If we've seen it once, we've seen it a million times; doctors who locum Down Under get caught up in the grips of a grueling affliction known as fear and loathing of packing. Despite months of planning, these doctors and their families preparing for locum assignments are left staring at their suitcases for untold amounts of time, unsure about what to take and what not to take. Symptoms include melancholy; fear of exorbitant airport charges for overstuffed luggage; fear of not having their Aquafresh toothpaste in Refreshing Ice Mint flavor, and more. They become morose, ill-humored, broken or really "pack the sad," as they say Down Under. Dr. Kathryn Starkey, a veteran locum for Global Medical, and her partner, Molly Evans, have experienced the effects of this disorder first-hand and have offered up a fine solution: The Starkey & Evans Definitive Guide to Packing for a Locum Adventure Down Under.
First, start with the usual items, but maintain limits. They recommend two pairs of tennis shoes, three-to-four nice shirts, three pairs of pants for work, two pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, three long-sleeved shirts, three t-shirts, one bathing suit and plenty of underwear. Leave the lab coats at home because you won't need them.
Incidentals might include a hat (to protect you from the sun), an umbrella, a fleece vest, flip flops, or "jandals" as you'll come to call them, lightweight zip-off pants (the ones that convert into shorts), and a small collapsible bag for day trips. Dr. Starkey and Ms. Evans also recommend a few electronics like a small battery-powered radio, a digital camera (with an extra battery and flash card), a power adaptor for both New Zealand and Australia, a secure flash drive to backup your financials, and for fun, a Kindle or an iPod. Leave your hair dryer at home and buy one on the cheap when you get where you're going - it'll have the right electric plug!
One severe side effect of fear and loathing of packing is a condition you've all experienced right here: "sticker shock." It hits you when you're on the ground in your new country and you realize the price for some common household items is a bit higher. Alas, Dr. Starkey and Ms. Evans are on the mark here, as well. Their advice: pack personal items like deodorant and toothpaste, as they tend to be far more expensive, and they have limited brands/flavors.
They also recommend packing a flashlight, bug spray, binoculars, and sunscreen. If you're traveling into the Outback or another remote area, they recommend a small sewing kit and a Swiss Army Knife. But don't worry about a corkscrew - everything here has a screw-on cap. If you have a favorite medical book, try to get it online and burn the book to a disk. The hard copy will only weigh you down. A small pocket reference is always helpful, but most hospitals have Internet access for reference materials like "Up to Date."
Without a doubt, there will be some items you simply can't jam into a suitcase and there's no getting around it. But knowing what you're likely to spend will help. As of today's date, the exchange rate in NZ is 1 USD=1.4 NZD. In Australia, the exchange rate is 1 USD = 1.1 AUD. A family of four residing in NZ should budget roughly $150 USD per week for groceries, while the same family in AU will spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $180 USD.
Just as in the good 'ol US-of-A, it's always a good idea to shop around for the best prices; milk, for instance, would be less expensive in a supermarket rather than in a corner store. The four major grocery chains - Foodtown, Big Fresh, Woolworths and wWorld - are competitive. Naturally, Dr. Starkey and Ms. Evans admonish you to take some pictures from home to adorn your refrigerator.
So quit worrying about the packing and focus on the amazing adventure ahead of you. Simply follow the Starkey & Evans Definitive Guide to Packing - it's truly the dinky-di (real thing).
Dr. Kathy Starkey (left), an OB/GYN, and her partner, Molly Evans (right), have wanderlust in their veins. Their locum adventures have taken them to New Zealand's North Island, the Caymans, Western Australia (twice) and now the Kiwi South Island. In addition to great packers, they're also great storytellers. Watch here for more of Dr. Starkey and Molly's amazing tales about Down Under and beyond.