Hi Melissa, where are you at the moment?
I’ve unfortunately returned to the UK after two awesome, awesome years in Australia. I want to go back like you wouldn’t believe.
And what did you get up to while you were in Australia?
I did a stack of travelling and then did some work so I could do a stack more travelling.
What kind of jobs did you have?
Well I worked in a café for a bit in Sydney but I guess the more interesting thing I did was work on a strawberry farm. I LOVE strawberries. Adore strawberries, in fact. I now have back muscles I didn’t know I had though.
How did you get the job?
I wanted to do something in an area where not everybody goes, so my boyfriend talked to a few contacts he had in tourism and they gave me a list of different places. I gave each a call, some weren’t interested and others offered different things so I checked them out and I ended up in South Australia on a strawberry farm.
What’s the pay?
It was alright. I got paid by the hour which was good but they work you pretty hard and don’t let you slack off, it’s a pretty efficient kind of farm.
Why do it?
I did it because I wanted to stay longer in Australia. I had heard of people paying for the farmer’s ABN and stuff but I’m such a chicken when it comes to stuff like that, that I just didn’t want to risk it. I’m glad I went ahead with it though because it was a great experience.
What did you get to see of Australia?
I managed to visit every capital city and see all the big highlights. Uluru and The Kimberley were probably the best parts for me. Darwin was my favourite city – so much fun and a very chilled out environment, a long way from the manic fuss of London. Ergh.
What’s best about fruit-picking?
This sounds so disgustingly clichéd but you really do find yourself when you are alone, in a remote location, doing a mindless task. I’d spent a lot of my adult life going at the speed of a bull at a gate and I’d never really stopped. While the work was pretty taxing physically it gave me a lot of time to think about what I really want in life and where I’m headed. Are you throwing up yet?
With strawberry-picking? The back aches. At the beginning I thought I would end up like the Hunchback of Notre Dame but I soon learned how to reduce the pain.
Is it worth it?
Obviously I got a lot out of it and before I got there I was prepared for whatever they were going to throw at me. A lot of people I know were dreading it before they left and ended up not getting much more from it than a visa extension, which is why a lot of people do it I suppose.
What do you do when you’re off duty?
I was pretty close to a lot of wineries so I checked a lot of those out and Adelaide wasn’t that far away either so I’d day trip there. There was plenty of different places to occupy my time.
If you can, take a car with you. The amount of freedom it gives you is invaluable. There’s nothing worse than being literally stuck in the middle of nowhere. It makes the time drag a lot longer.