Have you ever been on holiday and met people who are somehow managing to work and live in these beautiful places that you only get to spend a fleeting amount of time in? Or looked through someone’s Facebook page and seen photos of their ‘office’, a stark contrast to your 9-5?
Chances are these people could be making the most of working holiday visas, like I did. Over the past 3 years I’ve lived in Canada and New Zealand, working on zip lines and in retail for The North Face. Not the expected career path post uni, I’ve been able to embrace working in the outdoors industry and am currently training as a glacier guide at Franz Josef glacier. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for that initial visa.
Working holiday visas can take many forms and variations as the only thing that links them is being allowed to work in a different country for a set amount of time. Some people chase winters and the snow, some summers and the surf. Some people move every few weeks or months whilst others settle down in one spot.
And some people end up never coming back (guilty).
The good thing is that they are flexible. Different countries have different restrictions but it’s easy to find out the details through a quick internet search. If you are considering making the move and embarking on an adventure working holiday, here are my top tips…
Have a reason for going to that specific place
This may just be not being able to sit still, combined with a brain that worries about missing out and the grass being greener elsewhere, but I find having a bit of focus really helps keep the homesickness at bay.
Working in a place is an entirely different experience to visiting on holiday. It’s highly likely you will be at the bottom of the work ladder and return to, or continue, living like a cash starved student, forgoing many of the luxuries you are used to back home. But it’s all worth it if there is something to keep you there (ski fields, beach, lifestyle… whatever works for you).
Do your research
Some people can rock up to a place and enjoy that they have absolutely nothing planned, taking advantage of spontaneous opportunities. However, if living and working abroad is new for you, having a few things sorted will definitely take away some of the blind panic that can set in when you realise that you’re not leaving in a weeks time, you have to find somewhere to live and a way to afford your amazing new location.
Personally, I like to travel between cool jobs. It lets me meet like-minded people and do something different to what I might be doing back home. This could be anything from being a liftie on the ski slopes, a dive instructor in Asia or teaching English abroad. Exciting jobs are snapped up quickly. The ones that are for the experience, rather than the money. Google is wonderful here, so many jobs and opportunities that you didn’t even know existed, right at your fingertips! You can even end up with some sweet deals if you have the right skills. For example, I know someone who is currently being paid to live on a cruise boat in the Antarctic managing the guest services department with no expenses!
Yes, you’re going to be working so you don’t need heaps of money saved, but setting up in a new spot always takes a bit more than you think. It’s quite likely you will find yourself living in a hostel and eating out more then you had thought whilst you figure everything out. It’s nice to be able to afford a few comforts whilst you’re finding your feet. Also, you want to be able to explore and say yes to opportunities rather than living like a hermit in the dorm room.
It’s not all going to be like an Instagram feed
People exaggerate and we have a habit of only talking about the good times. Accept that there will be times when it sucks. You may struggle to find accommodation or people you connect with. You could be in a job you find boring. Don’t give up straight away, treat yourself to something nice (for me…cake) and remember why you are there. Don’t be afraid of admitting that something isn’t right. It’s all trial and error until we find the life we are after and it’s all an experience in the end.
I learnt the hard way on this one! Even though you’re planning on living somewhere rather than travelling, you will likely find yourself lugging your stuff through town more than once. The last thing you want to be worrying about when in a new place is how to carry everything or how to keep it all secure because you bought your prized jewellery with you. Pack light and make it easy on yourself.
Just go for it!
Of corse, these are only a few basic starting points, taken from my own experiences, for someone new to this type of travel. The more you travel the more you will find the things that work for you and the things that don’t. The hardest part is starting. You never know where it might take you and you won’t ever find out, unless you give it a shot.
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Following traveling and a year in Canada, Ellie felt that life in the UK wasn’t for her. After uni she headed for NZ on a working holiday visa and hasn’t looked back. She is currently training as a glacier guide and has no plans other than bouncing around the world chasing mountains.