My name is Ashana Jones and I participated in Greenheart Travel’s Work Abroad program in Australia in the winter of 2014. It is amazing how fast two years has flown by. Participating in the program was one of the best decisions I made in my post college life. I’d like to share my insight and experiences during my time working abroad.
To begin with, I graduated college in 2012 and went straight to my hometown to work. I was there for a year and some odd months, and not excited with what I was doing with my time. I met a friend who told me about the opportunity to go to Australia. So, I looked up Greenheart Travel, applied for the program and got approved. Within a month’s time I had my passport, work visa, and a one way ticket to Australia.
I landed in Sydney International Airport with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, but ready to begin my nine month adventure “down under”. Nonetheless I was ready to make the most out of my young adult life in another country, thousands of miles from home and my comfort zone.
I was on a tight budget at first so I could survive paying my rent, eating and the occasional bar/social run. Through the program I got a steady job for three months, which was fantastic because I had an income every week. Working also helped me save for traveling.
One of the mistakes most travelers did was travel first, deplete their money and scramble for jobs. That is a huge risk and a no-no in my opinion for those who wish to participate. Work, save, travel!
Most importantly, I would recommend bringing more money than what is suggested. The money goes so quickly. You want to allow yourself to have some cushion room when it comes to how you are spending your money.
You will learn to adapt to your limited resources and find free alternative options. I enjoyed reading at the Royal Botanical Gardens near the Sydney Harbor.
I made friends with another traveler, Sanne, at one of the jobs I did at the beginning of my work and travel program. We both got tired of living the city life, so we ventured off to the Sunshine Coast and became strawberry pickers. It was the hardest job I have ever done, especially hard on my poor back, legs and arms as it was challenging, tiring and very demanding. That experience alone truly impacted my mindset on the saying “work hard for your money”. But, I felt gratification in knowing I did some hard work and got rewarded for it – AKA making enough money to travel some more!
The majority of farm jobs in Australia pay by the kilo, not by the hour, and most travelers do farm work to get a second year visa. That wasn’t an option for me as an American citizen, and most of my co-farmers looked at me confused and wondered why I was even doing farm work if I wasn’t getting a second visa. I was more interested in the experience of it, I guess, and the added benefit that it was paid by the hour.
After my strawberry picking days were over, Sanne and I rented an RV (relocating RVs is an another option for cheap rental and travel in Australia, though not always readily available) and went up the East Coast of Australia.
Experiencing Uluru was overwhelming. Yes, it is a giant rock in the middle of nowhere. But, having grown up in Native American culture, experiencing nature is an entirely different feeling for me.
We continued our journey to Adelaide where we parted ways ending our two-week journey around Australia. It was the best two weeks of freedom, laughter and enjoyment spent with a friend I still talk to, to this day.
I then made my way to New Zealand. It is such a beautiful country. I loved all the green hills and of course Hobbiton! New Zealand marked the end of my nine-month adventure in the southern hemisphere.
The work visa is good for a full year working abroad, but I only did nine months. I do not regret leaving three months shy of my year. I grew a lot during those nine months.
Some days I look at where I am now and wonder, What have I actually done with my time? But, then I think about the giant and random leap I took traveling to Australia with not too much of plan, and I’m instantly grateful that I can say, I worked and traveled abroad. Not many can say that, but I hope you will experience what I experienced.
What I hope you take from my experience is to travel before you make that decision to start a career. Travel and get it out of your system before it’s too late (well, it is never too late to travel). If you are hesitant to do it, just do it. It will be so rewarding and fulfilling. And I guarantee once you get back from traveling you will want to do it again, and you will be planning your next trip soon enough.
Be a carefree spirit, participate and travel the world!
You will get out of your comfort zone and make new friends from different places around the world. This will give you another reason to travel again; to go visit the friends you made. I could jet off to Ireland, Belgium, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, and France all because of the friendships and connections I made while traveling.