Travel guilt

For some reason in Irish society travelling for long periods of time is often seen as a selfish act. It’s met with an attitude that the traveller is unable to commit to an occupation, a place, a lifestyle. That that person is somewhat lost in life and has no stability, no sense of the real world. I doubt this is a view held by Irish society alone but in my experience many of my friends from other parts of the world are told to keep travelling as long as they can. Their families and communities often tend to be more supportive of their nomadic way of life.

Ireland boasts the most amount of passport holders in the world yet when you travel abroad you often find that the Irish that have escaped the confines of their native homeland tend to then settle in the first place they land. They get full time jobs and build a home from home, often surrounded by other Irish natives. Immigrating rather than travelling, some stay for years then venture home, others stay forever.

However if you are like me, someone jumping between countries, cities and jobs, you are likely viewed as someone running away from commitment. You are often meet with the thought provoking question of what are your plans? What are you doing with your life?

Well, I’m travelling. This is my life. I’ll work dead end jobs for next to nothing in order to take in views from mountain tops and lie in the sun on beaches in far off places. And what’s wrong with that?

We humans have a tendency to believe that a life well lived is one that conforms to age old rituals of settling down, finding careers and starting families. That travelling is healthy for a while but not for forever. I know as much as my parents love me they don’t approve of my lifestyle. They think my heads in the clouds. Communication is hard, keeping touch is hard because as much as I miss them I can’t bring myself to go home or settle somewhere permanently. And I can see in their eyes and hear in their voices that I’m once again letting them down.

I am plagued with Irish guilt. The guilt that my family miss me. The guilt that the people I love are another year older, another year without me there to watch them growing old. To hear of their aches and pains and hatred for their nine to five while I live in a fantasy land in my head on the other side of the world. It’s always a case of, ‘when are you coming home?’, ‘why are you still out there anyway?’ The guilt rises like bile in your stomach and I’m forced to try and rewire my brain to consider the prospect of going home when my heart searches for travel. Where my soul searches for unfamiliar streets and secluded lands where life is light and fun and free. And once you’ve had a taste of that it’s hard to let it go.

Truth is I’m not running but I’m seeking, I’m looking for my place in the world but staying in one spot has never made any sense to me. And I keep on moving because I haven’t found somewhere where I’ve felt like I’ve needed to stay. Where I’ve found contentment or happiness more than my nomadic life grants me. I don’t yearn for my own house or a career more than I yearn for that feeling of when a plane touches ground, or for more than new sights, new smells, new sounds and new places. New prospects, new jobs, new skills and new friends. So I push that guilt from the forefront of my mind and I quell it in my heart for a time and I set off again trying to find my place in this world. But maybe I never will. Maybe it’s the journey that’s right for me.

Sorry Mum, I love you all but I won’t be home just yet.

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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.

 

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.