If you asked me five years ago where I’d be today, I don’t think my answer would have been working at a honey factory in Australia.
In fact, I don’t think anyone could have predicted what‘s happened in the world in the last eight months, but I can safely say that I don’t regret one minute of my time spent here in Oz.
After graduating from university four years ago, I continued to work full time for the same company I had spent the previous three summers with. It provided me with amazing networking connections, allowed me to spend my summers outside in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, and forged some of the strongest friendships I’ll ever have. But room for upward growth was relatively limited, and even with the opportunities I did have, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was starting to get burnt out, and I decided I was too young to be feeling this way.
Deciding to quit and deciding to travel were two seperate issues.
I knew in late 2018 that I needed to leave my job, but I didn’t fully start thinking about travel until the following April.
My original plan was to leave my job that November and travel for about three months, spending six weeks in Australia and six weeks in South America, and then return home to get on with my life. But then it occurred to me that if I’m uprooting everything, my job, my house, and my life, what’s the need to rush back to the States?
Aside from the fact that six weeks isn’t nearly enough time to see either of those continents, I started to explore options for long-term travel. If I was going to be traveling for more than three months, I’d need to start earning some money along the way, which is when I started to look at Australia’s working holiday program.
What started as a vacation for a few weeks turned into a full year of travel.
I'm a planner and always have been, so what scared me the most about taking this leap was the uncertainty.
Where would I go, what would I do about money, where would I work, would I have fun, what would I do when I returned home? These were all questions that I pondered in the months leading up to my trip, that I’ve since come to realize don’t really matter.
I think it’s smart to put a little bit of thought into where you want to go and what you want to see, and it’s good to have enough savings to last a few months without a job, but the rest will fall into place. There are plenty of ways to travel on a budget, and certain countries are more expensive than others, so don’t feel like you have to spend your life savings.
If you need inspiration on specifics, I recommend you check out this YouTube channel. You’ll likely need a flight to get to your first destination, and a place to stay for the first week, but beyond that you can’t predict what will happen once you arrive.
I arrived in Australia on November 15, 2019 and after my first week in Melbourne, I knew I was going to need more than a year in this amazing country.
Prior to my arrival, I’d spent hours making lists of top destinations, taking recommendations from friends, and making itineraries for how long I wanted to stay in each location. I had a plan for how I wanted to travel, and when I would work, but what I couldn’t have predicted was how much I would love Melbourne, and want to stay for as long as possible. I left the city just at the start of quarantine, and moved to regional Victoria to pursue my farm work. This will allow me to spend an additional year in Australia, and it’s possible that I’ll continue my farm work for an additional six months to stay for a third year.
What have I learned from my eight months here? Dropping everything and leaving your former life behind doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. Just because I’m galavanting around Australia doesn’t mean I don’t still need to worry about paying my credit card bill, and how to figure out taxes in two different countries. But quitting my job and coming to Australia was the best decision I could have made. Within the past year, my life has changed substantially.
I’m a more positive and open person; I’m more adaptable, flexible, and have embraced any challenge I’ve been faced with. I’ve taken a “one day at a time” approach, and especially during the start of COVID and lockdown, found that to be the best way for me to handle the uncertainty about the future.
It occurred to me recently that often when meeting someone new at home, the question that quickly follows your name is “what do you do?”
The pressure of work and career at home in America is just not what it is here in Australia. I know that some people know what they want to do with their lives from an early age, and they set out to make it happen.
But what I’ve found to be more often the case is that no one knows what they want to do, and that we’re all faking it until we figure it out. We all need to work to survive, but what’s the point if you’re not able to enjoy yourself outside of your work life.
I know that one day I’ll have to settle down, and likely go back to working a 9-to-5 job, but for the time being I’m learning more from these life experiences than I could ever learn from behind a desk.
I recognize that I’m in a privileged position to be able to quit a stable job and travel 8,000 miles away from home. Especially amidst a pandemic, leaving work to travel may not be a viable option at the moment. But take this opportunity to evaluate what you want, and spend your time planning an adventure of your own. I can’t recommend it enough!