Before we answer this question and also to understand our answer a bit better, we we would like to share our Australia story with you…
A trip around the world
We, which is Marie and Jan, have always been obsessed with the idea of doing a trip around the world one day. I mean if you open Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, it feels like everyone is on the most picturesque places, having the time of their lives and you are just living your run of the mill life and keep searching for the sense of your life?
But as many other people out there, we never really have had the money to afford a longer trip than the average all-inclusive holiday in turkey.
As I (Marie) was getting closer to my high school graduation and Jan was finishing his traineeship as a banker, we thought that now would be the best time to leave everything behind us and follow our dream: a world trip. Otherwise, we thought, we would keep on living our lives and will have duties that we can not quit anymore.
Working in Australia
So we started to spent a lot of time googling how we can afford our world trip and found out that many people afford their travels with doing work and travel in Australia.
Did you know that Australia has the most generous minimum wage in the whole world? That is why nowadays many young people apply for a working holiday visa, which means that you are allowed to work and travel for over one year in this country.
After doing some more research the plan was set. Applying for a visa was easy, even though it was expensive (approx. 320€ per person) and luckily we also found a cheap flight to Melbourne. All in all it took us about 6 month to plan everything, before we finally landed in Melbourne at the beginning of February 2017.
Finding a job in Australia as a backpacker
When we arrived, we checked-in in our Airbnb apartment (which we found out is much cheaper for a couple to stay in as a hostel) and directly started to apply for farm jobs over facebook groups, a website called „gumtree.au” and another one named „jobsearch.gov.au.”. It didn’t take long until we found a job on a zucchini farm near Melbourne. However, we quickly realized that we will need a car to get there and also to be more flexible.
Buying a Backpack car in Australia
To buy a backpacker car is quite a challenge in the big cities like Melbourne, because there are always plenty of cars for sale, but at the same time you have to remember that there are also hundreds of backpackers in town, which are also looking for a good deal.
At the end we ended up with a 1997er Jeep Grand Cherokee, which we got from two young backpacker girls. I should maybe mention that we both had really NONE knowledge about cars, so this later became a big problem for us, but more later.
(Handy tip: If you should plan to buy a car in Australia, ask the seller for all the receipts he or she got from the mechanicals (it seems pretty bad if they don’t have any, because than you can be quite sure, that they have never had a car service) and always arrange an appointment at a mechanical in town for a check-up before you buy it. Believe us, because otherwise you will buy a pig in a poke as we did, and that might end up really bad for you.)
Our car was an off-road vehicle, had a bed frame in the trunk and in addition we bought a lot of camping equipment, such as two gas cookers, pans, pots, a camping table and chairs. Now we were ready to hit the road!
Since our work on the farm was due to start in a week, we still had time to travel along the world-famous Great Ocean Road, which starts below Melbourne in a place called Torquay and ends in Warrnambool. We slept every night in our car and to be honest, this camping lifestyle started to be fun.
We found all campsites an app called “WikiCamps”. WikiCamps looks similar in construction to Google maps, but indicates free or paid campsites. But also toilets, rest areas or libraries (in which we always charged our laptops, by the way).
Working on a farm in Australia
After a nice week on the road, the so far beautiful time in Australia suddenly took a U-turn. When we arrived at the farm, we quickly realized that everything was different than we had imagined. The farm was in a really bad condition. There were chickens bones in the house, mice carcasses, and everything was covered with garbage. But now we drove the extra 300 km, we thought back then. So we gave the thing a chance. In addition, there also lived another German backpacker, who had worked there before us, who told us that he was always paid and let us believe that everything is love, peace and harmony.
The first 3 weeks went smoothly. We were the only workers at a small farm and worked every day from early morning until late at night. Our tasks consist of picking, washing and packaging zucchinis. After a while, the harvest boomed so much that even more workers were added. With another German couple we made friends directly and it was a great friendship, which incidentally still exists.
In the evening we often sat together outside also with the former German employee and and had some good conversations. All in all we had a good time so far.
But what we did not know in the beginning: In Australia you get paid weekly and not monthly (as is customary in Germany). When we found that out and asked the farmer about our payment, the nightmare began.
We only heard excuses. After keep on questioning over weeks, we became suspicious and began to do some research about the farmer. It turned out that the good man had already spent a few years in prison, because of doing illegal experiments on animals and he also had to pay heavy fines.
In a nutshell: After 5 weeks of work, it turned out that the farmer is broke. He gave us 2300 AUD as compensation, but he stills owes us 5100 AUD. Of course we have never seen the money, but in this moment we just wanted to get away, after all, you never know why such people are capable.
But we were very disappointed from one person: Every evening we sat outside with the German backpacker, who had worked there before us and every night he was lying in our faces and tried to make us believe that we would get our money. In the end it came out that he, too, has never seen any money from the farmer and was only there, so that through our work we can earn crops for the farmer by which he should eventually be paid.
With less money in our pockets, because of course, while on the farm, we still had expenses such as food, fuel, car repair, etc., we traveled on. This time together with the German couple, we had worked together on the farm. Anyone who believes that organizations like Fair Work could help you: forget it. Unfortunately, such organizations do not support backpackers.
But back to topic. In order to bring money back into the travel fund, we started looking for a job again. In addition one must say, to find a job in Australia is not difficult, fruit picking and also farm jobs are like sand on the sea. But finding a decent, well-paid job is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
To make ends meet, we worked for one week on an apple farm in the south of Australia, then we went off, because the earnings were just enough to cover the running costs.
Our travel mates, on the other hand, stayed there, which separated our paths.
We tried our luck two more times with picking jobs. But the strawberry picking season was over, so there was nothing to harvest and on a vegetable plantation were we worked the farmer was impossible and shouted at us continuously.
After all those flops in terms of work, we decided only to travel in Australia and continue applying for jobs, but only to work again, if we should get a commitment for a good, fair-paid job. If at some point the money goes out, we would fly back to Germany, so our plan.
Travelling South and West coast of Australia
We traveled for four month along the south and west coast of the country and had an unforgettable time. Many travelers often only travel along the east coast as it is more popular. Whereas many people do not even know that the West Coast has much more nature, animals and beautiful places to offer.
In that time we visited big cities like Adelaide, Perth and Darwin, drove the
1100 km-long Nullarbor plain through nothing but desert, watched sharks in their natural habitat underwater from the cage, snorkeled with the world’s largest fish: the whale shark and never knowing where we will be tomorrow. But we loved it. Yes, it was a liberating feeling to live in the midst of nature and to be as flexible in our car as never before in our lives, and the best part, we always had our home with us. On the trip we had many nice campfire conversations with other travelers from all over the world, made friends, grew together as a couple and got to know ourselves better, I mean after all, we were always on our own.
One day, just as we were washing clothes in a laundry, a call came in. It was the roadhouse we applied for some days ago. The woman on the phone sounded extremely nice and after a short telephone interview came the promise. Jan and I started to cry with joy. Everything sounded so perfect.
The woman promised us a 50 hour week as a service attendant at a gas station, with an hourly payment of 27 AUD (which is a lot!). We had to swallow first. After all the bad luck that we had with our previous jobs, now something like that? The only disadvantage: The job was 1700km away from the place we were in. But what else did we have to lose? It was a 50/50 chance. We were already running out of money and if the job was going to be a flop we would have to go home.
A few days later we made our way to the Kimberley region, because there was the Roadhouse. We did not have a clue what to expect, to be honest. In our imagination, we were expecting a remote gas station, in the middle of the outback, about 300km away from any civilization. But what awaited us when we arrived was something different.
For now it was a real town where the gas station was. It was quite small, but had supermarkets, a school, a small hospital and so on. Our future workplace exceeded our expectations by far. The building was modern, located in the middle of town and our future boss was actually as nice as before on the phone.
And indeed, our winning streak continued. Of course, the first days at work were not easy, after all we did not speak fluent English, but had to be able to communicate with the customers, had a lot to learn (working at the register, in the kitchen, food preparation, etc.), but all colleagues and also our bosses were very considerate and helped us with everything. Everything just fit perfectly. For the first time on the journey we had found a home. And not only in the metaphorical sense. We actually had an apartment in which we lived. A proper one, with kitchen, a bathroom and stuff like that. 😀
During our time there, we learned a lot about the history and culture of Aboriginals, as 50 percent of the inhabitants of the town we lived in were Aboriginals. We made friends, made some adventurous trips along the 4×4 outback track called “Gibb River Road”, and were finally able to save enough money in 6 months of work to make our initial dream come true: the world trip!
Although it may sound funny to some of you, it was the first time in our lives that we really enjoyed working. We realized that it does not depend on the type of work you do, but on the people you work with and that’s what made this job so enjoyable.
Accordingly we were sad when we had to continue our travels after the 6 months. Incidentally, we would not have been able to stay there longer because we Germans may not work for more than 6 months at the same job in Australia (because of some visa restrictions).
The north, the middle and the east coast
Since we had already seen half of the country and were enthusiastic to see even more, we decided to finish our lap around the rest of the country. The north, the middle and the east coast were now on. From now on we were a bit under pressure, because our visa is going to expire in 1 1/2 months, but we were optimistic.
During our time at the Roadhouse, we had spent about 3000 AUD on the repair of our jeep, so we can enjoy the last time on the road without having to visit the mechanical.
Well, this plan failed after the first 500km on the road. The initial euphoria to travel on was quickly gone, because in the middle of nowhere, the engine of our car suddenly went out and the car broke down. We had no cell phone reception, nor was a village nearby.
After several attempts, we somehow managed to get the engine running again and drove for a while, until we saw a mechanical. There we just rolled on the yard. What came out: the fuel pump was broken. Unfortunately, the two guys who ran the workshop did not have a spare part in stock, but managed to repair the car provisionally within 2 days.
So it went on. Unfortunately we had picked the wrong time for traveling through the tropical north and had to get through many hot nights at temperatures around 30 degrees in the car. And it was no less hot in the center of Australia. But we did not care, we just wanted to see everything and every single place, every little corner of this continent was worth it. Fortunately, we did not have any problems with the car anymore and made our way to the country’s landmark, the Ayers Rock.
Next we drove up again, almost to the top of the country to Cairns, hunted for adventures in the tropical rainforest, strolling through Brisbane and had a visit from our parents who drove down with us until Sydney.
Together, we visited the Opera House, took pictures in front of the famous Harbor Bridge, and slowly our time in Australia was coming to an end.
In Sydney, we said goodbye to our parents, sold our beloved car, which we had for the last 11 months and drove the rest of the way down to Melbourne with a rental car.
After all, we wanted to have completely surrounded the country. In Melbourne it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful country, but at the same time the next destinations was calling, so our world trip began.
We were so proud after we had finished the lap around the country! 🙂
With this story we hope to give you as a reader and all other travel enthusiasts some courage and be able to inspire you. After all, we, like many others, had absolutely no money at the beginning of our journey, but with diligence and effort we always got to our destination, albeit by detours. And you can do it as well! Also you are able to afford a world trip! Never blow your dreams, because there are always ways and the way to finance your journey by working in Australia is possible for all of us.
Right now, we are still able to travel from the money we have earned in the six months we worked at the Roadhouse, and this is now a year ago. It is not just, because we have earned so much money, it is also because our time in Down Under has taught us so many life lessons. If the farmer had payed us back then, we would never have learned to live as cheaply as we did it and still do it now. In the meantime, we have been to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Canada and currently we travel the US. In a nutshell, we are living our dream.
In retrospect, we are even happy that everything has come as it has come. Because now we can share our stories and mistakes and you as a reader can learn from it, as we have learned from it. And never forget: Do not give up, everything happens for a reason!
Keep inspirited and safe travels,