Travelling has been on my mind ever since I can remember. When I was five-years-old, my parents hauled me and my brothers across the world for a holiday of a lifetime to Sydney and I caught the bug then.
My dad worked as an engineer on a British Merchant Navy Ship that travelled all around the world and my mum joined him on his trips to sea. Our family home is decorated with souvenirs and pictures from their travels coloured silks and ornaments from Asia and faded photos of tanned skin and bell-bottoms.
Every Sunday dinner the conversation would be littered with references to the exotic trips they took and I clung to every word they said.
Even in their retirement they constantly travel – my mum made it to Everest base camp and they plan adventurous trips as often as they can, their most recent being Cuba and Russia.
I’ve always been memorised by different countries and the idea of exploring the world. I’d try satisfy my travel bug with weekend breaks and sun holidays and J1s to America. I’d made it as far as China with my mum but still hadn’t experienced that true travelling feeling yet.
The plan was as soon as I finished my degree I’d be up and outta here as fast as I could, leaving a dust-shaped-Keelin in my wake. But I soon realised, things don’t always work out the way you imagined. Reality can bite you in the behind and snap you awake from your daydreams.
The realisation that I was going to need money (and a hefty amount of it) to travel hit me. I wasted no time and applied for a job with the Irish Sun newspaper on my last day of college. That was a Thursday, and I started the next Monday.
I told myself it would just be for the summer while I saved the doh and planned my trip. Soon enough a summer turned in to six months, six months into a year, and two years later I still hadn’t taken the trip I’d been fantasying about through four years of college lectures.
I was gaining amazing experience with the paper, earning a decent buck and really enjoying the atmosphere and excitement of a national tabloid.
I’d just been given another pay-rise and really settling into myself in the media. I started to think, maybe this is what I’m meant to do. Maybe I don’t need to travel across the world with a backpack on my back and my hair in a greasy bun. Maybe I could swap the flip-flops for smart heels and be content with fitting my travels into a two-week holiday period from work each year.
Then I thought of my parents, with their bizarre stories of abroad and snaps of strange places. I had a stash of cash I’d been saving for a rainy day and it looked like that rainy day had come (literally).
On a dark Thursday evening in February, I sat in Starbucks in Dublin listening to the rain bucket outside. I had my iPad in my lap and my credit card in my hand.
“F**k it”, I thought and pressed ‘confirm’. Twenty minutes later I had a visa, flights to Australia and travel insurance purchased.
I was thrilled and the excitement had already set in. The Irish lass inside me took over and I immediately wanted to head straight the pub to toast my new adventure. Then that reality-biting dose nipped at me again and I realised it might be a little more complicated than that.
I had a boyfriend, a boss and parents with foreboding questions about responsibilities, career moves and money.
Recently the word “travel” has been replaced with the word “emigrate”, and it’s now associated with crying families saying their goodbyes at the airport as a member is forced to leave the homeland in search of better prospects.
I felt a little selfish upping from a good job and an apartment because I wanted to travel. But it’s a little more than getting a tan and some good material for my Instagram page. As much as I was learning in the office, I wasn’t gaining any real wisdom.
I decided to be upfront with my editor the next morning and told him I’d be leaving in three months. I’d expected the office to be tutting in disapproval with remarks like “Your won’t get another opportunity like this”, and “are you sure you want to leave a steady job?”, but was pleasantly surprised when I got a pat on the back and a “good for you”.
In my preparations to leave, I have encountered, as I like to call them, the “sensible heads”. They gasped when I told them I quit my job. They tutted when I said I booked a one-way ticket. And they nearly fell off their chairs when I told them I had no plan when I arrived in Australia. People kept assuring me “you’ll pick up work in the media no problem”, or “you’ve got some experience under your belt, I’m sure some newspaper will employ you”.
But the thing was, I didn’t really want to join another news team, or get myself into another serious job. I worked hard with my last job, working every weekend and a hell of a lot of late shifts. The whole idea of a Working Holiday Visa, is to holiday, and work to support it.
I’m going to Australia with the aim to see as much as possible and get some travel experience, not work experience.