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  • Writer's pictureHannah Shuman

Stuck in Sydney - My Journey to Australia


I realized looking back at my now 9 months (😱) of blogging, that I haven’t told one of my most important travel stories! How on Earth did I end up going from Florida beaches to Australian ones!? Yes, Australia is every beach lover’s dream but to be honest it was one of those far-off destinations on my bucket list that I just hoped to get to one day. I never imagined I would end up moving my whole life across the planet and live here. But I didn’t come here for the 10,000 beaches, landmark cities, or adorable animals (although seeing kangaroos in the wild will always blow my mind!!). No, my journey here is one of the heart and actually begins in St. Augustine, Florida in September of 2018…


 

But before we even get to 2018, we have to go back even further into the archive to college days. During my summers in college, I would always try to find the opportunity to go work and travel somewhere new. One summer I spent working in Orlando, Florida. If you have EVER been to Florida it is highly likely you have visited Orlando. Why? Two words. Disney World. Yes, the most magical place on Earth. Growing up as a Floridian we took trips to Disney regularly and it is still one of my most favorite places in the world. (Disney tips blog in the future?!?) ANYWAY! While working in Orlando I had this wonderful roommate Jenn who happened to be dating an Australian guy at the time. I remember she would always be up at like 2AM skyping him and I thought she was crazy! 😅 Eventually after college, she ended up moving to Australia to be with him! Well fast forward back to 2018 and I get an invitation in the mail that they are coming back to Florida to get married! I was not only super excited that this love story was still going strong but that I got to celebrate their special day! They were set to be married in St. Augustine in September.


 

St. Augustine is just one of those cities that oozes romance. The oldest city in the country, this is where the Spanish landed back in 1565. There is an absolutely adorable old village perfect for a romantic stroll and beautiful beaches for enjoying the sunshine. The architecture here is breath-taking and is one of the reasons thousands of couples rush here every year to get married! Easily sets the stage for the opportunity to find love, right? (Am I bachelor contestant all of a sudden?!) But let me tell you, I was more nervous than anything! I was extremely single at the time and had no date knowing I would likely only know the bride and groom. Little did I know this wedding would be packed with a lively bunch of Aussies who quickly made me forget I arrived alone! It was an absolute rager of a wedding and about halfway through the night I take my full glass of red wine out on the dancefloor to boogie. The Cupid Shuffle is playing (again… signs?!?) and I spot this hot little Aussie across the room looking confused. I slide over to offer my dance teaching expertise and that was it. John is one of the most vibrant people I have ever met and literally lights up any room. He captured my attention immediately, which I have to say at the time would have been extremely difficult to do. We ended up spending the whole night together drinking too much wine and talking away under the stars. There are just some of those people you instantly click with and I feel like our click happened that night.

Our first photo together 🙈
 

Unfortunately, all good things do have to come to an end and wedding night was over and it was time for us to part ways. He was going to stay in Mexico for a week and I was returning to work in St. Pete. We exchanged numbers and decided to just see what could happen. Well, a lot happened… By the end of the week, he decided to reroute his trip home with a quick stop in Tampa Bay to see me again. I was both crushing hard and also wondering if I had just invited a serial killer to come stay with me for the weekend… 😅 All of my worries melted away though when he walked through the airport gate. Honestly, it was the most special weekend of my life. We went to Disney on our first date (ironically enough!) and John just swept me off my feet.

Our first date at Disney!
 

As our time together came to an end, we still had this growing problem of distance. I don’t know if you know, but Australia is a long freaking way away! Regardless, I was not going to give up on this beautiful person I had found. Luckily, long distance did not have to last too long as John planned another trip over for Thanksgiving weekend to meet my family. That was when I knew I was 100% crazy in love. My family is such a huge part of my life and if you can come in and not only be comfortable but also get them to love you… that is saying a lot! So now came the tougher part of LOVING someone that lived on the other side of the planet. This is when I started researching… Research and research and research. I spent hours on blogs and government websites, read visa booklets, and of course called my very good friend Jenn to ask her honest opinion of how tough this really was going to be. But both John and I had nothing but encouragement from our friends and family to make this work.

 

I decided to settle on a Working Holiday Visa and applied to visit starting in February of 2019. With the Working Holiday Visa you can work and live in Australia for a year from the time you enter the country. It is a relatively inexpensive way to come into the country if you want to visit for an extended period of time. The perk of this visa is that you get temporary work rights making it possible to earn money for your travels! If you do certain work (like farming bananas?!) you can apply for a second-year extension. The only downfall to this visa is you can only work up to 6-months with any one company so most of the jobs you get will be casual. This was still a perfect option for me to come over and visit Australia for the first time!

(Please seek your own legal advice on visas as everyone’s situation is different. You can find more info about visas at The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. )

 

Our first photo together in Sydney!

The day I arrived in Australia was probably one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I began my journey at 5PM on Thursday in Tampa to then travel across the country to LAX to then depart for the 14-hour flight to Sydney. Honestly, I have never been on a flight more than four hours and I was in shock that we were flying over an entire ocean! I landed in Sydney at 9 AM Saturday their time and had basically just lost an entire day. I made my way through customs and sat waiting for my bags to roll out on the conveyer belt. I must have looked so nervous because the security dogs came over and sniffed me...🙈 It took the longest hour of my life for our bags to come out which made me even more nervous! But as soon as I walked out of that gate and saw my guy standing there waiting for me, all the worry just melted away.


We spend the next 6 months giving me a very proper introduction to Australia. We stayed in a Bubbletent in the Blue Mountains to spy kangaroos and shooting stars. We journeyed down to Jervis Bay to play in the whitest sand in the world! We ticked off a bucket list item by diving the Great Barrier Reef. And of course, we fell even more in love and decided we would do whatever it takes to be together.



 

But once again all good things had to come to an end, and I had accepted a job back in the U.S. in the Fall. So back to long distance. This time was much harder, but we had the goal of John making his way over to the U.S. in the next few years. We had a solid plan and a few trips planned to see each other already lined up. John came to visit me for Christmas and we rang in 2020 in Key West. Then I planned a trip with my mom for my spring break in March. Finally, we planned on spending summer in Europe. WELL didn’t that change?! Much to our surprise this little virus showed up right when I was leaving for Sydney! At this point, there was not much known and like many of the other diseases of our time, we didn’t worry too much about it other than to wash our hands more regularly. I made the long journey back to Sydney. Two days into our trip, our return flights get cancelled. International travel bans appear. People buy all the toilet paper in the world… And I royally freak out at the reality my small time with John was going to be cut very short and I could possibly not ever see him again…



Maybe a bit dramatic but it was one of the scariest days of my life because for the first time ever I was so afraid to lose someone. I knew if I left Australia then, there would be little chance of getting back any time soon. The risk of going years without seeing John made me immediately decide to do whatever it took to make it work. We sent my mom back on the last flight out of Sydney and I joined John and his roommates for a surprise extended stay. As we hunkered down for the lockdown, I researched more visa possibilities and was able to find one that worked for me.

 

Once lockdowns calmed down, we were able to find our own place and start exploring again! This has been one of the most bizarre ways to make the move to Australia, but I really had no option. I worked with my boss to be able to work remotely for a while longer and arranged to have my things moved into storage. Luckily, I have the most AMAZING family in the world who helped me so much moving and organizing my things. I literally came here with two weeks’ worth of clothes in a suitcase and my mom packed up my closet and sent it to me in the mail! ♥


 

Honestly, I have to say the whole thing has been bittersweet. I LOVE Australia and am so grateful to be able to be here with John, but this totally knocked our plan out! I really didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to anyone as I wasn’t planning on leaving long-term. As I said, I am very close to my family and have been extremely homesick without a known date to see them again. I have felt like the rug was pulled out from under me for most of 2020. 😥 It has been such a strange experience to say the least! I am forever hoping and praying our world gets back to free travel soon just so I can hug the ones I love. As the months continue on and there are no plans for international travel to reopen, I honestly do feel like I am stuck in Sydney!



Not such a bad place to get stuck and I am SO lucky to be with John. I honestly couldn't imagine doing long distance this long and feel for all of you that are away from your loved ones, too. ♥ In the meantime, I have focused my attention to enjoy traveling this beautiful country. Australia is one of the most diverse places I have ever been. We are so spoiled here with natural beauty and I am so grateful to be able to experience it! I hope you enjoyed our love story and continue the journey along with us!








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Stuck in Sydney - My Journey To Australia


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