. Twist ties. Safety pins. Bandaids. Paper clips can be used to pop open SIM card holders. Toothpicks can pick out gunk from the bathroom drain. Trust me, you take all these things for granted at home, but when you’re on your own, there’ll come a time when you wish you had an elastic band up your sleeve. Macgyver style.
- It’s possible to buy booze for $5
If you get paid fortnightly, set yourself a limit for drinks and stick to it. If you’re partial to French red, fantastic! Treat yourself to a bottle every now and then. But also be prepared to make sacrifices when you have to. There’s no sense in buying a forty dollar bottle of scotch to take to a party if you only have fifty dollars left in your bank account. There’s no shame in factoring booze into your budget. If anything, it makes you a super responsible adult. *sips cask rose*
- Breaking up is not just about moving away
I’m sure a lot of you have been wondering what’s happened between Nate and I. The truth is: life. You should always expect to grow exponentially in your relationships – all of them – whether together, or separately. Nate and I ended our relationship, not because I left Adelaide- but because we both recognise that we were no longer serving each other in a partnership. My moving to Melbourne had everything to do with my personal growth, and nothing to do with our respective failings. If you’re struggling to come to terms with a similar situation, recognise that making the choice to move has made you braver, stronger and happier.
Go exploring! Your world doesn’t begin and end at your train station. Go and find the best cafes. The coolest junk stores. The quirkiest tattoo parlours. The randomest community gardens. Get to know your town and she will love you right back.
- If you need to freak out, do (just make sure you have support first)
Full disclosure: I had a major meltdown on Friday. I went from the throes of hilarity at after work drinks to the pits of a full blown anxiety attack at my friends house in the space of a single hour. I read the signs, ignored them, and like always, my anxiety erupted like fucking Vesuvius. I obviously needed to release some feels, and you know what? It’s fine. There’s no perfect way to change your life. It’s a process, and you need to grow with it. Of course, where possible, it’s always advisable to have someone you can trust with you when everything falls apart (Pearl: I love you).
- Shopping is not the most exciting thing
My first thought upon arriving in Melbourne and receiving my first paycheque? H&M!!!!!!!!!!! (Italicised bold capitals intentional). Ugh, trust me, I know just how tempting it is to run rampant with your hard earned cash and spend up big. My advice? Don’t. At least not in the first month or so. You’re in a brand new place with a plethora of cool shit on offer – don’t spend your dollars on shitty clothes and plastic jewellery! Go out and experience things. Which leads me nicely onto my next point…
- Check out what’s happening in advance
I know first hand: nothing is going to make you feel worse than being invited to do something awesome with a bunch of insanely cool new people than having to reject their invitation because you’re broke. In five weeks, this has happened to me twice – and I could have avoided both embarrassment and heartache each time by setting aside a few extra dollars on pay day. Look up your new city’s events calendar! What happening? When? Where? If you want to go, ask the people you know if they’re planning to attend. I’d recommend keeping a month ahead of the calendar – that way, you can budget properly and plan your effervescent social calendar around what you actually want to do. And for God’s sake, set a bit of cash aside.
- Establish your space, and do it quickly
Bring as much stuff as possible with you when you’re ‘bumping in ‘ to your new home. I’ve been housesitting, so although I have my own clothes, cosmetics and jewellery here – it clearly is not my space. If you have to move quickly, or into someone else’s’ home, bring the necessities – but also bring a few personal items, like a few books, photographs or trinkets. If you’re lucky enough to move into your own place straight away, spend as much time as you can arranging your furniture and taking command of your space. It will help you feel grounded.
- It’s okay to feel lonely and afraid
No. You are not weak, or a loser, or pathetic, or a failure if you miss your friends and family or are petrified to go outside by yourself. Just recognise this as a beautiful opportunity for personal growth and take small steps. Allow yourself a phone call home once a day for a week, and then reduce it to every second day the next week. Instead of blazing around the entire city on your own in one night, venture outside and check out a local bookstore on a Sunday afternoon by yourself. Take it easy, babe. No one told you this thing would be a joy ride.
- There’s no shame in a mental health plan
This is really, really important for anyone that’s dealing with mental illness. I came to rely on my family GP for years and years when I needed something – to sound off, to cry, to have meds adjusted or to try and understand what was going on inside my head. When I moved away, I also moved away from my safety net. So I made my own. I implore you to do the same. Be proactive. If you think you’re going to need support, make an appointment to see a GP in your area. Be armed with your history and your current circumstances. Ask them for help in managing any present triggers, or for help developing a plan for the future. Take ownership of your health – physical and mental. It’s so, so important.
- Your family is always there
I’m lucky enough to have two parents who love me unconditionally, and three siblings who try their damnedest (ha!). If you’re in the same boat, just remember – they will always be there. It’s okay to cry to them. It’s okay to tell them your best achievements. It’s even better when they tell you they’re proud of you. Even if you don’t have conventional family support, there is always somebody that you can call. An aunt. A foster sibling. A grandparent. Remember: no one on this earth is alone. Including you. If all else fails, I am here for you, and I love you. email@example.com – anytime.
- Keep some cash for an emergency flight home
As lamentable as my budgeting skills are, I made sure that when my first paycheque came in, I pulled out enough dollars for a return flight to Adelaide. In the olden days, they called it ‘rainy day’ money. I hid it in my apartment, and it’s there to stay. If I lose my job, my way, or my mind, I have a down payment on the final straw that I can cash in if I ever truly need to. I would suggest that anyone in similar circumstances to mine does the same. – just in case.
- Only confide in people who will support your circumstances
A wise woman once told another wise woman (the former being someone exceptionally close to me) that she should only confide her darkest secrets to those who she knew would be supportive. The woman in question told me this is passing one day, and it’s probably the best piece of inadvertent advice she’s ever given me. If you want to pack it all in, don’t call someone from home who’ll tell you it was a stupid idea to leave in the first place. If you hate your new job, don’t tell anyone who’ll just say they knew that you’d never be successful in the role. Save your darkest admissions not for cheerleaders or soul-suckers, but for people who have and will support you through to till the very end.
Have you moved to a new city? What piece of advice would you give?