In the spring of 2014, I was just another recent university graduate with a generically vague bachelor’s degree trying to figure out what to do with my life. Most of my friends were either going on to pursue further education, or applying for full time jobs in Toronto. Everyone seemed to be quite set on their next step.
This well-trodden path seemed quite reassuring, as did staying in Toronto where my family and friends were. But in the end, I decided to venture in a different direction. I decided that it was time for me to get out of Toronto, out of Canada, and out of my comfort zone. I decided it was time to do something scary, but adventurous. So just like that, I applied for my Working Holiday Visa and moved to London, England!
My working holiday experience in England was too incredible to describe in a brief summary. But if there’s one thing I can say, it is that I am so thankful that I worked up the guts to do it. Now here is my list of reasons why you should do a working holiday in your twenties too!
1. Time is ticking
First and foremost, there’s the fairly evident logistical reason: most working visas have an age limit of 30 years old. So make sure you seize the opportunity while you’re still in your twenties!
2. Gaining a second home
When you are living and working in a country, you get to see and live things through an entirely different lens than you would as a tourist. You no longer feel like a visitor. Everything starts to become familiar to you, and you actually start to feel like a local. When I left London after living there for two years, I really felt like I was leaving my second home.
3. You get the best of both worlds
At the expense of quoting Hannah Montana, you really do get the best of both worlds! The working holiday visa gives you the unique opportunity to work AND travel at the same time. Your lifestyle can be very flexible. Some people may choose to work for several months, save up money, and then travel for an extended period of time. Others may choose to work for the duration of their visa, and take a few shorter trips throughout. Personally, I had a full time job for the entirety of the two years, but I still managed to squeeze in some fantastic holidays around Europe. One of my personal favourites was Croatia (pictured below). It’s really up to you how you want to spend your working holiday!
4. Laying down some roots
One of the best parts about backpacking is that you often meet other backpackers to spend time with along the way. But since you hop from place to place when backpacking, these travelling friends seem to come and go. When you are on a working holiday, it is easier to maintain lasting friendships with the people you meet for the obvious reason that you are staying in one place for long enough to lay down some roots. The friendships you develop are what truly make the city you are living in feel like home.
5. The best ships are international friendships
On a working holiday, you are inevitably going to meet lots of locals, as well as other fellow expats. During my working holiday in London, I seemed to naturally develop two groups of friends – a “working holiday expat” friend group, and a “British” friend group. Having working holiday friends is important because they are in the same situation as you, and can relate to everything you may be going through as an expat. Having local friends is also very valuable, as it enables you to immerse yourself in your working holiday city’s culture. Plus, it gives you a reason to go back and visit after your working holiday is over!
6. Boost your resume
While advancing your resume shouldn’t be your primary motive for doing a working holiday, it certainly is an added bonus! How often have you been asked the daunting interview question, “what sets you apart from everyone else?” Too many times would be my guess. In future job interviews, your time working abroad may be the perfect example of something that sets you apart from other applicants. It definitely looks good on a resume to have had international work experience.
7. You, Yourself, and… you.
Moving away from home to do a working holiday may sound intimidating. And it sure as hell is! But it also is, without a doubt, a great way to gain a sense of independence. Even though I lived away from home during university, I was still pretty reliant on my parents for certain things. But when I moved to England, it was just me, myself and I. I had to figure out all the bits and pieces that go along with moving to a new country including: finding a flat, getting a job, opening a bank account, doing my taxes, and all of that fun stuff.
Moving to a new country and accomplishing all of those daunting tasks on my own has made me incredibly self-sufficient, and has boosted my confidence. I feel like I am capable of so much more than I was before I moved abroad, which is a truly rewarding thing to be able to say.
8. Stay in the country for longer
As a Canadian tourist, you are entitled to spend six months in the UK over the course of a year. But as a working holiday visa holder, you are entitled to spend two years! Visa lengths vary from country to country (Australia’s is only one year I believe). But with a working visa, you will definitely have much more time to accomplish all the travelling you want to do while you are living abroad.
9. Enjoy the novelty of being a “foreigner”
If I had a dollar for every time someone made fun of my “Canadian accent,” or asked me “what part of America” I was from, I would probably be able to buy a flight to England! But this is all part of the adventure of being an expat. Sometimes, it’s fun to be different. It makes you stand out. It gives you an edge that no one else has. It also gives you an excuse to say, “I’m not from here” when people are appalled that you don’t know who a certain obscure British politician is, or when you don’t know that ‘tea’ actually means ‘dinner’ in England. Plus, being from a foreign country automatically gives you something interesting to talk about on a date 😛
10. YOLO, Carpe Diem, and all that jazz
You’re young. You have no obligations. No mortgage. No multi-million dollar business to run. Now is the perfect chance to listen to your itchy feet, and go see the world. Leaving home can be unsettling. My stomach was in the tightest of knots on my flight to London. But the outcome is so rewarding, you’ll wonder why you wasted time being scared in the first place! So next time you find yourself questioning what the next step in your life is, stop all that silly questioning nonsense and consider the Working Holiday!