Everything always seems so clear in hindsight, but if you haven't left yet for your working holiday in Australia yet, then you just don't have the benefit of prior experience to learn from. This dilemma often leads working holiday makers down a path with a few regrets by the end of it. They could be something small like wishing you had started the visa at a different time of the year or spent more time living in a different city; they could be something as massive and trip-deciding as simply saving more money before leaving home.
Not every working holiday maker is the same, so it is hard to say whether or not this is a problem for everyone, or if it is a possibility for everyone to avoid. We come from different backgrounds and situations - some fresh college grads, others full-time professionals; some having the world at their fingers, others seriously limited by time. However, I must say that out of all the working holiday makers I have talked to while in Australia (it was a job of mine for a while to interview such people), the biggest regret they had dealt with money and how they wished they had saved more before coming to the land down under.
I had exactly the same issue when I decided to come to Australia back in March of 2009, but saving more money wasn't really an option for me. I was teaching English in a country where the currency was devaluing more and more each day, and that meant my US dollar equivalent was dwindling. I took a chance by cashing in all my pay and hopping over to Australia with the thought in mind that I could also just get a job there right away to make up for the lack of funds. Sounds reasonable, right?
Well, not so much. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account before heading to Australia with a limited amount of money in the bank. Without doing so can lead you to having less money for travel, fun and just plain living sooner than expected.
Living in Australia is shockingly expensive. In Sydney City, you can easily spend $220+ for a room – of questionable standards – in a share house, and that is a per week price. Add on food, transportation and having a bit of fun now and again, and you have yourself a pretty hefty monthly bill. Australia is just a costly place to travel and an expensive place to live in general. I, personally, found that any pay check I was receiving went to cover these costs and not much more than that.
Whenever there is a move to somewhere new, there are generally the extra costs of getting set up to deal with in the beginning. There's the need to buy household goods, bedding and a SIM card/phone plan to name a few. I remember arriving in Australia and being shocked by the lack of free Internet. This unfortunately led me to buying mobile broadband, which was yet another big expenditure on my list.
I was lucky to find a job and a place to live within two weeks of my arrival. Others have not been so lucky. It's a tough mix to deal with being new to a city, finding a place to live and hitting the job hunt; some individuals said it took months to get their foot in the door. Now whether or not that has to do with the individual's job hunting tactics is really beyond me, but it is just another point to keep in mind. Even if it only takes a few weeks to find a job, there is usually a bit of lag time between the start date and receiving the first pay check.
The currency exchange rate fluctuates too often for us to keep up with. For example, in 2012, $1USD could buy just $0.95AUD, but in 2016, $1USD will get you close to $1.40AUD. That means your American, British or other currency may not last as long as you originally expected; if you are already scraping by because of the other points above, it can just add to the stress.
An Australian working holiday is supposed to be a time of both work and holiday, but it seems that some visa holders are doing more “working” and not seeing as much of the latter. I, too, was in this category and didn't experience much more than just Sydney for a very long time strictly because of my financial situation. Again, not everyone coming on a working holiday has this problem, but from personal experience, I can highly suggest thinking about saving more money before leaving home.
What about you? What do you wish you would have done before leaving home?
About the Author
Brooke Schoenman is a world traveler turned Australia expat. She's done the whole work and holiday thing herself and can definitely tell you a thing or two about traveling down under. For some travel inspiration, be sure to check out more of her work at Brooke vs. the World and WhyGo Australia.