Category Archives: Travel

Chapter Two: Hello Chicago

I’ve sat down at my computer several times over the last few weeks trying to write this post. I felt like I had a lot to say, and I was struggling to organize my thoughts into a concise post. This is my best attempt yet, so please bear with me.


Chicago in Summer, a snap of the city from Lake Michigan in June

I moved back to the US this summer. This was the end of my four-year run in Sydney. It was a both a happy and sad decision to come back here. While in my heart I know it was the right choice and I’m excited for my next adventure, I can’t help but already miss Sydney. It had become a home to me.

One of the hardest parts of leaving Sydney was saying goodbye to friends. I had attended a lot of farewell drinks for friends leaving over the last few years before my own. Sydney felt like a very transient city at times, especially with so many of my friends being fellow expats. However, even my Australian friends were adventurous travellers and world-wanderers. It was never a guarantee that anyone would stay put, but I’m thankful for that experience too.

It was my friends in Sydney who taught me a lot about what it meant to travel and to see yourself as a citizen of the world. It’s been through watching them and their fearless approach to what’s ahead that I’ve gained a lot of my confidence to be away from home for so long, go places that I never thought I’d go, and see the world through new eyes. It’s a wonderful gift and something I’ll carry with me forever now. Thank you guys.

I’ve started a new job, working for The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) from their Chicago offices. They specialize in helping US students to study abroad in Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia and China. TEAN is the very same company that helped send me on that very first journey to Australia, as a study abroad student on the Gold Coast.

It’s a brilliant group of people that I’ve admired since I was a student with them. It feels very fitting that I’ve gone full circle to end up working for this company. I’ll now have the opportunity to help students take the first steps on their own journey.

One of our students wrote a blog post this week about her return back to the US from a semester studying in Shanghai, China. I thought that her description of how it felt to come back was beautifully told. It made me tear up reading it, thinking about my own recent return.

“There are places there to be discovered, they are just waiting for you to come.

Personally, I know about one that melted my heart.

Yes, China made me feel alive.”

Now please excuse my melted heart ❤

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Filed under Expat, Sydney, Travel

Finding a Job Abroad After College

I love telling the story of how I ended up in Australia. I have to love telling it, because I get asked all the time. When people hear my accent they want to know why I’m in Sydney and how it came to be. However, the people I’ve most enjoyed sharing my story with over the last couple years are students from back home in the US.

I wrote a guest post recent for Arik Hanson’s blog, Communications Conversations giving advice about finding a job abroad after college. It also got picked up by PR Daily. I was amazed by the response. Several students and recent grads tweeted me saying they shared this dream of moving abroad and working overseas.  I had wrote that one of the biggest challenges of finding a job abroad is believing that it’s possible. I think it’s especially tough for students from the US, who don’t grow up in a culture of travel and exploring the world.

The Australians are wonderful at this. So many of my Aussie friends have travelled internationally with their families from a young age.  Some chose to take gap years, go backpacking, and see the world before starting university or a full time job. Others waited until later, and then left their jobs to go travel. While it’s certainly not something everyone here has to do, it’s also not strange to hear about. For a young professional working in the States, it would probably never happen. If you got up and left, your job would not be waiting for you 10 months later upon your return. Without getting into the current economic differences, between Australia and the US, I do believe there are cultural elements at play.

To clarify, I’m not a world traveller. In fact, I’m not an expert on how to move abroad or job searching. I just love sharing my story. I hope that every soon-to-be-grad who has a vision of living and working overseas has someone who validates that dream for them.  Sometimes we need someone to give us an extra pat on the back and tell us we can reach our goals. That extra push is what helped me to achieve when I was already capable of achieving.

Good luck class of 2012. If you’re headed to Sydney, please let me know and I’ll shout you a coffee when you arrive.

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Food that I miss in Australia

Dinner at Melt Bar & Grilled, Cleveland

When it comes to food, there isn’t as much I miss from home these days. I’ve grown to really love the food in Australia, and Sydney in-particular has to offer. I’ve found new brands that are similar to what I was familiar with back home or I’m happy to just swap what the states had to offer with the best of what this city has. However, there are still a few items that make my list of “missed foods” while abroad.

Mexican Food – Sydney has a great variety of food but they do fall short in this particular category. At home we go for Mexican at least once a week. It’s a cheap and good option. I think the part I dislike the most is how expensive it can be here, and no free chips and salsa – such a bummer. I miss those giant cheap margaritas that come in every flavour too.

Flautas from Luchitas

Chicken Wings – A huge bucket of chicken wings from Quaker Steak & Lube sounds awesome right now. You can go to chicken shops here and get whole, half or quarter chickens severed with salads or chips, but it’s not quite the same as hot wings.

Pumpkin sweets – I have found that pumpkin is typically a savoury food item in Australia. Pumpkin salads and sides are popular. I eat a lot of pizza with pumpkin topping. However the pumpkin I miss is sweet. I love pumpkin cookies, pie, ice cream and pumpkin roll. Drool.

homemade pumpkin roll

Pulled pork sandwiches, sloppy joes and other BBQ treats – Aussie BBQ are all about the sausage sizzlers but I miss foods from picnics at home. I love BBQ chicken on the grill during the summertime. Sloppy joes on burger buns were always a staple in our mealtimes at home as well.

Bagels and flavoured cream cheeses – I couldn’t even tell you where to get a good bagel in this city. There was a chain called “Bagel House” that did some different varieties and sandwiches but last I heard they went out of business. The grocery store sometimes carries plain and blueberry, but not guaranteed. I don’t think you can buy flavoured cream cheeses such as strawberry and honey. They have original and chives I think.

blueberry with strawberry cream cheese

Chocolate and peanut butter – How is chocolate and peanut butter not a worldwide sensation? I love it. You can buy overpriced Reese’s peanut butter cups here, but in general peanut butter with chocolate is uncommon. I hear that Zumbo has a chocolate peanut butter & jelly macaroon, maybe I should try that.

What foods do you miss from home when you’re away? 

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Why I Love Living Abroad

Skydiving at Mission Beach

There is a list of reasons that I love living in Sydney, but there is also a number of reasons that I just love living abroad.  When I reflect on the last year living in Australia these are a few reasons that come to mind.

1. Moving abroad has made me more independent. At home I have an extensive network of people I can rely on for anything. In Sydney I’ve been lucky to make a lot of great friends I can call for help, but it’s still limited compared to my hometown where I grew up. I especially noticed it when I first moved here, not knowing anyone. I miss not being able to call my family, but it also has forced me to do more for myself.

2. I’ve started to appreciate what’s in my own backyard more. I think it’s common to take home for granted. I had the attitude that I could always check out a restaurant later and felt no urgency in going new places in Cleveland. Now I want to see everything that surrounds me. I want to have brunch at every little café in Surry Hills. I want to walk down streets I’ve never been before and never wait to try a restaurant or pub.

Coastal Walk

3. I travel more in Australia for similar reasons. In the past I’ve probably not only neglected my own backyard, but my own country at times. I’m lucky that my parents took us on trips to see the US growing up. I’m grateful for that and I still know I Have more to see of my own country. Booking a last minute flight to Melbourne for a long weekend seems painless now. I wish I had done that more in the states.

4. Everyday can feel like an adventure. Especially when I first moved, the day-to-day was so exciting. Simple activities like going to the grocery store are fun and different.  Seriously, it’s true. People drive on the other side of the road here, there are strange birds in the park, I can take a ferry across the harbour and try foods I’ve never heard of before. Living abroad is a thrill.

4th of July with Lauren, Brooke & Lindsay

5. You meet a lot of interesting people when you move to a new country. I don’t have the stats to back this one up, but I’m quite certain that being an expat means you’re more likely to meet other expats. I love connecting with other travelers and those who have made similar moves across the world. Some of the friendships I’ve made have been an important part of my time abroad so far.

Why do you love living abroad? What has it taught you?


Filed under Expat, Travel

Finding Your Home: Waking up an Expat

cc license, adamcnelson

How long does it take for the expat to wake up and no longer feel like an expat? Or does that day never come for some people? I don’t ask because I think I’m anywhere close to that day. In fact, I can’t imagine it. Next week I will have been gone for a year, and I have just begun my journey.

I’m curious how others define home. It goes back to the question, is home where you’re from or is home where you make it? Also, is home a physical location or do you think a home can be metaphorical, like a home you make with someone you love. Everyone seems to have different ideas about what home is and can mean.

If you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you that home will always be where I grew up, where my parents live, where so many memories were made. Now I’m less convinced. I’m young and have a lot of time to make new memories. I’ll always miss family and friends when I’m away but that will soon be true no matter where I go in the world.

One of my best friends from home wrote me an email that summed up the way I had been feeling about being away from home. “I feel like my heart is split between the continents, as far as Australia. I fear I will never find peace because I can never come close to having everyone that I love,” she said.When we are eighty and old and cranky will we look back and regret that we left our family for so long? For so selfish an endeavor? I am still not sure.

I don’t mean to come across as dramatic about being away. It was definitely my choice to move and I love living in Australia. That’s actually just the problem. As my friend pointed out, perhaps my issue isn’t finding home but rather that I might always feel divided between homes. No matter where I go, I’ll be missing somewhere or someone else.

Are you an expat or traveler — do you find yourself always missing another place?


Filed under Lifestyle, Travel

Good Eats Australia

Macarons from Adriano Zumbo - cc license, christianocious

I didn’t appreciate the food in Australia when I studied abroad here. In fact, I didn’t like it all. I found most places we went out to dinner overpriced for small portions, and the food was underwhelming in general. I had a couple of memorable meals, but left Australia thinking it was not a country known for its cuisine.

Moving back here it has been a different story. I feel that I’ve unlocked a whole new world of dining out. I’ve tried new foods here for the first time (like Laksa) and have started to appreciate things that are unique or popular in Australia.

Here are a few of my favourite “good eats” that can be found in lovely Sydney and all around Australia.

It’s a world of new noodles in Sydney. All different types of different and delicious noodles that I’ve come to love and so many I’ve yet to discover. I was especially impressed by the Pork spare rib ramen at Gumshara. I don’t know how I went so long without ever having Laksa before.  I now celebrate Laksa Thursdays so I have an excuse to have it weekly!

Dumplings at Din Tai Fung have redefined what I thought dumplings could taste like. The Ayam Goreng (Malaysian style friend chicken) from Mamak is some of the best fried chicken I’ve had. Roti was another great new food discovery. I get hungry thinking about it.

Roti Canai at Mamak - cc license, avlxyz

Weekend brunch must be my favourite meal in Australia. It’s all wonderful, including everything from bacon and egg rolls to the full Aussie breakfast with eggs, mushrooms, baked beans, toast and tomato.  There is a beautiful coffee culture here and I love enjoying a flat white with brekkie.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll appreciate Australian chocolates. I love Cadbury’s Giant Buttons, and Arnott’s Mint Slice. Try Pavolova, it’s uniquely Australian. Macaroons are delicious little cookies that are all the rage here lately. I had my first Adriano Zumbo macaroons from his shop in Manly a couple months ago. It melts in your mouth. My favourite macaroon so far was in Melbourne at Scocolate. They won an award for Melbourne’s best chocolate macaroon last year (and it’s well deserved).

I enjoy some of the quicker to-go options here as well. Fish and chips on a summer day next to the beach puts a smile on my face. I like a “sausage sizzler” grilled up by the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club on a Saturday.

This is just a snap shot of the good eats in Australia. I can’t believe I used to tell people I didn’t like the food in this country. What was I thinking?

What are your favourite foods and restaurants in Sydney and around Australia?


Filed under Sydney, Travel

See you Later Sydney: Living in a City of Goodbyes

cc license, paulbarrogaA friend told me, not long after I moved here, that he has said goodbye to a lot of people in Sydney.  After only being here for a relatively short time, I’ve already started to say my own farewells.

I’m sure part of the problem will always be that I’m not from here. A lot of my friends are Americans and other expats. Even my coworkers at Switched on Media come from several different countries. It’s not surprisingly that people would come and go over the years. I’m not even sure how long I’ll be in Sydney myself.

Sydney in general seems to be place where people are always arriving and leaving from. Aussies love to travel. In fact, to leave a job to go traveling for several months is not unusual.  I love the culture of travel here; it’s far less common where I grew up.

While I’m obviously happy for friends who travel or return home after being away, there is definitely a sad side to it. It makes me think about my time in Sydney. I question if I should be home with my family instead. I’m happy here, but I do have moments where I wonder if I should be away.

Have you said a lot of goodbyes in Sydney?


Filed under Sydney, Travel