Looks like bliss, right? Well for 85 long, hard-working days, I lived in this little house with at least 7 other people in order to get my second working holiday visa and spend another year in this great country. Why? Because apparently you really need to prove just how much you want to stay here by working your arse off, for what feels like forever.
“Nothing worth having, comes easy”
So, what kind of farm work did I do? Macadamia Nut Farming. Yep, it’s a thing. The work varied slightly, between literally picking nuts up from the floor, filling sacks and then carrying them back to the shed, to sorting the good nuts from the bad nuts on a conveyor belt. We worked Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 5pm. I was extremely grateful for the normal start time, because picking cherry tomatoes in Bundaberg and waking up at 3:30am was the definition of hell.
What else did we do? Well, most of the time we had the weekends to ourselves … sometimes we were allowed (yes, allowed) to take the backpacker car to Byron Bay or Nimbin, and by sometimes I mean I could count the amount of times we went there for fun on one hand. If we were ever allowed away from the farm, we’d usually go to Lismore for a few hours (if you know Lismore, I needn’t say anymore!) But mainly, our saviors were reading, playing cards, drinking/smoking, or playing that logo game app that you can get on your phone.Now, when backpackers say that farmers exploit them, we’re not exaggerating. We don’t mean every single farmer in Australia … some people I’ve spoken to have had really nice experiences, but a lot of them. We didn’t have it near as bad as some people, but we didn’t live an easy 85 days. We got our food and accommodation included, but the food on the list didn’t always impress the lady of the house … “You want avocados?! Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not buying some of the things on this list” despite the fact we’d always stick to budget. I lived on edge a lot of the time, pretty certain that I could get fired at any moment. I can’t even remember some of the ridiculous things we had to put up with, but I do remember feeling like an absolute slave … and calling home on more than one occasion saying that I couldn’t do it anymore. We got paid $100 a week, which would have been fine if it wasn’t for some of the work we did, because that was grossly underpaid. We painted the outside of their house and the outside of our house, we cleaned their cars, we tidied out their sheds, we renovated their guest houses in Byron Bay … and by that I mean, one guy was sanding, some were painting, and I was sealing floors … “Be careful with the scrub that you’re using, its a really strong chemical, but we don’t have any goggles for you, so don’t get it in your eyes” … ok, great. The saving grace of them using us, was that they also needed people to do the housekeeping for their guest houses … in Byron Bay. So me and one of the girls on the farm, Mariah went in once a week and cleaned the houses … it was still hard work, one house had 6 bedrooms and the other had 5 but we were able to get off the farm, work in civilisation, watch TV, use the internet, and see the sunset on the beach. My last two weeks were basically in Byron, monitoring guest noise for large parties of people and then cleaning up after them … it got a little bit lonely, but thankfully the bosses were kind enough to send a couple of people in to help me out, and inadvertently keep me company. The thing I miss most about living on the farm is actually the farm dog, Sasha. She was the most lovely, well tempered dog, who actually really felt like a friend. She lived in our little backpacker shack and would go to work with us every day … towards the end of my time there she’d actually follow me around nut picking which was adorable. I wish I could have taken her with me, because she wasn’t appreciated as much as she should have been. She had such a matted coat, and she deserved so much more love than she got. Not from us though, we gave her all of the love!! But despite the work and the bosses, there were actually a lot of positives. For instance, I made great friends with some of the people I lived with, and no matter who moved in and who moved out, we always managed to have a group full of really nice backpackers. You also knew that the people in that house, liked you for you, there was no way to pretend to be someone you weren’t, you had to just be yourself because it would have been too much hard work to try otherwise. We actually learned to live without TV and internet, and how to socialise without them … we had movie nights, we played endless amounts of card games, we walked to nearby nature parks/waterfalls, we got drunk around the campfire and toasted marshmallows, or we just chatted. It was unbelievably nice to be away from the main world and be stuck in our little farm bubble (don’t get me wrong, at times it was suffocating) but you learned to appreciate the small things. And coming out of the end of it, the feeling of accomplishment was huge! You actually come out the other end smiling, being so proud of what you’ve done, and knowing that although not everyone will understand, it’s one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. All the hard work, blood, sweat and tears has paid off, and you’ve got your second year visa! It’s incredible, and it’s definitely not something I’m ever going to forget.