How to Use Working Holiday Visas to Travel for Free

Last year, at 27 years old, Maria decided that she wanted to travel without compromising her career and her savings. She is now using working holiday visas to work abroad, learn new skills and travel the world, funding her travels as she goes.

This guest post will cover Maria’s story, what a working holiday visa is and why it may be for you. Maria also dives into some of the challenges she has faced and how she over came them. Enjoy!

Maria’s Story

I’ve always loved traveling and seeing the world and have been lucky to go on some fantastic trips. During one summer of university, I had my first taste of backpacking when I went away with my brother to South America for 6 weeks. I loved exploring and seeing different places and truly had the time of my life, but I was by no means a natural backpacker. I struggled with hostels, uncomfortable beds, unclean bathrooms and being social 24/7. 

Machu Picchu, the famous Inca site - backpacking South America
I absolutely loved South America but the backpacker lifestyle was not for me!

After university, I threw myself into work and took as many holidays as I could afford, usually a city break, a long weekend skiing and some form of a summer holiday, either abroad, or in the UK. I was really lucky but I wanted to travel more. Short of winning the lottery I wasn’t sure how I could do this. I was very reluctant to pause my career so I could go and travel, particularly in a budget backpacker environment I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. However work wasn’t fulfilling me, I’d had a rough year health wise and at 27, I was beginning to feel like it was now or never!

So I started googling and discovered Working Holiday Visas. There was no need to pause my career, I could continue working, learning new things and earning money and at the same time explore a completely different place. 

What is a working holiday visa?

A working holiday visa is a residence permit that allows you to work in a country to supplement your travel funds. They usually last for 1-2 years and are aimed at people aged 30 or under (35 for some places). They also have certain restrictions, for example, in Australia you can only work for the same employee for a maximum of 6 months.

Who can apply for a working holiday visa?

I completely acknowledge not everyone will be able to do this. I’m very privileged to have a UK passport which allows me to get working holiday visa’s easily in several countries.

You can check here to see a full list of which countries offer working holiday visa’s and the countries they accept. Hopefully at some point, in the not so distant future, this will be the same for everyone regardless of where you’re from, or what passport you hold. 

Why apply for a working holiday visa?

One of the biggest challenges with traveling is cost. A working holiday visa allows you to work to supplement your travels. You can work as little or as much as you need (within restrictions in certain countries) allowing you to travel for longer. 

I also find this way of traveling allows me to be more sustainable and kinder to the planet. I am traveling at a much slower pace, doing less air miles and properly exploring the area I am living in. 

I think living in a place gives you a unique opportunity from a travel perspective. You get to explore somewhere in so much more detail than you ever would when just visiting. You truly get to see the good, the bad and the ugly! 

Melbourne, Australia - Working Holiday Visa in Melbourne
Living in a place means you get to see the Good, Bad and the Ugly. Melbourne is mostly good!

What are some challenges of working holiday visas?

Finding a job isn’t always the easiest in a new country, but if you put yourself out there, hand out CVs and use free events and volunteering to network, you should be able to find something. When arriving in Australia, I worked a variety of different casual jobs from hospitality, warehousing, and events before I managed to secure a six-month role in marketing. You can read my blog on finding a job on a working holiday visa here.

Working holiday visa in Melbourne, Australia
I worked all sorts of jobs from noodle markets to swimming galas before getting a position in marketing

I was worried that leaving my old job and working for short stints abroad would make my CV weaker. However, I can honestly say I’ve learnt more in the past few months in my role in Melbourne, than I ever would have staying in my old job. I’m working for a company that are truly making a difference, whose morals align with mine and I’m constantly learning new skills. 

The biggest challenge for us has been that Darren, my other half, doesn’t qualify for a working holiday visa. At 32 he’s deemed too old. We did long distance for a few months and then Darren has come to Australia on a 6 month tourist visa, so he’s had a lot more free time than me and we’ve only had one income. Through volunteering while I’ve been working and discovering house sitting, we’ve managed to find ways around that challenge. 

House sitting is where you look after people’s animals (for free) while their owners are on holiday and in return you can stay in their house. As animal lovers, we love it; it gives Darren something to do and saves us money at the same time. 

A person and a dog walking on a dirt road - house sitting in Australia
House sitting has been a huge money saver and so much fun!

Related article: How To House Sit Around The World

What’s Next?

We’re leaving Australia in May time and then plan to do another working holiday visa in New Zealand. Darren will get a 6-month tourist visa while I’ll get a 12-month working holiday visa. This allows us to continue our travels in this part of the world, funding them as we go. If I wasn’t working, we would never be able to fund these trips for as long as we desired or live the lifestyle we desired. We’re not really backpackers, 10 to a room kind of people. We travel on a budget but like a comfy bed and a clean bathroom (and the odd luxury!).

After that, who knows! We’re considering Canada, although their working holiday visa is a little more complicated. But we could do the same in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong to name a few.

As you can see, I’m a big advocate for Working Holiday Visas. I hope one day, they are more accessible as I think they give people the most incredible opportunity. We are planning the rest of our travels around my working holiday visa’s so we can continue traveling, at a slower pace, and fund our travels as we go! 

If you want to follow my travels, I’m @mazzasmoments on Instagram and I have just launched a travel and sustainability blog! Come say hello, have a chat and if you have any questions – go wild!

Thank you so much to Maria!!! I absolutely loved how you fit your passion for travel into your life. Travel is not one size fits all. Backpacking isn’t for everyone. I loved how you pushed through that and found your own way. V inspiring! <3

Have you ever done a holiday working visa? or house sat? What was your experience like?

Related article: How to Travel for Free in 2020

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How to use working holiday visas to make money and travel for free! Learn how Maria is living and traveling in Australia while learning new skills. #holidayvisa #workingholidayvisa #australia #melbourne #freetravel

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