Packing up our Sydney life: What’s involved in relocating to the U.S.A.?

Moving overseas – simple, right? When I last lived outside of Australia, I was 25 years old, unmarried and without pets (my “kids”). I moved for work, in a role that paid me in Australian dollars. I remained an Australian resident for tax purposes and home was a 3-hour flight from Honiara to Brisbane. This time, it is different…

Sols beach bash
The crew at one of our beach bashes, when I lived and worked in Solomon Islands.
Lecia and Karen and the Hercules
My sister Lecia and I at the Honiara airport. Listen to Lecia’s song about the Honiara riots which unfolded while we were there.

Home will now be a 15-hour flight away and I’m moving with my little family. Intentionally childless [1], Coco Chanel and Beauxchat are our babies. Moving the cats to California appears to be relatively straightforward. We are completing the required vet work ready for them to travel on the same flight as us. Apparently after 2-3 hours in customs in SF airport, they will be ready for collection. (A few of you have asked so I will write a post about the cat relocation process once completed.) It’s the return home – via Australia’s only quarantine facility in Melbourne – that gnaws at my mind but all we can do is cross that bridge when we arrive there.

Beauxchat and Coco Chanel
Beauxchat (top) and Coco Chanel (bottom)

On the work front, Mo and I are navigating anticipated taxes by Australia, the U.S.A. and California State. Imagine: three annual tax returns!! Mo’s visa allows me to have an L2 visa, which permits me to work in the U.S.A. once I file an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). I am entirely excited about the employment and collaboration possibilities, with Stanford University and San Jose State University nearby, Berkeley University a couple of hours away and some interesting Health in All Policies activity. Aside from my enthusiasm for intellectual and professional growth, work will be a priority thanks to the high cost of living. That’s right, Sydney friends: San Francisco is more expensive than Sydney.

While the U.S.A. is the third most travelled-to country by Australians, I didn’t foresee it being my country of residence. More specifically, I never expected to be a ‘dependent’: my new label, according to L2 status. So, with the sense of adventure comes some uneasiness. My career must adapt to my husband’s career opportunities. Until I secure paid employment (after 3-4 months EAD processing), we will be dependent upon Mo’s salary. This isn’t my preferred situation. But, I choose the adventure and to prioritise my marriage [2], and I have the freedom to continue working, thanks to feminists before me (also thanks for reproductive rights, voting, wearing pants, education, owning property…). I do not forget for a minute that this opportunity is a privilege and demonstration of privilege. Plus, it is pretty exciting: WE ARE MOVING TO SAN FRANCISCO!!!

Visa applicaiton
Our visa application paperwork required for the USA Consulate interview.

For the time being, closing our delightful Sydney chapter requires substantial time and brainpower. 99% of our electrical items will not work in the U.S.A., and our car is right hand drive. We won’t store our belongings (use it or sell/donate to someone who will). Thus, there is creation and management of sales and donations. The visa application process was lengthy (literally – see photo) with an interview at the USA consulate. We are holding regular open home inspections, advertising our unit to secure a tenant, and planning our temporary and long-term accommodation, here and in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, we are doing our best to keep our kitties happy as their environment transforms around them, while juggling our own professional commitments. Somehow, despite the tangible activity, moving to San Francisco feels surreal.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
A regular view when cycling and living in Sydney is this Sydney Harbour Bridge. Pretty special isn’t it?

For all its challenges, Sydney has been good to us. I will miss the charms of Waterloo and the surrounding area, with its creativity and diversity. Part of me grieves the imminent and gone good-byes. There are people here I imagine teleporting to San Francisco to continue sharing outdoor adventures, ambitions to change the world, and coffee. Sydney has been a practical ‘home’ for us too: Mo’s and my immediate family are a short plane-ride away, and the weather is unreal. Who wouldn’t love a sunny cosmopolitan beach lifestyle?

Malabar hike
Less than 10km from inner Sydney are sensational walking trails and beaches, like this one just off Malabar beach.

Like I said before, change can mean we become something different and that something can be better. I look forward to new experiences and living life with open arms, knowing full well that our time on earth is numbered. What an adventure we have before us!



Have you moved overseas to live? What was your relocation experience like? Do you have questions about our move to San Francisco Bay Area? Please share or ask by commenting below, or send me a tweet @Dr_KMcB or message here. I’d love to hear from you.

[1] Although our GP suspects we couldn’t have kids.
[2] That said, I do realise “choice” is not the ultimate arbiter of women’s freedom.


6 thoughts on “Packing up our Sydney life: What’s involved in relocating to the U.S.A.?

Add yours

  1. Congratulations Karen, all the best for your adventure. I relocated countries three times. Yes indeed change is the only constant. Despite the logistics, it is super amazing to see how things unfolds and the story gets enriched. Create more epic memories…best way to live 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! How wonderful to ‘see’ you here Kelly, thank you for your comment. You most certainly do understand the adventures and complexities of international relocation. We are blessed with the rich experiences of life, aren’t we. Hopefully see you in again soon, if not here, in person! xo


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: