Facebook is reminding me that three years ago I was living a pretty exciting period in my life. I had just finished my job in Finland and was ready to go to Australia with just a one-way-ticket in my hand. The future was a big unknown, a limitless space of possibilities, intriguing and frightening at the same time. I had no idea whether I’d like it in Australia, whether I’d find a job or if I had to return back to Finland as a big failure after a couple of months. Little did I know that that decision would turn out to be the best of my life.
I learned that I had the power to fulfil my dreams
Living abroad, especially in Australia, was one of the biggest dreams of my life. However, the timing never seemed to be perfect. First I was studying, then dating, then I graduated and got a steady job. I felt that it would be crazy to leave when I had finally gotten everything I had worked so much for! Nevertheless, I decided that the timing will never be perfect and if I wanted to achieve something, I should just go for it. So I listened my heart and left. There was nothing more empowering than realising that everything is possible, even just leaving to the other side of the world. Maybe a small step for others, but a giant leap for me.
I learned that world would never collapse completely
No matter how much would you lose, there will always be a new day. Even though you would let go of your job, your relationship, your apartment, everything, you can still build it all again from the scratch. You could always rise again, stronger than before.
I got to live in a big city
For someone coming from a Finnish countryside, it was amazing to live in a city of more than four million people. I lived in a building with 32 floors and with stunning views over the city of Melbourne. I loved that. I loved the liveable atmosphere of the city, the events, the constantly changing graffiti and street art, the sounds of trams, everything! Melbourne became the city of my heart, my second home.
I got to know some amazing people
I met more people in a year than I had met during my lifetime before Australia. I saw some very different lifestyles, destinies, cultures, habits and beliefs. I got some close friends and met people who left their mark on me and had an impact on my life.
I was living a true backpacker life
Sweating on a farm, road trips on the east coast, nights at Skybus, carrying my backpacker everywhere, goon, noodles, beer buckets and full moon parties. I do not miss those things at all, but I am happy that I got a chance to experience a true “I am young, wild and free” type of lifestyle.
I saw the most magnificent landscapes
Untouched remote beaches, ancient stone formations, showers under waterfalls, rainforests, endless deserts, dolphins swimming next to you – Australia is all that and so much more! I fell in love with hiking and outdoor activities during my working holiday years. If you want to see some of the most amazing landscapes, Australia is the place to go!
I became more independent
Australia is far, far away from Europe. You really feel that you are on your own. No one will get you medicine if you are sick, no one will help you doing your taxes. You have to start all relationships from the scratch. You have to trust your gut feeling when you decide if some farm job is legit and if your landlord is scamming you or not. After managing on my own for two years, I know I can manage in everywhere.
I got to live in a melting pot of different cultures
I really enjoyed the cultural diversity in Melbourne. I had flatmates and work mates from all over the world, I got to hear different accents, see different customs and celebrations and taste different traditional dishes. For someone coming from Finland, living in the cultural melting pot of Melbourne, was really refreshing.
I learned that I can work in harsh conditions
It was good to try to make your way as an immigrant in a new country. I had to start from the bottom and with jobs that locals did not do. I worked on a farm and later as a housekeeper at a hotel. I had the minimum wage and sometimes the working conditions were under the minimum requirements by the law. I learned that I can also manage in these physical jobs. Even as a university graduate, I learned that I can use my muscles, sweat and get dirty. I learned that one’s personal value, intelligence and skills have sometimes nothing to do with the fact what that person does for a living.
I leaned to live under a constant change and insecurity
In Australia, I was literally moving all the time from one place to another. Sometimes I woke up at a different place every single morning. Places and people were just coming and going, nothing was steady, no one stayed. Every day I met new people whose names I had forgotten on the next day. Every day I had the same conversations. The biggest change happened inside me, though. I was able to take distance from my old life, identity and roles. I let Australia to change me. There were times, when I had no idea who I really was and I had to get to know myself all over again.
The constant change brought also freedom and independence. I got to live the way I wanted, stay where I wanted, do whatever I wanted and be whoever I wanted. Australia did shake me to let go of the things that I didn’t truly want and the parts of my identity that weren’t really me.
In that way, Australia did hurt. It did tear me apart. It made me feel stress, anxiety and insecurity. It made me miss home. It also stunned me, astonished me, made me speechless and grasp my breath and forced me to face difficult things that I had been running away from. Australia made me feel, it made me to live in the moment, here and now. The working holiday years made me feel that I am truly alive.