Thursday, June 26, 2014

8 weeks of Oz. Part Three: How to work and travel simultaneously.

It's no surprise that getting to this side of the world is one big and expensive pain-in-the-ass. It usually involves a $2,000 ticket, 3 separate flights, and 35 plus hours of traveling across the pacific just to get here. And the icing on the cake? It's also one of the most expensive countries in the world.

With that being said though, it's one of the greatest places on earth, in my opinion. Any visit to Australia is worthwhile, and it really is as beautiful as you've always imagined. But I wouldn't say it's ideal to spend years worth of savings for a quick stop at the Opera house, either.

You see, Australia is an often sought after travel destination, and with good reason. But with limited vacation time and price tags that outrageous, it's not unreasonable to consider it "unrealistic" or to wait until retirement to take your dream trip. But if you're not a wait-until-someday kind of person or don't want to spend a fortune, there could be a perfect solution.

Work while you travel. 

If you're between 18 and 30 years old, with no dependents, a valid passport, and a desire to travel the world, why not travel and make money doing it with a Working Holiday Visa ? It allows you to live and work legally in Australia as long as you meet the above requirements. And with jobs booming in tourism, hospitality, farming, mining, and childcare, surely there's a fit for you here somewhere.

So why Australia, you say?

It's legal: It's one of the only countries in the world that offers a one year working holiday visa to Americans (womp womp.) Which means, that it's also one of the only places other than our home country where we can work legally without being limited to one particular career path (i.e. teaching abroad.) And the best part is, the process itself was ridiculously easy. Simply apply online, pay a fee, and wait to hear back via email. I was accepted in minutes, although it can take a few days or so. And that was that! You can arrive at any time within the next 12 months and start your year abroad from the day you enter the country.

It's easy: Because of the backpacker culture, jobs are SO easy to get. Travelers are in and out of cities, and the turnover rates for jobs in things like fruit picking, bartending, childcare, and serving are quite high. It's as simple as doing a little research, walking around with your resume, and looking presentable. Gumtree (The U.S. version of craigslist) is also a great resource.

Minimal culture shock: Aside from adjusting to a few new words and training yourself not to swoon over every accent, it's a relatively easy transition for a first big move abroad. The language is the same, the people are nice, and the food is just as delicious. And other than your accent, you'll fit right in.

*Note: If you're looking for a drastic change, this probably wouldn't be the best place to start. It's so similar sometimes that I forget I'm not in North America, aside from the pesky June winters and the lack of ranch dressing.

Money, money, money: With a minimum wage of double that of the United States, if you play your cards right, you can actually come out of traveling a beautiful country with a decent bit of cash. And if nothing else, you will have funded an entire year of travel with the money you've made along the way. What could be better than that?

*Note: Yes, the cost of living is more expensive, but being mindful of your spending and finding ways to save on big expenses like rent and food is key. I will be posting more on the cost of living and my personal experiences with saving money in an upcoming post.

Aussie animals: 'Nuff said. Those koalas and kangaroos you've always dreamed of meeting? Yep. You'll see them too!

It's stunning: You could travel all around Australia for a year and never get bored. Believe me, I've tried. In fact, I could live here for the rest of my life, and undoubtedly be the happiest person on earth. Everywhere I go is its own little pleasant surprise. And every time I think it can't possibly get any better? It does. Spend days learning to surf, snorkel and dive at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Get cultured and artsy and eat to your hearts content in Australia's biggest cities. Visit wine country and breweries until you are forever cured of your desire for alcohol. And... enjoy views like this all too often.

See what I mean?

The saddest reality of the working holiday visa is that, for Americans, it ends after one year. There is no renewing, and that's the biggest pain-in-the-ass of it all. Without getting sponsored by an employer, becoming a student, falling in love (or faking it), or working illegally, there is no real way to stay long-term. This is a reality I'm not particularly excited about facing. But in every situation, the adventure is almost always worth the heartache, and this experience is no exception. So come on my fellow dreamers, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

8 Weeks of Oz. Part Two: The party life!

Going out in Australia is like going out anywhere else in the world. There's beer, boys, and bouncers. There's music, dancing, and the occasional creeper who sneaks up behind you (jk, that's usually me). And on a really, really good night, there is some stellar eye candy and a few rounds of tequila, hopefully not purchased by me.

But surviving a big night out in Oz, does take some serious planning. So being the sweetheart that I am, I compiled a wonderful list of tips. Ready? Ok.

1. Bring everything you own. Your weekly paycheck, your entire savings account, and possibly the blood of your first born child, just incase you're really in a pickle. You'll need it to afford a night out in Perth. Between cabs, entry fees, and the price of drinks, you'll be lucky to have anything left to your name by the time you leave. 

     - Beer: $10
     - A shot of tequila: $10 - $20 depending on your baller status
     - Mixed drink: $10
     - Cocktail: $20 
     - Entry fee: $15

And those are average prices. AVERAGE y'all. I can't wait to go back to Miller Park and Lambeau Field and bitch slap myself for all of those times I complained about buying a 7 dollar beer. GET BACK IN MY LIFE.

2. Remember that for every one mixer you'd have in Wisconsin, you'll need a minimum of 5 in Australia for the same effect (aka achieving mild drunkenness). Did you know that the concept of a free pour actually doesn't exist in other parts of the world? You know, the thing where bartenders simply pour alcohol into a glass WITHOUT measuring it first? Additionally, did you know that actually pouring more than 1 oz (30 ml) of alcohol per drink is ILLEGAL? ok, cool. me neither. I once asked for more, you know for research purposes, and was DENIED horribly. And actually, I have yet to recover fully from that experience. 

3. Stop smoking. Aside from it totally destroying your lungs, and probably your life, they also cost north of $20 a pack. $20 to hurt your ability to breathe normally! I totally dig the straight and to the point marketing, though. 

4. Be prepared to never know what's going on. It's a constant battle of not knowing when the bars close, what is proper attire, and why we're getting breathalyzed before being allowed in.

     - Bar time: Apparently any time between midnight and 7 am is a fair guess. I guess it's good to be flexible, because I still have no effing idea what's going on. ever. I just meander until the lights start coming on and I'm being dragged, pushed, or kicked out the door. 

     - Attire: Boys- You know that my favorites are always wearing v-necks, bro tanks and the short-sleeved button downs with weird Hawaiian prints on them. And if they're especially douchey, they'll throw some sunnies on in a dark and crowded bar to really spruce the outfit up. And at other times, dudes will show up to an Irish pub wearing tailored suits, just because they feel like it. Skulling beers and listening to live music, gives off that sort of vibe though, I guess. 

                   Girls- Way too god damn hot to keep up with. Short and tight dresses, long hair, and tanned skin. I truly fail in comparison by showing very little skin and wearing what I like to call, mostly no-inch heels. Better luck in the next country, Jerrica. You go from a Wisconsin average, to an Australian hobo girl real quick in Perth. And sometimes, you just have to learn to accept that.                 

     - Being drunk: You can't be. If you look drunk, be prepared to be breathalyzed before entering the bar. Even sitting on that bar stool too late into the evening is putting yourself at risk for being kicked out. And entering a bar with a group of friends? Forgetttt about it. You will likely be brutally interrogated. Am I on trial for murder or trying to get into a bar here? If you want my advice, look casual, single, and most of all, sober. And with a limit of only .05, don't you dare step behind the wheel of your car, unless you want to be carted off to the drunk tank, or what I like to call, JAIL.

5. And last, but certainly not least, remember that you're in a country where the legal drinking age is 18. Keep this in mind when you're 26 and drunkenly eye flirting with that fresh out of high school boy you're trying to schmooze. Remember. You are old as mold. It's time to start hanging out at grocery stores and banks. The 30-year-old men you love so much are gone. GONE. Gone as in non-existent. 

These stories may or may not be loosely based on my personal life. And by loosely based, I mean directly related. As in, actually happened to me, or people I was with. 

So before you go frolicking around with a foreigner named Stephan and spending your future retirement fund trying desperately to catch a buzz, please remember this: YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED. I've recently traded my single girl party life, for a more laid-back, grandmother-like approach. It includes pj's by 6, Mexican food by 7, and cuddled in bed by 9. And if I'm feeling balls-to-the-wall crazy, I might even have a beer with dinner. Cheers to life in your mid twenties! 

Thank you to everyone who made those crazy nights even crazier, and to those who have participated in giving me epic nights and three-day hangovers. My new tame life of netflix and reading now awaits me, and my bank account, future adventures, and liver desperately thank you for understanding.

Stay tuned for next week's entry, which I actually have given zero thought to yet. I have a few ideas up my sleeve for the upcoming weeks, but if there's anything you're keen to read about, leave it in the comments section or message me directly. I'm happy to consider ideas! XO. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

8 Weeks of Oz. Part One: The truth about Aussie boys.

As I head into my last two months here, I thought I'd focus all of my writing efforts on my personal experiences in Australia. Each week I'll talk about a topic I get asked about frequently, and refer specifically to what I've experienced while living on the west coast. First up?


It's the one topic I love to hate, and is undoubtedly the first thing everybody asks about. I never came here looking for love, but having drinks with a Hemsworth brother look-a-like was on my to-do list, and has yet to be accomplished...

So before I ruin nearly every American girl's fantasy, I strongly advise you to read further at your own risk. I warned you, and I'm sorry, if you so choose to move forward.

Let me start by saying that the boys here were nothing like I expected. Maybe it's Perth. Maybe it's me. Or maybe, just maybe, our vision was blurred and tainted by the beautiful sound of an Aussie man's voice.

I, like the rest of you, pictured laid back surfer types with terribly adorable accents. They would be charming, intellectual, and simultaneously witty and sarcastic. They would have piercing blue eyes and beautifully tanned skin, and be spontaneous, yet romantic. They would also play guitar and sing me lullabies and scratch my back at my request. And they would spoon feed me ice cream while I watch the Bachelorette. And guess what? They would love every second of it.

OK. Asking too much?

I may have exaggerated a bit, but a girl can dream right? And while my expectations aren't aaaactually that high, I didn't know I would be sooo far off the radar on this one. And while I'm making huge generalizations based on a select community of guys from Perth, I've done my fair share of research to be able to speak decently on this topic. I speak both from personal experience, and from the help of people I know in the area.

And so, with that being said, I present the list.

dun dun dun.

The Good: 

- The surfing culture. It exists y'all. And the tan skin and fit physique usually comes as an added bonus. They're sometimes hard to find, and not always a Perth native, but they're here, and I do love them. Tremendously. 

- They're outdoorsy. The weather helps, but people are always out and about here. Running, cycling, diving, fishing, camping, boating, etc. 

- They have accents. It used to make me swoon. Seriously swoon. As in, fall-in-love-with anyone-who-spoke, kind of swoon. It has unfortunately lost it's novelty a bit since I don't hear it quite like I used to. It tends to just sound normal to me. But for those of you not yet used to hearing it every day, it's still quite attractive. 

- And finally, they generally like my accent. So... that's cool. I've had to tell my life story 8,732 times since I moved here because of it, but I kind of dig it. 

The Bad:

- Bro tanks. I can't deal. Only because the weather is SO damn hot in the summer time, will I give them a little slack on this one. There's just something about throwing your disgustingly large muscles in my face, that screams douche canoe. I'm sorry. Please stop. It hurts my eyes.

- They make A LOT of money. Generally this is not a bad thing, but it can and often does lead to greed, deception, and a whole lot of cockiness. If I hear one more person brag about their money, lawd help me.

- While Aussie culture encourages traveling and gap years (time off between school and college or career), I don't think enough of them take advantage. I always thought it was something a lot of people did, but I'm learning more and more that a drunken trip to Bali is sometimes as worldly as they get. 

The Ugly: 

- Jorts. I CAN'T. there is no excuse for men to wear cut off jeans shorts. ever.

- Speedos. NO.

- Short-sleeved hawaiian-looking button downs and tight pants. What IS this and why do I see it everywhere I go?!!?!?!

Exhibit A. This. This everywhere. 

- Wearing sunnies (sunglasses) in the bar. It's dark. Why God, WHY?

- The inability to approach women. Now now, part of this could be because they're not interested in me, of course. BUT, I'm speaking about the men that HAVE approached me or my friends, and what an obvious disaster it was.

          - Like the time someone offered to buy me a drink (which is RARE in itself here as they cost an absolute fortune). And when I asked for a beer, he told me I could only have a mixed drink. And so, I ordered both. take that sucka.
          - Like the time I witnessed a man take 10 minutes to drink a tequila shot while trying to be impressive. I'm sorry, but go away. That's just despicable.
          - Like the time I got stalked for months on end. Get your winky faces and over-use of emojis away from me. Thank you and G'Day.

Now just incase you're an Aussie who now hates me, or an American girl who wants to gouge my eyes out with a fork, I meant this mostly in good fun. The truth is, Aussie guys can be just as wonderful as my lovely fellas back home, and they can be just as god awful, too. One thing is for sure though, it's always an adventure.

A special thanks to the (normal) Aussie bloke and my lady mates for helping me brainstorm for this piece. Much appreciated :).