I’m on the brink of leaving Australia after another year spent Down Under. I have almost used up the second twelve month instalment of my Working Holiday Visa and I figured it was time I addressed my thoughts on leaving Australia.
I first visited Australia in 2011. Back then I was a
reasonably fresh faced twenty-six year old who had decided to escape the gloom of the UK recession, a desk-bound job that was under threat of redundancy and the kind of general life malaise you can only attribute to being in you mid-twenties and wondering ‘is this it?’
NOTE: Fast forward almost six years and you can still say I am wondering ‘is this it?’ But now I have several more lines on my face and (yep, I’m being honest) grey hairs on my head.
I remember my first impressions of Australia weren’t too good. It was slap-in-the-face expensive after a few months of backpacking solo around South East Asia and that hurt both my wallet and my confidence. In the early days I had several problems getting set up: my bank card bizarrely refused to work in some Australian ATMS and my UK phone turned out to be locked despite me paying to get it unlocked before leaving home. I remember standing in the corner of a foyer on a payphone call to my parents and crying into the wall.
This was all turning out to be a lot more difficult than I envisioned. To top it all off, when I bought myself an expensive bar of Cadbury’s chocolate to make myself feel better it didn’t even taste right. I soon learned that in Australia Cadbury’s uses different ingredients to enable the chocolate to withstand high temperatures better. As I miserably chewed on an overpriced Crunchie (yes, I can still remember what I bought almost six years ago) I wondered how this could possibly work.
Unbeknownst to me, I was suffering from the first week travel blues in a big way. You’ll know you’ve got a severe case of the travel blues in the moment it feels like the bottom has dropped out beneath you. Suddenly the smile you plaster on your face is all a lie for the cameras as you go about your travels feeling like the biggest fraud.
The East Coast
I soon hit my stride the moment I began my travels down the East Coast by Greyound bus. The East Coast of Australia is really easy to travel and I quickly met people and begun to enjoy myself. I went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, 4WD adventure touring on Fraser Island and sailing in the beautiful Whitsundays. By the time I pitched up in Melbourne funds were running very low and I settled into life in the city to put my working holiday visa to good use. I quickly found work, albeit some of it a bit random, began sharing a house with friends and generally living the high life in Melbourne with brunches every weekend and nights out on the town.
Plans Began To Change
Slowly but surely Australia got under my skin. As the end of my visa began to loom the feeling that I wasn’t ready to leave yet started to claw at me. I was enjoying Melbourne, loving my lifestyle and had a well-paid (but admittedly very dull data entry type) temp job. All around me, friends with particular skills like marketing, recruitment and print design were getting sponsored by their employers to stay longer in Australia. With no such skills on my resume apart from once being a kick-ass personal assistant in Local Government back home in the UK, I had to turn my hand to complete rural work in Australia to qualify for a second year visa.
Carrying out three months of farm work in a rural part of NSW is probably going to go down as one of the most memorable times of my life. In those three months I tried my hand at sheep shearing (I sucked), fencing, weeding paddocks, feeding livestock, driving tractors, herding cattle and carting wood. I also learned how to light a fire and keep it lit – something that comes in handy to this day and surprises my friends.
Start Of My Second Year
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I am a hopeless planner and my plans have a habit of being half formed at best. Although I was chomping at the bit to come straight back to Melbourne for my second year and carry on the fun, I actually ended up getting distracted (if you can call it that) by travelling in New Zealand for two years.
By the time I re-entered Australia it was early 2016. I felt it was time to relinquish my grip on the East Coast and start a new adventure over on the West. So Western Australia entered stage left as I finally gave this part of the country time to shine.
And I am so glad I did.
The last twelve months have seen me fall even more deeply in love with Australia. Over on the wild, rugged West Coast I have felt even more connected to the beautiful landscape of this country than I ever did before. The trips and adventures I have taken over the past year have been nothing short of incredible.
The West Coast
In the last twelve months I have explored Perth and its surrounds, from Rottnest Island to the Margaret River region and down to Albany and the South-West. I have travelled from Perth to Broome, taking in the breath-taking gorges of Karijini National Park, swimming with manta rays and discovering dinosaur footprints. I have witnessed stunning sunsets in places such as Lake Argyle and Cable Beach and travelled to some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in The Kimberley.
The Northern Territory And Beyond
My travel goals for this year have been nothing short of immense. As well as touring the West Coast I’ve journeyed up into the Northern Territory to Darwin, explored Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks plus ticked off a bucket list experience by visiting Uluru. I’ve ventured over to Tasmania where I spent almost three weeks driving as much of that island state as I could and also road-tripped along the famous Great Ocean Road.
Working As I Go
But all this travel doesn’t come cheap and so I have had to work to continue to fund my adventures. I spent several months out of my year Jurien Bay, 2.5 hours north of Perth working in a little restaurant, waiting tables and pouring pints to earn some cash.
Just like before in Melbourne I’ve found that I’ve had to take any job that I can to make money. Gone are the days when my CV may have gotten me a decent office job and I’ve come to realise that by choosing to travel I have sacrificed that side of my life. And I’m ok with that. I know I can’t have my cake and eat it and that forging ahead in a career takes a lot of hard work and determination.
Over the years I have spent away from a desk I have become to appreciate how much I do not miss that lifestyle. I am too restless, to spontaneous, too much of a dreamer and a wanderer. The thought of a full-time, desk-bound job makes me nervous. Travelling has opened my eyes to a way of life that focuses on money to support a way of life that I never thought was viable before I left home in 2011.
Thoughts On Leaving Australia
I can’t help but get emotional when I think about leaving Australia.
What have I done with the last two years of my life? In times like this I can’t allow myself to focus on all the things I haven’t done, which funnily enough centre around the employment side of things.
The people I talk to here are asking me ‘well, can’t you stay in Australia?’ and each comment they make twists the knife a little deeper. Sure, I could stay in Australia if I was a social worker, a teacher, a lawyer or a nurse. Someone with a skill that any country values and welcomes into their social system with the right kind of paperwork and amount of money. I could get sponsored and continue to work in Australia for many more years to come.
Instead I pulled pints, washed dishes and cut pizzas. I vacuumed floors, made beds and entered data into a computer until my eyeballs hurt. I resigned myself to ‘backpacker’ jobs because they were easier to obtain and flexible enough to allow me to focus on the main reason I was in Australia.
And travel is what I will focus on all the way onto that departing plane.
Perhaps I have let an opportunity of a lifetime slip through my fingers in failing to work my way up the career ladder in Australia and settle in a country where the sun shines and relaxed way of life makes me happy. But every time I find my thoughts wandering into this dark territory, I guide them back to travel.
My thoughts on leaving Australia may be bittersweet, but my goodness have I achieved some great things in twenty-four months. From the spiritual centre of the country at Uluru and beyond, I have walked, biked, flown, driven, kayaked, paddle-boarded and more to all four corners of this exhilarating country.
And these are the memories I choose to keep.
Over to you. Have you backpacked in Australia before? What were your thoughts when it was time to leave. Have you ever travelled or lived somewhere that you fell in love with and wished your time would never end? What did you do about this? I’d love to hear your stories!
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