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.

Instagram: bronagh_doc


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. 


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.