Why aren’t you career driven? What’s your future plan? 

As someone in their mid twenties still travelling, living in hostels and working jobs in hospitality, I get this a lot. Mostly from snotty nosed teenagers on gap years who have been handed everything in life. Damn millenials. 

When I was school I was career driven. It was bled into me that the only path worth taking was education. That as a smart-ish kid, university was my best option. That’s all well and good telling someone who is 16 that education is their pathway but when I was coming through a school where there were thirty girls in each class with 12 class in each year group; a fair few of us fell through the cracks when it came to getting genuine course advice and careers talks. 

I’m not blaming my teachers for my lack of success in the professional world but as someone who struggles to focus on the here and now, the freedom of picking from a huge range of subjects was overwhelming. And ultimately I made the wrong decision. 

As someone who went on to university and pretty much scored a nothing degree because it was where my interests lay, I have advice for the younger generation. 

University is not for everyone! University is for doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers. It’s for engineers and scientists. For accountants and physiotherapists. And if at the age of 16-18 you have your mind set on a profession such as that, then by all means go to University. 

But for other people, look at apprenticeships, trades, manual skills, because later on in life after you studied sociology or media you will look back and wish you had a profession like this. Why? Because they give you freedom. Just as much as doctors are in demand worldwide, well so are plumbers, so are electricians, chefs and beauticians. 

Don’t be sold into buying a degree that won’t get you places because your school and your government want to immerse you into thousands of pounds worth of debt before you even know what you want to do with your life. 

When I finished university it was the hieght of the econmic recession in Ireland and the UK. Even finding  bar work was hard, as someone with a degree it made life even harder. ‘You’re overqualified!’ Because when you find a profession you’ll leave our company. Which was true. 

Instead I saved and packed my bags and left. And when I arrived in other countries there were so many people my age who had graduated doing the same thing and feeling the same way. Cheated. Because in countries like Australia and America and Canada if you have a skill you have the opportunity to live in paradise. If you have a degree it makes life harder to get sponsorship around the world with next to no experience. 

And you can’t get experience unless you have experience. So test the water and reflect on what you want to do with your life and don’t buy into a future that was never meant for you. 

The Kiwi Experience: The best way around New Zealand. 

A  dull day in Auckland has the capacity for any hearty soul to seek out action and adventure. Known as someone who often finds that in a bar, when the cost of a drink is almost equivalent to an hours wage, I personally couldn’t find the heart to drown my boredom in booze. For a change I found myself in Peterpans adventure travel store instead. 
Greeted by the lovely Ben I immediately informed him that I wanted a kiwi experience pass, one that was heading straight out of Auckland ASAP. You see, its not just Aucklands weather that was pretty dull that day but honestly, Auckland as a whole failed to capture my imagination that other cities like New York, Sydney and even London had always managed to inspire in me. The joy of fitting all your belongings into a rather large suitcase means that when you don’t like somewhere you can simply leave. The beauty of pikey life eh? 

Now the lovely Ben was a fountain of knowledge in advising me on the most sought our destinations in New Zealand and the adventure activities that both the North and South Islands have to offer. Telling me about the best deals of the week Ben set out on planning my trip with immediate effect. When we worked out the pass I needed at a great price,  he asked me when I would like to leave. 

‘Tomorrow!’ 

When I assured Ben that I was, n fact, deadly serious, he set about seeing if I could get on the bus heading North out of Auckland for first thing in the morning. And I could. Great Success!

Super Funky Bus pass bought and paid for. 

Ben, the absolute travel genius that he was, showed me leaflet after leaflet of the exciting adventure available to me when I travelled with kiwi. Not only that but he animatedly went through each destination recounting his own experiences and I was sold. 

With a mountain of activities booked and my bus booked for the morning I left Pererpans Auckland with adventure on my mind and my credit card on fire. Good job Ben. 


The major advantage of having my activities prepaid was obvious when I first got on the bus. With many of my fellow travellers worrying if they would have to miss some activities to be able to afford to eat I was at a major advantage. 

The beauty of The Kiwi Experience is that if you aren’t on limited time and find a spot that you like you simply have to call the bus office and tell them that you’re staying somewhere for a few more days. To get back on, give them a ring and they’ll put you on the next available bus out of there. As the Kiwi expression goes, sweet as! 

Most of the buses also have wifi on board, albeit a very minimal amount. The bus drivers are also incrediably helpful and informative. They pass around clipboards allowing travellers to sign up for that days activities and also help you arrange your accommodation with their partner hostels which are often Base and Nomads or smaller hostels when you visit the more remote parts of New Zealand. The beauty of Kiwi means that you are guaranteed limited accommodation in each destination, unless you would like to stay for more than the minimum timeframe. That means when places like Taupo and Queenstown are super busy you know you’re guaranteed a bed for the night. 

If you really want to make the most of your trip to New Zealand, you want to meet other open and friendly backpackers keen for a beer and a good time, then Kiwi is the way to travel. Regardless of whether your trip is long or short term they have so many options that let you experience the best that New Zealand has to offer. 

Sweet as! 

That ‘oh shit’ moment when you’re travelling. 

Everyone gets them, everyone who has travelled for an extended period of time. Jumping from city to city. Job to job. Bunk bed to bunk bed. Its the day you wake up and question everything you are doing. It’s the day you wake up with the prospect of  another basic breakfast, a cheap meal. Where you’re paying over the odds for accommodation just so you can stay away from home a little longer. 

It’s the day where you wake up and think, where is this taking me? Where am I going? What have I gained? 

So on days like that what do you do? 

1) Get out and about. Walk around the city, a lake, a park, a mountain. Visit friends. Look for a job. Keep busy. 

2) Plan your next route. Get excited about a new adventure. Another road. Another journey. 

3) Call home and talk about it. Ask your family or your friends and get their opinions. 

4) Write a list. I know (rolls eyes) a list? But really… write list. Weigh up the pro’s and con’s of where you are and where you want to be. 

5) Do something you don’t normally do. Go for a night out with new people. Sit with someone else at dinner. Talk to a few locals. 

6) Is this where you want to be? Would you settle here? 

Yes? Look for work and a place and stabilise yourself for a while! 

No? See what there is to see and then leave. Silly. 

Travel bug can turn to travel blues very quickly when your on your own and feeling down. If you’ve exhausted every option and home seems like the place to be then maybe it’s time! Think of everything you’ve accomplished. Of everywhere you have been and remember that admitting that it’s time to go home isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just another step on your journey. 

Things they should tell you when leaving Australia…

  • No matter where you wander, no matter where you roam you will forever compare every city to Sydney and Melbourne. Even in Wellington NZ, the home of New Zealand’s quirk and vibes, you’ll remember the streets of Melbourne, and the suburbs of Sydney’s coolest spots like Newtown and Bondi. 
  • Every traveller you meet, you will urge (almost bully) to visit the land down under as soon as they get the chance.

  • Nobody cares! Nobody at home cares that you’ve been to Australia, that you’ve lived in Australia, that Australia’s the coolest place ever. And why would they care if the inclination to visit that gorgeous country has never driven them to do it
  • You won’t be able to stop talking about it. ‘When I was in Cairns..’, ‘When I was working in Sydney…’, ‘My friends in Australia..’.         But you never should stop talking about it. Because what people don’t realise is that not only does travelling change you as a person. For example, maybe your accent isn’t as strong or you’ve made new friends or you’ve seen new things. But it changes your mindset too. You become more open to new possibilities, you’re more spontaneous, more out-going and open to cultures and people you would never have dreamed of talking to. Suddenly travelling across a country is nothing because you’ve travelled across the world.

  • You’ll miss the little things too. Like Tim-Tams, vegemite, going out without a jacket and arguing if flip-flops are called Thongs. (They’re flip-flops) 
  •  You’ll miss the social acceptability of the word C#%T, and other terms like fuckwit. Better hope you haven’t picked up the habit or you’ll get the wooden spoon to your ass when you get home. 
  • Most of all, they should tell you that you’ll feel homesick for somewhere that isn’t home. No matter how long or short a time spent in Oz, the country, culture and diversity of the people has this  incredible ability of sucking you in. Australia is home to so many different walks of life and for good reason, the beautiful beaches, the welcoming lifestyle, make Australia feel like home. 

Australia’s regional work: Backpacker Exploitation

As a condition of receiving your second year visa in Australia, backpackers are required to undergo 3 months or 88 days regional work in a rural community in order to apply. This work usually involves laboring, fruit picking, working on a ranch or even in an outback pub. Although the giving back concept makes sense considering the wealth of the experience you get travelling this beautiful country, a failure in regulation and supervision has resulted in many young people being exploited by farmers in order to get their visa forms signed off.

It’s amazing the what you are willing to put with when you want something badly enough and many backpackers who have traveled to Australia in search of a better life are willing to go through hell and back to spend another year in the country. Of course, this isn’t always the case, many complete and finish their farm work quickly and without a hitch but for more than a few it can be a desperate struggle.

My Story

I arrived at a working hostel in Mildura Victoria, eager and willing to get my hands dirty. The hostel had already found us work orange packing and everything seemed to be running smoothly. At first the hostel seemed a little run down but after a few days it quickly became home. The orange packing job was however, an absolute nightmare. Eight of us went on the first day, excited to be starting a new job and working towards our second year visa only to be met by a snarling woman who seemed to be hell bent on making us miserable. Four of the girls quit after the first day, but as someone who is pretty stubborn I was determined to continue on and get my days signed off as soon as I could.

We worked for the orange packing shed for five weeks. For the first week, because we were only ‘learning’, she paid us ten dollars an hour, which is illegal, but we needed those days!! The woman berated us constantly about our work, threatened to cut our pay, shouted at us every two minutes and talked about us with her daughter in law, calling us stupid even though we were stood right beside her. All in all we weren’t even human to her. Although the working hostel were well aware of the temperament of our employer and the conditions in which we were working, nothing was done.

After five weeks the job finished as the packing shed were unable to sell the oranges. Unsurprising considering the employer had the same business acumen of a toilet brush. So now I needed another job, but the mindset of the owners of the working hostel was that newcomers got priority. Speaking to our fellow backpackers it became apparent that it was easy to get trapped in the hostel for long periods of time without work. This meant you couldn’t leave because you needed work and you only got enough work in order to pay them rent. Catch 22. Often this work was one or two days, sometimes washing cars or laboring and didn’t contribute to the visa conditions. Girls struggled the most as it was easier for the boys to get manual labor jobs. One girl had spent six months of her visa there trying to secure her 88 days, due to lack of work from the hostel owners and because farmers would refuse to sign the forms.

In all I spent four and a half months in Mildura, and don’t get me wrong I had an amazing time, made some amazing friends and in the end, I got my visa. Others haven’t been so lucky. My friend was unable to complete her farm work even though she arrived in August and her first year visa didn’t finish until February, she still hadn’t completed enough days to be able to apply for another year due to the hostel not giving her enough work. She left Australia bitterly disappointed and let down by how the system works.

The working hostels are mostly at fault for promising work on which they can not deliver and further exploiting backpackers in order to make a profit on rent. It seemed as though we were denied work so we stayed longer as we could only afford rent and not afford to leave. Although efforts are now being invested in changing the terms it seems ironic that the government has allowed this to continue for so long considering that the Australian economy and farming industry has relied heavily on the backpacker culture a lot of whom have turned their backs on this beautiful country in order to explore a much more welcoming New Zealand and Asia.

 

Christmas in Coogee

Eventually leaving Mildura was probably the most anticipated departure of the year and excitement was high when boarding the V Line coach for Sydney in the early hours on the 23rd of December. 

Saying goodbye was somewhat bittersweet; our hostel room that bore an uncanny resemblance to a crack den had become our home over the space of four months. Leaving that happy little comfort zone and heading back to the big city seemed like a daunting adventure. 
  
What was even more daunting was arriving in Sydney and finding out that the apartment we had booked over the holiday period was no longer available and we were none the wiser. It soon became clear that four months in Mildura had severely affected everyones mental capacity because not one of us thought to check. 

Looking on the bright side, being stranded at central station seemed hilarious to me. McDonald’s for Christmas dinner then yeah? 

Fortunately we managed to get another place with an even better deal through ‘Airbnb’ right beside Coogee beach. Couldn’t have asked for better. 
  
True to tradition the spacious apartment for four soon became a cramped apartment for ten with every wharf and stray occupying a comfy space on the beds, sofas. floors. Backpackers eh? 
  
(I slept on a bean bag. Best spot in the house.)

Determined to celebrate the holidays away from home in style, going out to town and getting smashed seemed like the only viable option. Classy! 

So Christmas Eve was spent in Pontoon in darling harbour with strong drinks and good friends. 
Nursing a few hangovers Christmas dinner seemed like a task for some. But with everyone in high spirits and with plenty of.. Well… Spirits. The lads soon got the dinner on while the girls danced around, got drunk and sang Christmas songs, because we all can’t be trusted in a kitchen.  
  
Needless to say they done a great job, dinner was delicious and a Christmas away from family didn’t seem like such a sad prospect when you are enjoying great food with great friends. 
  
Arriving back at the squat house, I mean, apartment I soon discovered that the whole of Coogee beach fancied a party at our place. That all went tits up when the electricity went out. It was also terribly convenient that it was only our apartment that had lost power. Apparently the building attendant wasn’t our biggest fan nor did he appreciate the mess the following day because we spent the next three days apologising and avoiding eye contact with anyone in the lift. Whoops!! 

But it was Christmas Day after all, who invited the fun police? 
All in all Christmas was the best I could have hoped for, spent with the best people in an amazing part of the world. 

  

Farmer wants a … Visa. 

So after four and a half months in Sunny Mildura my farming experience has came to an end; and what an experience it was. 

  
It’s hard for people to comprehend what you encounter in that kind of environment. For the past four months we’ve been living in bubble. Surrounded by other backpackers in a working hostel, working on the most obscure jobs and going out to the same places every weekend. Arriving back in Sydney the bubble has burst. 

The odd thing about Australia is that if you venture past the cities into the smaller towns you revert back to 50’s and earn a peek into the past. Which is fairly unsurprising considering how young the country is and how vast the land is. 

I’ve been yelled at by a five foot Italian lady because I packed her oranges incorrectly. I fucking HATE oranges!!

  
I’ve planted onions sitting on the frozen ground at 6am. Only for the farmer to tell us that they don’t actually sell the onions they just sell the seeds from the plant.  P. s. It does get cold in Australia. 

  
I’ve planted grape vines in excruciating heat. By far the hardest labour I’ve ever faced in my life. I came home covered in mud, every muscle aching from squatting all day. 

I’ve driven a quad in the outback planting pistachio trees and picked broad beans for 6 hours and never got paid.  I’ve cut twigs from Orange trees into smaller twigs. Too what end? God knows! 

  
I’ve cleaned cars and canvas tents so I could pay rent when no farm work was available. 

I ended my farming experience working in a garlic factory. A bloody garlic factory!!! 

  
I’ve also lay near a vineyard until 6am and watched shooting stars. I’ve been to a bush party in the outback. partied all night and watched the sun come up by the river. I’ve made friends I’ll never forget and spoken to people from all over the world. 

  
Needless to say it’s been pretty unconventional. I would never have done any of that at home and it’s been pretty eye opening. 

Now I know a few things for sure… 

I can do anything I put my mind to. 

That no job will ever be worse than standing in an orange packing shed while a crazy woman screams at you about oranges and then talks about you like you aren’t there and like you aren’t actually a human being. 

  
That my mind will give up long before my body ever does. Fecking grape vines!!

  
That respect is earned. 

That people will take advantage of you if you let them. 

A lot of Australians hate backpackers. 

Every bad experience can be counteracted if you surround yourself with amazing people… And I’ve met the most amazing people!

    
  
All in all in the last four months I’ve had some of the worst experiences of my life. But the good outweighs the bad by a long shot and I don’t regret a thing. 

VISA pending….. 

#prayfortheMilduraTwo

The Citrus Chronicles: Update

Day 34 Mildura

The last two weeks have felt like the twilight zone.

The mental disposition in our living quarters are now in a rapid state of decline. We believe that we have not only been infiltrated but that the enemy have attempted to poison us with some substance named ‘goon.’ Little do they know that these poisons no longer have any effect on us, we are already immune.

In retaliation the dwarf has suspended the orange packing endurance tests for two weeks in order to see how long we can survive without the little they pay us. We knew they had something up their sleeve when her minions were handing out doughnuts at break time, the sadistic fiends.

We are now trapped in our cells for extended periods of time, often leading to bouts of irregular behaviour. We have taken to drinking the poison goon for fun in the desperate hope of some form of escapism. We are dispirited but we are not defeated. We shall once again rally and plot our revenge. We shall prevail dear friends and another year on this vast land will be ours!

Pray for the Mildura Two.