moving to a new home!

Dear Loyal Readers,

The time has come to close the These Are My Sheehanigans chapter in my blogging life. I’ve moved to a new home over at alsheehan.com, where I will continue to offer tips about my love of travel, along with my other love of social media. Stop by the new place, tell me what you think, offer some constructive criticism, and drop a line to say hello. Thank you so much for your loyal followership and continued feedback, and I hope to see you all at my new home!

Cheers,

Alex

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3 awesome sites to find au pair work abroad

I constantly get inquiries about my previous au pair experiences. People want to know how I did it, what websites I used, how much I got paid, how much it cost. They want to know pretty much every logistical aspect that goes along with my work abroad.

So, not only am I writing this to save myself from the time and thought that goes into responding to each email, text message or verbal questioning on the matter. I am also writing this to help YOU and answer your questions, so that you can find work abroad as an au pair from a trusted source. Either myself or a personal connection of mine has had experiences with each of these listed resources, so your concerns of ambiguity can be gently cast aside.

Not a fan of reading? How dare you! (Just kidding. But really!?) Here’s a simple and fun info graphic for you.

Here are three superbly awesome websites to help you find work abroad as an au pair.

Inter Exchange

What it is: Based in New York City, Inter Exchange is a non-profit offering international work and volunteer programs. They have programs in the US and partner with international agencies to send Americans abroad.
Fees: $495-$595
Contract: 3-12 months
Wages: $75-$300 weekly
Bonus: yes, usually about 10% of your total wages paid upon completion of contract
Financial Awards Available: Christianson Grant, Working Abroad Grant
Location: New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, Italy
Flights: not included
Minimum Qualifications: native English speaker, high school graduate
Miscellaneous: You will likely not be in touch with representatives from Inter Exchange after you have arrived in the new country. They partner with agencies from other countries, and those are the individuals with whom you have contact when in your au pair position abroad. Proper verification checks on the international agencies have been carried out by Inter Exchange.

Au Pair World

What it is: Over 250,000 users are registered on this site, which acts as a liaison for au pairs and host families. It is based in Germany, and while they act as a portal for communication with families and au pairs, Au Pair World regularly checks the validity of its members. Any suspicious profiles or activity should be reported to the site admin, and they are very diligent in addressing these issues.
Fees: none
Contract: variable, but usually around 6-9 months
Wages: variable, but usually around €75-€150 weekly
Bonus: unlikely
Financial Awards Available: none
Location: worldwide
Flights: rarely included. A practice which is decreasingly common is that families will pay you a bonus upon completion of your term of employment to be put towards your flight home. Be aware of this and ask about it. There are also the rare cases that families will purchase your round-trip flight for you (which happened for me when I went to Turkey and was offered for me to go to Italy.)
Minimum Qualifications: variable, usually at least a high school degree
Miscellaneous: Au Pair World puts families and au pairs in direct contact with one another. In this situation, there isn’t a third party agency to provide resources, conduct background checks, monitor check-ins, arrange social gatherings with au pairs, etc. Always ask to interview their previous au pairs. What’s more is that sometimes families are simply looking for a native English speaker to help with their English (sometimes just the children, sometimes the adults as well) as opposed to a childcare provider, so make sure you have established clear expectations.

TransitionsAbroad.com

What it is: Transitions Abroad is really a portal for all sorts of work, teaching, volunteering and studying abroad, as well as a TON of information about pretty much every aspect of such. There is a job listings page which offers a compilation of international au pair positions. Transitions Abroad is a credible website and only posts information for verified international au pair placement agencies.
Fees: variable depending on agency
Contract: anywhere from 3-12 months
Wages: variable
Bonus: not always, but usually around 5-10% of your total earnings paid upon completion of contract
Financial Awards Available: Travel Writing Contests, additional grants/scholarships/awards may be available through individual agencies
Location: worldwide
Flights: not included
Miscellaneous: Transitions Abroad is not just for au pairs. There are several job listings of all types. Transitions Abroad is not involved in the placement process, they supply a list and information for agencies looking for au pairs. This is great because there are a lot more options to choose from (although some may think too many!) Should you choose to pursue one of these opportunities, your dealings will be with the chosen agency.

There you have it. Three awesome, but very different, websites that are great for finding work abroad as an au pair. Do you have any other suggestions for resources for au pairs seeking employment? Do you see yourself ever working as an au pair?

6 reasons I won’t move to Washington DC

I went to Washington DC a few weekends ago. Three of my dear aunts were making a road trip down, so I figured I’d fill in the empty seat in the van and do some sightseeing and friendseeing. The quick weekend was awesome, and we were treated to beautiful, warm sunny weather.

I hadn’t been to our nation’s lovely capitol since my last school trip in middle school, so I had a feeling this trip would be a lot different from that distant memory. There were several ups and downs, and I reached the conclusion that DC, while fabulous to visit, is a city which I will do my best to avoid calling home. Here are the four reasons why I really don’t want to live in Washington DC.

1.       Parking (or lack of!)

The trip down was a journey in and of itself, and after a late start involving a tumble down the stairs (resulting in a severely bruised buttocks) and a hold-up at Cracker Barrel for over an hour, it was a relief to finally have the capitol building in sight.

But, just because we were physically in DC didn’t mean that we had actually arrived. We still had to park.

Scanning the streets for an opening, we finally found a parking garage. In we went, zig-zagging down the patternless maze, slowly approaching the bowels of the building. We neared the bottom with a fruitless search, so we decided to squeeze into a teeny tiny space between two pillars. This minor excursion tacked on an additional twenty or so minutes to our overall travel time.

2.       Why so serious?

For some reason I really can’t shake the creepy vision of The Joker reciting this coined phrase. You have people from all over the world, all walks of life, all types of backgrounds in DC. The one thing these people seem to have in common is work. The majority of the locals I met were young, driven professionals. Delving deeper than the surface, I learned just how seriously people take their careers and how these careers take over their lives.

A little bit of silliness is a necessity in my life (although some who know me would say a lot bit), and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of that here.

some silly yoga in front of the Reflecting Pool

some silly yoga in front of the Reflecting Pool

My friend and I tied a balloon to my head and went out to the bar, and we were treated like celebrities because we were so hilarious. I know we’re a sidesplittingly humorous duo, but it was as if they had never seen a girl with a balloon attached to her noggin before.

3.       It is too easy to get around

A friend of mine who lives and works in DC came sightseeing with me one day, searching for Obama since we figured he’d like to see us. After several minutes of standing outside the White House and hoping for an invitation to dinner, we decided that we had waited long enough.

we received no dinner invite to the White House

we received no dinner invite to the White House

Embarking on our journey to the parking garage, we encountered several delays and detours. Roads were blocked off for the arrival or departure of someone uber important, and we walked around in circles.

Washington DC’s streets are arranged in a very easy to manage grid system with letters and numbers, making it easy to find your way around and get unlost. However, my friend was not very capable of finding her way in this particular instance. Because of DC’s easy navigability, this became quite frustrating for me. Even more so since I decided to wear uncomfortable shoes (mistake #1!)

4.       DC gave me a hangover

My party-hat, drinking-pants wearing days have been put adoringly in my past, but occasionally it is time for me to shake the dust off and put on those old identity-altering pieces of attire. This is exactly what happened in Washington DC.

Vodka, champagne, Southern Comfort, beer and Raki sloshed together in my stomach that night, leading me to have an enjoyable, yet fuzzy evening out on the town. The next morning was not so enjoyable. I threw in some delicious greasy breakfast from Florida Ave. Grill, which later traveled through the water pipes of my friend’s apartment.

My night out partying in Washington DC was a sore reminder of how not resilient my body is to overindulging in alcohol. Thus, I was unable to enjoy the city on the morning after, as I was preoccupied with an unanticipated appointment on the porcelain throne.

5.       It is misleading

I was meeting a friend at one of the museums, and he gave me a call, describing his location as being “across from the National Mall.” I walked outside and scoped the surrounding area for this so-called shopping center, to no avail. I called him back, “I’m not sure I see the mall, what building is it?”

My friend described the green strip of grass plastered amidst the museums, and I was trying to figure out where the entrance may be. “Is it underground?” I asked, doubtfully trying to envision an underground Macy’s. I’m a Jersey Girl, I know what a mall is.

Needless to say, the National Mall is not a mall. Fooled me.

the National Mall

the National Mall

6.      There are too many museums

I love visiting museums. Washington DC is a haven for these spectacular displays of art, culture, history, nature, everything that makes our world the planet that it is today. There are just too many museums in DC!

Abe chillin' in DC

Abe chillin’ in DC

Why is this a bad thing? Well, because these are such iconic and famous places, everyone wants to see them. Visiting any of these touristic hot spots includes lots of crowds and inappropriately loud voices, especially on the weekends.

That’s not even the worst part. There are so many museums and landmarks in Washington DC that it saddens me that I cannot hit them all in one visit. I can spend a week alone just museum-hopping. Perhaps I should stick to that instead of bar-hopping next time.

 . 

Let me just end this with a disclaimer. I love Washington DC, and I had a fabulous visit. In fact, I hope to be back soon. For me, it is just one of those places that I can never see myself living. Would you be able to live in Washington DC? Have you ever traveled to a place that you love visiting, but can never make your visit permanent?

where to watch the Super Bowl in Auckland

Being an American football fan in New Zealand is quite difficult. No one understands the sport or why we enjoy sitting for 3 hours only to watch about 20 minutes of real action. And when I think of it that way, I’m not really sure I understand myself.

From September to January, most of my Mondays were spent dealing with sleep depravity, combined with the euphoric feeling of victory (and the rare moments of depression when my men in blue couldn’t bring home the W).

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When the Super Bowl came around, I was getting nervous about having to call in a sick day at work to watch a choppy version of the game streaming online to my tiny laptop. As luck would have it, the New York Giants championship game for Super Bowl XLVI fell on a New Zealand public holiday, unrelated to the American custom of consuming wings and beer.

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The Americans in Auckland Meetup group had planned a Super Bowl party at The Brewery Britomart. Appropriately owned by an American, my Kiwi version of the Superbowl celebration was actually quite authentic. Fellow Giant fans littered the room, and I suavely persuaded those new to this tradition to give me their money in exchange for the right to put their initials in a box in hopes to win even more money. While the wings will never be as good as they are back home, it was one of the most fun Super Bowl parties I’ve been to.

DSCN0043

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The commercials are a far cry from being considered up to par to American standards, but much of the commercial time (and game time for that matter) consisted of consuming alcoholic beverages and friendly banter from the Kiwi rugby fans. That’s what YouTube is for anyway, I guess.

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Where have you watched the Super Bowl while abroad? Did it meet American standards?

a guide to having a comfortable flight

I am no stranger to long flights. Nor am I fearful of them. Being stuck in a metal container thousands of feet in the air, surrounded by strangers, with a limited food supply doesn’t scare me. And it shouldn’t scare you either.

Having been passenger on so many long plane rides, I have designed a strategy to maximize my flight. I have finally figured out exactly what to pack and exactly how to pack it so that I have the most comfortable flight possible, as I have yet to grace business class seats with the presence of my bottom.

What to wear

Wearing layers for flights is essential, especially when you’re in for the long haul. Planes can be enigmatically hot or cold, and one time I was stuck on a flight where the fans didn’t work.

I always layer on top and wear my oversized scarf, which routinely does triple duty as scarf, blanket and towel. I also always wear sneakers and socks, as shoes are bulky to pack yet comfortable to wear (and convenient to run across the terminals like a lunatic).

What to pack

I always bring specific items in my carry on. The following are must-have’s and should be kept within easy reach: chapstick (for lips), eye mask (for sleeping), book (for entertainment), scarf (for warmth, or style), flip flops (see below), neck pillow (for comfort), notebook with pens and pencils (for more entertainment), nuts (for eating), plastic shopping bag (for trash), toothbrush and small toothpaste (to freshen up), wipes (washing my hands in the plane bathroom sink, I think not), headphones (for in-flight entertainment).

I think I’m the only person on this planet who doesn’t own an iPod. But I’d probably pack it if I had one.

What to do

Reaching high elevations never fails to turn my toes into mini sausages, begging to be wrapped up in a croissant and baked to pigs-in-a-blanket perfection. Therefore, taking preventative measures from feeling like my feet are fat is essential to my comfort.

I bring flip flops with me on every flight so that I don’t have to squeeze my swollen appendages into my sneaks every time I have to take a leak. Also, going to the bathroom in just your socks is gross. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way. After that, I made a vow to those wet sausages to keep them dry in flight from then on.

How to pack

I am an organizational freak. When it comes to functionality and convenience, I never skimp out on myself. Besides, it’s not proper plane etiquette to continuously give surrounding passengers a whiff of your armpits, I don’t care how good your new deodorant smells!

In my carry-on luggage or backpack, I place the items listed above in a separate bag. Once I find my seat for the next dozen hours or so, I can easily locate and remove said bag and place it in the pouch in front of me. Flip flops go on the floor for accessibility when I need to respond to Mother Nature’s call. Next thing I do is pray that no one comes to claim the seat next to me.

And there you have it, a guide to having the most comfortable economy flight possible. It also never hurts to schmooze with the flight attendants. I once had an entire three seat row saved for me simply because I chatted up my stewardess pre-flight. And then I think I consumed enough wine for all three of those seats. But I can’t really remember.

What are some of your strategies to having an enjoyable flight?