Farm Work in Australia
Pros and cons of the "88 days" experience
It is no breaking news, all travelers on a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) to Australia have come across, at least once in their trip, the infamous "eighty-eight days" story. This story doesn't tell, as it may sound, about the glorious deeds of eighty-eight brave men that all alone subverted power during the revolution, but rather a much bigger pain and, perhaps, backpackers' worst nightmare ever. Yes, indeed, eighty-eight is the number of days one has to work, strictly in a regional area in the middle of nowhere, to be guaranteed a further extension of their WHV, therefore having the chance to live another year in paradise.
That doesn't sound too bad I guess, and indeed it is not the end of the world. If you go on a road trip for a whole year, chances are you will have to work at some point, so why not fill two needs with one deed and get your farm work done and get paid for it. But there are a few things around this matter that discourage most backpackers and, sometimes, keep them from getting a second-year extension.
First and foremost the location- as mentioned above, farm work is to be done in a regional area, sometimes hours away from the closest populated town and that's a bummer. This is, by far, the best move Australian Government could ever think of to liven up all these little villages that, otherwise, might have become extinct. Those who are not familiar with the Australian territory and the outback may be surprised by the desolation of these towns and cultural backwardness. In most cases, we are looking at small villages with just few-hundreds people and basic services, usually the classic old tavern with beat-up pool table and non-working jukebox or the local second-rate food market that showcases all the essential. The land is red and dry and the people, fascinating and old-fashioned species, look sideways at these disoriented stranger figures (so-called backpackers) who stroll around their timeless lives. On the plus side, here, life is simple, laid-back, and natural and words such as capitalism or materialism, sadly dominant in our society, shall never scratch the village's collective imaginary.
Truth be told, finding an area for farm work is pretty much like playing Russian roulette, the case will decide for you in most cases, and you have one choice but to agree with it. Now, although Australia is packed with regional areas, not all of them can guarantee a vacancy given their small capacity, which makes the job search even harder, therefore many travelers will have to settle for the hand they're dealt at some point. Few lucky ones will have the privilege of sharing the benefits of living in small coastal towns surrounded by lively hostels, fresh sea air, intimate parties, and delightful beach life. On the other hand, those to whom fate failed to qualify for the same treatment will have to bear with dust and deafening silence, set to accompany their long and lonely days in inland regions. In this case, nobody should ever give in to despair as time is the most precious thing a man can possess, hence it might come in handy for other important things like planning a future trip, saving a little money or finding the path to inner peace.
It may sound silly but, more and more often, backpackers struggle to keep count of their eighty-eight days once they get a job. This is, without a doubt, the second most discouraging situation for them when it comes to completing farm work in Australia. For most people, this endless countdown appears to fall within the fundamentals of the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein, in which different individuals have a different perception of time depending on what they are doing at the moment of their action. And, surprise, surprise eighty-eight days are not always eighty-eight Down Under, yes, it is sometimes less, sometimes longer than that. The type of job, the weather conditions, and the company you work for are just a few factors that may affect the tally of your days. Fortunately, some unknown geniuses have come up with a few apps that will keep count for these poor wretches, as long as all paychecks are correctly uploaded with the total of every single hour and day spent at work and "les jeaux sont faits".
Farm work is probably not the most pleasant activity one can do, and having to deal with whirly bugs, venomous snakes, oppressive heat or, on the contrary, freezing cold and not least ridiculously-low wages certainly doesn't help, but hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do! The feeling of living in nature, breathing pure air, soiling your hands, constantly surrounded by the absolute green of the trees, though, purifies the spirit and makes you reconnect with your own soul, and isn't this what traveling is for in the end, a chance for all of us to become better people and leave a mark in our lives. Hopefully, it is.