Alumni Spotlight on Nora Weiss: Finding Perspective, Patience and Mermaid Pools in Australia
Dropping everything to go travel the world is easy to daydream about, but a lot harder to put into motion. Greenheart Travel alumna, Nora Weiss, is one of the few that put her ideas into action and moved to Australia to work and travel, and was wonderful enough to share her journey on her awesome blog. (Please, read her interview and then check out her stories for inspiration and Nora’s spot on sense of humor about traveling “down under.”)
Now back home in the States, we caught up with Nora to learn about what inspired her to work and travel in Australia, how she pushed herself out of her comfort zone despite being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and of course, some of her favorite memories from abroad.
What inspired you to work and travel in Australia and how did your family and friends respond to your decision?
I grew up with an Aussie fascination, if you will. I never got to the chance to go abroad in college. Once I started working after graduation, I fell into a rut for a few years but felt this push to see the obsession through. My parents were very supportive and my friends all said, “Finally!” There were definitely people who cocked their head sideways. Like, why quit my nice job? If anything, those responses just made me more determined to go!
One of the hardest parts of taking the leap to work abroad is not knowing what the job situation will be. Can you share a bit about how you landed your job?
I looked up all sorts of blogs and noticed most people worked minimum wage jobs to make ends up meet while traveling. There are Craigslist equivalent sites throughout all of Australia; I’m glad I found them! It helped that I learned you have to take a test to become a bartender! It’s a federal law. I took the test basically as soon as I landed; that opened up a ton of doors!
In your personal blog, you write that if a reader is interested in “white girls with diagnosed anxiety and depression – WOW – you’ve struck gold.” What insight do you have for others who might be struggling with anxiety or depression but still want to travel?
I’ve struggled with diagnosed anxiety for a few years and Depression for even longer. Both diseases would rear their ugly heads daily while I was in the States. I won’t lie – the same happened when I first got to Australia. But after a while, it all kind of subsided.
Traveling alone really put me to the test in depending on myself and trusting my gut. Journaling definitely helped, even if it was a single sentence from the day and was totally mundane. Looking back in my journal really helped give me perspective in the moment. It was like personal reassurance that I had made the right decision.
What are a few of your favorite experiences that stand out during your time in Australia?
One of my first hikes to what is called The Mermaid Pools was amazing; it looks exactly what it sounds like (sans mermaids). It was a trip with some very new friends and it went swimmingly (no pun intended). The views and swimming were gorgeous, but it was so nice to share the experience with brand new people!
And the Outback – oh, the Outback! It’s this beautiful, untouched place that transcends from one ecosystem to another. And there’s science to it, too! I did a road trip straight through and learned so much about nature that I never expected. I don’t think I’ll go a day without thinking about The Outback.
Has this experience changed any of your personal and professional priorities or goals since you have returned home?
I’m much more patient with myself! Before Australia, if I didn’t reach my goals instantaneously, I’d abandon them. Now that I’ve been around the world, I’m well aware of what I’m capable of and am willing to work harder for everything, even if it’ll take a bit longer.
What were the biggest cultural differences you noticed and any advice for travelers for proper cultural etiquette or slang they should be aware of before they arrive?
I would say some of the slang was hard to pick up on since Aussies talk so quick. Once I got that down, I was dropping one Aussie quip after another!
My other piece of advice would be to remain open to all cultures, not just Aussie ways. So many people from all over the world backpack through Oz that you end up meeting more international folks than Aussies!
Any tips for finding accommodation? Did you find your job first or apartment?
I went for the apartment first, which I recommend in my situation. Look for the city you want to work in (and can afford) and find a cheap place.
Long term leases aren’t as popular, so you can always leave if you need to! Paying rent weekly is very Aussie and that frustrated me for a bit.
Join Facebook groups and take chances on work mates; they could be great housemates!
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you to get out of your comfort zone that helped you during your travels?
Ha – “it could always be worse!”
I know that’s not very romantic, but as someone with Depression I can easily slip into a very dark mental tunnel if something goes amiss. Once, I missed a flight and ended up missing my own birthday party! Instead of freaking out, I bought a new ticket and bided my time (10 hours in case you’re curious) in the airport. I could have not found a flight for the same day or lost my wallet, but I just missed a few hours of my birthday – oh, yeah – and I was out some extra money. That’s what a savings account is for!
Any other additional thoughts or tips you have for anyone wanting to travel and work in Australia?
Bring sunscreen! And just enjoy your time; the Aussies are a very laid back people so don’t be afraid to relax and try something new. And the spiders aren’t that bad! I had such a wonderful time; it’s hard to put into words!