July 1st, 2020
A working holiday has been a very popular trend among travelers. Sam from One Chance to See the World tells us how he juggled 5-star hotel work with living in youth hostels while exploring Australia on a work visa.
THE UNIQUE EXPERIENCE OF TRAVELING ON A WORKING HOLIDAY
by Sam – One Chance to See the World
It’s 6:30am in Sydney. My alarm wakes me up from what was probably only a few hours of disrupted sleep. I hit snooze at light-speed to prevent my fellow roommates from waking, the disgruntled groans are evidence I didn’t do so fast enough. I tiptoe around their beds in darkness and look for the door. I head to the showers, trying to remember which one has pressure and hot water – that Goldilocks zone that I am sure fellow backpackers are very aware of. Thankfully the showers are empty, apart from the unfortunate few early risers that have found work on their Australian journey as well. The ‘continental’ breakfast of bread, bananas and cereal isn’t set up yet, so a $1 coffee from 7/11 it is. As I cross the street I leave the hassles that come with hostel living behind and look forward to a day at work: a luxurious 5-star hotel, a decent suit and a professional looking ear piece. Living the dream.
This was Brisbane about half way through my ‘417 Working Holiday Visa’, which allows backpackers to stay in Australia for one year and work as much as they like, provided they don’t work in the same company building for more than six months.
I was 27 at the time and had worked in hotels all my adult life, so I promised myself I would pursue something different in this new chapter. I then realised I had only £200 to my name and that I needed work fast. So hotel work it was. I spent my first six months working at a hotel on Sydney Harbour and exploring the sights around the Opera House.
It was surreal to be a backpacker from little old England giving tourists travel tips around Australia. The bad back I had from the hostel mattress was quickly forgotten when I watched a cruise sail into the harbour in the early hours – a stunning sight to say the least.
Paying $40 a night for a hostel bed whilst charging $300 upwards for a hotel room at work was a crazy contrast I quickly adjusted to, and this was before New Years Eve. Guests paid $10,000 for a Harbour View room to see the fireworks, and getting this view for free (I made sure I was working that day!) will always be one of my favourite memories.
Hostel life, on the other hand, was far from glamorous. Although I did spend some time in an apartment, most of it was in hostels. Single beds in hot temperatures with no idea who were in the bunks around me. Awful WiFi and broken washing machines… Some roommates were a little crazy and wise to keep at arms length, while others became life long friends.
Despite sacrificing comfort for that true backpacker experience, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Soon the six months were up and it was time to decide between moving to another hotel or giving farm work a go (which the visa allowed for 88 days). I chose the latter, because that meant that I’d get a second year of traveling. That’s how I had come to leave my perfect hotel job in the iconic Sydney Harbour for a melon farm in Australia’s tropical north.
Farm work was militant: woken up by the boss at 6am and put in a van to pick watermelons for ten hours a day. If you see a snake, let everyone know. If you’re bitten, sit down and reduce your heart rate.
This job was a world away from the last, but as much as I hated it, I loved the social life in my free time. Four hostels in a small farming town meant I made more backpacking friends here than I did anywhere else.
When the 88 days were up, I felt free again. I traveled down the east coast and when I ran out of money in Brisbane, worked for the same five star chain that I was employed with in Sydney. When my employment expired, they hired me again in Melbourne.
Happy to be back in a suit and a 5-star environment while sleeping in a bed that’s hard to describe as 1-star, I worked in hotels of over 300 bedrooms, checking in airline crew and VIP’s, which often included famous musicians and sport stars. Whenever they gave free tickets, I jumped at the chance (who wouldn’t?).
In my second year of work/travel I began to feel safe as I got used to it. I found a new family on the other side of the world, as colleagues and as roommates. I perfected my professional skills in some of the best hotels in Australia and enjoyed the most amazing social life outside of work.
A working holiday is a long time to be away from home, however gives enough time to go through all the motions of everyday-life abroad and to make some of the strongest friendships. A normal holiday will never look the same again.
I was really excited when Sam agreed to write about the dynamics of traveling on a work visa. Thank you, Sam, for sharing your experience with us 😀
Make sure you check out Sam’s blog One Chance to See the World where he shares interesting finds and incredible photos of London!
*All words and photos are Sam’s own.