To travel one must have money. To have money one must work hard and save. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in your home town, squirrelling away pennies and gazing longingly at travel guide books. Why not work AND travel? The beauty of working holidays is that they allow just that. These days more and more countries are signing partnership deals which allow the young citizens of their country to travel abroad and fund their travels by working in their destination. The benefits are more than just a few dollars (or euros, or pounds, or whatever). By living and working in the country you want to travel to, you are exposed to the country on a much deeper level. You become aware of regional politics, living costs, and the average yearly climate. You get opportunities to make friends with locals, and work alongside them in the workplace. You can join new organizations, find a favourite hangout, and make lasting friendships. There are many benefits to staying in a place long enough to scratch below the surface and gain an understanding of a place. These things take time – they often can not be achieved by a few days passing through on a bus tour.
I have, myself, participated in three working holiday schemes so far. The first was to the UK, where I moved in 2007 after studying abroad in Denmark. I lived in both Edinburgh and London, and made friends there that I am still close to today. I gained valuable working experience and acquired a whole new vocabulary of slang words. I flatted with Scottish uni students and was the only foreigner at my work place. I developed a love for the cities I lived in – both London and Edinburgh now feel like home.
Next I went to Belgium in 2009. I stayed there for ten months and was forced outside my comfort zone by my lack of language skills. I was required to do jobs I would not normally do (nanny) due to the language difficulties and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I was forced to learn basic dutch so as to make grocery shopping and bus taking easier and soon developed an appreciation for fine beer and chocolate (well, I already appreciated chocolate). But most importantly, I made more new friends of whom I still am in contact with today.
Currently, I am living in New Zealand. I have lived in both Auckland and Wellington. I have learned about kiwi politics, kiwi hopes and dreams, hobbies and past times. I have navigated the public transportation system in Auckland and braved the wind in Wellington. I have a good idea where most suburbs are located in both these cities. I work in a government institution with amazing people – both foreign and local.
During my time as a working holiday maker in these three countries I have met many other foreign young people doing exactly the same thing. There are many opportunities for youth, and they differ according to which is your home country. Some visas you can get directly from the embassy of the country you wish to visit, but some have to be obtained through third party organizations. There is no way that I can provide the information for everyone from every country – but a few well chosen key words typed into your favourite search engine should bring up all the information you need.
For most working holiday schemes, you need to be under 30. However, there are still some where you can be up to 35. Also, these requirements are subject to change as countries renew their partnerships, so check back every once in a while. Just last year the age cap for Canadians wishing to work in New Zealand went from 30 to 35. One other requirement to pay attention to is where you can apply for the visa of your choice. Some countries will allow you to apply at any of their embassies, while some require that you apply while domiciled in your home country.
If you are a Canadian however, the Canadian government’s website has a wealth of information about working holiday visas. Also, you can also find additional visa information through the SWAP program. I have copied this incredibly helpful table from the Canadian governments page to make it all a bit easier for you (if your Canadian that is).
Take a look at the possible destinations under the International Experience Canada:
|Country or Territory||Working Holiday||Young Professionals||International Co-op|
I have grown and learned so much as a result of my working holiday experiences – as well as travelled and experienced much more than I could have if I was primarily doing my saving from my home town in Canada. I strongly suggest that if you really want to get to know a particular country that you consider doing a working holiday there. If you have any trouble finding information for your particular destination please feel free to leave a comment here and I will see if I can help find some information for you.