WORKING WHILE WANDERING
Away from home, a sojourner takes up an extraordinary 2 in 1 opportunity where he gets to work, and travel at the same time
By: Toh Jia Xi
"If I didn't go for a working holiday, I would have a gloomy, depressed, boring and unpleasant life. I'm not joking," Takuma Sugai, a 28-year-old Japanese, voiced out his serious sentiments regarding his decision to go on a working holiday.To go on a working holiday, basically means that one will have to experience working overseas by taking up casual jobs. At the same time, this allows one to travel and explore the foreign country, just like being on a holiday. The money earned from doing casual jobs is meant to support one's expenses when abroad.
For Takuma, his first working holiday started in Australia two years back in 2013. His first job was being a kitchen hand at a restaurant, and he assisted chefs in miscellaneous duties such as washing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen etc. Before that, he was an employee of an Internet company in Japan.Despite having to leave his home country for a long period of time, Takuma certainly does not, and will never regret his choice to go for working holiday. He said: "This is my own decision. No one else made me come here. Living in Australia has been good. I got to see many different things in this diverse society. It had broadened my perspectives and life has become happier and better. I wouldn’t have experienced any of this in Japan."
Back then when Takuma made the decision to embark on this journey, his main purpose was to study English and adapt to communicating with foreigners. Takuma revealed: "Although I had always found it fun to have a chat with people of different backgrounds, I hardly had any chances to communicate with foreigners in Japan." As such, he went to an English school in Sydney to study the language, and subsequently traveled around Australia in the first four months of his journey.
As of now, some of the duties and roles that he assumed include being a kitchen hand at Japanese and local restaurants, pruning grape vines for wine, doing housekeeping in a resort and fruits picking. He has traveled to different regions of Australia such as Perth, Darwin, and Victoria etc, to take up on various part time jobs. Each of his jobs usually spans from a period of 1 month to 3 months. Takuma has earned more than S$13000 since he entered Australia for a working holiday. He cheekily shared an interesting point: "Well, the amount you can earn mostly depends on what you do. If you have enough money to be lazy, you can actually not do anything at all. You can just grab a bottle of Victorian Bitter (Australian beer) and sleep on the grass or just relax."
Takuma noted that his most memorable working holiday experience so far is WWOOFing. WWOOF is the abbreviation of World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms. WWOOF provides a platform for people who would like to volunteer as unpaid workers in organic farms. However, in exchange for the labor work, volunteers will be provided with free food and accommodation by the host. "Unlike paid work, WWOOFing provides us with wonderful experiences. We got to stay with the host, and were like members of their family. We could also do activities with the host such as fishing and shopping. The best thing about WWOOFing is that, it brings you happiness not by money, but by the warm-hearted people by interacting with them," he fondly shared.
Since working holidays mainly involve doing random part-time jobs here and there, it is not a stable career and does not guarantee a steady income that is sufficient to support one's life in a foreign land. It may be a concerning issue for some. As for Takuma, he does not feel that having a stable job is important after what he has personally experienced from his working holiday. He considers himself lucky to be able to get jobs, and the money that he has been earning is good enough to support him. He further added on: "The minimum wage that is offered here is twice as high as Japan's. Thus, I think it has been good enough for me. Unless you spend a lot on beer and cigarettes, it should be fine. Saving up will definitely sustain you too."
Participating in a working holiday has been highly beneficial and meaningful to him. He got to meet people from diverse backgrounds, and has learned to be more thoughtful and sensitive towards others, after he experienced staying with different people. Takuma also says that it is always interesting to learn more about people as they have different experiences and will have different stories to share. "For those who would like to try out a working holiday, I would suggest to travel as much as you can and meet many people along the way. Also, travel to different cities and change jobs once in a while. It will make you stronger, widen your perspectives and change the way you see things. It may even change the way you are. On top of that, if you're skilled in a specific expertise such as cooking, carpentry or engineering, you can try out many more different jobs, instead of the simple and casual miscellaneous tasks. You can gain a different view of the world," Takuma advised.
To describe and sum up his working holiday experience as a whole, Takuma offered me two words in Japanese: "成長" (seichou), which means growing up.
"I think I have grown from my previous self, and it is a wonderful thing. I have gained a lot from my working holiday experience, especially from the connections and interactions with a variety of people. This is one factor, which I think, has contributed to my growth", Takuma kindly expressed.