Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Moving to Australia

I am deep into moving mode, an emotional state that places a voice inside my head that repeats a few phrases whenever I ponder a wide range of physical objects: "No! Do not buy that!"; "Will this be taken with, packed for storage, sold, or donated?"; "The miniproject you had in mind for this is gone, a dead dream. Let it go.".

This is annoying, I much prefer my normal happy-go-lucky approach to possessions, though this current mood has considerable benefits when it comes to that other major category of possession, money. I would not say I have ever been very good at money, in the sense of avoiding or paying off debts effectively, saving money, and preventing myself from making probably-ill-advised purchases. Between the increased attention I've been paying to my personal finances since late summer and the material needs (i.e., for less material) of my impending trans-Pacific move, my money situation has both clarified and improved. This move to Australia comes with another substantial benefit on this point: a large raise.

As a post-doc in Canada, from my position at the University of Waterloo, through my short half-year at Université Laval, to my current-and-soon-to-end half-year here at Laurentian University in Sudbury, my salary has stayed pretty constant, at about $45 000 / year. My recent improvement in financial self-oversight does not extend far into the past, but I am confident that I can maintain something like my current lifestyle on this level of income. The new position in Australia comes with a salary nearly double that, and while the cost of living will probably be a bit higher, and the move itself represents a significant expense, I anticipate being able to live a slightly more comfortable life there. My current debts would be paid off by mid-to-late 2019 were I to stay here in my current existence, so I anticipate greater chances of success in this goal, even with the currency-conversion and interbank transfer fees I'll incur paying off Canadian debts from Australian income.

So that's one reason why I'm moving. The other, more important reason, is love. Charlie will be starting her PhD in 2019 at the University of New England (as long as certain things go reasonably well, which they mostly have already been doing), and this position for me is in the same laboratory group, so we can STAY TOGETHER! YAY! I have been awarded a University of New England Post-Doctoral Fellowship (UNE PDF), a competitive award that comes with a 3-year contract and considerable support in the form of specific training for professor responsibilities such as effective teaching and applying for outside funding; I am very much looking forward to learning about and practicing both of those.

I think I'll save the application process story for another post, after I arrive in Armidale and take up my new position, just to avoid any public-information weirdnesses - I'll have a chance to clear some things I might want to talk about with the relevant people there.

The third reason I'm moving to Australia is of course ADVENTURE. Ironically, Sudbury is an AMAZING place for EXACTLY the kinds of adventures I am most interested in having. This isn't the canoe capital of Canada - Atikokan, Ontario, a thousand kilometres away, claims that title - but it's a very close second. Greater Sudbury, the coalesced super-municipality of Sudbury plus a large number of suburbs, includes 331 lakes within the borders. My office here looks directly out (I mean, directly - the distance from window to water is about 3 metres) onto Lake Ramsey. Within an hour or two of driving, there are at least half a dozen Provincial Parks with mapped canoe routes, water-access-only campsites, and maintained portages; this includes the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Killarney Provincial Park, which we have managed to visit only once. We'll be back.

I have been spending some of my procrastination time browsing the websites of the State Parks of New South Wales and of Queensland, plus a number of other similar get-out-and-explore Australia websites. The Sunday Drives, which have been dormant here in Sudbury since October (not that I post about them but I do go on them!) will be restarted as soon as possible in Australia. Like Sudbury, Armidale is surrounded by some amazing protected areas that I can't wait to explore.

The move itself has been (and continues to be) a large and seemingly never-ending amount of work. We received the Letter of Offer in late October, so we had about two months to do all things needed for a move like this. Packing, and sorting possessions into take/store/sell/donate has taken much of our time, but some things further from our direct control also require both long times and considerable effort. The visa application, again without talking about it in detail given we have not received it yet, is the obvious example, with published estimates on government websites that our visa may take two months to be processed, though hopefully much less. UNE has hired immigration lawyers to help us, and Visa Lawyers Australia (VLA) have been absolutely wonderful. There's a lot to say in the future about this process, too, but I can say that VLA has been great.

Selling things has been surprisingly effective, I had not expected to make nearly as much money as we have - with more (hopefully) to come - through Facebook Marketplace and eBay. Large things that are not worth shipping, mostly furniture, have gone to local people, organised by Charlie. Smaller things with narrow appeal - mainly my old camera gear - has gone out through eBay. I have bought a bunch of things (including old camera gear) through eBay, but until this move, I had never sold anything. The first to go was my collection of Dragon Magazines, to a few buyers in Ontario and Quebec. Camera stuff has gone to B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, as well as several American states. In some cases, the cost of shipping exceeds the cost of the item by up to double, but the buyers are willing and the post office is nearby.

That said, if you feel like browsing what I've got up, there are a few more auctions left to run before we drive west (next week), search for "martinb003" on and you'll find me.

Our plan for the move, now well under way, is to drive to Calgary for Christmas, then fly to Armidale by Calgary - Vancouver - Sydney - Armidale. Qantas flies at least once a week on the critical Vancouver - Sydney route, and a few other airlines such as Air Canada also make that trip on most days. We want to avoid stopping in the USA because while it potentially could be less expensive (though not necessarily, as we have seen browsing ticket sellers) there is a large and worrying possibility of all kinds of hassle with US Customs that we would prefer to just dodge. This emotional state comes with strong prioritisation to minimize time and worry requirements in favour of getting stuff done, because there are so very many things to do.

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