A holiday with a difference

By YP cadet Maggie Suen

Working holidays are increasingly popular, so YP cadet Maggie Suen talks to some participants about their experiences

By YP cadet Maggie Suen |

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Working holidays have become the latest trend. But what motivates people to pick up their backpacks and decide to spend their summers taking part in a working holiday?

"I feel like it is something to be done when you are young enough and energetic enough to both work and play," says Human Wong, 21, who went to a small town called Gatton, in Brisbane, Australia, for her working holiday. She also said that she wanted to become more independent through the experience, since she had to work to earn money.

The types of jobs available can vary. Travellers often look for jobs in forums that are dedicated to working holidays, where employers advertise vacancies.

Esther Chan, 22, got her job as a housekeeper in southern Taiwan through a forum. She said the things she looked for in a position included location, type of work and salary. "I work from Monday to Friday, and save up money to hang around during weekends."

But not all travellers are as fortunate as her to find a job with satisfactory salary and working hours, especially in farming industries.

"Once it started raining, we weren't able to work, and that meant zero income for that day," said Wong, speaking about her experience of working on an onion farm. The rain was very heavy, but she didn't let it get in the way of her experience. She even learned to look for jobs at local markets. She said finding other jobs was not hard, and it allowed her to gain experience of different types of work and expand her social circle.

"It was unpredictable. You didn't know when you would be able to get work on the farm, so I needed an extra job to support myself financially," she adds. Forced to hunt for jobs, travellers often learn to communicate with local hosts and learn more about local customs.

Even though it is called a "working holiday", the workload is not light. "I didn't know that farming was so exhausting," says Crystal Yung, 20, who worked as a farmer in Melbourne, Australia, for three months. Despite the hard work, she enjoyed it. "Melbourne is so beautiful, which made the work worth it." She described how she was able to see sunsets and enormous stretches of land from the farm where she worked.

Other than beautiful landscapes, meeting friendly locals is another perk. "One of my colleagues brought me to her relative's wedding party, and we had a lot of fun there," says Chan, recalling her experience in Taiwan. She was astonished at the passion and hospitality of the Taiwanese hosts, both at her work place and at the wedding party.

Between visiting famous landmarks and shopping malls, those on a working holiday experience the culture of the town or city that they are based in. Wong had once encountered the Australian festival, Anzac Day, which celebrated retired soldiers.

"There were parties and parades, and delicious cookies made by local families. The atmosphere was really bustling," she says.

Those on a working holiday gain a greater insight into these local festivals, through the local people and living there themselves.

"It is always better to apply for a job before you get there since you really need money to support yourself," says Yung. She also advises teenagers who would like to go on a working holiday to arrange accommodation near the work place as this can cut transportation costs.

"It is also important to remind yourself why you came," says Wong. She thinks it is important to make sure you are neither working too hard nor playing too hard on the trip. You need to strike a balance, she says.

Moreover, it is important to check government websites on collaborations with different countries on working holidays and visa regulations, which should help start off your journey smoothly.

Arranging a working holiday takes serious consideration and thorough planning. However, it's never too early to start thinking about where a working holiday could take you.