Catching my breath

I read all these other travel blogs and they seem to capture the trials and tribulations of expat life so well. I don’t know how they manage it. When I am in the thick of decision-making – spending countless hours googling “move to France” or “Aussies in Europe + blog” and “why is homeschool illegal in Europe” – I don’t have any energy for blogging.

I also waste most of my downtime online at Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. There just isn’t time for researched ramblings.

But anyway, there are 7 weeks to go in China and I am giddy with excitement. I am so so so so SO happy to leave China. At the same time I am awfully proud of Ms10 and I for surviving 2 years here. I gaze in wonderment at expats who spend 5 or 10 years in China. Mostly the people with that sort of mileage are married to a Chinese national. OR they are here for the money.

We’re all here for the money, which is another post, and says a lot about China as a country. Even we, to an extent, came here for $$$. In fact this is probably the first decision I have made where money has been the main motivation. And let that be a lesson to you kids: Money makes you miserable! But as I keep telling my 10 year old, sometimes you have to suck it up to get where you want to go. We want to move to Europe, I have a dream to live in Scotland – and we have saved more here in the past 2 years than I saved in 10 in Australia.


Hebridean wifey #day17 #365days

Enjoying life as a Hebridean wifey…


Wine, window and Waternish

I bought bamboo knitting needles and wool from Skyeworks Gallery (in the old Skye wool mill in Portree, above the Isle of Skye Baking Co) this afternoon, and think I’ll head back tomorrow to get a giant Tunisian crochet hook. I found a project in Peppermint magazine that I want to start when we’re back in China -to turn out old clothes into a rug. 


Bamboo knitting needles and wool from Skyeworks Gallery
We’ve had another okay day weatherwise. Drove out to Neist a point lighthouse accidentally, whilst looking for Single Track, a cafe we’d heard via @HI_Voices on Twitter made great coffee and even better brownies. I think we headed up the wrong peninsula, but not to worry as the Red Roof Cafe was on our route and their Crofter’s cheese platter, Aztec chilli hot chocolate and lime and coconut cake (fatty pumbas!) were amazing. 
On the way home we stopped at Jans to buy wellies. Yet another Island living essential I should have purchased a decade ago, but as an up-the-duff backpacker could not afford. 


Germany #day7 #365days

Eins, zwei, drei… One of the options – actually it’s looking more and more liked the best option – for ‘after China’, is Germany. They seem much more open to migrants. Australians don’t need a visa and can actually turn up at the border and tell the immigration officials they are in Germany to ‘look for work’. I try to imagine the outcome of doing that at Heathrow…for one squad at dawn? Deportation and barred for life? They are also part of the Euro Blue Card network in the EU (a scheme which the UK are conspicuously not joining). The Blue Card is being described as Europe’s answer to the U.S. green Card, and allows highly skilled non-EU nationals to work in most of the EU. 

The cool thing about Germany is that they also have a fast track to EU residency program, where proficiency in German after 2 years will give you the opportunity to apply for EU residency. There’s more riles and fine print to this, but I think it’s the gist. The exciting part is, I learned German for about 5 years when I was a kid. Admittedly it was in the Australian education system, who don’t seem to fully grasp the concept of language teaching, but I still have the basics and surely in country I would have the motivation and opportunities to relearn?


Good morning, Vietnam

We wanted to go home (Australia) for Christmas. I knew the wee one would want it, and I needed to stock up on supplies of things I haven’t found in China. Our original plan was to surprise family in Scotland, but both plans foundered on the rocky reef of flight costs: over $4000 for both of us return, and only a 2 week break.

So on impulse I got us tickets to Vietnam instead. A few other staff are going, and as it’s cheap it means Ms 9’s dad (whose funds are rapidly depleting) an come with us.

Haven’t researched anything, just heading there rather blindly and hoping for the best!

Prague by night (at last)

It took us so long to find somewhere to eat in the city tonight that it was actually dark when we started making our way home. It was lovely to see Prague in a different hue after the relentless heat we’ve experienced this past week.


We ended up at what appeared to be a beer garden serving drinks & cheese platters. It’s drawcard was the location under Charles Bridge. This turned out to be a hazard as some pleasant person’s smouldering cigarette landed on us just as we took our seats…ah, Europe. The sun may not kill you bit the cancer sticks will. Ghastly habit!

Meanwhile, there was one Bavarian sausage on the menu, which we (and everyone else) in the place had. In hindsight perhaps they are waiting on their food licence as the sausages were cooked in a George Foreman style grill in the seating area…


But cider was 59kc (actually cheaper elsewhere too!) so we weren’t arguing.


And we found Kafka’s museum, a plague of swans and a tram stop we realised we’d already been to, without realising where we were.

Loving Prague a little more tonight. It’s been a struggle as we really should’ve headed back to Australia by now to start preparations for China, but I wasn’t able to change our flights without considerable expense, leading me to once again vow that I will never, ever fly QANTAS…

Insure me

At the point where I’m wishing I’d taken a week’s leave about 6 weeks ago to sort out the visa and travel side of things.  Every time I tell someone I finish work Friday and fly out Monday, eyebrows are raised, but there’s no point to me sitting around for a week after I finish work, it’s too late to get anything organised.

So I’ve been trying to cram trips to Brisbane for visa stuff with booking stuff via very dodgy internet connection with packing to travel and packing stuff for storage AND I AM LOSING MY MIND!

So that’s why I am only just getting to travel insurance – a week before I leave.  And although I have cinema tickets from 2002, I can’t find any paperwork for the plans I’ve used before.  I know for my first trip overseas the agent who booked our flights arranged the insurance.  The problem this time is finding insurance to suit our circumstances: 2 months travel before working overseas.  Insurers don’t seem to like it if you aren’t returning to your country of residence after travelling. And paying for a full 2 years of travel insurance is insanely expensive.  I’ve been told the things to look for are:

  • The level of cover for big things such as medical and repatriation and personal liability, but I’m also interested in cancellation given it’s summer in Europe so I’m forced to book in advance, as well as loss of baggage because we’ll be carrying all our worldly goods.
  • The cost of cover (duh)
  • Size and reputation of the insurance company standing behind the policy.

I’ve heard World Nomads insurance differ in that they understand you may not be returning immediately to your country of residence.  I’ve also heard good things about some of our regular insurers here in Oz: Allianz, RACQ and even Suncorp.

Allianz “World Care”: have Frequent Traveller (Plan D) $440.50 + $25 to reduce excess to 0.  However only covers journeys of 37 days maximum.  No good.

RACQ Travel Insurance: I am considering because they offer RACQ members 10% discount. They also offer 20% discount for booking online, but their website is very frustrating. Hard to find the fine print and restrictive options when choosing the part of the the world you’re travelling to.  We are travelling to 9 countries this trip, possibly more but there are no options for expressing this.  Also, their Premium Cover offering higher coverage appears to cost less than their Essentials (budget) cover.  That seems dodgy and puts me off booking online, but I want to save 20%!

However their multi trip does let me choose 30, 45 or 60 day trips.

STA Travel have already driven me mad by not allowing me to book online with a traveller under 15 years. Seems a lot more expensive than the other options so far, with a starting price of $570 for 45 day multi trip ($250 excess) and starting at $694 for single trip.

Searching round I’ve found Australia Post travel insurance recommended, and I like the sound of dependents being covered for free but joy of joys their BLOODY WEBSITE IS DOWN!  *later* Single trip ranges from $432 – 608 and multi-journey for the year is $481 to $677



Booking dot com

Still trawling the web in a half-hearted attempt to cement travel bookings. I struggle to commit to booking in advance. I want to wait and see where life takes us when we arrive…but with a child in tow this becomes problematic.

It has been a good exercise in ageing though. One of the reasons I have plunged myself into the icy uncertainty of giving up my comfortable job for a 2 year contract in China is because my mid-30s are just around the corner. All these years thinking I would get back to travelling and I suddenly found myself a loooong way on the path to the opposite direction, with a government job, a mortgage, my kid in a private school ARGH.

So here I am booking my holiday like a middle class, middle aged housewife, and recalling that not so long ago I would only have considered backpacker hostels.

So I’m heading back to my roots for our travel in Scotland and Europe and starting with Scottish Independent Hostels – which I used to be part of when managing Portree Independent Hostel

Portree Independent Hostel, Isle of Skye
Portree Independent Hostel, Isle of Skye


Show me the money – finding international school jobs


I am getting really frustrated with schools not publishing salary information.  Being secretive about it is only wasting everybody’s time, and I don’t know why we must pretend how much we will earn doesn’t matter.  I’m not a missionary – I have a child to support, and I know many other teachers go overseas with houses and mortgages and plenty of other commitments at home.  Do schools really think teachers will get all the way to the end of the interview process to find a salary they can’t afford and still accept?

We all know there schools are in tiers and salaries match those levels accordingly.  I just want a ballpark figure before I waste my time and the schools.

Teacher Horizons have some tips and Teach Anywhere publish salary indicators with their jobs.  Saying that I think most of their jobs are at the low to average end of the payscale.

There is a bit of debate over how lucrative international teaching can be.  I know last time after only 6 months in China I felt that I had so much more money saved than I ever would have at home.  As schools provide accommodation, tuition, airfare, insurance and visas (for me) and tax is lower (or no tax, as was the case at my first school), there are opportunities for saving.  Saying that a young couple working at my last school were going home after a year as they were really disappointed with the savings – but they confessed to eating out every night, and often at international restaurants, and they travelled everywhere during that first year.

An interesting blog about why international teaching is not a lucrative gig mentions one of the big pitfalls – pensions and superannuation.  My super is already dodgy due to previous time overseas, childrearing and postgrad study.  I am not hugely worried yet (although financial gurus might tell me I should be) as I wonder how much of our super is going to be available to us by the time we retire anyway?  The Australian government is already talking about pushing back retirement age etc etc.

I am thinking about investment this time around though.  I have just sold a property that was more of a drain than a benefit, but am considering smaller scale investment – or joint with family members.  We shall see.

Saving for retirement
Saving for retirement