Backpack Your Life

Posted by Teresa Kasel • Thursday, March 24. 2011 • Category: People and Places
Backpacking is a way of travelling that attracts increasing attention amongst young people. Travelling itself has always been popular. But backpacking is different. The major purpose of backpacking is by far not the intention of simply going to another place. It is so much more than that. It is about the idea itself: The idea of travelling. Being on the go. Exploring the world. The destination plays only a minor part in the game. It’s all about that feeling you have when fitting your life in a backpack, leaving behind everything you’ve known, everything you’ve loved and valued so far – to find out what else is out there – what kind of world, life, opportunity, culture and people.

(c) Teresa Kasel

In my case the destination was Australia. Being enormously popular amongst young travellers from all over the world due to its pleasant climate, breath-taking nature, exotic animals, stunning cities and lively party scene, I knew well enough that my choice was probably not the most extraordinary ones of all. But in the end that’s not what counts. What counts is the experience you make, the people you meet, the places you see. But, even more than that it is the things you find out about yourself. Hidden features of your personality you never knew and experienced before. It’s the one thing that makes the experience of backpacking so unique.

When I planned my trip to Australia I knew that I wouldn’t be able to simply enjoy the luxury of travelling. Therefore my decision to go on a working holiday visa came easily. It allows you to travel and work in the country for up to 12 months of time. Since it was my first time travelling alone and I didn’t know what to expect I booked my program through a company that guarantees to find you a job at the destination of choice. Only weeks later, I found myself sitting on a plane to one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Sydney! The adventure could begin!

After an exhausting journey of 30 hours I finally arrived at Sydney Airport. I walked out of the door feeling a 35 degrees warm morning breeze on my skin – and I already loved this country!

(c) Teresa Kasel

I took a shuttle to Sydney Central YHA, a hostel the company had booked for me for my first week in Sydney. I only dropped my bags and walked down to Circular Quay, where I found the overwhelming Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The next day Sydney Fun Week started already, which had also been included in the program. That meant seven days with 20 people packed with lots of great activities like surfing, wine tasting in the beautiful Hunter Valley, a walking tour along Sydney’s stunning beaches and many more fun things.

But since time flies when you are having fun, the week was over way too fast and I had to slowly start looking into jobs because I found out, I would be spending a lot of money in Sydney. Food is expensive there and the same goes for living, partying, trips and pretty much everything else. Too bad only, when I reached the work & travel office full of enthusiasm concerning my future job, I had them telling me that it is almost impossible to find a job in Sydney in January. This is because January is the time of the year when all the backpackers come to the city to start their trip up the east coast. I couldn’t believe my ears.

Usually when you spend 800 Euros on a company, you would expect them to do their job and find you some employment. Now I was 16330 km away from home without any idea how to cover my living costs. Devastated I strolled through Sydney’s nicest shopping mall, the Queen Victoria Building, and stopped when I caught the delicious smell of fresh bread and pastries. I had just found a German bakery in Australia! That gave me the best idea. I didn’t need a company to find me a job. Five minutes later I spoke to the manager and one day later I started my new job there.

(c) Teresa Kasel

Proud of my first achievement I returned to the hostel and during my trip many experiences like that followed. Times when I found that I could manage far more difficulties than I ever would have thought of.

One day I got a new roommate in the four bed shared hostel room that had become my home in the past weeks. Vanessa was Canadian and just as crazy about travelling as I am. When she told me she would go to the west coast it was already decided that I’d come along. Only few days later we were sitting on the plane to Perth. From there we headed down south to escape the heat of the city and only half an hour by train, found the charming town of Fremantle, or as they call it “Freo”. We booked ourselves into the next YHA hostel and for the next days did nothing but enjoying the laid back lifestyle, relaxing at amazing Cottlesloe Beach and sipping on lattes in one of the many unique cafés.

However, while checking our bank accounts we were brought back down to earth. The time had come to go job hunting. Here, in contrast to the east coast, the problem was not that there were too many backpackers but there were too little. So there weren’t many jobs for us either. The only option, especially when you’re staying only for a short amount of time, is harvest work. As we were seriously running out of money we knew what was to be done: stop acting spoilt and start getting our hands dirty. We got the first job we applied for. Now the mission was tree planting in the middle of nowhere, three hours inland by bus, no service, no Internet, no nothing.

Accommodation was not as bad as we thought. There were several six share rooms. Yes, they were basic, but nothing to complain about and we even had the chance to take a shower outside. Still, the first day of work was probably the worst day of my entire life. If I had wondered before why there were only guys apart from us, I soon discovered why. Days started at five in the morning. We would be brought out to the fields to plant seeds in a soil that hadn’t seen any rain in 6 months. Almost 40 degrees and millions of flies bugging you, 10 hour days and physically demanding work are not so much fun.

(c) Teresa Kasel

The day after my friend and I could hardly move. I felt muscles hurting that I didn’t even know existed before. We had bruises and blisters all over our bodies but still we wanted to stick it out. First of all we needed the money and second of all we wanted to prove ourselves. We lasted another three days, always collapsing into bed at eight in the evening to do it all over again the next morning. After five days a very badly infected blister on my friend’s foot forced us to leave the farm prematurely.

Again without a job or money we spent some more days in Freo before going back to Sydney, me taking back my old job at the bakery until I saved enough to travel up the east coast and Vanessa going back to Canada. It might sound like a horrible experience but it was nothing like that. I had the best time there, I have tried work I would have never done at home and I had to work hard for a living, but that is what travelling does to you. It shows you what you can do and it makes you grow a bit with every day.

But most of all it makes you meet great people like I met Vanessa, who I still travel with a lot. In fact she is coming to see me in India, because that is where I am right now, exploring another fascinating part of the world. Like I said there is something about backpacking – once you are infected you will never be completely cured!

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