A lot of people embark on long-term travel these days, and experience all those normal feelings one would get before setting off into the unknown: excitement, hope, trepidation. You have ideas of how things will be, but you can never really know, and you can never truly prepare for what your travels will throw at you.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt whilst being in Australia since December 2016.
1. Don’t panic about money.
By February of this year, Rob and I had $0 between us. We spent the last of our money on canned food and rice and made it last. I cried, and then I got over it. Luckily we are on a working holiday meaning we can pick up jobs, so we started picking grapes in local vineyards. The pay was shockingly bad and the 4am starts were tough, but by being savvy with our cash, we eventually replenished our funds enough to drive across the width of Australia and continue our travels. I don’t worry about money now. If I have to spend out on something and end up with no money again, I know there’s always a way. Rob and I will help each other out. I’ll find another job or sell some stuff I’ve accumulated. No biggie. I’d rather have another great memory than a fatter bank balance. And another thing is that Rob and I really don’t need much money – living cheaply, if we’re careful, is so possible and teaches a valuable lesson. As long as I have food in my belly and somewhere warm to sleep, I feel so overwhelmingly grateful.
2. I really can do anything I put my mind to. (Maybe sometimes with a little help).
This sounds cheesy, but it’s true. After my first day of grape picking, I so wanted to give up, but I didn’t. And by the end, I was picking enough daily to earn minimum wage (no easy feat, let me tell you). Rob and I succeeded in measuring and building a shelf in the back of our van for our fridge to comfortably fit on. We removed the old and fitted the new car radio (with a little help from a fellow Welshman). We took our entire dashboard apart. We fitted Speedy’s roof rack with a few borrowed tools from Old Knocker’s scrapyard. We knew nothing about any of these things – but now we do. We drove from one side of Australia to the other. We are unstoppable, especially as a team!
3. I can go out on my own and have a really good time.
I used to get too nervous to go out on my own, because back home no one really does that – and when you know a lot of people, there’s not really any reason to. But with Rob and I working different hours in Melbourne and having a lot of evenings to myself, I’ll be damned if I’m spending them in the flat alone! I now have the confidence to go out and meet people, have a few drinks over some pool and enjoy Melbourne for the social place it is. After losing confidence the past few years, it’s so good to have it back.
4. If the boss is a dick, leave.
It’s not called a working misery visa, it’s a working holiday visa, and my travels are too precious and short to spend miserable working hard for someone who doesn’t appreciate it. I could be doing that crap back home. My last boss was a paranoid psycho and after a month of never getting anything right and being berated because I couldn’t read his mind, I walked out and never looked back. In the normal world I wouldn’t leave a job until I’d found another, but my sanity and enjoyment of life here is much more important than some stupid cash-in-hand job. And guess what? I found another job the next week.
5. Don’t plan too much.
Having a rough outline of must-see places and being aware that my time here isn’t infinite is good, otherwise I’ve seen people waste almost all their visa in one place, but I hate micro-managing everything. I like not knowing where I’ll be in a week or a month’s time. It leaves us free to add things in last minute, like recommendations of people you meet along the way, and keeps things fresh. Going with the flow lead us to buying a van and driving across the country, meeting so many good people and having some awesome unexpected adventures. I don’t know where I’ll be in 6 months’ time, but I can definitely feel the pull of buying a new plane ticket upon me, and I’m excited!
I’m sure I have much more to learn before we leave Australia, but those are the lessons I’m going to carry with me from now on.
Until next time…