Getting a Working Holiday visa is becoming more and more popular as people start to realize that travelling is awesome and don’t want to stop. But seeing this incredible world is pricey and unless you’re a super hot Instagram superstar (seriously, why are there so many?!), it takes a lot to save enough cash to fund your travels.
If like me you just can’t wait to travel, doing a Working Holiday is the perfect option for becoming Dora the Explorer, ASAP. So I’ve decided to start a series of interviews with fellow expats who have taken the leap. I hope to help fuel your wanderlust and encourage you to do a Working Holiday because it really is one of the best ways to broaden your mind and your experiences of the world.
The most popular countries we travellers are choosing to live and work in are the UK, Canada – this is where I started in 2015 – Australia and New Zealand, but there are so many more options for living and working abroad. This series will cover all these countries and more, including China and even Russia!
Introducing…Trang from the USA
Where are you from originally?
I’m Vietnamese, but I was born in America so I hold a US passport.
Why did you decide to do a Working Holiday Visa (WHV)?
When I took my first solo trip backpacking in Europe for three months, I was bitten by the travel bug and didn’t want to stop. Fortunately, a traveller I met in a hostel told me to look into a Working Holiday Visa which would allow me to work and live abroad.
After a lengthy Google search, I decided to settle on Australia. Only a few countries allow US citizens to do a working holiday.
How did you go about it?
I’m a budget traveller so I tried to do everything by myself instead of going through an agency, which can charge a high service fee. I found the Australian immigration website and applied there. It was a very easy process: you fill out your passport information and pay a fee. Within six weeks, you’re supposed to receive an email confirmation. I got my approval emailed to me in three days!
READ MORE: Check out my short guide on how to apply for the visa and work in Australia here.
If you’re from the US, you can read Trang’s in-depth guide here.
How did you prepare?
In order to have money, you need to earn more and spend less, right? So after college, I started working two part-time jobs, sold as many of my belongings as I could and cut back on unnecessary expenses such as eating out at expensive places.
Sounds easy enough! What job did you do and how did you get it?
Most travellers get a restaurant, bar, or retail job. I really wanted an office job so I could keep my evenings and weekends free. It took two long months of applying for jobs online; I later realized I had done it all wrong. When it comes to office jobs, the best way is to get in touch with a recruiter. It’s also difficult because so many people come to Australia looking to do the same thing.
I was lucky to have a travel friend who referred me to his recruiter, who gave me my first assignment, with one of them being a data entry employee at a transportation/tolling company. Once the data entry work ran out, I asked for more work and the company put me on an investigation assignment. After that work ran out, they put me in another department to be a credit officer and collect the debt.
So what was your highlight?
I feel really blessed to have made friends at the company I worked for, that I still keep in touch with. Also, the Couchsurfing community in Melbourne is pretty strong compared to other cities I’ve been to, so it’s great to meet other travellers and locals alike. Finally, Melbourne is a fantastic city for people who love coffee & food (like me!), culture, and art.
How much travelling did you manage to do whilst on your WHV?
Every few months, I would go on a day or weekend trip from the city to places such as Sovereign Hill, Phillip Island, and the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road. After my work holiday visa expired, I left Australia and hopped back in with a three-month tourist visa to travel throughout Australia. Places I visited included Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Perth, and Rottnest Island.
Have there been any downsides to a WHV?
The cost for the Australia working holiday visa is pretty hefty. It used to be around $170 when I applied. But now it’s bumped up to $300+. The most difficult part is finding work. I’m not going to lie, I definitely struggled during those two months of unemployment. I’m not sure what I would’ve done it wasn’t for my friend who referred me to his recruiter.
And what have you learned from the experience?
It is possible to pick yourself up and start a life in a completely different country. People are so welcoming and hospitable – more than you think. There have been so many people who welcomed me into their homes and lives, showing me around just because I was new to Australia.
What advice would you give to others thinking of doing a WHV to become an expat in Australia?
Definitely look into it! However, it’s only available for people 30 years old and under. I was able to save so much money. In fact, after 10 months of work, I saved about $17,000-$18,000. I used that money to travel an entire year in Asia and still had about $7,000-$8,000 left over in the bank. I was able to save a lot more in Australia compared to when I worked in the states. Why? In America, most of my paycheck paid for expensive rent, my car, car insurance/maintenance, and health insurance. In Australia, I got around with public transportation. This cut a huge amount of costs from my monthly expenses.
Even though Australia has a higher cost of living, the pay is high to match it (which by the way, the minimum wage is about $20/hour—that includes working at places such as Starbucks and McDonald’s!). And if you work on holidays, you get paid double the rate!
Give one travel tip for Australia
When you come to Australia, try to find work as soon as possible. I knew travellers who spent money on fun expensive nights out before getting a job and found themselves later struggling financially. Also, travel to Rottnest Island to see these cute creatures called quokkas!
Name 3 of your favourite places or things to do as an expat in Australia
Grabbing coffee and brunch and hitting up a market on the weekend. Attending a festival (ie. art, film, culture). There are so many in Melbourne, another reason why I loved living there. Going to the one huge casino down the street after work; I walked past it when I was walking home and just played a few rounds of blackjack or roulette just for fun.