I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m talking a lot of time. I’ve played with a lot of different ideas; Scientist, astronaut, writer, teacher, ranger, an officer in the Army, police woman, engineer, florist, geologist… the list goes on. How do people actually do it? Figure out what they want to be and go for it? I’ve definitely figured out how to decide what I’m not going to be, I usually cross things off the list because I don’t think I’m intelligent enough, creative enough, young enough, inspiring enough. Any list of things really where I decide I’m not good enough. Am I too old to figure it out now, did I leave it too long? I’ll be 30 this year. Ouch. Occasionally I give myself a break from trying to figure it out though, and try to convince myself that maybe what I’m doing now counts as something. Maybe I’m already doing the thing I’ll do when I grow up. I’m not earning an income, I’m not hitting any career milestones or goals, I haven’t bought a house or a car but I am learning a lot about the world. I’m Travelling.
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to travel. It’s like it’s in my blood. When I was a kid I’d spend hours contemplating world globes and Atlases and I loved watching random travel documentaries and shows like Getaway. I had created my own world-wide bucket list before I even knew what a bucket list was. Little did I know how long it’d take before I actually started travelling, independently anyway. Almost every weekend and school holidays Mum and Dad would be packing the car. They’d throw me and my brother in the back seat, chuck on a John Williamson or The Commitments tape and we’d drive for hours exploring Western Australia. I don’t think I appreciated how special my own backyard was until I left it. I feel so grateful for those long car rides now. When I left school, I had one thing in mind, one goal, and that was to see the world. I had no idea how I was going to do it and I guess that’s why it took so long. I went on small holidays and getaways overseas but nothing really hit the spot or scratched my itch. I wanted more. Finally, in 2012 after a few long months slugging it out housekeeping in the mines, I applied for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa and jetted off.
Canada was where I met my partner and adventure buddy, Chantell. We spent 2 years exploring the Rockies, the U.S and snowboarding together and it was as though the cogs of our calling started clicking over and working as one. I had finally started to scratch my itch and we both knew that this is what we wanted to do. We moved back home and 3 years and countless hurdles later, we sold everything, quit our jobs, and ran away together. We don’t have an endless supply of money in our banks, and to be honest it has been exhausting, but so far, it’s been 9 months, 5 different countries and a whole collection of amazing experiences. We set off with no concrete plans, a few ideas and open minds.
We knew for sure we wanted to explore Japan. It’s been a dream of both of ours since we were kids. We also knew we wanted to dust off our snowboards and give another winter season a go. Japan gets amazing dumps of powder each year so it was an easy decision to apply for a Japanese Working Holiday Visa. The process was easy, we filled in some forms, talked a bit about ourselves, got our photos taken, our passports stamped and we were ready to go. We are now living and working in Hakuba, at the Happo-one ski resort. We live in a cold old caravan behind a lodge and restaurant where we work in the evenings. The owners are Japanese, which is a rarity in these parts as the whole place is swimming with Aussies. It’s been amazing so far, we’ve been learning a lot of the culture, eating a lot of amazing Japanese food, learning bits and pieces of the language, and have been snowboarding almost every day. How lucky are we!? Our bucket list for this amazing country is pretty long, so we will be here for at least another 5 months.
Working Holiday Visas are a perfect way to explore the world. What better way is there to completely immerse yourself in a different culture then by living and working there? When applying for Working Holiday Visas there are a few restrictions like age, so I’d recommend doing some research first. There are however, so many different countries to choose from, so along with Japan we also applied for a Visa in Sweden. Heading to Sweden we weren’t counting on finding a paid job as we don’t speak any of the language, however we did purchase a WWOOF Sweden membership and went on our merry way. If you haven’t heard of it, Wwoof stands for World Wide Organisation of Organic Farms. You can Wwoof all over the world. Basically, family run farms apply to the organisation by meeting certain criteria and volunteers apply to help them. We worked on several different farms all over Sweden. We created permaculture gardens, nursed orphaned baby goats, looked after 24 Alaskan Huskies and learnt so much in the process. We were also super lucky to gain payed employment for a few months on one of the farms too. As a volunteer, in return for your hard work, the farm will provide you with food and accommodation. This allowed us to travel extensively through Sweden without spending too much money. For us, Wwoofing was an invaluable experience and we definitely plan to Wwoof elsewhere around the world in the future.
Chantell and I both love animals and have pets we have of course had to leave at home. We miss them lots but have been able to get our K9/ feline fix while travelling through housesitting. So far, we’ve looked after a Bengal in London, two of the most ridiculous and adorable Chihuahuas in Stockholm and explored the Scottish Highlands with the most handsome Flat-Coat Retriever x German Waterdog. We hang out with the pets and explore the area while the owners travel the world knowing their fur babies are safe at home. What an awesome deal. With housesitting, there are no limits in where we could end up next.
I have to take a step back and pinch myself sometimes. Bring myself back to reality, it’s hard when the biggest decision we have to make on a daily basis is whether or not we will go out snowboarding today or where the best place is to laze about and read a book. I’ve gained so many great friends, learnt so much about the world and myself and had some irreplaceable experiences. I know for a long time I put limitations on myself on where I could go and where I could end up. I didn’t think I was enough. I was waiting for the right time to start travelling or the perfect amount of savings in my account. But truth is, there is no right time and there is no perfect amount of money. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, what I do know is if you want to travel too, you can, and there’s more than one way to do it. You have to do it now, you have grab it by the horns and you have to run with it. My biggest piece of advice, though I’m not sure I’m qualified to give any, will always be that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Mine certainly did.
Words and images by: Kate Turner.