As the sun pours through my curtains, I can feel the room warming up substantially. I know what this means – it’s about 9AM, when the nighttime and early-morning temperatures change from the mid- and high-60s to the mid- and high-70s. I open my eyes and climb out of bed in my room of the share house. Typically, my partner has already gotten up and made me breakfast before work (he’s a sweetheart) so I heat up the delicious eggs and make some toast to go with them. After breakfast, I head to the gym on my bicycle. The air is still a bit crisp but definitely not cold. I warm up with 200 calories of cardio on the treadmill (full incline and up to 7km/h) which takes about 15-16 minutes, after which I lift. I then head home and make some turkey or tuna sandwiches (one for me, two for him which I put in the fridge for when he gets home.) After showering and eating, I have some down time to either read, surf the internet for future travel plans, or run errands.
To get to work, I need to ride my bike. Otherwise, it would take me about 40 minutes to walk (in 85-degree weather, I might add) my sweaty self to work. I work at a place called Watches of Switzerland, an official Rolex dealer who also carries many other luxury watch brands. Since Cairns is a tourist town, our business has tourist hours: 1:30 to 9PM, so I work from 1-9:30PM on a typical day. (Working hours are much less demanding here in Australia. It turns out that in the States, our businesses are open much more and longer than in most countries. Imagine that.)
After I’m off work, I head home on my bike in the dark. I have a little LED light to help guide my way, but I’ll admit it gets frustrating when cars are going much too fast and almost clip you through a roundabout. In any case, I still make it home in one piece around 10PM, at which point my partner or I will cook dinner. (He usually has dinner ready for me. Yes, I know I’m spoiled.)
How I Got Here / How to Live and Work in Australia
To find a job in Australia, you have to obtain a Working Holiday visa or a work visa. If you are between the ages of 18 and 30, you can apply for a Working Holiday visa. In the U.S., you can stay for up to 12 months and work at any single job for up to 6 months. If you are an EU citizen or from the UK you can stay for up to 24 months if you do about three months of farm work. You can also research your options at http://www.immi.gov.au/Visit/Pages/Visit.aspx. If you get sponsored by your job, you can end up staying as long as you’d like – this includes permanent residency! (This is more typical with specialized jobs, such as nurses or teachers and less common for bartenders and OTE sales.)
The visa (sub-class 426) cost me about $400 USD and took three months to process. Usually, it takes only up to a week. Because I had lived in Asia for more than 3 months in the past 5 years, I needed tuberculosis screening. It was actually a huge (and expensive!) nuisance, but you unfortunately have to comply with whatever the government/council requires.
I found my flights through www.studentuniverse.com, which you can use if you are a student or under age 26 for cheap flights around the world!
When I got here, the first things I did in order to find a job were: Set up a bank account (walk into a bank and set it up, they have working holiday visa holders come in frequently), get a SIM card and cell phone (dozens of month-to-month plans exist with all providers), and find a place to live. You can find places to live on www.gumtree.com.au or simply search on Google for flatmates or share houses in your area. You can also search for jobs on Gumtree but I prefer www.seek.com.au. I should add that the minimum wage in Australia is over $16 per hour! Typically, people make from $20-30 per hour so you can certainly save money here if you budget right!
In Australia, you call a resume a CV and it’s going to be set up a bit differently than in the U.S. Firstly, you’ll need to have a picture of yourself on the front page. Secondly, bullet-points are the best way to score a backpacker’s job (waiter, bartender, farm work, etc.) so keep it succinct. And lastly, always write a cover letter! Hundreds of backpackers apply for jobs daily, so make sure you stand out. After you have your job and place to live, you’re set! Everything will just start to make sense as time goes on – living in a different country won’t feel so foreign, and after awhile you’ll even be saying, “G’day!”