1. Stereotypical Australia
You know how you picture Australia as beaches, ocean, surf and sun? Well, it’s true. Living on the Gold Coast of Australia has felt like a vacation the entire year I’ve been here – but I’ve gotten way more out of it than a vacation.
2. It’s Too Far Away for a Vacation
Australia is really (really) far away. Seriously, between the flights, layovers and adjusting to the time change you’ve already wasted the two weeks vacation you get from your entry level job that you hate. And it’s expensive to fly places that are really far away. So really, a two week vacation to Australia doesn’t even begin to do it justice – if you’re going to spend $2000 on a round trip, you better make the stuff in between pretty damn worth it.
You know how you haven’t travelled yet because it’s too expensive? If you can afford your visa and a one way ticket to Australia, you can make it. I came to Australia after saving my money from working two jobs and living at home paying no rent (in Indiana, nonetheless – one of the cheapest places to live because there are more cornfields than people) so you can bet I saved a lot. Then I came to Australia, lived on the 35th floor of a beachfront apartment, visited the Great Barrier Reef (twice), the mountains, numerous beaches, Sydney, Melbourne, a two week trip to Thailand, a one week trip to New Zealand plus my ticket back to America and came home with the same amount of money I saved before I left. My job? Waitressing about 30 hours a week (in a non-tipping culture).
Australia pays their employees so well and quality of life is so important that you can have an average job and live a great life. And after it all, you get a nice bonus when you receive ALL YOUR TAXES BACK from Australia. It’s worth experiencing for a year.
4. Quality of Life
Imagine a minimum wage twice that of America’s, six weeks paid vacation every year, higher rates for working on the weekends – this isn’t the American Dream, this is the Australian reality. The Australian notion of quality of life includes an actual work/life balance where 25-year-olds can travel for four weeks in Europe and their bosses say, “Have a great time, see you when you get back!” Australians don’t buy material things to improve their quality of life; they buy plane tickets to experience life and are given the opportunity to do so.
5. Australian People
Because Australians are taught to value quality of life, they completely respect foreigners coming into their country as travellers (as long as you are respectful to their country). They are warm, welcoming and genuinely interested in what you are doing, where you are from and where you are going next. As an American, this taught me an important lesson: that a non-English accent isn’t an inconvenience, it’s a hint that there is a story behind the traveller.
6. “Culture Nudge”
You know the term culture shock? That’s what I thought I would experience when I flew halfway around the world – something so different from how I was raised that it shocked me, made me uncomfortable and forced me to see things a different way. That’s not Australia – here, the cultural differences exist, but they are subtle. It’s an idea, a perception, a subtle way of reacting to things that make you slow down, open your eyes and see things a different way. Where different values are important, such as treating others with curiosity, not fear and skepticism. Caring about work/life balance. A true love and respect for the environment. Small notions that exist in America here and there but aren’t put into practice in our everyday lives.
7. Backpacker Status
Because Australians are so open to travellers, you are instantly accepted into this backpacker network bursting with connections and opportunities. Because people genuinely ask about your life and listen in return, they offer suggestions on other places to visit or even supply job offers to help continue your journey. You also meet dozens of other backpackers from around the world – I had close friends from Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, Brazil, Thailand, Taiwan and more. You learn the lesson that if you keep your door open for a friend, they will keep theirs open for you (although I have yet to have any takers on Indiana – but hey, the door is open).
8. “Gateway Drug”
You know when they say marijuana is the gateway drug to harder drugs? Australia is the gateway country for harder traveling. It’s far enough away that it makes you uncomfortable and requires you to adjust, but it’s familiar enough it doesn’t terrify you. Australia’s subtle differences allow you to think and process these changes. You’re introduced to a traveling culture that supports your efforts. Most importantly, Australia either satisfies or feeds your wanderlust. You can come to Australia, spend your year away from home to get your “20-something travel fix” then return ready to start your adult life; or you can use the doors you’ve opened and knowledge you’ve gained to keep the journey going. Either way, in whatever you’re looking for, a working holiday in Australia can find both of these things for you (and give you a good tan along the way).