Before, During, After
I hate planning. Hate. *hate* But then, when I make plans, I hate for them to be changed. Really hate.
So, the whole idea of going overseas was thought about a lot, plotted a lot, but not really planned. It was more organic than that. Thus, it was much less organized than it should have been.
The first adventure went something like this:
La la la, everything is fine, I'll just get my passport sorted out. La la la, I really should spend more time planning this. La la la, oh my, I just accepted a job in China and have two weeks to get everything sorted out.
*insert blind panic here*
So, I left Edmonton at midnight on the Absolute Longest Bus Ride You Can Take to Calgary, which is where the nearest Chinese consulate was, paid them a huge sum of money to give me a Visa, then hopped the express back and worked that evening. I ran around like crazy trying to get Kris' name on the paperwork with the apartment so that there wouldn't be any issues with him paying the rent. I stressed out over getting his name on the bank account so he could have cheques with which to pay that rent, as for some reason he didn't have a bank account. I then sprung a sudden ending on both games I was running at the time (to no one's satisfaction, but damn, I was leaving the country!), said the most frustrating and hurried good-byes to everyone, and got very worked up on the plane because I had lied to most of the people in my life about when I'd be coming back. "Six months!" I had said, cheerfully, after deciding I wouldn't be back for a year.
(I left after nine months. I lasted three after Paul left, but by that point I just couldn't handle living in Jiangyan anymore. Luckily, I spent a long weekend in Shanghai, and that cleared my head enough to speak very positively about my experiences in China, but that last month I was there was horrible.)
Somewhere in there I think I might have paid most of my bills. Maybe.
You'd think, having done it all before and had plenty of time for regrets, I'd be able to do it all again with a bit more clear thinking, but no, not really.
Me Before Going to Scotland:
La la la, I like the idea of living in the UK, I bet it's lots of fun. La la la, I should get a Visa worked out. La la la, I wonder how expensive it is to live there, and how hard it will be to find a job. Oh, look a seat sale on flights to Glasgow... Now I have two weeks before I leave again.
I had things a little bit better planned this time. There was nothing to wrap up, and I contacted the people I wanted to see and say good-bye to well enough in advance that there was a Firefly marathon (of sorts) and much eating of bread. I spent time with people, said good-bye, and did less fretting. On the other hand, I also left a huge mess for other people to deal with, and had a panic attack about my poor cat when I was on the way to the airport and suddenly didn't have enough money to pay for his cat carrier. (I have always been, and continue to be, blessed in my friends.) I actually got to spend time with my parents and friends in BC this time, which probably contributed to my being much calmer on the flight to Glasgow than I was on the one to Tokyo.
So, if I were to do it all again (or being asked by someone else how to do it all), I'd really suggest this:
1. Make a list.
Check it twice.
And again, because you probably forgot something.
Make it as anal-retentive as you can, because near the end you'll be incapable of thinking about what the next step is. I packed my bags in the wee hours of the morning, in the middle of my friend's living room, and ended up in Victoria leaving a bunch of stuff behind and having to buy more things.
2. Go over this list carefully, and figure out what you can ask other people to do. Also, figure out what you can do well in advance. I got my Working Holiday Visa for Scotland sorted out a few weeks before I needed it, because I could. It made getting the plane ticket much easier. (Which, of course, led to the blind panic.)
3. Say good-bye to your friends in a way that's meaningful to you. I don't hear as much as I may wish from people in Edmonton (which is not a complaint - I'd hear from everyone I care about daily in the alternate universe where things run according to my whims, so don't worry about it), but I cherish the memories of that party, and of going out for ice cream with everyone, and the trip to the Muttart. I don't feel cheated at all, and I hope they don't, either. Life is busy, and although people are likely thinking of you, that doesn't always translate into emails, postcards, or letters.
4. Make certain you've got some time to relax. Breakdowns on airplanes because you haven't slept in 36 hours and you just realized that you forgot to get someone's address are horrible. For all that you've got a lot to do in a limited amount of time, no one is going to die because you didn't do something.
5. Check over that list again. Did you remember any vacinations? You'll need to set up that appointment *well* in advance. Do you need a visa? Unlike Megatokyo, I doubt you can play a game of Mortal Kombat to get into the country.
The actual mechanics of getting into the country are easy enough to find, and I recommend you take a very good look at them from the moment you start thinking about the idea until you get on the plane. They vary, they change (the fact that I can only work in the UK for 12 months instead of 24 changed when I was still thinking of getting my visa, and boy am I ever bitter), and they are incredibly important.
6. Find other people who have done it, and talk to them.
I wish I had done this *before* going to China. I had chatted with Scarecrow a bit about Japan, but it was a lot different.
So, yeah, here I am, running up to my move to Australia. (Running up makes it sound like it's soon. September is my projected leave date, but we'll see what happens. I'm fickle, and there's this whole teaching-gig to consider.) I'm predicting two weeks of blind panic, no matter how much useful advice I can give or get before then.