hether to jump into another culture expecting a job with or without the expertise of a working holiday company on your side depends on how brave you are. Or how stupid – easy to get mixed up. And how much money you have to piss away…
Going it alone
You do not need to go on a working holiday program with a company to enjoy a successful working holiday. Experienced travellers on travel forums will tell you that you essentially pay companies to do things that you will realise you could have done yourself.
Some companies will entice you with providing the knowledge on how to obtain a working holiday visa. Just by reading the visa website, you can find all the information you need there. For New Zealand, getting a visa from the United Kingdom Working Holiday Scheme is incredibly easy (unless you are a cancerous criminal). Getting an IEC Working Permit to Canada, for instance, is difficult due to the limited visas for UK citizens.
With a little initiative, sure you can sort yourself a mobile phone sim card, a bank account, look for job listings, attend job interviews, find decent accommodation, etc. If you are one of the lucky few that can land on their feet, for example, walk into a hostel, meet the right people and land themselves a job with accommodation thrown in then, hell, go it alone! You’ll save those crispy notes for the fun ‘holiday’ aspect of your trip.
The flexible backpacker who wishes to see where the wind takes them, i.e. showing up at a hostel and not fuss over what job they get or where in the country they are situated, are less likely to need a working holiday program to guide them. That’s not to say there isn’t an option for the indie traveller looking for work in a certain area. As well as job listing websites where you can filter the search to the area you wish to work in, job agencies also exist in towns/cities. For example, I want to work in Queenstown, New Zealand so I can pop into Wanaka / Queenstown Job Agency or Addstaff to search local jobs.
With a Company
Many working holiday programs have more of an emphasis on the ‘holiday’ aspect by offering activity tours and flight drop-offs – BUNAC, for example, have a three-day stop off in Hong Kong if you travel to New Zealand on their Work New Zealand program. Additionally, BUNAC’s group flights mean you can start meeting like-minded people as soon as you start your journey. This makes setting up in a new country a lot less scary. However, for this privilege, group flights cost between £1019 and £2263. Or you could head straight to New Zealand for £612 one way with Air New Zealand.
When it comes to the ‘working’ aspect, companies can offer as little as access to their job listings to the more helpful one-on-one CV review and consultation. If you need sufficient help with finding a job in a foreign country, make this a priority when considering which company to go with. Will you get the individual help you need from a large company that deals with many faceless people like you everyday?
The working holiday companies in general offer about a week in their partner hostel, where company staff are there for assistance, while you search for your first job. Many throw in airport transfer too. This takes away the stress of knowing where to go when you touch down on the soil of your new home. It will perhaps give you peace of mind knowing that someone in this country is expecting your arrival.
It all comes down to what you want to get out of your working holiday trip. If you have specific goals and need guidance on how to achieve those goals then go with a company. You’re brave enough to leave your old life behind to go travelling, then you’re probably brave enough to go it alone. As for me, my comfort zone will be pushed to the limits when I go on a working holiday in New Zealand, I think I might freak out if I don’t have the guidance of a company. I have luckily found a company that offers the help I need with jobs and accommodation, hopefully without robbing me for all I am worth (which wouldn’t take much). More on said company next time…
Feel free to comment with any experience of companies vs. indie travel you may have had or are planning. I would love to know!