A Working Holiday adventure is a big leap into the unknown. Friends and relatives may not understand why you’re going to live in another country. You may feel quite lonely as you prepare for the trip if no one around you can offer advice or tell you everything is going to be okay.
So as fellow Working Holiday permit holder and as someone who talked to many travellers before D-Day, here are 8 insightful tips—the kind of tips I wish someone had shared with me before the adventure and the kind that comes from on-the-road experience.
1. Bring comfort food from home
Believe it or not, at one point, you will miss familiar foods from home. Sure, you can find mayonnaise in Canada but it doesn’t taste like the condiment you used to dip fries in in Belgium. And yes, some stores sell maple syrup in France but it won’t be the same as your beloved local Canadian brand.
So make room in your luggage for select beloved comfort food from home—it’s a great thing to share with new friends too!
Just don’t forget to check for any custom restrictions. Not all countries are happy to let you enter with Polish sausage, Italian cheese or bottles of Chilean mote con huesillo.
2. Travel light
Don’t overpack and don’t bring along ten thousand suitcases, especially if you’re not sure where you’re going to live yet. And even if you’re planning on settling in XYZ city, keep in mind that a Working Holiday adventure is “like a box of chocolate,” you never know where it will take you. You may end up moving somewhere else even if it wasn’t in your original plans.
So only pack what you really need. Chances are, you’re not going to find yourself in a remote place without any access to all the modern conveniences. Most countries have, you know, stores.
On a side note, it’s much easier to travel with a backpack than with a suitcase, especially if you’re moving around quite a bit.
3. Be the hero of your own adventure
Some travellers are crossing oceans to follow their friends or meet up with a loved one. There’s nothing wrong with that but you shouldn’t only travel for other people, you should also have your own motivations.
Don’t just go with someone else’s plan—it should be yours too or at the very least, it should be a shared plan. Don’t put yourself last and don’t forget to live the experience you want to live.
4. Be flexible
Remember the chocolate box metaphor we used above? This is exactly what a Working Holiday trip is—an adventure full of ups and downs with plenty of unexpected challenges and rewarding moments.
It’s not going to be a smooth, straight road. Even if you’re super informed and organized, you may have to take detours along the way and your original plan may turn into “plan B,” “plan C,” etc.
Expect the unexpected and get ready for unforeseeable contingencies. Don’t worry, all roads lead to Rome. You’ll get back to plan A at one point if you wish to!
5. Overcome your fears
Leaving everything and everyone behind to start from scratch in a new country is downright scary. Embrace this feeling—it’s great because it’s a sign that you’re venturing outside your comfort zone and that you’re making the best decision ever for yourself.
The fear you’re feeling at different stages of your Working Holiday adventure will give way to a sense of pride and accomplishment later on. Don’t just freeze and let fear overwhelm you. Acknowledge it, overcome it and look back with a smile on your face afterwards.
6. Don’t just stick to your crowd
And by “your crowd,” we mean people who come from the same culture, the same country or the same background as you. Sure, it’s always comforting to meet people who speak your language but you’re going to miss out on your destination if you’re not trying to break the cultural barrier.
Making friends is harder when you’re an adult so make a conscious effort to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people—this is part of the adventure!
7. Start with shared housing
Not knowing where you’re going to sleep is a major worry for most travellers. Sure, you could book a hotel room—it will be more expensive than paying rent but most places have discounts for long-term stays.
A better option is probably to rent a room through Airbnb or other similar websites. But resist the temptation of getting your own place! Shared housing arrangements are a great way to beat loneliness and ease into a new culture. Most hosts are friendly, you might also get great insider tips. You could also look into hostels where you will invariably meet people.
8. Make the most of all opportunities
Some travellers don’t have a career goal but others really want to work in a specific field. Finding a job can be challenging depending on the position you’re looking for. You’re bound to send multiple resumes and lo and behold, one day, you will be offered something. Even if it’s not your dream job, take a chance and make the most of this opportunity. It could take a while—a week, a month or three…—before the next opportunity, who knows.
The same idea applies to travel or social opportunities—seize them all!