Let’s face it, travelling can be expensive. Travel in developed countries even more so. Once you’ve added up the transport, the insurance, the food, the accommodation – well, the number at the end can be pretty scary. Even when travelling on a serious budget, if you want to see everything, you’re still going to end up spending a fair bit. As my recent article on the costs of travelling around Australia demonstrated.
And the thing is, we aren’t all in a position where our savings accounts happen to let us give everything up for a while and head off into the wide blue yonder. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing so. How, you ask? Why, with the wondrous working holiday visa scheme of course!
The small print
Before we go on, here are some brief caveats. To qualify for a working holiday visa, you usually need to meet some criteria. You need, for example, to be of a certain age, usually under 31. You need to have at least some funds, to demonstrate you will be able to afford to support yourself in your destination country. And you will need to be from one of the countries that participates in the working holiday visa scheme. There are a few more of these, but those are the major ones.
What is a working holiday visa?
So what’s it all about then? Well, it’s pretty simple. A working holiday visa allows you to travel in a country for a period of time, often one or two years, plus, and most importantly, it lets you do some work whilst you are travelling.
And working whilst travelling carries myriad advantages, not least of which being that you will be earning money. So instead of sitting back home in a job saving up for your trip, you can actually be on your trip saving up for your trip! Pretty cunning.
Now you may be thinking that you would prefer to be at home saving up, and leave the trip for an actual holiday. And of course, that is your decision. It was what I did for my year long trip around Australia, where the WHV I was issued did little more than allow me to stay in the country for a full year. However, I believe that there are some serious advantages to actually working whilst you travel, which I will now go through:
The cultural side of it.
There is a lot of talk about “authentic” travel, and experiencing the “culture” of a place. Personally I’m not convinced about the idea of travelling being anything other than authentic, the experience you get is a reflection of the place you visit. Whether or not it matches up to your expectations is, of course, another matter.
But to really get a handle of what life is like for the folks who live in the places you are visiting, to understand how the culture works, you may want to do more than just skim through. And getting a job is a pretty decent way to go about getting a cultural experience you are unlikely to forget.
You’ll meet people and get to grips with more than the skin deep impression that travel can sometimes give.
Travelling for longer.
The world is a big place. But there is no rush – it’s not really going anywhere in a hurry. If travelling long term is something you really want to do as a lifestyle choice, then you’re going to need some means to sustain yourself.
If you don’t already have some form of job that you can travel with, then temporary positions as you move around are going to be your best shot. There are no shortage of countries that take part in the WHV scheme, so you could keep going for some time before you hit 31, and then head off to the rest of the countries that you want to see which don’t offer the same scheme. Think long term, and the possibilities do seem fairly unlimited!
Money makes the world go round. Travelling can be done on a budget, but that budget has to come from somewhere. If you are able to earn money as you go, then you can travel for longer. Or, you can spend money on more experiences as you go, with less concern about how you’re going to pay off all those credit card bills when you get home. If you find the right role and get enough hours of work, you can pretty much offset the cost of your trip, plus be richer in experience. An awesome feeling.
Some countries offer incentives to folks on the working holiday visa scheme. In Australia for example, if you work for three months in a designated type of work (usually back breaking fruit picking), then you can extend your visa by an additional year. A whole extra year for three months work, certainly pretty cool.
There are, of course, some downsides to the scheme. Some of the countries, for example, place restrictions on how long you can work for one employer for. Sometimes work can be hard to find. It can be, on occasion, a frustrating and difficult experience, and often the casual sort of work you find can require long hours for minimal pay, so your dreams of saving up whilst you travel could be tough to achieve.
However, with perseverance and optimism, you should be able to get something that suits your lifestyle and wants.
Just bear in mind that any major lifestyle change carries with it risk, and change is often uncomfortable. The benefits, in my mind at least, far outweigh any of the downsides.
For more information on the working holiday visa schemes, and whether or not you are eligible to participate, as well as further country specific information, this Wikipedia entry has all sorts of useful information. If you have any questions on this article, or feedback on your experiences with working holiday visa schemes, please comment below, or head on over to the site’s Facebook Page.