Nine months in to my year long journey around the world, I made the decision to move to Melbourne, Australia on a Working Holiday Visa and enjoy a new life in the land down under. It wasn’t until after I made my announcement, that I realized what a strange and farfetched idea it was to people not in the backpacking/traveling circles.
On the backpacker trails around the world, especially in Southeast Asia, I would say 15% of the travelers I meet have either lived or worked in Australia at some point. Over the last 10 years, Australia has become a jump-off point for young European, American, Canadian and South American travelers to live and work in a new country, while earning more than enough money to fund backpacking trips and new ventures back home.
Some of the reasons for this are:
- Working Holiday Visas are extremely easy to get (for most countries at least) and relatively inexpensive via Online, a process that takes about 30 minutes. No need to send in your passport and mail any consulates. It is also incredibly fast, I received my grant letter within 3 hours after submission!
- Australia has an extreme labor shortage, making it easy for backpackers, especially the skilled ones, to find work opportunities.
- The Minimum wage here is about $16-18 an hour, but most people even the most basic of jobs makes about $23-25. Typical servers or bar staff make either $18 per hour cash in hand (off the books) or $23-25 an hour (on the books).
- If you are a skilled tradesman (or a quick learner with a connect) such as a plumber, electrician, roofer, miner, or any job dealing with construction, Australia is paradise. Not only does the country nurture and promote these job opportunities as normal aspirations for students coming out of school, they are also paid very very well. Roofers, electricians, and miners make upwards of $40-60 an hour, sometime more.
- Since millions of people on working holiday visas gone through the process, the infrastructure has been built to cater to backpackers: with hostels offering courses on finding work and getting tax file numbers, as well as websites being dedicated to helping people find work and get acclimated.
- People want to stay for 2 years have to 3 months of usually unpaid farm work, which has created a dependency on farms for backpackers to work the fields and vineyards. This was proved earlier this year when the government tried to hike up the taxes for Working Holiday workers and it was harshly protested.
Working in Australia has also become popular because, well, it’s just an awesome country:
- Australia has some of the finest beaches in the world, both on the east and west coast. Imagine the entire east coast looking like California.
- Australian’s have a laid back attitude on life, they work hard but they make sure to keep whats important in perspective. They are also addicted to being outdoors and enjoying nature.
- Australians (and Kiwis) are some of the most well traveled people on this planet, it’s almost a right of passage for everyone to take a gap year or a few months between the ages of 19-23 and travel the world, backpacking and learning about the worlds different cultures.
- Australia is extremely multi-cultural, just like the United States and Canada. The Asian and Middle Eastern populations here are massive. It would be uncommon to walk down a popular street in Melbourne or Sydney and hear 5 different languages spoken on one block. Sometimes I feel like I’m in New York or Europe!
- Australia has amazing weather pretty much year round in most of the popular spots.
Sydney has the weather of Los Angeles, year round golden, just hotter. Melbourne and Adelaide get a bit chilly in the winter but for the most part stay pretty temperate in between 50-90 degrees fahrenheit.
- Public transportation within cities is present and efficient. In addition, all walks of life are using the public transportation systems, not just the poor.
- Biking culture here is huge, and also cared for by the government. Share bike stations are all over major cities, Air to pump your tires is free, public fountains on the path to fill your bottles, and well marked bike paths. On top of that, most of the country is as flat as Texas, so riding is easy-peasy
- Australia has a high standard of living, much similar to the United States or Scandinavia. Everyone recycles, tanning beds are illegal, plastic water bottles and cigarettes are extremely over priced to deter sales. Not to mention that within the cities they provide public water fountains and refill stations on every other street corner.
- Australians are some of the biggest sports fans in the world, a lot of them unique to Oceania! Rugby, AFL, Cricket, and Horse Racing are all the rage.
- Australia contains an immense amount of wild life, tropical species of birds and reptiles, as well as unique mammals such as Koala’s, Kangaroos, and Wallabies
- The bush (wilderness) here is incredibly beautiful with golden pastures and gum trees leading to red barren deserts
- Drinking alcohol, like in the UK & Ireland, is a MASSIVE part of the culture here. Sydney consists of these absolutely monster mega bars, multi-storied and different rooms for different styles, its pretty cool!
- Most Australians live within an hour drive of the beach, making it a huge part of their culture. It’s just about as normal to go to the beach after work, as it is to goto the gym.
- The government here seems to work for the people – Its mandatory to vote in Australia or there is a fine. A marvel Idea. Healthcare is essentially free and people are cared for. The system works so that if you require special assistance or you want premium health care, you can pay for it. But as far as general health care and doctors visits the governments got you covered. Which also give the government more incentive to keeps its citizens healthy, i.e. taxing things like cigarettes heavily.
- Australia is a remarkably safe place to live, with little racial tension, extremely strict gun laws, and an uncorrupt police force. Most people I know don’t even lock their doors!
Being that Australia is also one of the most expensive countries to travel in, I think that gives people all the more incentive to come and work here first or at least for a few months. The ideal Australian trip is about 2 months up the east coast, with 2 weeks in Perth and a couple weeks in Tasmania. In order to travel for 3 months in Australia, you need about $75-100AUD a day, which could run you between $5-7 thousand. For most people in their lives back home this is a lot of money to save, but with Aussie wages, it all becomes possible. Work 6 months, travel for 3: go see New Zealand, bike down Vietnam, etc etc.
From my experiences talking to the travelers that have followed these footsteps, none of them have wanted to leave and many found ways to stay, whether it be through sponsorship or studying. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens with me 🙂