When you first sign up for the Australia working holiday visa 12 months seems like such a long time. Well, I’ve just hit the 6-month mark and oh my god has it flown by.
Yes, I’ve seen and done a whole lot in that 6 months but it only feels like a few weeks ago that I first arrived.
Back then I was the one who was marvelling at those people who had already been here for half a year or more and how easy they made the backpacker lifestyle look.
Perhaps that’s what I look like to newbies now?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that while it isn’t as difficult as some might think it is, I’m definitely still figuring it all out.
However, for those of you who are about to embark on your Australian adventure, I thought I would take a moment to share with you 6 things I’ve either learnt about Australia or myself in the 6 months that I’ve been here.
Hopefully giving you a better idea of what to expect on your adventure making you more prepared. Or maybe you can just have a giggle at me and how naive I was?
Either way, I hope you can take something away from my inane ramblings. I mean I have to keep myself sane through my farm work somehow right?
Australia is Big
By big I mean huge!
Yes, I had been told this before I left.
Yes, I had seen the picture of the whole of Europe fitting inside of Australia. Yet it is one of those things that you won’t really appreciate until you’re here.
Until you catch yourself saying oh a 4-hour drive isn’t that far. Well, in Australia terms it really isn’t.
I’ve spoken to Aussies who have told us they grew up doing 6-12 hour road trips for a weekend getaway! Seriously! Like back home I though a 2-hour train ride back home from Nottingham was far enough for a weekend.
It’s strange how quickly you adapt though.
Although it does help that for you 4/5 hour drive you probably won’t be stuck in traffic at all meaning that you can actually go a decent distance. As opposed to sitting in traffic on the M6 or M1 back home.
Although sometimes you can still underestimate.
For instance, I was up in Cairns and was leaving to start a job in the middle of Queensland (more on that in a later post) in 4 days time. Some friends were also leaving and had decided it would be more fun to hire a camper and go that way. They invited me along.
After explaining I needed to be in Brisbane by Tues to catch a 6 am bus on the Wed and them replying that yes, of course, we can make it from Cairns to Brisbane in 3 days I agreed.
Turns out that they hadn’t thought it through properly.
I ended up getting them to drop me off at the nearest airport on the 2nd day. Booking a last minute flight to Brisbane and actually feeling a lot better about everything in the process.
Yeah, I ended up spending more than I thought I would but by underestimating how far everyone was willing to drive I had needed to get myself out of a toxic situation.
I am Loving Being a Solo Traveler
Before I came to do my Australia working holiday I had only really been on one solo trip. That was a part of my PhD and involved me visiting 2 different labs in 2 different states over 2 weeks.
While my head wasn’t in the best of places I discovered that it wasn’t that scary and I was totally capable of doing everything I needed to by myself. Which also included getting lost with my suitcase in the middle of San Francisco but that’s a story for another time).
So I was really excited to get the chance to do it again and I wasn’t really that scared. Why should I have been? It’s not like there is a language barrier to overcome and Australia is very well set up for solo travellers.
I’m definitely in awe of the 18, 19, 20-year-olds that are out here travelling on their own. There’s no way that I would have had the courage to do this back then.
Now that I think of it though, everything that I have done in the last decade or so has kind of been little experiments that have helped me get to a place where I know that solo travelling is something that I can do and that I definitely want to do.
If solo travel is something you are considering then I would certainly recommend it. Especially in Australia where the backpacker scene is so well set up.
There are lots of solo travellers doing an Australia working holiday out here which makes it really easy to make friends on tours and in hostels. There is always someone else who is looking for a friend too.
I’m not going to lie to you though, there are times when you can get lonely. Like when you first arrive in a hostel but those feelings are short-lived if you make the effort to go and make friends.
I recommend starting by saying Hi to those who are in your hostel dorm. It totally the easiest way to make a new friend and has not failed me yet.
For those who may be making the I am such an introvert excuses. Well so am I! Solo travel kind of forces you to interact with other people (apart from the times where you really do just need a bit of time to yourself).
While I would still never call myself extroverted, I definitely have more confidence in starting a conversation with people I do not know yet. That is something I am most thankful that solo travel has instilled in me.
I Judge Hostels by their Kitchen
I realised this the other day. When I first arrive at a new hostel, one of the major things I base my opinion of it on is the Kitchen.
How clean it is, how many stoves there are, are the knives sharp? However, it’s not just about the physical appearance of the kitchen but the vibe too. I’ve been in a few really good hostel kitchens but there was a just something that really put me off wanting to be in there and cook food.
Anyone that knows me will know just how much I dislike cooking.
I cook to eat, end of.
Anyone that has done any kind of travelling will know that hostel kitchens can be a nightmare to navigate. They can be very territorial places, especially during peak times and a hostel kitchen that doesn’t tempt me in is not a hostel I want to be in for too long.
There are other factors that come into play of course. Such as the amount of space you have in the dorms, whether or not there’s free WiFi and how friendly the other people in the hostel are.
Yet even if the hostel ticks all these boxes if the kitchen isn’t right I won’t be there long.
The Outback is not Scary
Some people spend their whole time on their Australia working holiday and don’t venture away from the coast or the cities. They have been fed this perception that the outback (and rural Australia in general) is not a good place to go.
Each town is miles apart and if you break down in your car you could be waiting hours for the next car to pass and stop for help – because you know there is obviously no phone signal out there. Plus there are all those scary creatures like snakes and spiders and dingoes.
The thing is, it really isn’t that bad. Yes, there are big distances between towns, I myself spent 2 months staying in a little town that was 100km from the next nearest town, but the roads are still reasonably busy.
I mean if you decide to go 4WD on an unsealed road then you might be waiting longer to see another car.
As for signal, that totally depends on which service provider you are with. It’s well known that Telstra has the best coverage but Optus has upped its game recently and with Vodafone Australia announcing a merger with TPG their coverage should increase too.
As for the scary creatures. Well if you’re sensible you won’t really have a problem. Just maybe watch out for the Kangaroos on the road at dawn and dusk though.
Rural Australia also gives you the chance to meet actual Australians. Something that I found difficult to do when living in hostels on the east coast.
Don’t get me wrong meeting other travellers from across the world is pretty awesome but I came to Australia to experience Australia and I don’t believe you can really do that if you don’t spend time with actual Australians. They are a friendly bunch though – well I can only really speak for the ones I’ve met obviously!
So make sure you plan a trip inland while you’re here to see the real Australia.
Facebook is King
Up until recently, I was one of those Facebook users that only really used it to share my photos and tag my friends in memes and funny videos.
While that still happens (because who doesn’t love a good meme right?) the discovery of the world of facebook backpacker groups really changed the game for me.
Now for some of you-you’re probably thinking well, of course, there will be backpacker facebook groups there are facebook groups for everything. Well, quieten down at the back, please. I might have a PhD but I don’t know everything – even if my dad thinks I do.
Anyway, I have joined many Australia working holiday backpacker facebook groups. There are your generic ones like Australia backpackers 2018.
The Facebook groups are full of people asking for and giving lifts, people selling cars and vans and people asking for advice.
If you’re in need of some inspiration for the next part of your travel, looking for tips on where to stay and what to do or in desperate need to get to somewhere then these groups are definitely the place to go looking first.
The chances are someone can help you out because as we all know the backpacker community is generally one that likes to help each other out.
Then there are the jobs.
You can find lots of different job postings on the various groups making it an easy way to find you that little cash earner. While it can be a little right time right place I found both the jobs that I have done so far through Facebook groups.
While I didn’t join any of these groups until after I got to Australia there are lots of people who join before they leave and use the wealth of knowledge and experience in these groups to help shape their travel plans.
So what are you waiting for, go and check out some of the groups now and get yourself that little bit extra excited for your trip!
I probably have too much stuff
There’s a well-known phrase used by many travellers when deciding what to pack for their trip; take half as many clothes and twice as much money.
The thing is when you’re packing for a whole year or more it can become quite an ordeal. Especially when you’re going to be travelling to a country like Australia which has such a varied climate.
OK so you may not need your “big coat” even if you winter in the south (and even if you feel like you do you can always buy one) but you’re still going to need ‘winter’ clothes.
I use this term loosely because for me it basically meant packing some long pants (read trousers) and a couple of jumpers and my soft shell (which I have only worn a handful of times by the way).
So I needed to find a balance and pack enough winter clothes and summer clothes without needing a ridiculously big bag. The answer ended up being packing cubes.
However, I look at some other backpackers and they seem to have half as much stuff as I do. So maybe I could have just packed summer clothes and then bought a whole set of winter clothes and discarded the summer ones. Then consequently done the same when it got to summer but I decided not to.
I also decided that I wanted to take my DSLR camera and tripod with me. Now I’ve got a travel tripod so it folds up pretty small and is pretty light so thatnots a problem.
However, with bringing my camera I have a slightly larger day bag than most people. I could have gotten a smaller mirrorless camera that would take up less space. Yet I really enjoy taking photos and wasn’t willing to compromise on this.
So yes if I had been more ruthless I could have taken less stuff with me and then maybe I wouldn’t feel like the bag lady whenever I’m moving around.
However, I have learnt that it’s totally possible to live on a third of the clothes that I had when I was back home. Plus any future, shorter trips will be so much easier to pack for.
I hope the things that I have learnt in my first 6 months in Australia have helped you and given you a better idea of what to expect on your trip.
Until Next time