The best and worst things about living at an international backpackers down under 

The farm work-

The best thing:

If you're staying at a working hostel in Australia, then it's more than likely that you're there to get your slave-sorry farm work done (God forbid you're not working on the strawberry farms with a 4 cents peice rate, or working on the strawberry farms full stop).

The best thing I can say perhaps about farm work, is that you all get to suffer together collectively as a group. Working with other backpackers means that you can share your pains (and I mean literal physical pains and I guess other spiritual, mental and emotional pains that farm work will invoke).

However one beautiful thing about farm work is that it's more than likely that you get to watch the sunrise practically every single morning (now how many people can boast that!?). 

 The sun rising at 6:30am on the passionfruit farm

The sun rising at 6:30am on the passionfruit farm

The worst thing:

I am really unsure of how to begin this section as it is extremely self explanatory: exploitation of backpackers, gruelling hard physical labour, early starts (meaning early nights aka less of a social life), shitty pay, unusual (to put it politely) farmers who decide to fire about 10 people whenever they feel like it, walking into at least 20 spider webs a day (straight in the face), physical aches and pains, calluses, being constantly muddy and all of your work clothes constantly smelling like a literal farm no matter how many times you take them to the laundrette (and the list could go on and on).

But despite all of the (character building) struggles we're put through, at least this means (most of the time) that we get to enjoy another 12 months down under! (And at least we've got a few stories to pass down to the future grandkids!). 

 Our final day planting at the Twist Brothers  Strawberry farm, QLD

Our final day planting at the Twist Brothers  Strawberry farm, QLD

Finding that 'someone special':

The best thing:

It's inevitable really, when living in a close knit community of people, you're going to find at least one of them attractive...and the chances are they're going to find you attractive too (hopefully). But we all know, when it comes to living in a hostel and meeting someone, there has to be more than just attraction. Cause chances are when they see you in the morning without make-up, straight out of the shower (looking like a drowned rat), or at dinner time when half of your food is down your t shirt and the other half is stuck between your teeth, there's going to have to be more than attraction there for something meaningful to flourish.

The best thing about meeting that special someone at the hostel, is that you now have someone to share adventures with (whether it's visiting beautiful beaches, hiking mountains or even carrying out mundane tasks like going to the launderette or food shopping).

You now have someone you can share your joy with, share your perspectives on life with, share Netflix binging sessions with (unless you watch a few episodes ahead and they get mad so Netflix binging doesn't work anymore) and of course the best reason: having someone to cwtch up with on lazy days or any days really. 

 Sunset hiking at the Glass house mountains, Sunshine Coast.  

Sunset hiking at the Glass house mountains, Sunshine Coast.  

The worst thing: 

Its more than likely that, that someone special doesn't live in the same country as you (making things particularly tricky for the long term). Meeting someone so unexpectedly can throw you off course or even make you compromise your initial plans (which you told yourself you wouldn't compromise on).

But that's okay, because in the words of my mother "God laughs at our plans". In other words, you can't make plans in life as everything is continuously changing. Or in the words of my father "There are no guarantees in life". But actually there is one guarantee in life, which is that we're all going to die some day. But that's not to be cynical, but just a reminder that we have to take each moment as it comes and enjoy everything that we have for now, rather than worrying about the future. 

 Binging on vegan food at Elixiba, Sunshine Coast

Binging on vegan food at Elixiba, Sunshine Coast

Living with at least 40 people:

The best thing:

You have a hyper-extended family, which means there's always someone who wants to do yoga with you, cook a delicious meal or bake treats together, or do some art work, go paddle boarding, go hiking (the list is endless). And in my experience at my hostel, practically every other person was a musical genius and had awesome jamming sessions together (no need to go out to bars or pay for live music-winning).

You'll be surrounded by creative, intelligent and open minded individuals who reignite the spark for your long forgotten passions and hobbies. This also means that you will never, ever be alone (unless you're lucky enough to have bagged a private room) and you will never, ever get lonely...which leads me swiftly onto the worst thing. 

 Fi & I rolling up Yohan after a sunset yoga sesh together 

Fi & I rolling up Yohan after a sunset yoga sesh together 

The worst thing:

Seeing as you will never (or very rarely) be alone and therefore you will be likely to get very little (if any) personal space. If you're an only child like myself and have been brought up used to being by yourself (such as doing things like playing Monopoly alone at seven years old), then no personal space may drive you slightly insane.

Cooking becomes a fight for pots and pans and who gets to put their pizza (or in my case sweet potatoes) in the oven first game, and the whole thing can be absolute chaos. Not to mention when it comes to shower time when everyone gets back from farm work (absolutely head-to-toe covered in mud) and there's barely 2 showers between 40 odd people.

However despite the inconveniences, the delayed cooking and shower time, I can totally now see why families choose to go and live with others in big communities (like those documentaries you see with about 5 families living together and raising their kids with each other). There's always someone there to share your happiness, sadness and worries with, and there's never a dull moment to say the absolute least.  

 Me as a child when I realised I had no one to play with  

Me as a child when I realised I had no one to play with  

About 30% of the people have English as their first/native language:

The best thing:

You'll hear English words pronounced like you've never heard them before (like my Swedish friend Maja pronouncing 'chocolate' as 'schocolate'), which makes daily mundane conversation as entertaining as ever (for both sides). 

This is also an amazing opportunity to learn how to say "what's up" in several new languages and learn the odd few swear words here and there. You get to develop your language skills (even languages you initially thought you had no interest whatsoever in learning) and you discover how fun and rewarding it actually is to learn new words and phrases.

You also develop a lot of respect for those who come from non-English speaking countries and actually can speak two, or even three or four languages. Not to mention how cool it is when you get people of 10 different nationalities show up at your birthday meal.

 Me and Maja, my georgous Swedish friend on a road trip to Noosa (I now have a reason to visit Sweden) 

Me and Maja, my georgous Swedish friend on a road trip to Noosa (I now have a reason to visit Sweden) 

The worst thing:

If you are an native English speaker, then your English (particularly your grammar) will become progressively worse. You'll find yourself saying phrases that grammatically make absolutely no sense whatsoever. However because you're so used to hearing these small mistakes, you're no longer able to consciously differentiate between correct and incorrect phrases. Therefore, as your English is disintegrating, the non-native speaker is vastly improving there English speaking abilities. But oh well, at least you can now speak the basics in German.

The second worst thing is when you're not able to be a part of conversations when others aren't speaking English, and therefore you can't find out the latest goss or understand what everyone is laughing about (but these leads to more motivation to learn-particularly when your boyfriend is German and you want to try and decode the messages he's been receiving from "his mother"). 

 Maja, Yohan & Lesley (my Swedish, French-Canadian & Belge friends) 

Maja, Yohan & Lesley (my Swedish, French-Canadian & Belge friends) 

'Long term' people leaving the hostel:

The best thing: 

If you were particularly chummy with this person, or happened to share similar interests such as both being veggie, then it's more than likely that you'll get to keep all of their food when they leave. Yup I'm talking fresh fruit and vegetables, that new big packet of dates that they never opened and particularly useful baking ingredients such as vanilla essence which you wouldn't think to splash out on in the stores (especially if you're living in Australia and such ingredients are at least $10 for a tiny bottle). With such ingredients you can then make a pretty nifty snack without having to use any of your own ingredients (apart from your delicious homemade hummus you made last week to jazz it up a little).

 Some brunch entirely made from Mo's veggie leftovers (minus my beetroot hummus)-cheers Mo! 

Some brunch entirely made from Mo's veggie leftovers (minus my beetroot hummus)-cheers Mo! 

The worst thing:

If not the actual goodbyes itself, but the actual sadness of departing with a person of whom which became a part of your dysfunctional and ever growing family for the past few several months.

It's crazy how fast people are able to develop intimate and caring relationships with each other within the space of a few months, or even weeks. This is most likely due to living together in a community of other free spirited and open minded individuals. Open minded individuals who often end up sharing every morning and evening together, every laugh and sorrow and watching every sunrise and sunset together (especially when you have to wake up before the crack of dawn when working on the fruit farms).

Saying goodbye is always hard and the hostel always throws a good leaving party, making sure everyone gets a big hug, a hand written card and group photo before departure. But it's not really goodbye, it's "see you later" or "what country will I see you next in?"; With certainty that paths will cross once more on this big global adventure.

 I'm grateful to have made friends from all over the world who now give me even more excuses to travel when I visit them  

I'm grateful to have made friends from all over the world who now give me even more excuses to travel when I visit them  

Maddie Lynch2 Comments