australia

5 Mistakes I Made In Australia (& How You Can Avoid Them)

There are some posts for this blog that have been sitting in my drafts folder for over a year. It’s not just because I’ve lacked the inspiration for writing them; it’s because, for posts like this, I feel like an idiot traveller. An idiot abroad, if you will, which is actually what this blog was sort of named after despite the fact I’d never even seen the TV show (I now have, and it’s actually pretty good considering I really dislike Ricky Gervais). So for someone who named their blog after something they thought they probably wouldn’t even like, don’t be too surprised to hear that I’ve got some big travel regrets.

My trip to Australia was in the works for years. I don’t particularly regret anything about it because I had an absolutely brilliant year, but when I think of how much planning went into it, I’m surprised that I made so many glaring mistakes. Here are five of them.

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Paying a company to help us get set up

Can you believe it? The girl who defiantly refuses to book tours or go all-inclusive or anything, paid through the nose for some company to help us with things we could have figured out ourselves and to find jobs way worse than anything we would have found ourselves. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have done this if I was travelling alone, which sounds ridiculous but Ash was so nervous about the whole trip and I wanted to make it comfortable for him, if not both of us. It was actually a friend of mine who lives in Australia that linked me to this company (Global Work & Travel which you’re obviously wondering), and I knew how much she was struggling with work and she lives there, so that was reason enough for me to sign up. It gave us peace of mind and potentially put us in contact with some awesome employers that we would be hard pushed to find on our own.

I’ve considered writing a whole post about Global Work & Travel, because it pissed me off so much at the time. I have read stories of them getting you jobs on paradise islands and at resorts in the Blue Mountains and all these other amazing places. Us? We ended up on a horse racing yard that are always desperate for staff because they treat you – and the horses – like shit. It was not the welcome to Australia we wanted, and they were totally unhelpful after we left. They were totally unhelpful in finding Ash a job when he struggled to find one. And when I started looking for a new job, they literally offered me the racing yard job again. That’s when I lost it with them.

Seeing as I don’t think I’ll dedicate a post to reviewing them, I’ll point out the good parts. The actual start-up process with them is great; they offer you tons of advice on every aspect of the working holiday, give you an address for anything you need, they give you a smartphone, they do tons of evaluation of your CV and prime it for Australian employers, they help you set up a bank account and get your TFN. They gave us 10 nights free in a hostel in Surfer’s, though as we discovered 10 nights is way too long. In theory, their whole service should be great, but they just don’t seem to have enough contacts to make it worthwhile.

In all honesty, the company probably saved us because they did set us up with a job within five days of landing in Australia, and we could have been in serious trouble if they hadn’t because by this point we had less than £1000 between us. Which leads me to my second mistake…

Kangaroo beach sunrise, Cape Hillsborough, Mackay, Australia

Not taking enough money

This wasn’t unexpected. We planned to see as much of Asia as possible before flying to Australia, and we didn’t even go over budget. If we had been going totally independently, I don’t think I would have risked this, particularly as Australian immigration has every right to check you have access to at least $5000 (I would have been covered by my credit card but this is SO NOT the point).

However, it would have been nice to not have to worry about jumping straight into a job, or to have some extra savings to back us up for future travels. I ended up working for the entire year, which I don’t actually regret at all because all the money I earned went on travel, and have you SEEN how much they earn out there?!? But if I’d had extra savings from the start, that would have meant more travel time and probably getting to see places like Uluru!

Forts walk, Magnetic Island, Australia

Not buying a car (or campervan)

Okay, the first REAL, real, big regret! Partly due to #2, we never bought our own car. Our experience would have been entirely different if we had. We would have multiplied our options for rural work instead of getting stuck doing awful work for over a month. We could have gone on adventures every day off I had in Brisbane. We certainly wouldn’t have had the headache that was Christmas & New Year. We could have just road tripped for weeks and found jobs in random places to keep us on the road. One thing’s for sure: we would have seen a LOT more of Australia!

It’s quite possible that this didn’t happen for a reason; we knew a few people who spent thousands buying and fixing cars, and it could have ended up sending us home early. Who knows?

flinders street train station, melbourne, australia

Not living in Melbourne

I guess this is more of a personal one, but we arrived in Australia with a plan (yeah, I can see all you backpackers laughing). We’d work a few months in Brisbane, road trip for a bit, get to Sydney for New Years, and carry on to Melbourne for the remainder of our year. Instead, we got that shit job near Sydney, ended up eight hours north of Melbourne for almost four months, finally went back to Brisbane, and I got a great job. Ash didn’t, but we also didn’t want to risk moving when we had a sweet set-up. Plus we loved Brisbane.

So we went to Sydney for New Years, but then we returned to Brisbane and, being four months behind schedule, I continued to work until April. And then it was too late to begin a love affair with Melbourne, so I went to work in an outback pub! Because why the hell not?!

Who knows what would have happened if we had risked it all for Melbourne? The way I see it, we might both have got shitty part-time jobs and earned less than I was earning in Brisbane. We wouldn’t have saved as much, that’s a fact; there are too many awesome places in Melbourne to spend your money. We wouldn’t have lived in our beloved hostel either, so that straight up makes me not regret not living in Melbourne, because the memories in that place more than make up for what may have been.

Farm work, fruit picking, backpacker, working holiday visa, Australia

Wasting our first four months doing farm work

Like a few other things on this list, many of our Australia experiences probably wouldn’t have been the same without this part of the trip – we arrived in Brisbane at the perfect time, and we made some great friends throughout. Hell, I even enjoyed some of the work.

It’s also a really good idea to get your farm work out of the way if you’re definitely thinking of doing a second year. But we weren’t, and the only reason we went to do farm work was because we escaped the racing yard with a few friends. And when you only have a year, it’s hard to want to spend a third of it doing something you don’t want to do in a place you’ve never even heard of. Not that that’s always a bad thing (I LOVED my time working at the pub, after all!) but we lived in a house without wifi, hours from anywhere interesting, barely stretching our money and only with ourselves for company. I met some great backpackers but it was too ever-changing and never felt like “home”.

Airlie Beach, Australia

So, how can you avoid them?

Firstly, you don’t need a company to help you with anything. I know moving to the other side of the world is a scary prospect, but Australia is totally geared up for backpackers. We met lots of people struggling to find work. But it was absolutely not worth paying anyone, and many of the people we met on the racing yard had actually been sent there from other similar companies. So just don’t bother. I have a whole page here set up to help you so you don’t make the same mistakes as us.

I am a huge advocate of budget travel, but budgeting to make the most of your trip is one thing; not taking enough and compromising your experiences is another. If you’re flying to the other side of the world, you might as well do some awesome things while you’re there! Definitely take more than less, and I have a few unique ideas for how to save money for travel here.

And if you have the chance, definitely buy a car. It makes such a difference because you can go anywhere, and Australia is a huge country. Road trips make the best adventures, after all.

As for the last two – you most likely only have a limited time in Australia. Don’t take it for granted, and do what you want to do! No one is there to tell you how to live your life, so grab the opportunities and take advantage of the freedom. Tick off your bucket list and do the things you love to do. That’s what it’s about, right?!

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36 thoughts on “5 Mistakes I Made In Australia (& How You Can Avoid Them)

  1. #6 Under-estimating the size of Australia and over-estimating what you’ll have time to do and see there. I also never made it to Uluru which is a real shame as I’d love to see it, but I had such a great time living in Sydney and travelling in Tasmania I don’t regret it for a second.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah I am really annoyed that I didn’t just do it myself. I ended up doing my tax return myself, which lots of people don’t do, and had no problems with that, so I’m sure I could have done everything else! Ah well, you live and you learn, right?

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  2. Haha, I can completely relate to a few things. I got a job at a station, in Pilbara. Talk about being somewhere remote… I was the only girl working among chauvinistic guys so yeah, didn’t always enjoy it. But I had good moments as well. And I miss Australia and Sydney every day, even after 8 years…

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    1. Oh man I totally relate to that! I worked in a pub in the middle of nowhere and some of the comments! But it was just part and parcel of it and I took it on the shoulder and had such a good time because I didn’t take it seriously. I think if you can look at things with a positive attitude, it makes such a difference. :) I really miss Australia too!

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    1. In some ways it’s actually easier doing a long-term trip because you have so much more freedom to do what you want rather than being on a schedule all the time. After all, our plans went to pot before our first week was up! But there’s definitely a lot to plan to make sure you have back ups if things go wrong, and to get yourself set up in a new country, etc.

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  3. I love that you write about your mistakes! Travel isn’t always perfect and people want to read about the realities, not just the best days (at least, I do!).
    And I agree, having your own car or campervan is the way to go! Our big mistake when we road-tripped in Australia was always getting in on the wrong side of the car – every time. Silly Americans ;)

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    1. Thanks so much!! Yessss I hope you get to do it! I think the biggest tip I have is to not put yourself under too much pressure for it all to work out perfectly. It’s a fabulous adventure no matter what happens! (well, unless you get eaten by a crocodile, I imagine that wouldn’t be so fabulous lol) I have a couple of posts with WHV advice if you’re interested. :)

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  4. Everyone made mistakes and I hope you’ve learned your lesson now. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m actually travelling to Melbourne sometimes and I will put this in mind. By the way, if you need to visit Melbourne or any part of Australia and don’t have a valid visa, you may apply it here [link has been removed]. I’m having a great experience with their team and I hope you’ll find them too.

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    1. I definitely learned a lot of lessons out there, that’s for sure. My favourite part of your comment is the fact that one of my main mistakes was using a company for our visa and getting set up, so you come here to promote… a company that helps with your visa. I’m removing the link but I’ll keep your comment up. The visa is the easiest part and I am more than happy to help anyone confused by the process!

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  5. I’m an Australian and so I have lived and worked here my whole life. I don’t know how you survived a year without your own car! It’s definitely an essential item to have in a country with terrible public transport, especially outside of the major cities. It’s weird how everyone here says how expensive the UK is yet I found it much cheaper to travel around than Australia (everything is so expensive)! Another thing about it is the bad internet and mobile phone services. I’m not sure many people realise that. This was an interesting read, hearing a non-Aussie’s point of view. Thanks!
    P.S. Hoping you make it to Uluru one day. It is definitely worth a look and if you have the time the best way to get there is by road. Flying is cheating haha!

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    1. Thanks for reading! :) I know, public transport is so expensive – or non-existent – outside of the cities. I lived in Brisbane for most of my trip so I never felt like I needed one there but it would have been nice to get away for a few days. During our farm work we had access to a car, so that was handy! But the best part was hiring a campervan for a few weeks, 100% worth it. :) I didn’t find Telstra too bad for internet, even when I was in the middle of nowhere!

      And yes!! I’d love to do Darwin to Adelaide if I had time. :D

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  6. I have heard so many negative stories of companies doing things like that. I nearly did it when I went to Canada with the promise of working near some lake in Banff, but then thought I would rather do it myself and moved to Toronto.

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  7. I love this! Myself and my fiancé are heading to Australia in December for a year, I’m hoping to do farm work as you never know we may love it and might want to stay for another year..I made so many mistakes when I went to Asia and the main one was not taking enough money, now Im trying not to make the same mistake, I’ve even moved back in with my mum to save up! Was it easy staying it hostels? I was thinking of getting a car whilst we are out there, now I will defiantly do that!

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    1. Oh gosh sorry I’ve only just seen this! Yeah I loved staying in hostels, a lot of the time I only booked a day or two in advance and often extended my stay once I was there so no problems there either. :) I actually have a whole post on LIVING in hostels if you’re interested in that.

      https://anorcadianabroad.com/2016/02/02/the-pros-and-cons-of-living-in-a-hostel/

      Have the best time!! And always remember it’s what you make of it. Things didn’t go perfectly for us but we still loved it!

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  8. Thanks for sharing this. During my time in Australia I made some of these mistakes as well. Great that you want to share your experiences with other people who have similar plans. I write about my experiences in this beautiful country myself. But I have decided to stay here ;) Feel free to check it out!

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