The Wonderful World of the Working Holiday

What is a Working Holiday? Put simply, you apply for a visa that gives you limited working rights within a country, where you then work and travel until your visa expires and you are asked politely to leave again. For many people the idea of living and working in beautifully scenic countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada is a dream come true, with many people thinking “Oh my god, amazing, I can go and live and work in Australia and be the happiest person in the world with 365 days of sunshine per year, the best job in the world, and of course the option to get sponsored to stay longer and end up living there forever!” This is genuinely the deluded notion that LOTS of people travel with. Unfortunately, life is not always so picture perfect.

In reality, it may surprise you to know; it does rain in Australia, you will probably end up with a shit job, and the Australian Government really doesn’t want you to stay forever. In fact the 88 Day Regional Work policy quite clearly displays a bit of resentment towards backpackers / travellers, forcing them into a minimum of 3 months of backbreaking, degrading, or in the best case scenario, soul-destroying work, just to be able to stay and work for an extra 12 months in Australia.

Granted, some people do land some pretty cushy employment deals in order to rack up the 88 Days, but many, many more end up picking apples for a pittance, squatting all day for strawberries, or even becoming the new eye-candy (local bar maid) at a pub in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere, subjected to on-going letching from the local bogans. Sound’s like loads of fun, right!?

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Epic day of clambering around the rocks at Hanging Rock

Not to pick on Australia, but not only has the country got terrible form when it comes to the employment rights of backpackers, the new government tax policy means that 32% of every dollar earned by a backpacker is taxed, with absolutely zero option of getting tax back or claiming a tax refund. Well that sucks.

Not to be so drab about it all, the concept of the Working Holiday is a wonderful thing, allowing for people from across the globe to share experiences, explore interesting countries, and try their hand at a job that they would have never in their wildest of dreams thought about doing in “real life”. There are pros and cons to life on a Working Holiday, creating a bit of a love-hate relationship, so I am going to sum it up in my own way for you:

Love:

Meeting New People – This is one of the main reasons why people travel. Maybe they are escaping their everyday life in their home country, or just want to meet an exotic lady or man-friend. Meeting new people is a good enough reason as any to live and work abroad.

Discovering New Places – Being a self proclaimed “fat-alcoholic-at-heart” I love to discover new places to eat and drink, but discovering new places is not just about my stomach, it is about the stunning diversity of the world’s environment – from the mountains to the deserts, from the cities to the beaches. The World is rich in diversity and some of the most stunning sights can only be seen if you get out there.

Challenging Yourself to “Make It Work” – Life is not always rosy when you are trying to get settled into living and working in a new city. Not everything goes to plan. Jobs may be harder to find than first anticipated, finding somewhere suitable to live can be a ball-ache (I even ended up living with a crystal meth addict for a time in Melbourne – that was fun!), and making friends that you actually like can take time. Be patient, it will come, see it as a challenge and enjoy it.

New Experiences – The culmination of what working abroad should be. New experiences, new notches in your belt, life lessons, all of that jazz! Choose a job, choose a house, choose your friends, choose a life (it’s all starting to sound a bit like Trainspotting – the film, that is).

Hate:

Moving House / House Hunting – I don’t think I like anything less than having to move house. What a fucking palaver it always is! First you start the hunting process, with the inevitable rejections because “Sorry, we don’t accept couples”, the smelly houses with the strange people, and the “Oh yeh, sorry the house is taken” – why is it up on the internet then you dick!? Once the house is found, you have to move… easy when you own a car, not so easy when you have just moved to a new city. Getting on the tram or train with all the working commuters, carrying an eclectic mix of household items is always great fun. Three return trips later you might be moved in.

Hostels – There is nothing worse than sharing a kitchen with people who use the “rinse technique” to clean dishes. Mummy is not here now buddy, get a sponge and grab some washing up liquid and do it properly, please! If you are travelling as a couple, always choose Airbnb over a hostel, it works out cheaper, and you get somewhere nice to stay and organise your life when you arrive in a new country/city. If you are a solo traveller… enjoy the hostel life, you don’t really have another choice!

Job Hunting – It’s called a Working Holiday for a reason. That reason being you won’t be able to afford to holiday for very long unless you work. Be prepared for recruitment consultants to be terrible, companies to just point blank ignore you because of the type of visa you are on, and if you arrive in summer, a lot of competition for the “backpacker” jobs!

Starting Friendless – No one likes to be a loner! It is part and parcel of starting a fresh in a new country that you will spend a short amount of time (hopefully only short!) without friends. Travelling as a couple alleviates this a bit, but for your own personal sanity, get some friends and get them fast!

Having to Leave Again! – As I mentioned before, the government of your chosen Working Holiday country doesn’t really want you to stay. They want you to come and help boost their economy, but once they are done with you they will sling you out like a used teabag. Say goodbye to you new friends, say goodbye to your house – which has just become your home, and say goodbye to “the best job in the World”.

And there you have it – my own personal round up on working abroad on a Working Holiday Visa. Sound like fun? Give it a go!