A Year Down Under: Why I'm Finally Heading to Australia

| © Norman Pogson / Alamy Stock Photo

Visiting Australia has always been a dream of mine. This year, I’m taking a leap of faith and moving abroad to spend a year Down Under – here’s why.

Why Australia?

Australia has been on my bucket list for a decade. I’ve dreamed of seeing the Sydney Opera House, marvelling at the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, seeing kangaroos and koalas in the wild, and swimming in the crystal-clear blue waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s been a destination I’ve always wanted to visit.

And Australia is big – this is a vast country with a lot to see and do. You could spend a lifetime here and not see it all. I’d personally never considered a trip of less than a month, as it would be too limiting. Plus, it’s a long way from Europe and North America – and flights are expensive, too. If I was going to go all that way, I wanted to make sure the long journey there would be worthwhile. So why not go for an entire year?

But the real reason that this destination is so attractive to me is undoubtedly because of their working holiday maker visa programme. People between the ages of 18 and 30, from a number of countries around the world, are eligible for a one-year visa to work, travel and live in Australia. For decades, young people and backpackers have made Oz a popular destination for a gap year.

Why I chose to move abroad (again)

For me, my decision to move to Australia was based on the eligibility requirements for the visa. I recently turned 30 – the clock was ticking for me to apply for the working holiday visa. It really was a now-or-never decision: if I waited any longer, past my 31st birthday, I’d be too old and therefore ineligible for the visa. I decided it had to be now.

Personally and professionally, there’s never been a better time to upend my life and move abroad. I’m divorced and single, with no partner, children, pets or mortgage to tie me to life in the UK. My role has given me invaluable experience as a writer and editor, and an incredibly supportive network of colleagues who understand the need for travel and adventure. I know I can put these skills to good use abroad.

As I’m an American living in the UK, I’ve already experienced what it’s like to leave my home country behind and live in a new destination. I know how to move abroad; I’ve done it once before, and I know I can do it again. The circumstances are certainly different – when I moved to the UK, I did so planning it to be a permanent move. This time around, my time in Australia will be limited to just a year, both for visa purposes and personal reasons.

I’m used to navigating unfamiliar systems and cultural differences. I have plenty of experience managing a life abroad. The idea of living in a different country isn’t all that scary or overwhelming for me – after all, I’ve been doing it for over six years now. Whatever I end up doing Down Under, I know it’ll be a fantastic adventure.

The Australian Working Holiday Visa

The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa for Australia is relatively straightforward to understand and apply for. Applicants will apply online for either a Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) or a Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462), depending on nationality. British citizens should apply for subclass 417, and American citizens should apply for subclass 462. Although I have permanent residency in the UK, I am not a British citizen and therefore applied for subclass 462 based on my American citizenship. Both visa applications cost the same amount: $510 Australian dollars (~£296).

The eligibility criteria is fairly simple: applicants need a valid passport and need to be between the ages of 18 and 30 (or up to 35, in some cases). You’ll need to show proof of funds to support yourself in Australia and leave Australia at the end of your year – approximately $5,000 Australian dollars (~£2,900). You’ll need to meet various health and character requirements, and confirm you’ll adhere to the Australian Values Statement. For applicants applying for subclass 462, you’ll need to meet the English language and education requirements – the equivalent to a high school diploma (or higher) is required for this visa.

Applying for the visa was a breeze – I’m incredibly privileged with my US passport. My visa was granted within one minute of payment. With my visa (electronically) in hand, I booked my one-way flight to Sydney.

Australia has recently made new changes to their working holiday visa programme. Soon, working holiday makers will be able to work for one employer for up to 12 months – instead of the current maximum limit of six months. There has even been discussion of extending the age limit up to 50. These exciting developments would certainly make Australia an even more attractive option for a year abroad.

Making the choice to move abroad is exciting and terrifying; moving in and of itself is emotional and overwhelming. But with itchy feet and an insatiable case of wanderlust, I know this decision is right for me. Follow along with my adventures Down Under and beyond on my travel blog, Away With Maja.

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