How a working holiday can change your life

For many travellers, taking a working holiday in Australia, New Zealand or Canada is the perfect way to earn some extra cash to fund their travelling. But for some, it’s the beginning of a life-changing adventure. If you’ve ever thought about taking a working holiday but aren’t entirely sure about taking the plunge, then this is the Blog post for you.

Of course, leaving the UK for a year or maybe more is daunting; saying goodbye to family and friends will be tough. Flying off into the unknown is scary. But it’s also really, really exciting. And it’s your chance to make a change and do, well, whatever you like with your life, really.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s speak to someone who’s been there and is living the working holiday dream. Step forward Christian Heath. Christian left his marketing job in the UK in 2010 for the sunny shores of Melbourne, Australia – and to say he hasn’t looked back would be an understatement. Swapping spreadsheets for the stage, Christian is using his working holiday as a fresh start, and building a new career as an actor.

Pretty inspiring, right? So I decided to give Christian a grilling about his working holiday, making that all important career change, life Down Under, and, of course, whether he’s met anyone from Neighbours yet.

Christian getting into the Aussie way of life

Hi Christian! Tell us, what were you doing in the UK before you decided to take a working holiday Down Under?

I was doing the usual 9-6 job, living in London and working for a marketing agency.

Why did you decide to take a working holiday?

I had been thinking about a career change for a couple of years, but I never acted on it. I was working long hours, for average pay, not getting anything out of it and had no time to do anything outside of work. Then, when I wasn’t performing at my best at work, I realised I wasn’t actually enjoying my job. I decided I needed to take action before it was too late so I booked a one way ticket to Australia to re-inject passion into my life and find out what I really wanted to do. I had always had a deep burning desire to act and I wanted to try some acting classes. If that didn’t work, then I decided I’d try out some different marketing roles.

So it was very much your goal to get into acting when you went out there?

I decided to try an acting class to see if I would enjoy it but, after the first class, decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I owe a massive thanks to Peter Sardi for giving me the best introduction into acting I could have asked for.

What made you choose Australia? Had you been before?

I travelled round Australia on a Gap Year 10 years ago and loved the east coast because of the beaches and laid back life. To decide where to work, though, it was a process of elimination. I wanted somewhere English speaking for acting, with a warm climate, beaches and where there was a better work/life balance then in London. The USA is practically impossible to stay in, Canada was too cold and I didn’t fancy New Zealand, so I chose Australia.

One of Christian's harder jobs - being filmed going on a Great Ocean Road road trip. It's a tough life!

You’re based in Melbourne now. Why did you choose to make it your new home?

Everyone seems to go to Sydney and I wanted something a bit different, so I chose Melbourne. As the arts hub of Australia, it offered everything I needed. I must admit Melbourne isn’t the best place for beaches and weather, BUT it’s still awesome! Not initially beautiful with big tourist sights, but you fall in love with it when you live here. They say that Sydney is the film and Melbourne is the book.

Do you prefer Aussie or English girls now (careful…)?

Ha! I need to be careful here don’t I? Well, Aussie girls are very attractive but nothing beats the British humour!

Right answer, Christian! So how did you go about getting a job when you got to Australia?

The first thing you’ll notice when you get here is how expensive everything is out here compared to the UK (a pint is over £6). It’s painful, so you really have to start working as soon as possible if you want to make it sustainable. There’s plenty of bar and restaurant work to get you started though. As acting pays so well (!), bar work is essential!

Throw another shrimp on the barbie, Christian!

Have you met any Aussie celebs in your new line of work (i.e. anyone from Neighbours!)?

I still laugh to myself thinking back to when I was at school watching Neighbours and then now, I’m in the same acting classes as these guys! It’s a ridiculously small industry over here so you’re always bumping into or working on films with people who’ve been on Neighbours.

That’s incredibly exciting (seriously!). So what’s been the best thing about working in Australia?

That it feels like you’re on holiday every day, for me at least. The beach is at the end of my road and I still get giddy living in a place where there are palm trees everywhere.

What’s the coolest place you’ve been to in Australia?

The sights on the Great Ocean Road are awesome and Uluru is pretty spectacular, but it’s difficult to beat the east coast; the beaches on Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef.

Is it true that no one drinks Fosters over there?

I dont think I’ve ever seen it sold in a pub!

Making friends Down Under

Is there anything you miss about the UK?

Moving away from London wasn’t a problem for me, but it was really difficult leaving family and friends behind. I’m certainly emailing, Skyping and on Facebook a lot more though. I just wish it didn’t take 24 hours to get back to the UK to visit everyone.

Do your mates from back home think you have a silly accent now?

Only a few of them pulled me up on it. Hopefully it wont get too bad!

What’s next – another working holiday? Australian residency?

I did a 3 month stint in primary industry work (aka fruit picking), which meant I could extend my initial working holiday visa by another year. So, in February 2013 my visa expires. There aren’t many options for actors after the working holiday finishes, so I’ll be looking at an entertainment visa. In other industries, though, you can get sponsorship from companies pretty easily or you could commit to some studies on a student visa.

Have you got any advice for would-be Working Holiday makers?

If you have the chance, do it before it’s too late. It’s important to remember that you’ll still be working here as you would be at home and in some jobs the hours are the same, if not more here. There’s just more life outside of work here. I’m a firm believer that there are certain places in the world that get the best out of you and Melbourne is my city.

You can support Christian’s campaign to stay in Australia on an entertainment visa here. And if you want to see more of his acting work, visit his blog!

Has Christian’s story inspired you to take a working holiday? Find out all you need to know about working in Australia right here. If you’ve already worked abroad, we’d love to hear from you, too – let us know about your experiences in the comments thread below.