US to AUS, Becoming An Expat On The Cheap

If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to Australia, this might be the push you need to book that flight.  

I met Candice in college. We were doing the fashion thing, and our schedules aligned almost perfectly at times. She became my go-to gal for sharing notes and complaining about 8am classes. I quickly learned one thing about Candice –she is a free spirit, always down to do whatever is presented to her, especially if it involves a beach and a beer. She and I clicked…either laughing hysterically, or considering if that concert on a school night was a good idea. We shared the same 3-year plan: graduate college, make some money, move to Australia.

My plan got a bit tied up, but Candice followed through. For the past two years, she’s been living in Australia, traveling here and there whenever an opportunity arises. From bouncing up and down the coast in a camper van and working random gigs, Candice has discovered the formula for surviving the Aussie way of life, and on she rolls. How did she do it?  Read below as I introduce you to one of my favorite friends, and who is truly living the dream.


Why did you first decide to travel? Where were you and what were you doing?

In 2013, I was 26 and living in New York City. I had a really exciting job at a fashion editorial startup and a great apartment in Chelsea. But one day everything ended abruptly when the company downsized. Myself and a large portion of the staff were let go within the span of a few weeks. It was really brutal! I moved back to Florida and found myself in a super transitional phase, not sure of my next move. I was doing some pretty unfulfilling work to get by and was just feeling really strongly like I needed a change. The opportunity to travel to Australia presented itself to me in 2014. Within a few weeks, I had either sold or donated most of what I owned and bought a one-way ticket to Sydney. It all happened so fast.


Get the look: Runaway Slouch Cutoffs, Venice Tank, Rathbone Banded Hat

What was the time frame for which you wanted to travel?

Originally I was only going to be gone for one year. That seemed like such a long time back then! But it truly isn’t.

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In all honesty, was it difficult to prepare for a trip like this? What steps did you take?

Preparing for the trip was a bit of a struggle for me, personally. I knew firstly I needed to get rid of most of what I owned. I’ve always been a bit of a décor enthusiast and had an apartments’ worth of vintage wares and one-of-a-kind furniture that I had collected over the years. And I will say, it’s easy to be completely unaware of your attachment to material possessions until you’re forced to get rid of them! That part was difficult, but liberating in the end. Secondly was the clothing. Which was a whole different ballgame for me. I brought two suitcases because I couldn’t narrow down what I could and could not do without. That ended up being a huge mistake. No one wants to be walking down the road in 90-degree heat, not only lost with no clue where they’re going, but also carrying enough luggage to outfit a small village. It’s funny how that’s evolved, actually. Now everything I own fits in my rucksack and I am constantly considering the worth of items by how easy or difficult they are to carry around. If I purchase one thing then it means something else has to go. A word of advice on packing; stay within the 20 kilogram limit at the airport. Less is more!


Get the look: Crochet Skirt Bike Guards, Downtown Cutoffs, Cactus Underwire Top

Can you tell us a little bit about the visa process?

I had no problems during the visa process. It was pretty cruisy! I applied online and received an answer via email within 48 hours. Sometimes you’ll be asked to provide financial documents or schedule a physical checkup based on your answers to medical questions, but I dodged all of those bullets. I would highly recommend having at least $5,000 AUD in your bank account at the time you apply. Sometimes they will ask to check your bank statement and your application can be denied if you have what they consider to be insufficient funds. But in general I would say the process was breezy and the website easy to navigate.


What expectations did you have going into it?

I thought what every American thinks about Australia — it’s hot everywhere all the time, they’re all going to look like Mick Dundee, and they’ll spend the majority of their afternoons in pubs or at barbies. I was wrong though — only two of those things are true!


That flight is brutalllll. How did you survive the long air time?

I wish I had a cool answer to this question! Some flight time-killing secret that no one has thought of yet…but really, I’ve done this flight three times and each time is just as brutal. A good tip — to deprive yourself of sleep leading up to the flight so you’re nice and exhausted. Work out the time difference from where you are to where you’ll be and start to change your sleep schedule a few days prior to your flight. I was jet-lagged for a week solid the first time. No bueno!


Get the look: Honolulu Top, Emmi Solid Bottoms

Okay, so now you’re in Australia. What was next?

Find camper van, find job, find home. In that order. I ended up settling in Byron Bay after two months of traveling up the east coast. I found a job at a bathing suit shop and some really cool girls to live with near the beach. I was lucky and it was super rad! Byron Bay is a really special place.


How easy is it for a traveling American to get work? Are there places known for hiring young traveling folk who might not be in one place for too long?

I would go ahead and say it is pretty easy to get a job in Australia as a traveler. Backpackers are really integrated into their culture so employers aren’t shocked, like they are, say, in America, to be approached by someone only wanting to commit to a few weeks or months to a job. Of course the types of jobs that you can get vary based on what you’re looking for. I’ve known people who worked only weeks at a time hopping from fruit picking job to fruit picking job and travelled along the way. And I’ve known people who got jobs in an office setting and stayed there for the duration of their visa. These people will save all of their traveling for the last few months . It all depends on what experience you’re after! I chose to do two separate casual jobs for about three to four months each and travelled the rest of the time.


Get the look: Check Plaid Shirt

Tell us about your itinerary. What parts of Australia (and other countries) did you plan to hit along the journey?

A safe way to plan your way around AUS is to follow the seasons. You don’t want to be caught up north during summer or down south during winter. It’s either unbearably hot or unbearably rainy and cold. So you can determine a pretty good route based on when and where you arrive. I arrived in Sydney in September, so that gave me a few months free until the summer season started in December. I traveled up the east coast in the camper van until the end of October, then settled in Byron Bay. It’s about halfway up the coast of the continent so it’s not nearly as hot as, say, Cairns or Darwin in the summer months, so it seemed like a good spot. Plus, all the Aussies said it was the place to be. They were right! After four whimsy months in Byron I made my way to Margaret River in western Australia. Back south through Sydney, inland through the Blue Mountains, down to Melbourne, across the Great Ocean Road, through the Nullarbor Plain, and up to Margs about three hours south of Perth. That trip took about a month and a half. In the following months I would end up finding a job, working for a bit, traveling to Indonesia, Lombok, going back to AUS, and then traveling a bit more up the west coast in a hippie bus with 25 other backpackers. That part is a whole story in and of itself. Haha.


Where did you stay? If someone is on a very tight budget, what’s the cheapest way to get around and rest your head?

I lived in a camper van for half the time and house shares the other half. If you plan to travel when you first arrive and can afford the initial cost of a camper van, that has the potential to save you money on accomodation in the long run. If not, the job can be done quite nicely in a wagon-type vehicle — you’ll just need a tent. For those on a tighter budget, there are plenty of ride-shares you can grab off the internet. Those are people with camper vans or wagons who are looking for people to hop into and share petrol costs with. They’re also a great way to meet people! There is a hostel in almost every town you’d ever need to stay in but, if you plan to stay somewhere for more than a few weeks, you might consider a house share. Also, a lot of people hitch hike in Australia. It terrifies me. Probably because I’m American. But yeah, people do it.


Pleasseeee tell us about the bus you first started out in. You’ve personally told me some pretty epic stories. How was it making your way around in that? How did you find such a gem?

I don’t even know how to begin describing the bus trip, but I can easily say it was the most kick-ass thing I’ve ever done. I stumbled upon an ad on Gumtree, which is like the Aussie version of Craigslist (but less creepy), for a four-week trip up the west coast on what was called ‘The Magic Bus.’ I replied asking for more info and got a response from an Aussie guy named Jake. He said it would be an old bus that seats 25 people. There would be a trailer on the back that would hold all of the bags and tents and we would just cruise up the coast and see the sights, stopping each night to camp along the way. Who can honestly say no to that? It’s a backpacker’s dream, right? So I made my way up to Perth and couch surfed for a few nights while I waited for the night before the trip when we would all meet at a bar and start to get to know one another. On our trip was myself, one Aussie guy; the owner, and 23 other backpackers from Italy, Germany, England, Holland, Sweden, Canada, Korea and France. All together I think there have been people from 25 different countries on the bus at some point. We all pitched in for petrol and took turns cooking meals. Have you ever had to cook dinner for 25 people, in the dark, with limited camping cookware? It got pretty interesting some nights! When it was time to decide between destinations we would vote. The last one up in the morning had to pack the trailer. Money left over from the food shop? It went to beer. Simple. It was a very diplomatic environment, haha. A lot of people from the trip got really close, as you would, and continued onto new destinations together after it ended. Myself and a few others ended up riding it back down to Perth together as well. I think in total I spent seven weeks living with the bus. One of the English girls became someone I consider to be one of my dearest friends. We lived together for a few months afterward. I recently found myself in Bali with a couple of the guys. As I write you now I am with a fellow bus mate in Bangkok. It’s something I could never forget even if I tried. What a life-changing experience.


What did you find was the hardest thing you had to adjust to?

By far the hardest thing to adjust to, for me, is constantly meeting people you grow to adore, only to have to leave them. It really is the best and the most difficult part of traveling. I don’t foresee myself ever getting better at that part.


What kind of people would you typically meet along the way? Did you run into a lot of other travelers?

I’ve met all kinds of people during my time in AUS. I’ve made some really dear friends with both Aussies and travelers. One of the best parts of traveling is that you encounter people from all over which inspires more traveling. ‘Oh I met so-and-so from Europe. I’ll go there and do this or that with them.’ ‘If I ever find myself in Spain, I can look this person up.’ etc. I recently visited one of my girlfriends from Byron Bay in her new place in London. I made plans to meet an English friend of mine in Asia in July. Australia is full of travelers wherever you go. It’s a great place to start your travels for that reason, not just financially!


Thus far, can you share 3 epic memories with us?

The first thing that comes to mind, from the very beginning, is more of an epic fail than anything. But memorable to say the least. I had my giant two bags of luggage in the back of a truck on my way to the airport when I was first departing Florida. Somewhere along the hour and a half drive the tailgate fell down and my luggage spilled out onto Interstate 10. We only realized it when we pulled up to the departure gate at the airport. Let me remind you that in those bags was the last of whatever it was that I owned. I was running late for my flight as well. I’ve never felt more panicked in my entire life. I made the choice to catch my flight to California where I was going to be staying for a week before my flight to Sydney. I called every sheriff’s office from my house to the airport, asking if anyone had turned anything in. Come to find out a construction worker had found my luggage about ten minutes from the airport on the side of the highway in a ditch and turned them into the police. It cost me around $500 to overnight them to Cali. It was very National Lampoon, but it took a while to actually be funny.

I cant list three epic memories without mentioning the bus, but picking one specific moment is pretty difficult. There were so many priceless moments, absolutely stunning sceneries, starry skies, laughs. But one thing that stands out in particular is a night we threw together a wedding ceremony at a truck stop in the western Australia desert. There was an English couple on board who decided they wanted to tie the knot. So we made a flower crown and bouquet out of whatever we could find and lent her some random pieces of white clothing that we could scrape together. I think we actually ended up making ties out of toilet paper for the groomsmen. Haha. They wrote hilarious vows and the driver Jake stood in as the priestly authority. We had a big celebration afterward. I remember there being lots of glitter. And a conga line. It was a riot.

And then, swimming through crystal clear water in a 2,500 million-year-old red-earthed gorge in western Australia. Definitely epic! I was also at a beach party in New South Wales once when all 60-70 people ended up jumping into the ocean naked at the same time. Everyone was splashing around and singing the same song. I’ve never laughed so hard. It’s hard to choose just three!


What’s been the most beautiful place you’ve been to date?

That’s a tough one to answer. But I’m going with Karijini National Park in western Australia. While there, you just feel that you’re in company with some of the oldest terrain on earth. It’s considered sacred aboriginal land and is protected. The red earth canyons and cliffs are weathered by millions of years of exposure. Contrasting that are cool water rock pools and waterfalls. There was one spot — Circular Pool — that was the highlight for me. Basically, it was the end of a gorge with a circular swimming hole at the center. Every side was covered in water, cascading dozens of meters through green ferns. At the top was more red earth and a single white boab tree and blue sky.


If you could give one piece of advice to anyone looking to move/travel to another country, and stay for a legit amount of time, what would it be?

I think the single most important thing is to accept that you can’t always be in control or plan ahead. Be flexible and see what happens. More times than not, it’s the things you do not plan for that end up being the most memorable.


What’s next for you?

I’ve recently been approved for my working holiday in New Zealand. I have until February 2017 to get there. Right now I am in Bangkok but no plans here yet beyond tomorrow. We will see!


+If you have any questions for Candice, leave them in the comments below! 

Be sure to follow her adventures on Instagram!

More travel inspiration from the BLDG 25 Blog.

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7 years ago

Wow this sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing your experience!

7 years ago

By far my favorite post on this blog and I’ve been reading it everyday for the past 7 or 8 years. Candice is truly inspiring. I’ve been itching to make the jump to AUS

7 years ago

Wow, what tales and memories you have! Thank you for sharing your inspirational life!

7 years ago

I share the joy of reading this post with the commenters above! I was surprised with such a cool and in depth interview with such a great adventurous lady! Australia is a Dream of mine and reading this was very inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

7 years ago

This is so amazing & really inspiring. I’m currently in a transitional phase as well trying to move to Hawaii. Your words were just what I needed to hear haha.

7 years ago

Awesome read! I love seeing others adventures! I am from the States and had a similar story, being in a transitional phase and moving to New Zealand. Plan was to be here a year but I have almost been here two years and applying for my third year. You are going to love it here. Different from Aus but absolutely beautiful!

7 years ago

AUS-some post!
What a cool journey, Candice….quite the follow-up from your adventures in Tallahassee!

7 years ago

You are living my dream! I am married with kids, but once they are college bound…(three years and counting), my husband & I will be traveling. You are such an inspiration. Safe travels!!!

7 years ago

Hearing stories like this is really cool. So many people say they want travel yet always make excuses not to. I’m planning on studying abroad in the spring of 2017 in Australia and was wondering what part of Australia you’d recommend I choose. Thanks and good luck with everything!

7 years ago

Wow, awesome advice! Australia is on my list of places to live; I just recently returned from NZ on a backpacking trip and decided to put my fashion career on hold and apply for a working visa. Can’t wait!

7 years ago

Ah, I love this post so much! As Sarah said in the comments, so many people say they want to travel, but find an excuse as to why they can’t. I love to travel, but I also have a great job that I love. No, I am not making an excuse similar to everyone else…So how do I find the happy medium? I ALWAYS make time to travel. I hold back from shopping, and little purchases such as coffee, happy hour or eating out, and save the money for traveling.
Anytime I have a long weekend (Memorial Day, Labor Day, President’s Day) I jump on flights! I have found Google Flights always helps me find the best options. It really is easier than you think-even if you work a full time job! Also, ALWAYS use your vacation days! I keep reading more and more about how Americans don’t take all of their vacation time- blows my mind. Thanks again for this post! Xx

7 years ago

I applied for my Australian working holiday visa a few months after graduating from university, planning to go travelling for around 6 months until I had some idea what I wanted to do with my life. Two and a half years later, I’m still here!

For anyone who’s interested, I’ve written several blog posts about how to get yourself to Australia, and what to do when you arrive. A year will absolutely fly by but you’ll be amazed how much you can fit in.

7 years ago

Thanks for providing this useful information on cheap moving. Many times one has to move out of state in pursuit of a job opportunity, a better life or that hard to find stability factor.

hi, Thanks everyone for your comments, i really appreciate. Hugo, your comment made my day. Knowing that some people appreciate my work means a lot to me. It’s cool to see your interest in the language

6 years ago

how do/did you usually book your flight tickets when hopping from country to country? Do you have a trusted travel agent that does it all for you or do you book online and if so, which are the best sites that you’ve used?