Making it Possible; Living in Australia As a Non-Backpacker.

Isn’t it amazing how many people are now making the decision to see more of the world? I honestly love it.
Even whilst I’m sat eating lunch by Sydney’s beautiful harbour bridge, I’m still planning where in America I want to head next. (My 5th return to NYC is of course top of the list!)

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There is just something about being abroad and seeing different parts of the world that I am obsessed with, whilst maintaining a 9-5.
Personally, I am not and would probably never travel as a backpacker – unless it was in an out of this world kitted out camper – however; living in and visiting different areas of the world has always been something that I have wanted to do.
Weirdly, it has actually made me appreciate where I originally come from in the UK just that bit more.. Which is something I feel that I lacked whilst living in the UK; appreciation for my own country.

The UK gets a hell of a lot of bad mouthing, and I sure am guilty of it (usually just moaning about how wet and grey it is!) But speaking from a non-weather or political point of view, it actually is amazing. I have learned so much not only about myself and my personal lifestyle.. but about country cultures and the different ways of living whilst being in Australia.. and, well, The UK really is not that bad.

Anywho, me and Rick made the decision to fly to Australia a long time ago – it took a few years to pick the right year, but eventually in 2016 we decided to make it a reality in 2017!
Now the job that I had back in London wasn’t a career for myself. It was a well paid corporate job which got me by (happily, may I add.) until we both knew that we were ready to leave for Australia – so the only real tie for me was my family and friends.
However, some people begin their careers from a young age – making it difficult for them to be able to break away from that. I really feel as though if it is on your mind to travel and you’re constantly asking ‘I wonder what would happen if i tried that?’… Go for it. Seriously. Put that career on hold and see more of the world whilst you’re young and capable. If you’re meant to be on that career path, and you’re that passionate about it – then you’ll find a way to make it work and it’ll fall right back into place in the future. If it is meant to be, it will be.. and if it’s not; well, at least you saw parts of the world that some may never get the chance to see!

My Tips and Bits on Moving To Australia as a Non-backpacker..

No.1 Don’t arrive broke!
Obviously, this is priority numero uno! Whether you’re a backpacker or not – you get out what you put in..
The more funds you have saved = the more time you can enjoy being without an income (aka. enjoying a super long holiday) + the more travelling you can do = the better your experience will be! I am a fine one to speak, as I am notorious when it comes to treating myself.. However, you do have to make sacrifices. If it means cutting out having your eyelashes done, or that $13 lunch each day, or that $100 meal with the girls; so be it. There are always alternatives in order for you to save some extra money each week. It is important to find the right balance and PRIORITIZE!

No.2 Have an Idea.
Personally, I am a huge planner and I love having must-see’s and to-do lists.. Of course bigger & better things often come up in between and it is important to remain somewhat flexible – but generally speaking, everything me & Rick said that we wanted to do within our first 6 months of arriving into Australia, I can honestly say we achieved.
My tip is; have an idea of what it is that you want to do, where you want to go, and what you want to achieve out of your 12 months. Ultimately, decide where in Australia it is that you want to be to begin with for sure! Whether that’s just spending some time in a particular location, learning to surf at a particular spot, working in an industry that’s completely out of your comfort zone – have some kind of an idea – do some research and know your options! The possibilities are endless and there is so much to see and do here.
From the very start I wrote a blog and it pretty much became a diary for me. I noted places that I wanted to go, things that I wanted to see – and it honestly really helped me stick to my plans and experience everything that I wanted to before settling into a job in Sydney. It can help to purchase yourself a nice journal/diary and make some notes & plans – jot down places you’d like to go and start to build a personal brain storm of what you would roughly like your 12 months in Australia to look like!

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No.3 Embracing Unemployment.
As weird as it may sound, it is so important to just embrace unemployment. If you’re like me, and have never been out of work since high school – embracing unemployment can be tough – at first! I think its the feeling of security which many of us latch onto (particularly me) – e.g. knowing that I have money coming in to help with the money going out.. However, you just have to make ends meet and have realistic plans for yourself and your budget! Now, I guess the number 1 rule would obviously be to budget and only buy things that you really need.. however, I would be lying to you. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be able to say NO to things that I ‘want’.. just me? Touch wood, I just seem to be good at making things work. I enjoy doing nice things and that includes treating myself. I have a love for new things & little luxuries, and I don’t think that will ever change – so I have learned to be able to manage and prioritise – in my own little way, I guess.
So my point is, you have to find a way to make it work for you. Travelling is all about your experiences, your trials and errors – and of course things may go wrong – but there is always a way to stop, re-evaluate and fix whatever situation you may be in.

Put materialistic things to the side for a while and explore, be a tourist for a bit.. it can cost next to nothing if you’re sensible. In terms of unemployment, take full advantage of your free time and what the amazing country has to offer. Don’t overthink and don’t panic – I found myself doing this sometimes and honestly, it doesn’t help nor fix the situation. You deserve to take full advantage of the free time throughout your life.. use it however you would like – we work hard to allow that to happen.

No.4 Considering Farm Work as Early as Possible.
Most people know that in order to be granted your second year visa, you first must complete 88 days of agricultural work. I honestly recommend looking into this as early into your first year visa as possible! I tell this to everyone and my reason is because I met people during my travels who had the most amazing 7-8 months of blissful travelling; then decided for the last 3-4 months of their visa to head off and begin their farm work. Little did they know that farm work isn’t always consistent, and if you don’t leave yourself enough time to complete the full 88 days.. there will be no second year visa for you. Also, who wants to live a beautiful 7-8 months lapping up all that Australia has to offer, to then have to head off and pick vegetables for 7 hours a day in torrential rain or blistering heat? It just makes sense to get the farm work out of the way, so that you then have over 19 months to do whatever you want – without the worry of farm work lingering!

On a positive note, farm work is such a unique experience and something that should not be dreaded. Of course, some people have horrific experiences – but I cannot tell you how positive my experience was – and I very much doubt that I will ever get to experience it again. Working on that farm is honestly one of my favourite experiences to date..
Something that I would never do again, but something that I certainly look back on, fondly.
It is a great chance for you to be able to focus on you and to save for what’s to come ahead!

(Click here for my Australian Farm Work review post!)

No.5 Job Search & Finding Work
Now there is no doubt that there comes a time in most travellers experiences where you are unemployed and travelling – and getting scarily close to maxing out your budget.
Which is when it is time to stop being a (beach) bum and get yourself a job.. Ha. I can’t lie, I count my lucky stars for my experience in finding work in Sydney. Although, I don’t like to always base everything on luck – because well maybe sometimes we actually just deserve an easy ride due to the work we put in! I spent quite a lot of my time (whilst in Airlie Beach over the New Year) editing and adapting my resume and cover letter to suit the roles that I was applying for in Sydney – and there was a particular company in the legal sector where from the moment I applied for it – I wanted that job.
It is all about your commitment and just putting yourself out there. Put the effort in and good things will come back to you. I applied for around 2 or 3 positions and arranged an interview for my first day in Sydney – it was stressful, being in a brand new city and having no idea where I was going – but it all paid off when I was offered the job on the spot.
I hate to say it, and as childish as it might sound, I really dislike interviews. I just do not enjoy that whole process to be honest. I have a tendency to overthink – and even though I have a lot of knowledge and tips/tricks for interviews (from previously working in recruitment) – I always seem to think myself into bubbles of ‘Whats Ifs’. It’s scary being on the other side of the world, in a city that you haven’t been to before, looking for work and hoping that these Australian business individuals will like you! But honestly, something that I always tell myself ‘Give it your best. If you get the job, great – if you don’t, you never have to see them again.‘ 
– and try to stick by that every single time.

So what I want to stress  is – it absolutely can happen. Just like it did for me.
Sydney CBD has so many similarities to London in terms of recruitment agencies being absolutely everywhere,
 the job search processes and work availability is exactly the same. Although it may seem scary – it is absolutely worth that scare just to experience working in a city like this one.

So, there you go – my experience on finding work. Short & sweet. I wish I could provide a bit more knowledge in terms of job searching in Sydney – but I can’t – as my experience was so quick; however, I truly feel it all comes down to you, your choices and your commitment to putting yourself out there.

No.6 Finding and Leasing an Apartment.
We never ‘ran out of money’ as such – you absolutely always have to make sure that you have enough to cover living arrangements (especially if you’re a little bit fussy and opt for AirBnb’s over hostels.. guilty!) as well as having the bond (deposit) for your chosen apartment. Living in shared Airbnb’s whilst trying to find the perfect apartment felt stressful, I am not going to lie. I have always been so secure back home in terms of living arrangements, employment, family, money – so being on the other side of the world with no permanent address, family nearby or job can sometimes get the better of you. I was thankful that I was able to find work as quick as I did – so that was the most important ‘to do’ ticked off! Any who – finding an apartment can start off a little bit stressful. I’m not sure if it’s just me.. but having a job and no place to call your own seemed to bother me. Don’t get me wrong – we stayed in amazing Airbnb’s and we actually made beautiful friends whilst doing so! However, I just didn’t enjoy coming home from work to someone else’s house – and feeling like you were getting in their way when cooking dinner etc. I just like to be comfortable and able to walk around freely & do as I please! (Take that however you like!)

So, the application process. To be honest this is the only stressful part really. Although it certainly doesn’t need to be, as long as you can provide all of the relevant documents on time! Frustratingly, we were delayed by only a day or two in receiving Rick’s work contract – resulting in our application being declined due to another tenant providing the completed application before us. It can be a bit cut throat – especially when you know theres more than just you racing to the finish line for one particular apartment! It takes up quite a bit of time viewing apartments, preparing applications and gathering all of the relevant paperwork (bank statements, proof of employment, contracts, references, previous addresses.. etc!) – so when you get told that your application is declined when you’re so close to securing it, is a bit of a knock back. Because now you have to search for a new apartment, wait for inspection availability – and start the application process all over again. Thankfully, with the final apartment we viewed, I pretty much pinned the agent down (slight exaggeration) and told her to cancel the open viewing for that weekend and that we will literally pay right here right now. We had already viewed an unfurnished apartment in that particular block previously – so I told her we didn’t even need to view it, we knew we wanted it! It was fully furnished and everything we had been looking for.
We were approved, payments were made and we moved in within 10 days! From then on, it was a super smooth transition – and I cannot tell you how in love with this little pad I am! Everyone always loves their first place don’t they?

I can only speak from my experience, and mine has been relatively positive with 1 or 2 set backs. Believe me when I say; if you do your bit, it’ll all fall into place. It took around a month to secure an apartment to be precise.. but honestly, it felt like forever!

I will add – be switched on and smart with your leasing agency and take photos of everything once you have moved in – this is to be sure that they cannot sting you at the end of your lease and claim any previous damage on your bond. I have heard various stories about dodgy agencies, and to tell you the truth – we have had a bit of a weird experience with ours; they changed the company name and number without informing us which was very bizarre! They also have no reviews or website.. our apartment is great, but the agency service so far has been poor. Just make sure that you do what you can to cover your back to eliminate any nasty surprises!

Our bond price is $2800 and we pay $690 a week – split between 2 of us.
If you earn city wages, you pay city prices.
There are absolutely cheaper suburbs and lower bond prices – however, we chose to live in one of the more expensive suburbs. We wanted to be close to the city and I don’t really think that we could have got much closer! It’s no more than a 13 minute train ride into the CBD – so we knew that we would expect to pay a higher price.
St Leonards was all that we really knew when we arrived to Sydney – this was where our Airbnb’s were located – I think because we knew we liked it, and because I felt a sense of security there; we opted for our apartment location to be there.. and it worked out perfectly for us! It really is a beautiful place to live – it’s just the right balance between being residential & professional, quiet but sociable!

We live here!

I would suggest having some free time around Sydney before going straight in for an apartment. Not that there was anything wrong with our process, because our experience has been great – however, if you want to get to know different suburbs and save yourself some extra money each week – I would suggest spending some unemployed time here first, and explore your options! I had no time for that so it was pretty much rush rush rush from the day that we arrived. After 6 months of living in different locations, I was so ready to feel settled.. & that is exactly what we achieved!

Your living arrangement options are endless. I think that if we were to move into a new apartment, I would like to be closer to one of the many surrounding beaches. Although that would mean a longer commute to work – I think that it would be worth it.

There are so many options for room shares too; if sharing is your thing, or you’re travelling alone and need to find someone in a similar situation to you – I would definitely recommend looking into this. There are groups on facebook that are created for individuals who are looking to share/rent rooms – well worth a look, it’s a great way to help yourself and other travellers with living and cost share arrangements!

Top tip – Don’t overthink nor compare your paths to someone else’s.

No.7 Living in Sydney Itself
Before we left the UK, we were endlessly warned of how expensive Australia is.. and I actually disagree to some extent. There are certainly some things that are higher in price which would be lower in the UK – however, there are also lower item prices that balance that out. Also, the salaries are higher here. They say the cost of living is higher, and I guess in some aspects it is in terms of having to pay for stuff that we may get for free in the UK – but generally speaking in terms of a Working Holiday Visa living in Australia; it all comes down to the products you’re purchasing and where you choose to spend your money! As I have mentioned before, it is all about budgeting and finding a way to make ends meet in a way that works for yourself. It is totally possible to manage your budgets out here – it all comes down to spending smart.
(Although I do feel that there is no need for Batiste dry shampoo to be as expensive as it is out here.. Ha!)

No.8 Travelling as a Non-backpacker Overall
Travelling as a non-backpacker is of course a slightly more expensive way to travel in terms of accommodation and transport. I am rubbish when it comes to keeping to a budget, and thats fine by me – the working, earning, saving and holidaying routine lifestyle is just what I prefer. Of course there is nothing wrong with staying in hostels or room shares and travelling using the Greyhound (long distance coach operator) instead of flying – at all! Personally, I just prefer to have my own surroundings and my own space to feel comfortable in. I love being around people, but as odd as it may sound to some, I love being alone just as much. But that’s of course just me.. Everyone is different and everyone has their own preferences! Just make sure that however you choose to travel, you’re ready for it.

Some prefer to fly, some prefer to travel 8 hours by coach!
Some prefer to have their own home, some prefer a shared dorm.

PS. I did of course stay in a hostel during my regional work but I was staying in an amazing kitted out double tent for me and Rick with amazing surroundings so it didn’t feel like a hostel – it was more of an adventure!

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We have since made the decision to return home to the UK due to family reasons.. and I am counting down the days until I am reunited with my beautiful friends and family!
We can of course return to Australia as we do have our 2nd year Visa granted, but for now – our work here is done & we actually feel ready to head home. I will save that for another post!

If you have any questions in regards to a Working Holiday Visa and/or making things work in Australia – I am always happy for a chat!
I am not an expert, however – my experience has been very real and I will always be 100% honest!

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for!”

WLEJ

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I am your not-so-typical gym going, sun loving, palm tree hugging Brit with a one way flight to Australia!