I have been preparing for my Aussie excursion for months. Not only had I developed a close relationship with Marvin at Qantas airlines, but I’d read up on the latest attractions, e-mailed locals for tips, and practiced my Aussie slang. I had diligently watched Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee II, and Finding Nemo. I had reread Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan and only used Aussie hair products for the past month. I had some roo in my do and was ready to schlep the 8,000 miles Down Under.
Or so I thought…
I kept hitting snags in the final days of preparation. And while I was hoping that the bank debacle would be the last of it, there was no such luck.
It started when one of my readers e-mailed me her anecdotal story about how she didn’t realize she needed a visa to travel to Australia before she got there. I found the story very entertaining and sympathized for her situation, but was pretty confident it didn’t apply to me. I haven’t needed a visa to go anywhere I’ve traveled thus far and Australia would have been the last place I suspected. But then I realized that even though she had come to OZ from Beijing, she was an American citizen.
Hoping this was some sort of practical joke, I started Googling. To my dismay, I did in fact need to apply for a visa. I sent a mental thank-you to this reader. Then I panicked.
As it would turn out, applying for a visa wasn’t as strenuous of a process as I had imagined, but it was something I hadn’t considered. I applied online, paid the fee, and received my e-mail confirmation shortly afterward. And even though I skated through this obstacle, I made a mental note to never again assume I would get access into a country with only my American passport in hand.
Then came the outlet adapter issue. I am well aware that I need adapters for each country I travel to with my American electronics. I purchased an Australian friendly adapter and called it a day. But when I read the instruction booklet, I realized I also needed a transformer. Apparently American electronics run on 110-120 volts of electricity. Most of the rest of the world runs on 220-240 volts.
Seriously, who knows this kind of stuff?
Without a transformer to convert the power to a lower voltage, I risk blowing up my cell phone and iPod every time I plug them into an international outlet. This also explained why my phone acted so funky when I was traveling through Europe. I raced out to pick up a transformer.
But then came another moment of panic. I use AT&T and have the World Traveler’s plan so I can call or text friends and family back home with little or no cost to me. When I called AT&T International Care to inform them I would be going to Australia and Fiji, the representative told me they do not support data packages in Fiji. Therefore, if I was planning on texting or calling anyone from my device while in Suva City, I would be paying a pretty penny. So it goes, I guess.
There wasn’t much that I could do about this situation except start devising alternative methods of interaction. So far I’m looking into smoke signals and carrier pigeons.
I think what I’ve realized is that regardless of how prepared I feel I am for my next nomadic adventure, there are always going to be challenges to overcome and lessons I need to learn. Each challenge is a chance to improve the next journey. And in all reality, I’m happy to be the guinea pig so you can learn from my mistakes. Learn on, my fellow vagabonds! This one I’m calling…
Before You Go: Australia/Fiji Need-to-Knows
1. If you are not from Australia or New Zealand, you will need to apply for a visa before landing in OZ. Depending on what country you are from and what kind of visa you are applying for will depend on how difficult it is to obtain one. You can apply for a visa on the internet and in most cases have one approved the same day. To apply for your visa to Australia click here.
2. Make sure you not only have an appropriate adapter for your electronics but also have a voltage transformer if necessary. This applies only to travelers using electronics that run off of 110-120 volts. If you are from the US you will need one. If you’re unsure or need help determining what transformer or adapter to get, click here.
3. Check with your phone provider to see if they offer data packages for your destination. AT&T’s messaging and data packages are not applicable once you reach Fiji. If you’d rather just not deal with your provider at all, plan on picking up an international phone once you land. Or you can resolve to use internet cafes instead. Or, if you’re really brave, you can go without all forms of communication and truly enjoy the moment. As impossible as this may seem, people have done it before. ;)
I hope you can learn from my oversights!
And here’s hoping for smooth sailing here on out. Only a few more hours before I get on that A380… I mean, what else could go wrong? Or is that question better left unasked?
See you on the other side! Happy Adventuring!