What to expect… when you’re heading home?

1 month today we’ll leave NZ. After almost a year away, I absolutely can’t wait to see family & friends and I’m looking forward to home comforts and the end of living out of a bag! This milestone has also prompted thoughts about what it’ll be like to return home.

How much will have changed?

When you’ve been out of everything for a while, you feel like you’ve missed a lot and wonder how much will be different to what you remember. The big things like births, deaths, birthdays, weddings and engagements, but also just a year’s worth of the everyday.

However most people have said that, beyond the surface, very little really changes when you’ve been away. A friend of mine recently returned home after 5 years living abroad, and even then, most things felt the same as when she’d left. Hopefully it won’t take too long to catch up and get back into the swing of things.

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And we’re booked!

After a few months of planning, Rob and I have booked our flights to NZ!

We leave on 1 October and will spend a fortnight in China en route. I’m lucky enough to have family that live in Shanghai, so we plan to spend approx a week staying there before heading north to Beijing. We know we want to visit major attractions of the Forbidden City and Great Wall and I’d like to see the Birds Nest Olympic stadium, but we need to research what else we’d like to do there (time permitting!) We’ll then spend a few days in Hong Kong, before flying out mid-October to Auckland.

We have booked flights and insurance through Travel Nation, our consultant has been very helpful so far and patient with our deliberations. We managed to get all 4 flights for £1228pp – thanks to a late quote from a local travel agent we managed to reduce the price a little and this was by far the best price we found without needing to compromise our route.

As flights can only be booked about 11 months in advance, we’ve booked with ‘dummy dates’ and will set the exact dates for our return flights (London via San Francisco!) for Sept 2014 with Travel Nation, when they become available.

We waited until our visas came through before booking our flights, which may have been over cautious. Mine took about a week longer than Rob’s (nearly 4 weeks), which may have been because I’ve entered the country before (sounds a bit too grand!). If you’re using the Immigration New Zealand website, keep your log in details safe as this is the only way to check the status of your application. I locked myself out and the only option was to phone NZ to reset my password, which was a pricey and tricky-to-time phonecall!

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I’m trying to gather recommendations and contacts from family/friends at the moment. A couple of weeks ago at a friend’s party I met her friend who is planning a similar trip to Oz with her husband, also leaving in Oct. We’ve been in touch about flights and hope to keep in contact with her as we plan our trips.

Things on current to do list include:

1) Apply for Chinese visa – the form looks quite formidable!
2) Research where to stay/visit/eat in Beijing and Hong Kong
3) Think about work options and prep CV
4) Create a yearlong, travel themed playlist 😉

If you have any tips or Q’s, I’d love to hear from you!