On Friday 21 July 2023, I booked plane tickets to leave New Zealand. I sold off the last handful of thriving houseplants. I fielded phone calls and drop-ins from friends and family, and at 11pm, raccoon-eyed with tiredness, I confirmed my travel insurance.
On Saturday 22 July 2023, with a 35L travel pack (carry-on) and a stuffed-to-the-gills laptop tote (personal item), I flew out of Christchurch. 25 hours of traveling later, I landed in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. (Okay, there was a brief interlude in San Francisco. The TSA doesn’t like it when you book flights 24 hours out and show up with only a carry-on. We sorted it out.)
As a quiet, rational, overly-prepared woman with a pathological dislike of being late maybe the move seemed uncharacteristic. Spontaneous. Wild.
The itchy feet had started a year earlier. In the months since, I had been quietly prepping and praying, researching digital nomad life, getting ready for a move overseas. “I don’t know when,” I told friends, “and I don’t know where. But I know I’m going. And it feels like things are speeding up.”
I started a Travel category in PocketSmith and allocated it an initial budget of $500 for gear upgrades. The time frame stretched. I checked my Income & Expenses report and nudged the budget higher.
I didn’t bother budgeting flights, not yet. After all, I didn’t know when I was going.
At the start of July, I bought the travel pack. It felt like a domino tipping into place. By mid-July, I was cleaning out my wardrobe and living out of packing cubes as a trial run. I sold $500 of houseplants in the space of two days and allocated the money back into my Travel category to offset costs. I applied for my US visa waiver. It came back approved in 45 minutes.
On the morning of Friday 21 July, I woke up and thought, “If I don’t do this, I will always wonder if that was it and I missed it.”
So I went.
“Does it feel like a forever move?” one friend asked.
“I have a storage unit, you can keep anything in there you might want later,” said another.
“I don’t know,” I said. “And thank you, but I can’t. I’m better off treating it like it’s forever and then finding that it’s not, compared to the other way around. I still don’t know where I’m going — I just know I need to go.”
I’m grateful for friends in GA who were happy to have me stay for a few weeks. I’m grateful for the flexibility of being self-employed. I’m grateful that I can work from anywhere — I wrote this from my friend’s kitchen table — and that I can delay non-urgent client work and put a hold on new projects. I’m also really, really grateful I had good savings because the TSA in San Francisco asked to see my bank accounts before they would give me my passport back.
Turns out, in the chaos of an overseas move, some balls get dropped. In my case, I hadn’t checked PocketSmith for nearly two weeks before sitting down to write this blog.
Dear reader… it was an unmitigated mess.
I can’t even look at it. There were uncategorized transactions all over the place. There were way too many Offshore Service Margins: I paid for onward flights with my NZ Visa Debit. Should’ve used the Mastercard. There was an absurdly over-extended red “Spending” bar on my Budgets page because I still hadn’t gotten around to adding actual budgets for those flights.
There will, I promise you, be a follow-up article. Or three.
I’m still figuring out the multi-currency thing. I’m accustomed to seamless bank feeds, which was fine for a single currency in New Zealand, but not for my multi-currency Mastercard. Right now, I’m carrying currency in NZD, USD, CAN, and GBP. The Mastercard is a prepaid debit card, which means it isn’t supported by bank feeds. I may have to export to CSV and then import those transactions. Watch this space.
What’s the onward plan? Always in motion, the future is. I was in the USA for two weeks. Then I flew to Toronto, Canada to see my brother. We had a brief five-day overlap before he flew back to Auckland, New Zealand, and I flew east to Aberdeen, Scotland, where my cousin lives.
I’m hoping to settle here for a while. That might mean six months on a visitor visa or three years on a work visa. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.
I rang my brother the night before I flew out. He burst out laughing in my ear. “I know you love Tolkien, but don’t you think you’re taking The Hobbit a little too literally? Going running off into the blue without so much as a pocket handkerchief?”
Maybe I am. Maybe there are mountains to climb and dragons to beware of.
But what an adventure it will be.
Rachel E. Wilson is an author and freelance writer based in New Zealand. She has been, variously, administrator at an ESOL non-profit, transcriber for a historian, and technical document controller at a french fry factory. She has a keen interest in financial literacy and design, and a growing collection of houseplants (pun intended).