From Medford to Melbourne

Technically this post should be called Berkeley to Melbourne, but ya know, alliteration. This is all about how I wound up in Australia.

I hatched my master plan in October 2018, when I knew I only had one summer at the Lair left in me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but knew I needed a change. I was already starting to plan a BFFs trip to London, so the travel bug had kicked in. I’d made a (lengthy) list of every destination I may want to go, and most destinations centered around South America, Europe, and Australia. 

The most convenient time for me to leave work would be October through December, so I picked November 1, 2019 as my final day. Knowing that I would start traveling in November, I considered my list of continents. 

To travel through Europe without work for a substantial amount of time meant I’d need a hefty amount of savings, which I knew I wasn’t going to have.  Plus I was going to the UK for 10 days in April, and traveling in peak winter didn’t appeal, so Europe fell to the bottom of my list. I’d still love to do a major trip there, or multiple smaller trips, and I still may at the end of my adventures. 

Originally, I thought 3 months seemed like a good amount of time to travel. If I did 6 weeks in Australia and New Zealand, and 6 weeks in South America, I could come back to the US in February and get on with my life. But squeezing 6+ countries into 6 weeks was going to be cutting it a bit close. Plus if I had nothing tying me to the Bay Area (aside from my friends, obviously), what was the rush? But more traveling meant more money, which is when Australia rose to first place. 

I knew from diving down the YouTube rabbit hole of solo traveling videos that it was fairly easy for Americans to get a working holiday visa in Australia, and with a high cost of living, the pay rate was also high. This type of visa allows you to work along the way, to further your travels: exactly what I wanted to do. 

The next decision was figuring out what city I wanted to start in. I’d been to Sydney, Cairns (pronounced ‘cans’), and the Gold Coast for 3 weeks in 2014 with school, so I was familiar with the some of the east coast. I was also interested in Melbourne and Perth, but with Perth being relatively isolated on the west coast, I decided Melbourne would be a good choice.

After a bit of research, Melbourne seemed to have a more temperate and cooler temperature, a good mix of city with small beach towns, and was often considered the San Francisco to Sydney’s Los Angeles. This sounded like a great fit all around. 

In planning what to do in Melbourne (of which I did relatively little) I discovered the Welcome to Travel tour. Started by two Brits who had previously done their own working holiday, this week-long tour was meant to introduce you to the city, while also preparing you for work and travel. 

On June 28, 2019, I booked my one-way flight from Medford to Melbourne, and two minutes later booked the tour. Once that decision was made, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but at least I was doing something different.

With my flight and first week planned, there were a few more items on my to do list. The visa I needed was a Work and Holiday 462. This allows Americans (along with a handful of other countries), aged 18-30, to travel in Australia for up to 12 months, and work to fund their travels. In order to get a second-year visa (who knows?!), one must complete three months of regional work. For other visa holders (those on the 417 from the UK and parts of Europe), regional work means farm work, which literally means working on a farm. For 462 visa holders, regional work can include either farm work, or hospitality work north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Yes, that does seem a bit random, but I think that’s to encourage travelers to venture north, and because there’s lots of opportunity for work there. So if I do choose to do that, I can either work in a hospitality-based job (of which I’ve had plenty of experience), or I can work on a farm (which I also have some experience doing). But that’s for me to figure out later. The visa was said to take 30-45 days to process, so I applied in late September, and was approved within 24 hours.

I picked up my backpack from eBay, packing cubes from REI, and other bits and bobs along the way. I moved out of my house in Berkeley on a Monday (after my friends threw me the most amazing going away party, thanks to a Potter-themed costume list), and then spent 10 days at my parents house in Oregon. I departed from the Medford International Airport on a Wednesday, connected in LAX, and landed in Melbourne on Friday morning. Since then, I’ve been non-stop on the go, but have been having an absolutely amazing time. I’ll have more about my first couple of weeks here in my next post. Thanks for tuning in!

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