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.
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…
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!
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?
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.
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”.
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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