Living the Dream in Australia

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Lauren spent 10 months in Australia in 2004-2005 on BUNAC’s Work Australia program.

I arrived in Australia with no real plan, only boundless enthusiasm and a borderline obsession with koalas. After spending nearly a year in Europe on BUNAC’s Britain/Ireland combo program, I wasted no time in signing up for Work Australia. My college roommate, Alexa, and I boarded a plane in November, gladly trading the frosty Indiana weather for the Aussie summer.

We started with an orientation in Sydney that gave us a firm foundation for our time in Australia. The BUNAC office helped us apply for our Tax File Numbers, told us about which deadly animals to fear (brown snakes), which ones to ignore (drop bears), and which ones only looked dangerous (huntsman spiders). After a week of exploring Sydney, Alexa and I realized that we wanted a slightly different existence, one that didn’t take place in a major city.

We returned to the BUNAC office in search of advice. Where, for example, could you find fruit picking work that was near the coast? A staff member suggested that we head north to Coffs Harbour. Within a few days, we’d purchased East Coast passes with Greyhound and we were on our way.

The great thing about my time in Australia was that I got the chance to try things I’d never have attempted anywhere else. I worked as a fruit picker, carny (twice!), hostel cleaner, bungee trampoline operator, and receptionist. Australia caters to the backpacker in a way that I’ve never experienced anywhere else, as long as you’re willing to be flexible with your work.

I traveled as far north as Cairns and as far west as Perth, using trains, planes, and a beat-up old Peugeot that we co-purchased with some other travelers. I learned to SCUBA dive, attempted to surf, saw my first whale in the wild, and even held a koala (sadly, not as cuddly as they look). I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first glimpsed the opera house, but it turned out better than I’d imagined. (A lot better, actually – I got engaged to an Aussie a few years later and now I’m back in Oz for good!)

What would I have done differently?

  • Money: BUNAC now suggests that you bring $5000AUD for your arrival. This is a reasonable amount of money, much more than I came with. Even if you don’t spend it all, it’s better to have too much than too little. You’ll need funds to tide you over until you find work, especially if you rent an apartment.
  • Worked out a budget: I lived paycheck to paycheck, which was tough because I didn’t have a regular paycheck! It all worked out, but it’s not so fun when you’re down to your last $20 and aren’t sure where your next job’s coming from.

What wouldn’t I change?

  • Flexibility: For the first time in my life, I operated under a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality. I didn’t commit to any location or stress about finding a job in my field; I had a good time, explored the country, and met some fantastic people.
  • Travel: I came home broke, but happy. Australia’s a big country so you can’t see it all, but don’t let that keep you in Sydney for 12 months. Focus on the places you really want to visit first, and see more if you have time. I imagine that this is especially easy if you come with extra funds!

Lauren Fitzpatrick is a three-time BUNAC veteran with over thirty international odd jobs to her name. She now lives in Australia and blogs about her traveling life at Lateral Movements.

Ready to take the leap to your very own work abroad adventure? Give us a call on 866-220-7771 and we can get your started!