Welcome to my new guest post series, WHV Australia Interview, on real travelers from around the globe who have decided to come to Australia on their working holiday visa (WHV). I just finished up my year in Australia and it had a huge impact on my life and future life choices.
As an American, taking a gap year, or career gap year in my case, is quite rare. With this new series, I aim to show Americans and other nationalities that taking a gap year, especially in Australia, is an incredibly rewarding and fun adventure.
Without further ado, meet Claire from Claire’s Footsteps. And if you’re interested in writing a guest post about your Australian working holiday adventures or even a gap year elsewhere, please contact me here. I’d love to feature you!
DWL: Please introduce yourself and where you’re from in the world. What did you do before you moved to Australia? What are your hobbies?
Hello! My name’s Claire and I’m from the United Kingdom. I’m 24 years old and graduated from university 2 years ago with a degree in English Literature. I always knew I wanted to write, and I took a job for a year copywriting for a wedding company.
But my heart was always set on travel, so I set about building my own travel blog in my spare time. My hobbies are generally travel focused; reading travel books, writing my blog and researching potential trips (as well as trips that have a very slim likelihood of never happening!) all feature. I also love to run, cook and learn languages.
DWL: Why did you decide to do a WHV in Australia?
I always wanted to live abroad for a year, preferably somewhere I hadn’t been before, and the working holiday scheme in Australia sounded like a great option. Because it’s English speaking and has a culture not too different from the UK (although starkly contrasting in some ways!) I thought it was a good option for my first time living abroad. Plus I’d never been to the Southern Hemisphere and wanted to have the novelty of realizing I’m standing upside down all the time…DWL: Have you traveled much before Australia? Do you plan to travel after Australia?
I always knew I wanted to travel, so I took lots of short trips in my university summers. They were mainly based in Europe and Central America. And before I went to Australia I spent the summer traveling alone in China. And after Australia, I’m planning on seeing the whole world!
DWL: What have you done for work in Australia?
I’ve worked as a waitress in a Thai restaurant and a cleaner at the hostel I was living at. I’m currently finding work in Perth and am applying for jobs in the hospitality industry again.DWL: Did you have a hard time finding a job(s)? How did you find the job(s)? Any advice on how to find a job in Australia?
Jobs in Byron Bay, where I first settled, are relatively hard to come by. I struggled at first and had to make do with a very low paying job. But I worked for accommodation at the hostel I lived at, which opened the door to a paid job, cleaning full time.
In Perth it seems a bit easier; I’d recommend really sprucing up a CV, drawing emphasis on any experience in the field you’re applying to. And make sure that you have all of the prerequisites that the job requires: for example getting an RSA and living close to work (the benefit of being a backpacker is that you can stay long-term in hostels, meaning that you can always move to one closer to a place of work). If your skills in a particular industry need brushing up, there are lots of courses you can take in Australia; I took a credited course from the Australian Barista School to top up my coffee making skills!
DWL: How does life in Australia compare to life back home?
It’s definitely warmer! Australia’s a wonderfully laid-back country with lots of variety. I’m always meeting new people and sharing travel experiences, and because I know I’m only here for a year, I’m making sure I see all the sights – and Australia’s got a LOT of them. I’m definitely spending a lot more time at the beach and in the water! And I’ve conquered my fear of scary animals – I’ve seen plenty of snakes and spiders, and have had no nasty nips, making me realize that these creatures really aren’t as dangerous as we make them out to be.
People often criticize Australia for being expensive; it’s quite difficult to do the main cities like Sydney and Melbourne on a budget but generally, prices are really not that much different to Southern English cities (such as London, Bristol, Bath) and major American cities (like New York and Los Angeles). And the wages are much higher, so once you’re working, you’re laughing! It’s very easy to save up money in Australia if you set your mind to it.
DWL: Have you done your farm work? What was your experience like? Any advice?
I decided not to do my farm work as the line of work I will (hopefully) eventually be going into allows me to work and travel remotely and thus I could fund future travels in Australia without needing a second working holiday visa. There’s some horror stories about farm work, but also some great tales.
I’ve spoken to lots of people who’ve done their farm work, and it seems that farming regions in Queensland, such as Bundaberg and Gratton, are best for making money while getting the work needed for your second year. There seems to be a lot of farm jobs in Tasmania, too. And the people who’ve really loved their farm work experience are those who have stayed in one farm and helped out with various jobs.
DWL: Have you traveled much in Australia? What’s your favorite part(s)?
I’ve seen a fair chunk, and still have lots to come! I started in Sydney, traveled North to Byron where I stayed for five months, ventured back down South to Sydney and Melbourne. Then I went on a three-week road trip around Tasmania, back over to Melbourne and drove all the way to Perth, where I am now!
I’d definitely advise visiting Tasmania, it’s incredible and I don’t know why more people don’t go to the island! (Note from Katelyn: I absolutely agree!) And the road trip from Melbourne to Perth was incredible as we drove along the flat stretch of the Nullarbor Plain; a barren landscape where not much grows, which gives a really surreal experience. And the beaches of the South West are like none other I’ve ever seen!
DWL: What is one thing you find weird about Australia culture? (i.e., it could be the lingo, or buying alcohol only in liquor stores, etc.)
WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE ‘O’ ON THE END?! Rego, bottle-o, scripto… It drives me crazy! I find the liquor store thing a bit funny, too. I spent half an hour on my second evening in Australia wandering around Coles and finally asked someone where the booze was; she looked at me in a strange way and said ‘over the road mate’. And, being typical Brit, I find the distance times mad. Two hours in the UK takes you to the other end of the country, not from the city center to an Eastern suburb!
DWL: What advice to do you have for anyone considering doing a WHV in Australia?
Do it! Australia’s a distinctively unique country – kind of like a world within its own – with the most amazing wildlife, scenery, and baffling but endearing culture. There’s no other country in the world like Australia, and the size of the place definitely warrants at least a year of your life.
Don’t be afraid to go alone – it’s incredibly easy to meet people in Australia and soon you’ll be super close to these new friends. Solo traveling will give you a huge amount of confidence for traveling independently elsewhere in the world, too!
And don’t just go to the obvious places. So many travelers just stick to the East Coast of Australia, but there’s so much more to the country. It’s a great idea to consider regional work in the Northern Territory, traverse the outback and go up the West Coast too… and that’s just for starters!
Finally, get a vehicle (or make friends who have cars!) if you can. Off the beaten path destinations in Australia are aplenty, but many can only be found with a car or van. Purchasing a vehicle will enable you to find the most amazing spots, very often finding you and your friends are the only people there and will mean that you experience Australia at its very finest.
Claire is an aspiring travel writer from the big city of London. After graduating university, she set about on her life goal of finding a way to fund her constant adventures across the world. Since traveling, she’s found her niches of ethical travel and overland adventures and writes about hem on her blog. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram, as well as her awesome blog, Claire’s Footsteps.
Note: If you would like to partake in my new WHV Australia Interview series then please contact me here.