New York City Trip

Some day, I might be able to take this picture in person.

Update: I am now in America... the adventure begins! 

Follow the trip via the posts tagged with 'America Trip'

I currently live in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I have decided to move to New York City for a year.

This page will help me keep track of my progress, store my gained knowledge, and also hopefully be used to share my experience of my planning, eventually departure and life in NYC in the hope that it might provide useful to others who might also be thinking of a big trip some day.

Last updated: February 11th, 2012   

This page will be constantly changing as I continue my research and planning to discover what on Earth I actually need to do to make this happen. There is a crazy amount to do! Basically I think I can sum it all up into a few major categories:

At this stage I am hoping for a March, 2012 departure. Yay!  Any sooner and I would be arriving during the extremely busy peak times of the Christmas period (November to end of January), coupled with the fact that I don't think I'd be ready by then either.  Any later however and I'd be arriving in the center of America's Summer season (June to August).

March I feel gives me sufficient time to do all my planning, while still being close enough that it isn't just some far off, distant dream that doesn't even feel like a possible reality.

At this moment I have absolutely no idea how long I will be there for, and can't really provide a reliable return date.  If I do arrive in March, I would love to be able to survive the Summer and still be there for the American Autumn (Fall) season (starts September).  Ideally I would really love to spend a Winter season there, but that would require me to still be there in November.

Update September 3rd, 2011:
After doing much research on Visa's, it appears that the visa I am applying for (J1 Visa) requires me to enter the country within 12 months of my graduating term.  This means I must be in the U.S by March 31st, 2012.  So, I guess that help narrow my dates.

The Universe, it appears, wants me to go to New York and has since offered me the nearly once in a life time benefit of an amazingly strong Australian dollar these last few months.  Win!  Thus far I have transferred $7000 Australian dollars to US dollars, at an exchange rate of around $0.98, which is absolutely amazing.  However, at the time of writing this, I could be exchanging it for a massive $1.07... which means I would of made money if I exchanged it now.  Oh well.

My best (yet very rough) estimates at the moment tell me that I am going to need around $1200 a month to cover accommodation, food and so on.   So, assuming that when I get to New York, and the worst case scenario plays out where I cannot find any job what so ever, I should be able to live off my savings for roughly:

Total savings/estimated monthly expenses = $7000/$1300 = approximately 5 months.

Known costs just to get there:
Visa sponsor = $1500
Travel Insurance = $0 (Included with visa sponsor)
Visa = $300
Flights =$1300

Thus far, I have none. And when I say none, I mean none. Ha! I figure I will kind of 'wing it' in a way, and try and scour for cheap apartments/units come closer to the date. I'd be happy with a tiny, one bedroom, one window place to be honest.  As long as I have a bed, and a place to work on my laptop, I am happy.

Wow, talk about confusing!  As soon as this New York City idea came to mind and I shared my idea with my friends, one of the first things I was told was 'how are you going to be allowed to work? You will need a special visa for that and they are hard to get'.  Luckily a few years ago I stumbled across an article that talked about A visa known as the 'J1 - Visa', which basically fit my life and situation perfectly. 

To sum up the 'J1 - Visa':
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must be either studying at University full-time, or have completed a University degree within the last 12 months
- It allows you to live and work within the U.S for 1 year


Update September 3rd, 2011:
Ok, I have spent the last few hours trawling through the labyrinth that is the Australian-American Embassy website, and I think I have finally got the general idea on what processes need to be followed to obtain the correct visa:

- Firstly, the best guide I have found has come from providing a nice step-by-step guide on how to apply for a visa.

- Upon reading it's information guide, it appears that before applying for an visa, you must first need to know which visa specifically (as there is quite a few) you will be applying for.  Each are rather unique so you will need to do some dense research to discover which one best suits your situation and needs. I found this page to be the best place for to gather information on the different visa.

- Luckily I stumbled across a travel article written by a young Australian a few years back who talked about their trip to America from.  In this article they talked about the 'J1 - Visa' which suited my situation perfectly being fresh out of my University studies.  The 'J1 - Visa' allows you to travel and work (something that most visa's don't allow) for up to 12 months. From the link I gave above, I found out all the information I need about J1 by clicking its corresponding link (

- The 'J1 Visa', it appears, acts a bit like a 'student exchange program' thus I need to sign up with an authorized 'sponsor'.  For a little while I freaked out, thinking that by sponsor it meant I was required to get a job lined up before I even get there! Alas, after much more reading, it turns out that a sponsor is simply an organization you sign up with, and they will handle any internal paperwork required, and I guess also keep track of number of foreigners entering the country to work (possibly?).  Very helpfully this frequently asked questions link provides a link of authorized sponsors.

- There appears to be around 12 or so sponsors to choose from, each offering slightly different benefits, prices, restrictions and so on, so careful reading of each one is definitely required. One major difference between them I found was that some offer a 'work-placement' program, while others offer a 'self-placement' program, and some offer both.  If you opt for a sponsor that only offers the job placement program option, it appears that you thus required to go work at a place of your choosing (from a list they provide), before being able to go off and do your own thing (the placements last around 3 months).  This would be fantastic for most as it aids you in avoiding the worry of finding one when you get there, and you are already set up with income, accommodation and a way to meet people.

As tempting as that sounds, I feel that I would prefer a self-placement option.  Money isn't an issue for me (I've been saving all year), and I have the image in mind of doing a lot of small odd jobs when I get there (eg. pizza delivery, bike messenger, computer repairs). Below I have listed in order of preference the sponsors I feel (at the time of writing) best suit me:

CCUSA - Seem professional, the website was very informative.  Seem a little pricey (~$1800) compared to the others however.

IEP - Seem fantastic, and would be my favourite choice, but it mentions something about 'Taking applications for travellers planning to arrive before December 31st, 2011"... what does that mean for me who aims to leave in March? Will have to do more research.  Other then that they seem great!

IEE - These guys seem perfect, although their website doesn't seem as professional as the others, plus they don't list the price.

Intrax - Their website seemed rather professional, but it didn't provide information on prices, nor was it very clear whether they had a 'self-placement' option available.

Phew... tired.  That was about 3 hours work there. I will do some more follow-up research on the sponsors listed above, and hopefully make a choice over the next few days to get things moving.

Update February 11th, 2012:
After finally choosing which sponsor to go with, applying for my Visa through them, countless forms and fees to complete, it finally got finalized and I got my Visa approved.

I settled on the sponsor IEP (International Exchange Programs), it sounded good from their website and after calling them up and asking for some additional information they sounded like the way to go. I am sure the other candidates were just as good I guess. They talked me through the entire process, gave me heaps of information booklets and provided me with basically step by step instructions on what I need to do, how and when. I wouldn't say they were absolutely amazing (seem to be pretty slow on replying to emails for instance), but I guess they have gotten me sorted alright so I can't complain.

And yes, did I mention... I got my Visa!


I talked to a travel agent recently, and he recommended that due to my current plans to leave in March, 2012, that I should start booking flights around October. I questioned that, as they have already announced the flight time tables for March 2012 already, shouldn't I book now? He insisted that October is a good time so I shall take his word for it.

At this stage I have no idea who I am flying with, or whether I am flying there directly. I also can't decide if I only want to go just to America, or whilst there continue onto other countries? I could save a fortune if I buy an around-the-world ticket before I leave instead of buying tickets once I am there... but that is a big step to take.

Update January 22nd, 2012:
I am looking at March 21st for departure date, most likely flying with V Australia airlines (as I have flown with them before and they were quite good. For a while I was heavily contemplating an around-the-world ticket, for a great price I could say 5 destinations lined up... but in the end I didn't like this idea. I didn't like 'locking' myself into too many big decisions, so I have happily settled for a return ticket from Melbourne, Australia to Los Angeles, America. Why LA? For starters I figure while I am in the US I shouldn't limit myself to just NYC... but mostly I get terribly bored on flights so the shorter the flight the better (although it is still 14 hours long... yikes... but it could be worse!).

It is really nice to have a date somewhat set =)

Reading about other travelers' advice and experiences is absolutely essential in a myriad of ways. Not only do you get to read about someone's amazing adventures, but it is the best source of information that you can't learn in the travel books.
The World Is Not Flat (TwinF) - One of my absolute favourites, this website tracked the 2006 trip of Lee and Sachi as they left their home of America for a huge around the world trip that lasted an entire year.  Very informative and highly entertaining.

How To Rent An Apartment in New York - A nice travel article from

Reader's Guide to New York - Another article from with general tips for NYC

Work, which may sound strange to some, is one of the areas I am the most excited about with this entire trip.  As in, seriously jumping out of my chair excited about.  Ha!  With my big amount of savings behind me I don't need to work at all, which takes a huge pressure off me.  However, I just cannot sit around, not even for a couple of days.  I go stir crazy, get bored, feel like I am wasting time, thus I just have to be doing something, anything, so being able to work at whatever job I feel like without the pressure of needing a job sounds very exciting to me.

My profession here at home is Software Developer, something I could do absolutely anywhere in the world, but hell, I want to do odd jobs, immerse myself with the people!  I could be a pizza delivery guy! Or give tours! Sign up to be an extra in plays or movies!  Searching for jobs I think is going to be the highlight of my trip =)

Update September 3rd, 2011:
After some quick searches on Google I have found a couple of really cool articles that provide a plethora of easy (and sometimes even fun) ideas on how to make some money:

Ways to make money now - This awesome list offers 76 random ways one could go about making money.  Half of these sound like so much fun, I might try and do as many of them as I can.  

50 Ways to make money - Pretty much the same as the one above, but is still different enough to be a great resource.  Number 49 caught my eye particular (#49 Teach others to swim) as I already have an extremely strong background in swimming in my younger days at competition level.  Will keep it in mind!

Play AFL - Coming from Australia, I absolutely love Australian Football, and I wonder if there are those in New York who do also.  Perhaps there may be the possibility of some kind of 'AFL club' or 'AFL clinics' where I could teach others how to play?

NYC Tour Guide - Lately, well actually it's be a lot longer than 'lately' now that I think about it. Let me restart. For ages now, and for absolutely no reason why, I have always fancied the idea of being a tour guide. I've always thought that this would be something I would like to do and would actually enjoy making a living out of so, hey, why not when I get to NYC spend a month or so cramming in as much information about the city as I can, and then host tours! Being from Australia sounds like it could add a 'fresh' edge tow the whole tour guide routine which might be enough to entice people to join up... yeah?

Must See Attractions
Whilst overseas on this trip, I know this is going to be ridiculously expensive therefore I can't see myself doing these big trips too frequently in my life time.  Thus, when I am on a trip, I just need to make the very most of it!  Slowly I hear or read things that I must see or do:

The Art of Video Games Exhibition - Hosted at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which is just too cool! I am a huge video game nerd so I will definitely put this on my must see list! Also after some research is appears the museum is in Washington, which doesn't appear to be too far from NYC, win.

The White House - Well if I am already in Washington to see the Smithsonian Museum (see above), then I might as well stop by the White House also. It isn't particularly something that I had wanted to see (as in, if I never saw it in my life I wouldn't mind), but I am nearby so I owe it to myself.

Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Building, Library of Congress - While in Washington I think I would be interesting in seeing these. Wow Washington is turning out way cool!

Yosemite National Park - Awe inspiring. I am planning to first arrive in America via Los Angeles (California) before then leap frogging over to NYC. Maybe I can find the courage to take a chance and make a big detour from the NYC idea by spending the effort and money to visit this place before moving on, seeing as I am technically kind of close by when I arrive.

The Grand Canyon - Who has ever heard of someone who has just come back from a holiday to America and didn't go see the Grand Canyon? Much like Yosemite National Park above it appears I owe it to myself to take a detour and put this on my must see list.

Kennedy Space Center - Man I love Space and Science. I read about it nearly every single day. Seeing this I think would be one of the true wonders of my life. The center however is located in Florida which appears to be far south of America. It would be tough to justify the cost to fly there just for this reason alone so I won't count it as a priority.

Yellowstone National Park - I am far from being materialistic (eg. I don't care about fashion brands, or trends, or looking flashy with the latest models or technology) and much rather see what life and Earth is really about, so I would love to see this amazing place. It is however in the northern part of the country and is way out of my planned route, but alas we shall see. 

Bands on Tour - My favourite bands rarely come to Australia, and when they do I either miss them because I didn't hear about them, or they only do like 1 show in my area. But every band tours the US all the time, yay! A few I'd like to see if given the chance; Blink 182, Coldplay (they are playing in July!), Paramore to name a few.

ComicCon - I am a pretty big nerd, so the appeal of ComicCon isn't hard to guess really. We do have our own exhibitions and conventions in Australia but they are never anywhere near the scale and grandeur of the ones held in America, so visiting ComicCon 2012 could be quite the occasion.

Stuff For Preparation
I can't truly move myself to a new country without properly erasing my current life at home, thus this is a list of things I need to do to prepare myself by removing anything that will weigh me down (both financially and spiritually)
- Acquire VISA
- Purchase plane tickets
- Sell my car
- Sell my laptop
- Sell my drumkit
- Sell my PC
- Sell/donate unneeded stuff
- Sell bike
- Move stuff out of rental house back to my parents house
- Organize my MacBook (as I am taking it with me)
- Cancel car insurance
- Cancel internet contact
- Cancel mobile phone contract
- Organize mobile phone for international calls
- Quit job
- Hang out with every friend at least once
- Have a good going away gathering with my best friends
- Organize methods to stay in contact with home (email addresses, skype setup)
- Write up a vague itinerary (as it appears now that I am visiting more than just NYC)
- Buy a good, travelers backpack
- Buy a good portable camera
- Buy some locks for backpack
- Book accommodation for where I plan to arrive at

Now I am obviously embarking on this adventure alone, but when I am there I really hope to meet some cool people to hang with and maybe even call friends. No way could I sit for months on end with only myself for company! As such I am gathering ideas on some good ways to meet people when I am there:

MeetUp.Com - This site looks awesome! Basically it is a listing of groups for a particular interest (eg. photography, web developing, Chinese speaking, xbox playing) and you can attend events that that group schedules for its members. After browsing briefly I have already seen a heap of groups I'd be interested in (xbox playing for starters!) and reckon it would be a perfect way to meet like minded people.

Volunteering - I have done some volunteering before here at home, and while the majority of the volunteers were (perhaps not surprisingly) over the age of 40, there were a few young people and I have met some really cool people doing it. Plus it is nice to help out where you can so this one is a win win.

'Bring' a friend - Years and years ago I read a children's book that was full of funny short stories and I remember there was one story in particular I really loved and have always wanted to replicate it some day ever since. The character in the story, Andy, was to visit his grandparents for a few weeks, so before leaving his house he stole a gnome from his neighbour's garden to bring along with him for the trip. During the trip Andy would take pictures of him and his new gnome friend on their holiday adventure; swimming at the beach, playing at the park, watching TV, with the plan to send the pictures back to their gnomes owner. I think I want to do something similar =)

TravBuddy.Com - I stumbled across this website by chance and was immediately encouraged by what it attempts to do, which is basically to help people 'find a travel buddy'! I browsed for quite some time before becoming a proper member, because to do that there is a one time only $10 joining fee. After I figured it would be worth the money I signed up and have been glad I did ever since. Already I have made 2 contacts that, while there isn't anything 'official' organized yet, it still gives rise to the chance that I might have some people to meet up with and show me around already arranged before I even arrive in the country =)