A Working Holiday in Australia – What I Did Wrong

Throughout our travels, we often came across people who have made travelling their LIFE – they have been travelling for years and years. They don’t ever want to go home. The world is their home. I was intrigued, how can they afford it?

One way to do this, obviously, is to stop and work in a place for a bit. And a fairly popular place of doing this seems to be – Australia

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The cute traditional Queensland home which we rented a room in

So instead of going home after 7 months of travelling, we decided to apply for an Australian working holiday visa and go for it too. We weren’t anywhere near ready to go home yet, plus we hoped to make enough money for more months of travelling.

We decided to fly to the wonderful city of Brisbane, Queensland. On the basis that it seemed cheaper to live in than Sydney and Melbourne, and we didn’t fancy working on a farm.

We were actually so excited to stop and work in a place for a bit, that on our first day we set up bank accounts, bought a phone, went to the library and created a CV and started applying for jobs. We even joined a gym.

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My excitement for the new life in a new country lasted about a month before I was longing to be back in Asia, travelling, I even missed England a little bit! A feeling I had never had before.

I worked more jobs in 5 months in Australia than I had ever had in England in my life. I worked some hard commission-based sales jobs that I would never have believed myself confident enough to do. But I did it. I also had jobs working at farmers markets in the countryside, in photography, and a waitress job in a cafe. I had to get up so early for some of these jobs that I used to walk almost an hour alone in the dark at 4am to the train station as the public transport wasn’t running that early. I would constabtly be on ‘gumtree’ – searching for new jobs advertised for backpackers.

We had a nice house which we rented with great house mates. And Brisbane was beautiful, a city built so perfectly. When I wasn’t working, I would be sunbathing by the river, swimming in the lagoon, enjoying the perfect weather, or having BBQs in the park. It was a perfect city to live in.

But still, I sometimes found myself counting down the weeks until it was time to leave and be back on the road again.

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The lagoon, my favourite place in Brisbane

Even though I worked a total of 6 jobs over the 4-5 months I lived there, I only managed to save enough for 3 weeks travelling in Asia.

So, what did we do so wrong?

1. Time

We only stayed for 4 and a half months in Australia. If we had stuck at it for longer I believe we could have saved more money, as starting out somewhere new is never easy and always takes TIME.

2. Money

We arrived in Australia with practically no money. It wasn’t a nice experience walking around such a beautiful city; past so many amazing restaurants, having to walk past knowing you’re going home for noodles once again. We ended up having to borrow money to get us started in our first month, then of course we all had to pay it back later. So remember, make sure you have enough money to get you started.

3. Negativity

I got myself in a bad mind space. I started to struggle to make sales in my commission based jobs, which made me feel more negative. So did having no money, and it made me miss my family back home. If I had managed to remain positive and grateful for the opportunity to be living and working in Australia, then I’m sure it would have been easier.

4.Location and Jobs

Maybe we chose the wrong place to go and work, maybe it was the jobs we were going for – looking back, it would have been a good idea to do an RSA course which would have opened up the opportunity to work in a bar or as a waitress in a restaurant. Or  maybe we should have gone to the outback, maybe we should have worked on a farm…

Either way, one thing I want to make clear is that I don’t regret going at all.  I look back fondly on my time living in Brisbane.

But the way I did it, Australia certainly didn’t provide me with the funds to continue travelling for very long…

A Working Holiday in Australia - What not to do!
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Hi, I'm Zoe. Welcome to Zo Around The World! Since 2012, I have travelled to 24 countries within 4 continents. Zo Around The World is a collection of my travel experiences – particularly writing about backpacking and budget travel. I am a self confessed over-organised travel planner, travel has become my favourite part of my life and let me show you how it can become yours too

10 thoughts on “A Working Holiday in Australia – What I Did Wrong

  1. I’m looking to go to Australia next year to work. I was also thinking Brisbane. Do you know anything about admin/office roles in Oz – are they hard to come by for people on working holiday visas?

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    1. Hi Abbi, Brisbane is an amazing city and it was such a nice place to live. I found that a lot of the ads for admin jobs said no working holiday visa applicants, or they asked for experience which I didn’t have at the time! Hopefully you’ll find it easier. Good luck 🙂

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  2. I just did a working holiday in Aus too. I think Brisbane is actually one of the easier places to find work. But with so many backpackers there and the visa only allowing you to work 6 months at a time for any one employer finding work is hard. Backpacker labour is also seen as very disposable in Aus. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip despite the struggle though! Its a brave thing to try and do on your own

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  3. Interesting read! You hear so many stories about how lucrative a working holiday in OZ is it’s cool to hear another viewpoint. Sorry it didn’t work out for you, but hopfully you managed to travel around a bit more aftwards 🙂

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  4. I can totally relate to this post! I also only spent 4.5 months in Oz and also had a hard sales job that I hated. My time in Australia (other than my Great Ocean Road trip) wasn’t pleasant, but I’m hoping that someday I’ll get to have a second chance with Australia. It really is an amazing country and there’s so much still to see and do.

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    1. Sorry to hear your time there wasn’t pleasant, I’m also hoping to head back to Australia one day for a second chance! I agree it is a really amazing country 🙂

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  5. First of all I wanna tell you that I stalked your blog for probably an hour now and I basically fell in love. I love your writting skills and your tips are worth gold. I could tell you know that I also have a blog and I also blog about my travel-experiences here in Australia and I won’t stop traveling after going back home, BUT my blog is in german (sometimes I really regret that, cause many friend I made here don’t speak german, but on the other hand I started my blog way earlier and that absolutly not the point, so I stop that now :D)
    The whole reason why I write this comment is actually just to tell you, that I am currently in Australia – no way *surprised face* – and I totally get, why your time here was how it was, but you should definetly come back at some stage, this time then with enough money – holy moly last year I would have never imagined HOW crazy expensive traveling actually is, even though I tried/ try to do it the cheapest way possible. And I am not even traveling the whole time cause I am here as an AuPair (currently around Perth) but I have also been working in Adelaide and I visited the Outback, Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road and the Grampiens, East Coast from Cairns down to Brisbane, Sydney and now I am doing some weekend trips here in Western Australia and from all the places I loved the Outback and Western Australia the best. It’s far more… basic?! Sounds weird, but I mean by that, that it’s not about the cities and parties and what ever but about nature, culture and a beautiful time. So next time see the other side of the continent. 🙂
    Ok after writing this far to long comment I’ll go on and stalk a bit further 😀
    You’re doing a great job here and your blogdesign looks amazing!
    See you, Saskia xxx

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