Today’s article is a little different – this time it’s a guest post from our fellow bloggers at Nomad’er How Far!
Hannah & Taran are two fantastic travelers who write about minimalism, budgeting and their adventures in Australia – and now they’re here to tell you about their dream job turned nightmare on the beautiful Fraser Island.

When working travellers head to Australia, they expect maybe to work on a farm (to gain a 2nd year visa) or work in a bar (I have avoided this so far, I’m a liability to all things breakable) possibly work in hospitality. We ticked off the first one, doing WWOOFing for 3 months in the middle of nowhere/somewhere really beautiful. We have also gotten to work at some luxury resorts, with myself currently housekeeping at a 5-star place right on the beach-front in Noosa.  But going back to October, we were about to finish on the farm, and we needed to get paid work, fast.

Enter gumtree, the place where all backpackers in a state of despair head in search of dollars.

3 times already, we had replied to a brief job advert for a position on Fraser Island. I didn’t know a whole lot about Fraser Island, but the word ‘island’ was a giveaway to the awesomeness of this opportunity. More importantly the job was for a couple!

This was the 5th begging email I had sent them. I decided that by now we had probably been put on an email blacklist, unwanted, unread, and unloved. Fraser Island wasn’t meant to be. But the chances of this actually being the case were low, so I crafted a new email, and pressed send with a grumpy sigh. We even said in the email how we had emailed before and how since our last emails we had upped our skills doing different jobs… I really was pushing for it hard, because it was going be the last time I bothered emailing them.

10am the next day, I am sweating away in my flannel shirt and jeans, being a farm-girl out in the macadamia fields. I stop for my morning break, and check my phone. A missed call and an answerphone message from an unknown number! I sit and listen on the veranda of our beautiful farm house, and am shocked to hear it’s the people from the job, actually giving us a call back. And quite soon after the email!

It’s quite tricky to have an interview over the phone with someone on an island, with the phone-line being their only one for all calls going in and out. So a fairly short but sweet interview happened, very conversational as I tried to bond with the fellow young English girl on the other end of the phone, off on some far away remote island paradise, or so I was picturing her. At the end of the call she said she would let me know by the end of the day, which seemed so far away.

NHF beach

I spend a good portion of the next few hours not really concentrating, not always a good mindset for someone driving a giant tractor. The end of the day came finally, and still, no phone call.

The hours over the evening and into the next morning stretched out painfully, as I went back and forth in my mind, wondering if I had sold us enough over the phone. What if some other attractive awesome couple had pipped us to the post? What if I was sat mulling over something that was already a lost opportunity?

Come the next morning, our farm hosts were bored of my worrying and encouraged me to ring them back myself. It would show we were interested and pro-active about the job if nothing else. The girl I spoke to told me how it had got suddenly busy the previous day, and she hadn’t yet rang our referee’s, so I nicely slid in the fact that my host was right here, and could say lovely things about us right now. Our host ended the call with “Please let them know soon, we all need to make plans”, which really meant, please let us know soon, Hannah is being super annoying about it.

It must have done the trick, as two hours later we got a phone call, whilst sat in a McDonald’s car park (not eating a meal, just one of the cheap ice cream cones) and we were offered the job! I stood on the sweltering tarmac, just away from the car where Taran and our friend Michelle were listening to some super loud music, being obnoxious as I tried to be professional. I asked a few questions, gaged the money situation, and agreed to be there a week from that day.

In reality, what seemed like a drawn-out process had only been two days, from jobless, to heading to a holiday island just off the coast. We were pumped! And nervous. We knew there would be no phone reception, poor internet, and wild hungry dingo dogs everywhere. But that last part just excited us. Fraser promised to be an amazing place full of these tranquil lakes, stunning viewpoints and a really long stretch of beach as our front garden. We couldn’t wait to begin.

One week later, we wake at 4am, leave our farm and head to Hervey Bay airport where we catch a flight to the island. A flight, not a boat, a plane ride in one of those tiny planes that feel like they might just fall apart at any moment. Coming over the island on a bright sunny day, we looked down in awe at the lush green and the great big sand drifts. A short flight later, and a smooth landing on the actual beach (definitely no airstrips on a sand island) we were piled into a 4×4 and driven to our new home.

NHF beach 2

At first the place seemed super quiet, with a fair few staff hanging about doing not very much. It seemed chilled out. The people were welcoming and friendly. We were taken to our quarters, a safari tent in a little section of the camp-site that was for staff only. Stepping inside I was surprised at the size, and the fact we had a proper double bed. I knew it would need some touch-ups to make it homely, but I was happy. We both felt relieved to have arrived.

Fast-forward two weeks, and we were bedraggled, emotional, tired and overwhelmed.

What happened?! Our dream job was less ‘Yay we are living on a tropical island!’, more ‘We work 12 hour days, rarely get a day off, never get to see the island, and our boss is a cow’. Oh, and the money turned out to be really really bad, borderline exploitative.

We just never would have imagined it going this way, us feeling not simply tired, over-worked and underpaid, but also homesick, bored and stressed.

The only saving grace of the island was the people we worked with. Nothing bonds a group of strangers better than a tough work environment, an island that of course lacks internet, or a pub, and thus you create your own little gatherings, fueled by overpriced island alcohol. In fact the people were the only thing that really kept us there, knowing we could get each other through the harder days, even if some of the staff ended up going a bit doo-lally and causing problems.

Looking back, that stuff doesn’t really matter. What I remember fondly are nights like Christmas Eve, when we all went down to the empty beach in the dark, and had music pumping out of our friends truck. We just let loose and had fun, no thought of the fact many of us had to work the following day. It was really quite special being on that long stretch of dark sand, the water quietly lapping, as we all danced around singing at the top of our lungs.

The experience of being disappointed, and exploited, but then learning to adapt and handle it, has actually been a positive thing. We left that island having made awesome friends, having seen a fair bit of the island itself, and we felt proud that we lived away from civilisation for weeks at a time, and managed to disconnect. We are a bit more resilient as a result, and we gained new skills which are going to help us in the future. But we also learnt that going forward not only will we be incredibly appreciative when we have a decent job, but we won’t stand for a working conditions that are downright bad for us. Nobody deserves to go travelling and then be exploited because of the fact that they are foreign and strapped-for-cash. We urge all fellow travellers to take each opportunity with a pinch of salt, a lot of questions, and a lowering of expectations.

If your dream job abroad doesn’t turn into a nightmare like ours, but you were already prepared for that possibility, well then, as the Aussie’s say, ‘No worries!’.

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Thanks for reading!

Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at NomaderHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!

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2 thoughts on “GUEST POST: We got a dream job in Australia (that became a nightmare) – Nomad’er How Far

  1. We had a few disappointing experiences like this through workaway too. I think they know that backpackers can get a bit desperate sometimes and don’t always know their rights (if they even have any as a lot of the work is unofficial). Good luck!

    1. Let’s hope that with time these practices become less and less popular and that we, as backpackers looking for jobs abroad, get more aware and knowledgeable about what to expect and how to defend our rights. :)
      (Also, if anyone’s interested: Hannah & Taran also have a post on employment rights here :))

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