Want to travel and work around the world after the pandemic but don’t know where to start?
Vanessa Downing and Nash Zangio are seasoned travellers from Moncton, New Brunswick, who quit their comfortable jobs and a mortgage to pursue a full-time lifestyle abroad. After having completed no less than four Working Holiday Visas (WHVs) in four different countries, they have mastered the art of finding their way around the world.
Vanessa and Nash share their experience and advice on how they created (and maintain) this adventurous life for themselves.
It Looks Like You’ve Caught the Travel Bug. What Made You Want to Travel?
“It started four years ago for us. When we finished school, we moved in together and did what everyone around us was doing. We found our first jobs, bought a house, and took the standard 10-day to two-week vacation we are entitled to in Canada. We wanted to travel the world, but we didn’t know how to do it with two weeks vacation once a year. So the first year, we put in our time and vacationed in hotels in Cuba and Havana. From then on, we never stopped talking about travel.
We wanted to see more than Cuba’s all-inclusive scene. But how were we going to do this with just two weeks of vacation? The only way to travel more was to drop everything and leave Canada completely. So that’s what we did. We saved our money for six months. We quit our jobs, rented our house, sold our cars, and gave our things away. Then we booked one-way tickets to Europe and started travelling!
Our first flight was from Montreal to Brussels as it was the cheapest option with a low-cost airline. When we arrived in Belgium, we had no plans. We weren’t sure exactly how we would travel full time or how we could afford it. But we knew other people had done it. We were convinced that we would find out how along the way.
Our next stop was Germany because Nash has family there. Fortunately, we could count on them for accommodation and tours. From there, we also visited Amsterdam in the Netherlands. ”
Which Visa Did You Use to Travel So Much?
“We ended up applying for the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) for Australia while we were in Bangkok, Thailand. We went to Thailand because around October or November, we wanted to get away from the cold. Also, Europe was too expensive. Not knowing much about the area, we asked a taxi driver to take us to Khaosan Road and found a hostel for $10 CAD per night on hostelworld.com. There I met a guy from Alberta, and he told us how he and his girlfriend made a lot of money in Australia with the working holiday visa. They had worked enough to be able to continue travelling for up to 12 more months. This sounded appealing to us, so we filled out a visa application on the government website at 2 a.m. About 24 hours later, our visas were approved.
We still wanted to see a little more of Thailand, so we used the money saved to visit a few islands and then Bali, Indonesia, before heading to Australia for work. ”
What Did You Do for Work When You Arrived in Australia?
“To be honest, it was hard to find work once we got to Sydney, Australia. We were not used to jobs in the hospitality industry. Fortunately, we always stayed in hostels and met amazing people. It was like a community. Our friends told us where to apply. This is how we landed our first jobs as bartenders and tree planters.
Apparently, tree planting is a very Canadian thing, so a company hired me despite my inexperience. They took me from Brisbane to Sydney (and all over Australia) to plant trees.
We loved the experience of working in Australia so much, and we made some amazing friendships. It is also by far the place where we made the most money. We lived by the ocean and we hitchhiked and saw kangaroos. Almost a year had passed at this point, and we wanted to renew our visa. But for that, we had to have at least three months of farm (agricultural) work on our CVs. We didn’t have that, so we just went with the wave and applied for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa instead.”
How Did You Find the New Zealand Experience? What Jobs Did You Do There?
“The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa (WHV) application process was a lot simpler. The website was user-friendly, and we got our visa approval within hours. When we got to Auckland, we bought a van! New Zealand is all about the vanlife experience. The job market isn’t the most robust, but we always found something to make money. Most jobs are easy to start and stop, perfect for nomadic life.
We picked kiwis, melons, blackberries, blueberries, apples and corn. It made us raise enough money, and more, to go from place to place. We did some fantastic things between our destinations, like hiking, going to the beach, partying with new friends, and swinging on the biggest swing in the world. We also did some skydiving in New Zealand.”
Did You Stay All Year in New Zealand?
“No, we only stayed six months. We could have stayed longer, but we were tired of living in a van. We weren’t quite ready to go back to Moncton, so we headed to the west coast of Canada instead. We worked a bit in Banff and Jasper, hiked a lot, met some great people. Then we went home to work and save more money.”
How Long Was It Before the Call to Travel Struck Again?
“We knew we didn’t want to live long term in Canada, so we applied for UK Working Holiday Visas. The visa process was a bit more complicated, but we did it and moved to London in early 2020. Everything was peachy at the start. We had good jobs, and we did a lot of tourism. Then COVID happened.
We lost our jobs and living in London was too expensive. So we went back to square one! We decided to return to Germany with Nash’s family. So we have now moved to Berlin, and we are working. Of all the Working Holiday Visa applications, Germany was the most difficult and the longest. Maybe because of the language barrier. It wasn’t our first choice, but now that we’re here, it’s very easy. A lot of people speak English in Berlin.”
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Wants to Do a Working Holiday Visa?
“When you travel, it opens so many doors and changes your whole perspective. If you stay where you are, with the same people, in the same 9 to 5 job, you will miss out on so many experiences. At 18, I couldn’t imagine travelling and working abroad, especially not alone. I felt pressured by society to go to university, find a job, start a family, take the “safe” route. So I understand the reluctance that people may feel. But my advice is to take the leap and get out of your comfort zone.
Of course, it’s okay to panic before you travel. There are so many strangers; you are so far away, and who knows which career path you will have to give up. But think of it this way: you are going to make money with the working holiday visa. Your trip will be essentially free. You will also develop general skills and life experience that can be useful for a future job interview. And you’ll have great stories to tell.
There are thousands of Canadians who have obtained a working holiday visa. And it is even more popular elsewhere in the world. If you’re afraid to take the plunge, talk to people like us who have, for example, on Facebook groups, for advice and encouragement.”
What Would You Say to People Who Think You Have to Be Rich to Travel?
“This is not true. Travelling tends to make us less materialistic. Your priorities change. You end up discovering what is really important to you and the essentials you need to keep travelling. You will find that a lot of your expenses go down. So no, you don’t have to be rich.
If you really want to work and travel, the money will come. We didn’t have a plan, but in the end, we made more money on our working holiday in Australia than at home. Some people don’t take into consideration the exchange rate and differences in minimum wages. In Australia, we were making $20 or more an hour, and the Canadian and Australian currencies were about the same.”
Do You Have Any Advice for Couples Who Want to Work and Travel Together Full-time?
“Like all couples, we have our bad days. Travelling together 24/7 can test the relationship because you constantly inhabit the same space. Sometimes all it takes is a walk to decompress, especially when you live together in a van.
Good communication is the key. You need to give yourself space and consider your different perspectives. You should respect your own travel experience and recognize that you will not always experience things the same.
We have seen couples go their separate ways on their travels. That’s why it’s essential to make plans with your own friends and embark on your own excursions so that you have something to talk about when you get together. ”
“We must have done it right because we traveled together for four years and we just got engaged!”
The World Is Waiting for You – After the Pandemic!
What an inspiring story! Vanessa and Nash really seized the opportunity to work and travel abroad, using Working Holiday Visas in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK while visiting other exciting countries.
If you are a Canadian between the ages of 18 and 35 and want to learn more about the Working Holiday Visa, be sure to visit the International Experience Canada website for more details.
▶ ️ For even more inspiration, listen to our #NomadTALKS series on YouTube, where we talk with other Canadian travellers who have gone abroad.
The original interview was conducted by Emilie Robichaud and compiled by Britney Claveau.