Working Holidays Are Underrated

Working Holidays Are Underrated

A camera icon which toggles the photograph's author
Simon Gooder Twitter

My Experience with the Working Vacation

When I was 21 (at least 9 years ago - hot damn I’m getting old), I had an incredible opportunity to join some friends who were beginning their working holiday in Australia. Every time we ran low on funds or wanted to make a big push into another city, we would pick up some work for a few days or a few weeks, bank our dollars, then hit the open road again.

We managed this for a total of 9 months, with very few hiccups. I mean, there were times we ate nothing but avocados, and a few times we were living off one another’s savings, but overall it was a success. It proved to be a rather sustainable method of travel for three dudes living in a van - at least in Australia.

I’m not going to get into too much detail about this particular adventure, but you can read about my great Australian road trip here.

Over the years, I’ve funded many of my greatest adventures via the working vacation. I scored a gig on a dive boat in the Caribbean, road tripped Australia for 9 months and spent a summer living like a prospector in the Yukon Territory, all funded through short-term and sponsored work whilst traveling.

Finding Work

Having some sort of transferable skill (like 5+ years in the service industry, or carpentry experience) would be a great start, but there are many good entry level positions if you know where to look.

Both the service industry and trades have an easily transferable skillset as long as communication is in place. For instance, if you’ve been a rock-cutter in the UK, you can do it anywhere; if you’ve washed dishes in Canada, you’re a shoe-in all over the world.

Although the work is not always glorious, sometimes it’s just enough for gas money and a box of avocados.

Most obviously, knowing people can help your position tremendously. Through one good friend we met in our travels, we managed to get several jobs and connections all over Australia.

Volunteering

For those in it for adventure and experience, volunteering can get you where you need to go. Pre-made itineraries make your choices simple, and pre-defined budgets make it easier to save up. Although not as flexible as other types of working vacations, volunteering is an amazing way to support your travel experience and engage with another culture. Why not trade your skills or labor for some free accommodation?

Today, there are so many options when it comes to volunteer opportunities. Good communicator? Tutor language students in Hungary with Helpstay, live and learn on an organic farm with WWOOF, or help build sustainable communities in Haiti with Workaway.

Make sure you check out the GoHobo Adventure Directory for more options.

Madi Robson Volunteering in Haiti

Short-term / Seasonal

Australia was a great place to pick up short-term work in the service industry. There were a ton of places looking to hire an experienced bartender, line cook or dishwasher.

In many places, you may have trouble finding extra work in the off-season, as the rainy or winter season will either inhibit both the availability of trade work and tourism-related jobs. It never hurts to put in a bit of research to see what your destination’s seasons look like.

In the Yukon Territory, they hire a few hundred people every year to map land-claims in the wilderness. Live in a remote camp where your room and board is paid for, ride in helicopters, hike all day and get paid $200 per day. If wilderness is your thing maybe this is for you?

Up here in Canada, I have several friends who regularly get service jobs on a ski hill in the winter, just to be close to the powder. If you get there early, the jobs are plentiful, and they’re always able to find decent accommodation. Several of them migrate to a different hill every ski season.

General Labour

This is a solid fallback, which I know can work in almost any country. Finding general labor work can be as easy as finding a community message board either online or in the town-center. The best part about general labor it often doesn’t require a whole lot of skills.

On our journey, we once spent 3 8-hour days trimming trees in the midst of a 72-hour torrential downpour. It was 25°c and we trudged through the 4-foot tall overgrown grass. We ended getting $70 each per day, which works out to less than $9 per hour. We were pretty miserable at the end, but previously we had been stuck in a small rural town with no gas money.

Although the work is not always glorious, sometimes it’s just enough for gas money and a box of avocados.

Sponsorship

Just because you’ll be working, doesn’t mean it can’t be a vacation as well. There are plenty of opportunities where you could be working 7 days a week, but still considering your circumstance a vacation.

Some companies are willing to go as far as paying your food, accommodation and sponsoring your work visa. These sponsorships are not going to be easy to find, as they require a big commitment from both parties, but if you’re ready and willing - they’re out there.

Try a working vacation on a yacht.

Many superyachts and cruise ships hire a crew to assist them with their ocean-bound adventures around the globe. Our friends at Six Months at Sea have a great walkthrough for the whole getting hired on a cruise ship thing, and Superyacht Crew Academy is a good start for anyone looking for a gig on a superyacht.

There are tons of opportunities out there beyond volunteering and short-term employment to crew a boat, assist with research, map wilderness, etc, you just have to know where to look.

Do Your Research

It’s important to know what you’re getting into. Before you leave for your working holiday, make sure you check out all your working holiday visa requirements. And, if you’re headed somewhere a little more diverse, it’s important you brush up on local laws, customs, and politics.

Laws and regulations vary greatly from country to country. So much so, that depending on where you have citizenship, regulations can change drastically.

Work Where You Want (To Be)

Not everyone has the time or income to save up a fat wad of cash and blow it on an luxury tour package in Bora Bora. Sometimes you have to do what you can for the sake of adventure. It just makes sense to work in the place you want to be. Fund your vacation while on vacation! Working vacations are underrated.