“We were kids for a day at Universal Studios, gambled in Vegas, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, went to the San Diego Zoo and ticked off landmarks in New York City and Washington DC.”
I left New Zealand in March 2012 with ambitious plans. The intention was to travel with my boyfriend for five weeks through the USA before settling in London and getting jobs, staying there for around two years and exploring Europe on weekends and holidays. A fairly standard format for most young Kiwis embarking on their “Overseas Experience”.
But nothing went to plan.
At 26, I’d had two career-related jobs since graduating university, working in marketing for financial services companies. When I’d started working in mid-2008, I’d felt grateful to get a job. Graduating in the middle of a global financial crisis, many of my friends worked in retail and admin jobs for years longer than they intended due to the reduction of graduate positions. What I didn’t realise was the extent the economy was still recovering in the UK and Europe four years later.
In addition to the job market woes, my relationship barely survived the USA leg of the trip. We fought our way through the cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, New York and Washington DC. Fortunately, however, we had some pretty mint experiences too. We were kids for a day at Universal Studios, gambled in Vegas, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, went to the San Diego Zoo and ticked off landmarks in New York City and Washington DC.
We arrived in London in late April and stayed in budget accommodation as I began to look for a job. The boyfriend had since decided he wanted to take a year off.
By mid-May, I was getting frustrated with continually meeting recruiters (and the cost of the tube trips to do so) and getting no further ahead. So, we booked a last-minute two-week cruise around the Mediterranean.
It was amazing. With exorbitantly priced WiFi operating at a crawling speed, I was forced to switch off and enjoy where I was. I spoke French in Cannes, which we happened to visit during the famous Cannes Film Festival. Having ‘done’ Rome previously, we whizzed around the main attractions in three hours. I adored Croatia, and with all-inclusive meals onboard, I ate a lot and relaxed by the pool when we were cruising.
In June, we rented an apartment in Brighton for a week with two friends who had just arrived in London. In a more chilled out environment, I went mad applying for jobs, accepted my relationship was over, and soon moved into a friend’s flat near Hampstead while she learned French in Lyon for the summer.
In the end, I used London as a hub to travel while attending many a job interview. While I got close, I never closed the deal. I worked around 10 hours a week remotely for a friend’s website and worked shifts as a promo girl, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a ‘real’ job due to perceived pressures and expectations.
But I attended Olympic events and waved to Queen Elizabeth during her Jubilee Celebrations. I visited Ireland, Belgium and Amsterdam alone, and saw more of the UK and Europe with various groups of friends.
In late October, I was offered a job back in New Zealand after a 3 am phone interview done on several glasses of wine. It seemed too easy after the 17 failed interviews that year and the numerous visits to meet recruiters. So I went home.
2012 is glossed over in my CV as ‘travel’. But looking back, I visited 12 countries, saw and learned so much, and somehow held my own through all the challenges. All things considered, it was actually one of the best years of my life.
Author - Sarah Kennerley
Sarah Kennerley is a travel blogger based in Wellington, New Zealand. Her blog Sarah Sees The World provides inspiration and advice for making the most of every trip.
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