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Moving overseas is almost easy nowadays – from the bunch of expat groups and businesses ready to give you advice, to organisations ready to help with the visa process. But that’s mostly if you’re using the well-worn path of the common westernised expat countries. How many of us have really, truly considered a move to Papua New Guinea? I bet I could count you on both hands. I might also need a foot, but I doubt it.
Rebecca jumped at the change to move to PNG with her husband in tow. They’ve made it to Texas, where they now live, but I get the impression that another move is not off the cards. Rebecca has shared her expat adventures from the Pacific, to South America and finally to the US. You can follow her travels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Fascinated by travel
Hey! I’m Rebecca and after many years as an expat, I’m currently living in Dallas, Texas. I blog at Rebecca and the World. I grew up in country Victoria, in the small Murray River town of Echuca-Moama. Growing up, I was fascinated with the world. I used to pore over the atlases we owned as part of a huge encyclopedia collection, and tear travel stories out of my mum’s magazines.
Unfortunately, we didn’t travel a lot when I was young, so it wasn’t until I was 21-years-old that I actually set foot on a plane. And once I did, I just couldn’t stop!
Like most Australians, my boyfriend (now husband) and I travelled here and there throughout South East Asia, and I took a solo, 5-week trip through Mexico and Guatemala. Every time we travelled though, it just never seemed long enough and we felt we’d only had a fleeting view of the countries’ cultures.
Moving to a developing country
When I finished university, I got a job with a Fortune 50 company headquartered in the United States, with operations all around the world. I worked solidly in the company’s Australian operations, learning the ropes and building up my knowledge of the industry. One of the perks was the international trips I got to take – in just a few years I visited the US, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam for work.
We had a project underway in Papua New Guinea and I begged for years to go there. Finally, I got the call. After a lot of paperwork and medical tests, I received my visa and I was off.
My husband had been reluctant to go to PNG because of the headlines that often appear in the media about the country. By the end of our time there, though, he had fallen in love with the place and the people and had a whole lot of stories to tell. He got a job easily, working as a project manager for large construction sites. It was different to the construction work he was used to back home but it really expanded his skills and experience.
We travelled a lot throughout PNG. Tourism hasn’t really touched PNG yet – and that means crowd-free white sand beaches and amazing diving spots. One of our favourite spots was Kavieng, an island to the northeast of mainland PNG, where we snorkeled in crystal-clear water, paddle boarded with the local kids and ate fresh seafood every day.
My grandfather fought in PNG during World War II, and I hiked the Kokoda Track while I was there. It was an extremely challenging and sobering trek and something I am incredibly proud to have done.
We spent four years living in PNG and it is the country that has single-handedly transformed who I am. We met amazing people (both expats and Papua New Guineans) and made friends that we will have for life. I experienced what life is like as a minority (albeit, as a white person, in a privileged way – but that’s a topic that’s far too complicated to get into here!). I had the opportunity to learn about a beautiful culture that celebrates family and sharing and community. I still consider PNG to be my second home.
Of course, it wasn’t all rosy, but by dealing with all the challenges that come with living in an emerging economy, I feel that we walked away with many different values and abilities.
Out of our comfort zone in Argentina
When my time was up in PNG, I started talking with my manager about the next move. I didn’t know where I was going next, but I knew I wasn’t ready to go home to Australia. My husband and I were actually on our honeymoon in Thailand when I got the call – we were moving to Argentina. We moved there without ever having visited the country.
I’d always had a love for the Spanish language and wanted to travel to South America, so this was a dream come true. We spent 18 months exploring Buenos Aires, the stunning capital of Argentina, and all corners of the country, as well as Brazil, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Cuba. It was an experience we couldn’t have had if we’d only visited South America for a few weeks.
Living in Argentina was challenging: every day we’d battle through the language and every now and then have to muddle our way through the bureaucracy, but my Spanish markedly improved through speaking it on a daily basis. The supermarkets lacked some of the items we were used to having easily at hand but we adapted.
My husband couldn’t work when we were in Argentina, but he gained valuable Spanish language skills.
There were a lot of Americans and Europeans living in Buenos Aires when we lived there. Many had moved there for love or looking for a different way of life. Some were studying or teaching English, or found jobs with local companies. With the economy, it was pretty tough for foreigners to get good-paying jobs, so I was pretty lucky to have the stability of my company.
If you haven’t been to Argentina, I would highly recommend travelling there – so many different regions that are all vastly different. Patagonia is outstanding, Iguazu Falls is jaw-dropping, and the north of the country is unlike the rest of the country.
Culture shock in the United States
After only one and a half years in Argentina (and consuming about a tonne of steak and several hundred litres of wine), we moved to Dallas, Texas. I knew I’d end up in the United States at some point, given that my company is American.
After living in different countries for so many years, it was quite a shock to land in the US and have so much choice. Amazon Prime! Food delivery! So many varieties of cereal in the supermarket!
Life here is pretty easy – although for how similar Aussies are to Americans, there are times when people can’t understand me. As Aussies we’ve grown up with American television shows and brands, so we know a lot of the cultural references and slang and accents. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to repeat myself just asking for a glass of water!
Travelling in the U.S. is also a huge bonus of living here. We’ve visited many of the big cities and the national parks have blown me away with their beauty. I also love how cheap it can be to fly internationally – we recently flew to Spain for only $400 each, something that would never be possible from Australia! We’ll definitely be taking advantage of all the travelling we can while we live here.
As for what’s next after the US – who knows?