Working Holiday in Australia : Part One – Getting to Australia

About ten years ago I was shoveling an enormous amount of snow when in frustration I yelled into the howling Canadian cold front “fuck this, I’m moving to Australia”. In the meantime I obtained a couple of degrees and my empty threat to escape winter went nowhere. Never-the-less a sense of wanderlust continued, and it remained in the back of my head that eventually I would spend a year in Australia.

I finally did it.

I obtained what is called a Working Holiday Visa. Just a little about this visa. It is a youth mobility scheme. I turned 31 years old in July and the visa at the time was only available until the age of 30 (it has since been changed to 35). For this reason I obtained the visa in May 2016. One of the conditions of the visa is that the holder must has sufficient funds to carry themselves for a while while looking for work. Australia considers $5000 to be sufficient. The visa application was straightforward. I had to go online and answer a few questions, one of which was essentially “are you a terrorist” and pay a $400 processing fee and wait. I didn’t have to wait long as my visa was issued in about 15 minutes.

I then spent much of the next year getting ready financially. I saved tens of thousands of dollars in preparation for this trip just in case I ran into trouble. I also knew I had to account for airline travel and travel insurance.

I have used a points credit card for several years and as it turned out I had obtained more than enough points to redeem a free flight from Toronto to Australia. There, one problem checked off.

Secondly I needed travel insurance. I asked friends that knew insurance and I settled on a company called Travel Nomads. The insurance ended up costing me about $900 but it covers me for a year out here. Interestingly it includes coverage for accidents involving air guitar at no additional cost.

Although I trained as a librarian I have spent several years working for a large bank, and my director was kind enough to give me a one year unpaid leave, which means I have a job waiting for me in Canada. Additionally I keep some of my health benefits, pension entitlements and employee ownership stock matching. Thanks to my director this final youthful hurrah is not as career jarring as it could have been. My direct manager made me set a day and I ended up using up this years vacation time in the three weeks before my departure. I intended to use it to relax but in reality went into work and banked overtime money just to be even more prepared.

Finally the day came. My friend Mike drove me to Toronto. The day before we had a snap snowstorm
(in March) and I was given a helpful reminder of why I was going abroad. Pearson airport was uneventful. Although I was transiting through the United States for less than 24 hours they still stamped my passport. In the airport terminal I met mostly Americans on their way home to Denver.

My route was a bit of a milk run. Toronto to Denver, Denver to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Melbourne. The plane was delayed in Denver and I ended up missing the flight to Melbourne so I was quickly rerouted to a flight to Sydney. By this I mean I spent less than ten minutes physically inside LAX which was spent running to a terminal.

I flew Air Canada to Denver, United to LA and Australia, and was put on a Virgin Airlines flight to Melbourne. When I arrived in Sydney I was greeted with long forgotten summer weather and quickly realized I would have to purchase some clothes as most of my wardrobe is thick Canadian clothing. The heat was a welcome realization that I had done the right thing.

One I reached Melbourne I had been traveling for about 30 hours. I have since learned that there was a bus I could have taken to my hostel but I just jumped in the first taxi that spoke to me. It cost about $60 Dollars to get across town but one I crawled into bed I didn’t care, I was so relieved to be horizontal.

I meant on keeping a blog journal more regularly but never got around to it. I will attempt to bring everyone up to date over the weekend.