Skip to main content

Life abroad: An American’s journey to Australia

Imagine going on holiday abroad, only to end up being offered a job on the plane and becoming a resident.

This is what happened to Tara Foster, author of, on her way from the U.S. to Sydney, Australia — the place she now calls home. 

Tara — originally from Marlton, New Jersey — shares her experience of living abroad and reflects on her fascinating journey from the U.S. to Australia… and everywhere in between.  

Tara Foster, who operates, left the U.S. in 2005 to see the world including a stop at The Louvre in Paris Tara Foster, who operates, left the U.S. in 2005 to see the world including a stop at The Louvre in Paris

Why did you decide to move abroad, and how long have you lived abroad for?

“Wow, ok. This is a cool story. I was flying from Los Angeles to Sydney for a holiday when, somewhere in the sky between Hawaii and Australia, the person sitting next to me offered me a job. At 14 and a half hours, it was the longest job interview of my life, but one that changed me forever.  

“I’ve been permanently out of the States since 2005 but have been bouncing all over the world for most of my adult life. In 2001, I was an exchange student at a London university. In addition to living in Sydney, I’ve also spent a few months living in the Netherlands and have had countless adventures in Ireland, which included volunteering over an extended period.” 

What does the term ‘wellness’ mean to you? And what are you doing, if anything, to achieve it?

“To me ‘wellness’ means health through the mind and body. One does not work well without the other, so there needs to be a bit of a balance between the two.  

“Travel can be tough because there’s so much you want to see and do. As someone who’s ‘globally mobile’, I always make sure that I add in a few days just for me. I use those rest days to just lounge around and do nothing. I might sit in a café all day, but it gives me a chance to recharge my batteries and look after myself. It’s like giving my body a chance to stop and breathe while my mind can reset — it’s good to pause and reflect. We all need it and it can provide a really good break from all the running around.”

Would you say you have a better or worse work/life balance since moving abroad?

“When I’m at home in Australia, I’m there to work. Because I’m a freelance TV Producer, I have the freedom to pick up gigs or projects for weeks or months at a time, but it’s not easy work as the hours can be very long. At my last stint in Sydney, I worked seven months straight on two different shows without a break. That’s not a great work/life balance but it gives me the freedom to travel and see parts of the world that I never knew existed.  

“My working days consist of going to work, going to the gym and going home. I may go for a coffee or breakfast with my mates at the weekend, but it’s pretty rare. I don’t go out because I’m busy working my guts out.”

How comfortable do you feel about using public health care systems abroad?  

“When I was an exchange student living in London, I had an unfortunate event that landed me in hospital. Despite this, the level of care that I received from the team that helped me made it quite a positive experience. 

“When it comes to health care systems abroad, it’s a hit and a miss — you will have good systems and bad systems. It’s best to do all the research you can before travelling or relocating, because if something were to happen to you, then you’ll know how to get the help you need.”

Do you always know where to go to see a family doctor, how to access a specialist and how to pay for your care? 

“I’ve never had to visit a doctor when I’ve been travelling, but just recently I got the ‘flu in France. I headed straight to the ‘pharmacie’ and spoke with the pharmacist who gave me vitamin C and pain relief tablets. 

“As a tip, going to the chemist or pharmacy is a great place to start because if your symptoms are bad enough, they usually know where to send you.”

How does the quality of the health care systems abroad differ from the health care system in your home country?

“I think every country is different, but speaking as someone who grew up using the U.S. system —only to then become an Australian resident — I must say that I am extremely happy with the Australian health care system.  

“Because Australia has universal health care, I’m at ease knowing that I won’t be left out of pocket if I get hit by a bus and require treatment. Not all countries are like that though, so it’s best to be aware of where you travel or relocate to and take out the appropriate travel insurance or expat health insurance so there aren’t any surprises.”

Expats are more prone to mental health issues because their support network and familiar things are often absent in their new home. What advice would you give for maintaining good mental health while living abroad?

“For people who are looking to move abroad, I always tell them that the first three months are the hardest. At first, everything is new and exciting but around the third month, things can get hard. If you can find a good support group of friends and make it to month four, you shouldn’t have a problem.  

“Australia, for example, has a pretty good mental health program for their residents. A lot of companies also have ways to look after their employees to keep them happy. 

“My advice is to stay active and excited. Be sure to get out of the house and to explore — it’s the best medicine for the mind.”

U.S. native Tara Foster poses next to a listening antenna in Western Australia U.S. native Tara Foster poses next to a listening antenna in Western Australia

What would you say is the best part of international life?

“I see the world a lot differently than I did when I lived in the US — I’ve become a lot more understanding of how and why people are the way they are. I am hardly ever homesick and I’m always looking for another adventure. Plus, I’ve got friends from all over the world.”

What was the biggest initial challenge about moving abroad?

“I think the hardest part can be the reaction of friends and family when they hear your decision to move overseas. If they’ve never done it themselves, they may find it difficult to understand why you’re doing it. 

“You may have completely changed when you see them again or grow distant from each other, and this can be hard to accept. Be understanding, bring them into your world and show them why it’s so important to you.”

How easy or difficult is it to maintain a healthy diet abroad?

“Since living in Australia, it’s been a fantastic experience. I’ve learnt so much about good foods and diets, what to eat and what to avoid.  

“Australia is a great place to take up good eating habits simply because it’s such a great country for finding good foods. Now, if you dropped me in Italy, there might be issues because I’d probably eat every single pasta dish on the menu!”

Describe the role of exercise and how it differs from your home country.

“Fitness in Australia is a social event for all. It’s a part of the culture because the weather is just so amazing — it’s easy to go out and get fit! In the U.S., I found it harder to stay fit because it was more of a solo activity.  

“Fitness is completely a way of life in Australia, so when you move to somewhere that is very fitness-oriented, it’s easier to stay healthy.” 

What drives you to pursue international careers?

"This is cool to answer because I never pursued it — you could say, it pursued me! Someone offered me a job on an airplane and since then, I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather be. It’s truly magical and I feel like I’ve been given the most precious of gifts to be able to work and live overseas in all these beautiful countries.  

"I’ve really experienced some of the most magical people, places and things in the world thanks to working overseas."

Do you think that you’ll always be drawn to international living?

“I think so — I consider myself a citizen of the world. I haven’t missed the U.S. since I left and I don’t plan on returning any time soon. The world is too exciting — I just want to keep going and experiencing everything I can. I love meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.”

While Tara may not see herself as an ‘expat’ in the usual sense of the word, her experiences with moving abroad and becoming globally mobile will surely resonate with expats and adventurers alike. You can read more about her experiences at or why not check out our Australia Destination Guide.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. See our cookie policy for more information on how we use cookies and how you can manage them. If you continue to use this website, you are consenting to our policy and for your web browser to receive cookies from our website.