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Why taking a gap year in Australia may be the best thing you do

Whether you’ve just finished school, are in the middle of your career, or simply craving a different lifestyle, a gap year could transform your life forever. At this time last year, I was finishing up Uni and felt overwhelmed with my post-graduate options. Visiting Australia was a lifelong dream and the Working Holiday Visa made it possible for me to not only travel Australia but also gain valuable work experience abroad.

Here are the top 10 reasons why you should take a gap year (or two or three):

You’ll discover a new motivation to learn

In the months leading up to my decision to move to Australia for a year, I was burnt out. Between finishing projects and assignments for school, interning part-time, and balancing the social scene that comes with graduating university, I was exhausted.

Since moving abroad, my love for learning has grown. Between purchasing a book to improve my writing to visiting museums across the country, I have a newfound interest in broadening my education. Having the opportunity to visit places of significance in the countries you visit opens your eyes to other cultures and lifestyles. My favourite experience thus far was when I had the privilege to travel to Uluru on a tour of the centre of Australia. Visiting the cultural centre and hearing stories that explain the various marks on Uluru taught me more than any book or history class ever could.

Making new friends on my solo West Coast adventure

Your world will expand

Before arriving in Australia, I lived in a bubble. I had never met anyone from Norway or Germany or Holland. Today, I can confidently say that I have close friends across the globe. It excites me learning about the different school systems, holiday traditions, foods, career paths, and general lifestyles of other countries. I have come to realize that there are many ways to lead life and that the 9-to-5 doesn’t have to be my goal.

You will try new things

When was the last time you did something for the first time? At home in Seattle, I oftentimes couldn’t tell you. Abroad, I try something new nearly every day. Whether it’s camping in a swag under the stars (without a flushing toilet) or eating a lychee with a local for the first time, travelling encourages you to embrace new flavours and experiences

Me trying my hand at surfing with Surf Camp

You will be more independent

There are very few times in your life when you have no one else to be accountable to or for. Travelling alone, or even travelling with a small group of friends, gives you more independence than you have at home. You can choose how to spend every moment of your day without worrying about someone else’s desires. Keen to spend two hours with the kangaroos at an animal sanctuary? You got it. In the mood for a fancy dinner? Treat yourself.

On the flip side, you’ll face massive challenges when your phone dies, you haven’t eaten all day, and you have to navigate the public transportation system to your hostel on the other side of town while carrying your luggage. I feel liberated to face challenges later in life because I know I can be self-sufficient in a foreign country.

You can explore new careers

At the end of my University experience, I felt as if I was drowning in a sea of students who had full-time job offers. Navigating the job search world wasn’t going well and the thought of starting a 9-to-5 lifestyle at a job I didn’t want made me feel sick. One of my hopes for travelling solo was that I could turn my free time into a career. I found a passion for writing while keeping a personal blog and a travel journal. Beyond this, the conversations you have with other travellers will introduce you to careers you may have never heard of.

New and exciting job opportunities

If you choose to do a Working Holiday in Australia, you have the ability to work anywhere in the country in any job, as long as you don’t work more than six months with the same employer. In the U.S., I felt tied to finding a job in Seattle. In Australia, I could choose to work in any city I wanted because I wasn’t accountable to anyone else.

One of my good friends said one of the reasons he chose to work in Australia was to explore a new marketplace in his field. With an abundance of jobs, high wages, and the friendly personalities of Australians, you’ll love working abroad.

The retro-themed Christmas party with the Wake Up family

You may discover a new passion

In Australia, it’s common for travellers to try scuba diving, skydiving, surfing, biking, photography, yoga classes, blogging, or even exploring a new job in an unfamiliar field. One of these new experiences may just lead to a brand new passion, or maybe even a career. I’ve met travellers who fell in love with scuba diving and ended up becoming instructors, travellers who became a bartender and ended working in the most famous bar in Europe as a mixologist, and travellers who avidly took pictures and ended up finding paid opportunities along the way. The open mindset inherent in travelling just might lead you to a brand new hobby.

You will learn to be spontaneous

The unplanned, last-minute decisions and trips have been some of the most memorable in Australia. While staying at Wake Up! Byron Bay, my Australian roommate offered to drive me and my Canadian roommate to the two major waterfalls nearby. My original plan had been to spend the day writing, but I couldn’t turn down a hike and swim beneath two waterfalls. Travelling has taught me to savour these unexpected moments and thrive in situations where being flexible leads to exploring new places with new friends.

Exploring Rainbow Beach during my East Coast trip

Your mental health may improve

Why should you be busy all the time? When I first arrived in Australia, I found it oddly stressful to rest with no responsibilities. Going from a lifestyle that was overbooked and overworked, relaxing initially felt like a waste of time. Travelling changes that. You have time to take a yoga class to begin your day on a positive note (free at all Wake Up! hostels), time to write about your day and transform any negative thoughts into constructive actions, as well as time to socialize with others without feeling like you should be working or doing something productive. Moving slower changes your attitude and outlook on life.

Although it’s cliché, travelling really does change you. Over the past seven months, I’ve become more laid back and spontaneous, confident in my ability to speak to anyone and ask for help, passionate about food and writing, and relaxed about finding a long term career.

I feel happier than I’ve felt before and even during the weeks where I worked for nearly fifty hours, I loved my life. I chose to live at Wake Up! Sydney and Bondi Backpackers because the atmospheres encourages productive relaxation and offers countless events that enable you to find new passions.

Leaving your family, friends, and the place you call home is intimidating. If you want a little extra guidance, Ultimate Travel is the ideal way to kick-start your Australian gap year. With Ultimate, you get to stay at Wake Up! Sydney, party on a private catamaran cruise on Sydney Harbour, go sandboarding, meet kangaroos at basecamp, experience Australian nightlife plus heaps more. Better yet, you receive exclusive access to a gap-year information session with every tip and trick in existence to get you on your feet.

Australia is a haven for backpackers. Whether you come for a long time or for a good time, kick off your Australia Experience at Wake Up! Sydney to surround yourself with other travellers and stay just across the street from Central Station.

by Janine Denney-Mazzilli

Hi there! My name is Janine and I am a self-professed, travel obsessed foodie from Seattle. I recently graduated the University of Washington and I’m now living my Australian dream on a working holiday! Follow along on @janini133

conscious travel, gap year, jobs

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