December: roll out the mulled wine, the Christmas spirit and game-face.
When you leave your home country to teach abroad, you will be excited to experience another country. You will be sad to go, nervous to start the job and anticipate the many bites of living in a tropical climate.
Before you leave you will experience random bouts of nausea, butterflies in your stomach, confusion and the sensation of running around in circles. When you depart your flat to love your random junk home, you will be overjoyed to be away from your reclusive housemate who leaves her hair in every plughole, but sorry to leave your home for the last 6 months/year/etc (delete as appropriate).
When you realise that you have one week left in the country and you still haven’t organised vaccinations, packed or bought insurance you will experience feelings of dizziness and recall your senses after three coffees and a glass of red wine have passed your lips. Then you will have more red wine, followed by cheese, in the knowledge that in six days, Stilton and merlot will be either a very expensive trip to an ex-pat shop or a flight home. It’s ok, the bikini you just bought to go away with still hasn’t arrived in the post so you don’t have to fit it in to it, yet…
Below are some tips to avoid this chaotic situation for a first time traveller. You can click on the links to go to some useful sites, and read some more of my stories. I am a fan of shameless self-promotion.
I once injured myself snowboarding in New Zealand and couldn’t work for a couple of weeks. Going to the doctor in any country other than your own can mean a re-mortgage so it’s worth taking this out. Had I not had insurance I would have had to pay for the hospital bills out of my travel savings, potentially cutting short the trip.
You want a plan that includes personal items, money and repatriation (god forbid) among others. A very good directory to use is the British Insurance Broker’s Association. They will help locate the right company for you to tailor any kind of insurance need you could ever want for some really good prices- highly recommended.
Of course this all depends on where you are headed, how long for, how long ago you had any previous jabs done and how much you hate needles. They are however required pretty much anywhere bar Europe and your bog standard ones are Typhoid and Hep A. Some countries may also require proof of Yellow Fever before you can even get a visa so it’s best to check with the embassy for the country (s) of destination. You will need to book a travel consultation with the nurse at your surgery and bring any previous documentation (usually a little yellow booklet)- though you an usually get a print out of your vaccination history from your doctor. If you are from an EU country going to Europe make sure you have your E-hic card. If you have an incident on the slopes in France, the authorities will refuse to take you to hospital until you pay an expensive premium, unless you have the card.
I mainly use a backpack because it’s easy to move about, you don’t create lots of noise heaving a roller suitcase behind you and you avoid looking like the average punter (although it does come attached with the backpacker stigma)- of course it’s up to you and whatever you are most comfortable with. Most camping shops on the high street will sell backpacks that will also be fitted and strapped on you to the right position. Or you can do what I did and buy it online for a bit cheaper. You will need to make sure you buy the right one for your height and they are generally tailored to male and female fit, which is really helpful.
I find it’s always handy to have one booked before you get to the airport. SkyScanner is a great site and has a very reliable app so you can book flights last minute from your phone or tablet. Nifty! This is particularly helpful when you want to buy a short haul flight in say Asia, and are not sure of local operators.
My first rule of thumb is: check with the embassy. You can always get advice from travel agents but I am personally sceptical about this and would never book with them- I was once booted out ofAustralia over an issue with my visa with a well-known high street travel agent. Some places will allow a stamp on arrival, some require prior organisation. If you are going to work abroad, is your company providing help obtaining the visa? Do you know how much it will cost to obtain? Have you handed over relevant documents? Do you have enough money in your bank to prove to the government you won’t be leaching? The answer to that last one is academic; mostly they just want to know that you will leave when your visa expires.
Did you get sunscreen? Do you have a waterproof? Do you have a sewing kit? A pare of shorts you don’t mind ruining in muddy treks? Have you got a store of ant-acids and diarrhoea tablets when you chance a salad from a street vendor? Do you have bite cream for when your legs inevitably take on the look of a lepers’?
At the Airport
If you’re a lucky person, a loved one may see you off. If not, hooray! You should congratulate yourself on dodging an emotional goodbye. If you ‘re with your best friend/boyfriend/sibling/imaginary friend you might be petrified and excited about what lies ahead, but remember…
“The only real stumbling block is fear of failing”… Julian Child