It was roughly three years ago today that I started to reflect upon where I was at in my life. I was in New Zealand, on holiday, which was planned for a long time.
I was 24, and had not long come out of a long term relationship with my then boyfriend. I was sat in a backpackers in Mount Manganui, on the North East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. I was talking with a few other backpackers, all aged between 18 and 25. They were sharing stories about how they had just finished their time on a Working Holiday Visa here, and were preparing to travel before they went back to their respective countries.
Although I had wanted to work in another country, for a long time. I had never quite considered how to make it happen. The next day, I got up early for a planned trip to White Island. This was unfortunately cancelled, due to weather. I then wandered down to the beach with my takeaway breakfast roll, and watched the sun slowly come up. There wasn’t a soul on the beach. It was amazing. At that time I thought – ok, I am 24 now, I’ve got no real ties in life yet, and there is a great big World out there. If someone as young as my baby sister can do this, then so can I!
After my three weeks spent in New Zealand. I got back, and was full of excitement of my trip. Many people were excited to hear my stories of my big journey. It later wore off, and I got back into what was normal life of the 9-5 working pattern. Although it was coming into late Spring, and I knew the nights would get lighter, and I’d be having fun with friends, I still couldn’t put the thoughts of travelling and doing something different to rest.
So I opened my laptop and thought .. ‘right, this Working Holiday Visa thing must be worth a crack.’
At that point I realised that those with British and EU passports are pretty lucky. We have reciprocal agreements in place with Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand to live and work in their countries for a period of up to one year.
So I looked at my passport, which was due to expire in 2013, which I promptly renewed, and went about getting my Working Holiday Visa.
At the time, In early 2011, you had to fill out the paperwork and post it to the New Zealand embassy in London, along with your passport, or you could call in if you were nearby and drop it off. Although I made frequent trips to London to see my sister, I thought that the cost of the train journey and the money I’d spend, wasn’t worth it. Plus, I was worried about sending my passport via mail (don’t ask why … I was 24, and naïve and clearly didn’t know much about the World).
These days, you can get a WHV online, at the mere cost of £85, with a possible processing fee of £19, so just over £100.
As I didn’t want to faff around with documents, I decided to use an online visa company to do it all for me. In some cases, on other countries, I’ve heard this can be good … however, looking at the receipt, which I had stored in my emails, I realised that going this way, was a huge mistake money wise. I paid £179!! Not the greatest move I’ve made.
However, I did get a discount card for places like hostels, car hire, activities etc. I’m not sure I used it too much though.
So my new passport and visa came through in May 2011. I had one year to get there, and I was excited.
In the 7 months that followed, I set about planning what I really wanted to do. I decided that working as an Occupational Therapist would be a great move. Sure, I could have gone within a few months, and been there for the Rugby World Cup, and worked in a bar, but, working overseas as an OT, was always something I wanted to achieve. I applied for registration, saved money, and found a job.
I left my job in the UK at the end of 2011, and was off at the beginning of 2012.
If you are reading this and are between 18 and 30, and thinking about something different – take the chance on a WHV. It is one year, in what is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful countries in the World, and one in which I have been so proud to have been an Expat in.
I’ve loved travelling slowly through this beautiful Island. Really experiencing it, getting to know its people, not just passing through, taking a few photographs here and there, but contributing, and just being.
So step out of the ordinary, and of your comfort zone for a bit, and experience a new way of living, and working, amongst a completely different culture to your own. One which is far more relaxed.
Visit Immigration New Zealand online to get started on getting a Working Holiday Visa. It’s one of the best things I ever did.