It’s rare to hear from WHV holders who went home earlier than planned, as if the topic was somewhat taboo. Don’t think for a second it never happens, though. Once in a while, travellers who planned to spend a year or two abroad are brave enough to admit they used their return ticket only a couple of weeks into their WHV adventure.
Sure, not everyone wants to maximize the WHV and spend exactly 12 or 24 months abroad. Life happens—some travellers jump on a great work opportunity back home, other have to deal with pressing family issues. It’s also fairly common to get tired of travelling after a few months on the road, to spend faster than planned or to realize that after all, there’s no place like home.
But there’s a difference between living a shorter WHV experience for a few months and jumping on the first flight home a week or two after activating the work permit.
What’s the mindset in the latter case? How can you work so hard to plan a gap year and change your mind so quickly?
Can early returns be prevented?
To a certain extent, yes—but it’s also okay to do what’s right for you.
If you’re about to embark on a WHV adventure, read these common challenges many travellers face and learn how to overcome them. And if you’re considering going home much, much earlier than planned, we hope this article will help you as well, because you’re not an exception!
And while you’re at it, check out 15 Tips for a Successful WHV Experience to make the most of your time abroad.
Challenge #1 – “This” (the experience or the country) is not what I was expecting
How did you pick your WHV destination? Most of the time, you choose to spend a year or two in a foreign country because you’ve heard positive things about it from friends, the media or other backpackers. You built a mental picture based on this feedback and research, then you made plans and landed all pumped up.
In short, you had expectations.
And now, you’re disappointed.
Sometimes, reality really sucks.
But were you realistic in the first place? Did you think it was going to be easy? Were you convinced you’d get a job right away, that life was going to be better than at home?
Keep in mind this is probably not your fault. When giving feedback, people tend to idealize their experience and brush over challenges either because they forgot them or because they tarnish the image they want to project.
You may also be experiencing culture shock because you haven’t adapted yet, so everything feels strange and nothing makes sense.
The best move would be to adjust expectations and write your own story. If you’ve only been here for a week or two, you caught only a glimpse of the local culture, lifestyle, etc. Dig a bit deeper and you may find what you were looking for. As for cultural shock, it does get better once you adapt, give it some time!
And if you’re reading this before your trip, make sure to collect both positive and negative experiences before your adventure to be prepared for absolutely everything!
Challenge #2 – I don’t like my destination
You landed in your dream city but a day or two later, the mere thought of spending a few weeks or months here makes you shudder.
No worries, you’re a traveller, you can… well, travel—travel to another city, bigger or smaller, close by or very far. You can explore the region or move across the country. Hey, you don’t even have to settle somewhere, you can bum around for a while!
This is a unique chance in life—no ties, no job yet, no relatives. You’re free!
It’s important to stress how different two cities in the same country can be. Vancouver and Quebec City? Both in Canada, sure, but two different languages. Queenstown and Wellington? Two different lifestyles. Sydney and Cairns? Completely different environments!
So buy a bus, train or plane ticket and find a place that works for you!
One of the interesting aspects of travelling is that you get to form your own opinion about the world. Sure, everybody is raving about Tokyo, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris or Medellín but it’s perfectly fine to find these cities overpriced, overrated or overcrowded. You may fall in love with Kyoto, Byron Bay, Victoria, Lyon or Bogotá and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Don’t always trust your friends, backpackers, pop culture or the media. Follow your heart, explore the world and find your paradise.
Challenge #3 – I can’t find a job
There’s a reason why governments of all WHV destinations recommend (or even require) having sufficient funds ($2,000-$4000, depending on the country) to cover initial expenses—finding a job takes time! The “travel fund” you’re leaving with is supposed to help you pay for accommodation, transportation, food, entertainment, etc. for around two months and it’s based on each country’s cost of living.
While some lucky WHV holder find a job right away, it can take weeks to get hired. Don’t be discouraged—chances are, it’s not you, it’s just… you know, life. And by the way, at home, does it always only take you a week or two to get a job?
Even if the unemployment rate is low and the economy booming, there’s no place on earth where everyone finds meaningful, well-paid employment opportunities as soon as needed.
Keep in mind that no two job searches are alike. Are you looking for a minimum wage job in a high-turnover industry (food, customer service, etc.) or a skilled position in your field? How good are your language skills? How much experience do you have? Do you have a network? Have you mastered proper job search etiquette in this foreign country?
Conducting a successful job search takes time, patience, skills and a bit of luck. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Ease into the culture, use best practices and keep on applying—trust us, it works!
Heading to Australia? Read Working in Australia – Opportunities, employment standards, tips for backpackers and job search advice. Going to Canada? Check out Finding a job and working in Canada. We also have tips for France in Working in a French ski resort — summer and winter opportunities!
Challenge #4 – I’m homesick
Some people know they are prone to homesickness but the feeling can take anyone by surprise. You may discover you’re missing your country, city, relatives and friends more than you would have thought.
Can you overcome homesickness? Probably.
First, remind yourself why you decided to embark on a WHV adventure. You must have a list of goals, right? Did you want to explore a country, discover a new culture, break out of your comfort zone or gain valuable work experience? Are you still interested in doing so despite missing home?
Sure, right now it hurts. You feel sad and kind of lost. Give yourself some time—such feelings are common and they tend to go away as you adapt to your environment and meet new people.
Jumping into the unknown, leaving home and relatives behind, is a real challenge. This is why so many people are scared of travelling. But you’ve accomplished so much already, don’t give up! You carried out your project, filled out paperwork and worked hard to meet all kinds of requirements, you boarded a plane and now all you have to do is take it one step at the time to move forward with the plan—give it a chance!
For immediate homesickness relief, talk with your loved ones. Luckily, these days it’s pretty easy—Skype, Whatsapp, Messenger… You can reach anyone, anytime and for cheap.
However, don’t spend your days chatting with relatives and friends back home and following them on social media otherwise you won’t be able to make time for this new, unique experience you should be living. Besides, you may get trapped into a vicious circle of thinking about what you’re missing from home, calling home, missing it even more, etc.
So turn off your phone and go out to meet people! Hang out in your hostel’s lounge area (…without your device…), attend Meetup and Couchsurfing events, sign up for social activities, go grab a drink in a busy bar or coffee and make new friends.
If you’re still feeling terribly homesick after a few weeks, you can always change your plane ticket and go home. In the meantime, you have nothing to lose—go out and have fun!
Challenge #5 – I’m running out of money
All WHV countries recommend—and often require—having “sufficient funds” for your trip. However, the amount specified is the bare minimum to survive. Besides, it doesn’t take into account your particular situation because every traveller is different.
For instance, a WHV holder who wants to spend the first two months driving around the country will need more money than a WHV holder who is planning to settle down in a small city to find a job.
Research cost of living in your country of destination and make a realistic budget. Don’t hesitate to postpone your trip for a few months to work and save more.
If you feel you’re spending more money than planned, consider volunteering for room and board through WWOOF, HelpX, Workaway, etc. This is a great solution to cover your basic needs for a time while you figure out Plan B (e.g. a job or better budget management skills!).
Challenge #6 – I’m just… feeling down
You’re feeling down and you don’t even know why. You’re just… not okay. Maybe a bit anxious, homesick, worried, disappointed or just overwhelmed, it’s hard to tell so you don’t know how to fix it.
Generally speaking, taking things one step at the time, sleeping and eating enough and being kind to yourself does help. It could be just the way you’re handling culture shock. Good news, it gets better, so don’t jump on the next flight home yet!
A good way to overcome a general “meh” feeling is to try to do things differently. Okay, so you have bad vibes about the city—then travel to another place! You booked an Airbnb for some peace and quiet—spend a few nights in a busy hostel where you’ll be able to meet people! Go visit a must-see attraction, chat with other travellers, plan something that’s been on your bucket list for ages to have a goal.
I failed, I’m going home
No, you didn’t fail!
If your situation doesn’t improve over time and despite the advice above, going home may be a smart move.
Everybody is different, every experience is unique. Some are meant to last for a year or two while others are short-lived—but you still learned a lot.
A failure would have been dreaming of a WHV experience but never taking the first step. You had the guts to successfully apply for the work permit and travelling far away from home. It’s an accomplishment in itself. You also discovered that the destination you chose wasn’t what you had expected, that you value what you have at home more than you would have imagined and that you can make the right decision for you based on this info. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Life is a series of good and bad experiences. Add this one to your list!
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