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 Mimi from The Atlas Heart. 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 is Mimi and I’ve been a travel blogger for the past 4+ years. I’m originally from California, but I’ve been slow traveling the world since 2013 – starting with my working holiday visa in Australia.
I moved to Australia a few months after I graduated from university, and I haven’t really stopped traveling and working abroad since. Other than blogging and freelance writing, I’m very much into anything music related. I play guitar, I love to cook, read, and work on my photography in new foreign cities around the world.
I always wanted to move abroad and once I graduated from university there was nothing holding me back anymore. I felt like it was now or never. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do for a career still, so I figured I would go bartend for six months in Australia and figure it out along the way. That six months turned into two years of living down under in Australia and New Zealand.
I first heard about the working holiday visa from a British friend who I had traveled Europe with a couple of years previously. When she mentioned the visa, I figured it wouldn’t apply to Americans since we don’t get many work visa privileges abroad, but I researched it anyway. I was ecstatic to find out that even though we weren’t allowed to do two consecutive years like most other nationalities, I could still do a full year if I wanted to.
DWL: Have you traveled much before Australia? Do you plan to travel after Australia?
I had traveled in small doses before Australia. I did a two-week backpacking trip in Costa Rica when I was 18, I studied abroad for a month in Florence, Italy in the summer, and I spent another month or so traveling around a lot of other European countries that same summer. However, I had hardly done any solo travel before Australia, so I was taking a huge leap of faith when I decided to buy that one-way ticket to Melbourne. It was the best decision I could’ve made for myself and my confidence as a solo traveler.
I’ve traveled a lot since Australia, living in New Zealand for a year and I just finished up eight months in Asia. I’m currently in Greece for the summer and I see myself based in Europe for the foreseeable future.
I spent half of my year in Melbourne and the other half in Sydney. In Melbourne, I found the work to be less consistent and harder to find a decent amount of hours. There also seemed to be a lot of paying under the table in Melbourne compared to Sydney. In Melbourne, I worked quite a few different jobs, usually two at a time. I switched off my days between barista work in the morning and bartending at night.
In Sydney, I mainly worked as a bartender in a craft beer bar in Darlinghurst, and I also picked up a couple of shifts at the cutest cookie cafe in Newtown on the weekends.
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?
It actually wasn’t too hard to find a job in hospitality (i.e. waitressing, bartending, barista work). This may have been because I already had a decent amount of experience. I also found that some employers hired me simply because I was American and they had this idea that Americans know how to give good customer service, which I found quite funny.
In Melbourne, it took me about two weeks to find my two jobs. In Sydney, I found a job my first day in the city. I may have just been lucky, but if you’re persistent and treat job hunting as a job itself (i.e. hitting the pavement and handing out resumes for 6-8 hours a day), you should be able to find a job, especially if you have any kind of experience.
I found the work-life balance to be so much nicer and more relaxed in Australia. It was easier to ask for time off to go traveling, and the jobs themselves weren’t taken as seriously as they are back home.
Of course, there was a focus on the customers and the business in Australia, but there was also a focus on the team dynamic at work and making sure that you were enjoying what you were doing as well. Something that’s not always taken into account in the US.
Needless to say, I had much more fun working in Australia as a bartender than I ever did in the US.
DWL: Have you done your farm work? What was your experience like? Any advice?
Usually, people on the working holiday visa do farm work for a few months in order to qualify for a second year. Since Americans aren’t able to do two years anyway, I didn’t do any farm work. I focused more on exploring the dynamic cities around Australia.
(Note from Katelyn: The law recently changed last year to allow Americans to obtain a second-year visa if they do regional work north of the Tropic of Capricorn in Western Australia or the Northern Territory. Find out more on my Guide to WHV in Australia.)
DWL: Have you traveled much in Australia? What’s your favorite part(s)?
I didn’t travel as much as I would’ve liked. Australia is huge, like the US, and it’s not the cheapest place to travel around via public transport. I mainly traveled the East Coast like most tourists do, but next time I would love to explore Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
The fact that they have nicknames for everything. Even if your name is something short like Nik, they’ll add an “o” on the end to make it “Nik-o”. Usually, these nicknames end up being longer than the original version and I found it hilarious.
Australians like putting “o” on the end of words in general – i.e. arvo, avo, veggo, servo, bottle-o, etc. There was also a huge obsession with The Voice Australia when I was there. My housemates watched it every night in Melbourne.
My main piece of advice would be to just be open-minded and willing to put yourself out there. Even though you may not think Australia is all that different from other western cultures, it definitely has it’s own cultural quirks and aspects to get used to.
Give yourself time to adjust, be patient with your job search, and make sure you have enough saved for at least a few months in Australia just in case you don’t find a job right away. You don’t want to be stressed out financially when you’re already adjusting to so many other things down under.
My last piece of advice would be to look for sublets instead of just staying in a hostel during your visa. Yes, a hostel is social and a fun way to meet a lot of people, but I had such a different experience by living with all Australians during my year. It’s just another way to completely immerse yourself in the culture.
Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, she’s probably sipping on a pint of craft beer, practicing yoga, chasing waterfalls, or losing track of time with a good book. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.