So why Oz? Even though Australia is an expensive country to travel, there are ways to make it more budget friendly by making yourself useful. Australia is made for backpackers. For about 400 Australian dollar you can obtain a working holiday visa and you’re good to go and work as much as you want for a maximum duration of one year*. More if you fix a second year visa. It is the best way to sponsor your trip since you’re traveling and making money at the same time. Plus, they’re a one-way ticket to new skills and experiences that will shape your future forever. Keep in mind it can take up to four weeks to get your working holiday visa fixed and you must apply for a visa in your home country. With me it only took half an hour to get a visa granted. They must have been desperately needing workers at that time.
It is advised to start looking for work before your departure. However, I didn’t apply for a job before I left Belgium. I figured it didn’t make much sense since I didn’t know where I was going and employees want to know when they can use you. If you cannot tell them when you will be at their service, they will just ignore your email and find someone else. My tip: Once you arrive, just look for a decent wifi connection and start looking for work on your laptop. Send out a couple of emails, make some phone calls and within two hours you will have things to work with. I installed myself at a McDonalds near a local shopping mall to use the free wifi there. (Well you do need to buy a milkshake or something, it’s courtesy.) Once I had some interesting contacts I quickly ran over to Coles to buy a new SIM card for only 2 dollars. Very easy to install and much cheaper roaming rates. Once you install your new SIM you will have an Australian number so you will be easy to reach. No worries: your contact numbers, Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook apps just get updated so you don’t have to inform your entire phone book that you have a new number. They won’t even notice.
You can look for jobs at various places. Some people aim for a more high profile job in sales or advertising. But most of them end up selling crap from door to door or answering phones in a call center. Yikes. Since it’s summer in Australia, I prefer looking for jobs outdoors. Picking oranges, avocados, grapes, … Helping out on a nursery farm, taking care of sheep, chickens, koala bears, …. If you like to get your finger nails dirty harvesting and farm jobs are the way to go. You can find these online through Harvest Trail, Gumtree, Helpx, … or look for advertisements in your nearest hostel. Helpx (www.helpx.net) is actually a very good website to find work through hosts. Basically the idea is you work 4-6 hours a day on their farm and they provide you with food and accommodation during your stay. For me it is the best way to go about since you hardly spend any money. I much rather have food and accommodation covered than seeing the dollars flowing on my Australian bank account. Plus with homestay work you don’t have to file for an Australian tax number (since you don’t pay taxes because you don’t make money) nor do you need an Australian bank account (since -again- you won’t make money). You just offer your two hands for free food and a roof over your head. Plus: you get to meet lots of interesting new people and see how they live. Also: they can provide you with tips on what to see in Australia and what to avoid. If you’re not keen on living in people’s homes: with Helpx you can check out the reviews from previous backpackers so you know who to trust. Another (similar) thing is WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms, a loose network of national organizations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms). But I heard a story about a guy paying a lot of money to get to a farm, somewhere in a secluded area, only to learn there was no farm there. It was just a scam. Scams are common and as a (clueless) backpacker you are an easy target. Some fruit pickers end up getting paid 2 dollars per hour. Also: do not trust advertisements stating ‘seeking female backpackers only’. You can bet your razzies that some perv is just out to rape you.
Since seeking a job can be a bit stressful I advise you book your first week accommodation in advance. That way you have a place to stay to come up with a game plan and you don’t have to worry about your night’s rest. You will need it when you get those muscles rolling on the farm. I, however, suffer from a serious case of sleep deprivation. I haven’t slept for two days straight because I’m still hungover from jetlag and -maybe also- too excited about all this. My head is constantly busy processing all these new impressions and encounters. Luckily I’m staying with the nicest people. They feed me well and look for fun things to do while I’m there.
So the ‘working experience/sponsoring’ part was a big reason for me to start my trip in Australia. Also the fact that you have to get from A to B with 20 kilos attached to your back and rely on your own resourcefulness was a big ‘travel turn on’ for me. There is also a social side to the story that triggered me since it wouldn’t hurt to learn to be a bit more outgoing. I’m kind of a hermit at times. Most people heading Down Under want a total escape from their existing role, while some are looking beyond, to the future, hoping to develop skills in areas which are relevant to their chosen field. This is where the ‘walkabout’ comes to mind. Walkabout historically refers to (and I quote Wikipedia) ‘a rite of passage during which male Australian Aboriginals would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months to make the transition into manhood as a deeply spiritual awakening.’
I too see this as a spiritual journey. As it probably will bring my mind, body and soul closer together creating more of a balance in my life. Most backpackers just don’t give a fuck about finding inner peace and just get drunk, shag and do about anything for money. I heard one guy cleaned another guy’s house naked in order to pay for the rest of his trip. And lots of female backpackers turn strippers to increase their travel budget. Apparently mostly French girls. They’re not so prude anyways.
* Like all things in life, there’s an expiry date. You can only apply for a working holiday visa up to the age of 31. Deadlines everywhere!
Piece of advice: Apply for a visa yourself, don’t ask some agency to do it for you as it doesn’t cost you anything. Except for 5 minutes of your precious time and concentration. Apply for visa here ==> https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/417-