Tag archive for "work holiday"

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

13 Comments 09 July 2012

A year ago today, Ric and I arrived in New Zealand, which means tomorrow will mark a new achievement in my travels-spending more than one full year in a foreign country.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for so long and that I’m still hanging around here for a few more months, but it just feels right.

Whenever I meet locals from the country I’m traveling, one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you ever get home sick?”. Almost always, my answer is “Yes”. But there is something different about New Zealand. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been here for so long or the fact that I’ve spent my entire time here with a partner, but for some reason, I feel at home in New Zealand.

Which is quite weird considering this country gave me the coldest welcoming of all the countries I’ve visited in the past two and a half years.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand last July, I was traveling on my own rendition of The Endless Summer. It started in Sydney in January of 2010, which is where I first started my current journey. It continued in the farms of Victoria for a few months and after that I worked my way up the east coast, pretty much following the heat. When Winter hit Australia, I found warmth in the tropics of Far North Queensland. And when it became a bit too hot there, I headed back to Melbourne for another Aussie Summer.

Next was SE Asia where it’s always warm and finally the good ol’ US of A in the Summer of 2011, which is one of the hottest Summers I’ve ever felt at home. But my summer was cut short when, as I mentioned above, I headed to NZ in July of last year, first stop-Queenstown.

The snow must have just been waiting for Ric and I too. Prior to our arrival, Queenstown was having a bit of a “drought”. The heavy ski destination was missing it’s number one ingredient to a good season. But the night we arrived, it came in full blast.

Nothing like waking up to snow in Queenstown. This shot was taken from our hotel room the day after we arrived in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I remember waking up at 4 a.m., jet-lagged, and Ric saying, “This is the first time I’ve had to put on all my clothes to go out for a fag in a year and a half.”

We weren’t in Australia anymore. 

But we wouldn’t stay in Queenstown for long, rumor of lack of jobs and friends’ calling up north led us to Blenheim. It’s not the most happening town, but we were in good company. We spent about a month there, then headed to Wellington, where we would make our first home in the country. We had a rough few nights in the country’s capital city to start, but came to love it and stuck around for about five months, the longest Ric or I have spent anywhere since we started traveling.

It was nice to have a home of sorts, but being the constant travelers we are, we had to hit the road eventually. In January we embarked on a six week trip around both islands. After that, I really understood why the people who have traveled NZ, go on about it so much.

Flat out, this is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. From kayaking Abel Tasman to hiking Franz Josef Glacier, camping out in Haast to living it up in Queenstown, it’s just a spectacular place to visit.

Ric and I spent two weeks traveling the South Island with my Dad, two weeks catching up with friends around the country and two more weeks with Ric’s family in Mount Maunganui, then it was time to build another home. And I think we’ve built our best one yet.

We’ve been living in the Mount for five months now and plan to spend another two here. During that time we’ve lived with some great housemates, Ric found an amazing job at a cafe and I…well I’ve worked with one of the country’s biggest icons: kiwifruit. It’s not always been an easy industry to work in, in fact working in agriculture is quite tedious, but the work has allowed me to stay here for more than a year.

US citizens are granted a three month extension on their work holiday visas after completing three months of agricultural work in New Zealand.

I started my work in March and was granted my extension, actually on the spot, in late June. I can’t describe just how relieved I felt that day. Traveling for as long as I have, it’s not all a holiday. Money is a constant worry as is trying to stay with a partner from a different country. In fact, one of the things that drew Ric and I to New Zealand is the fact that we were both eligible for working holiday visas here. So being granted those extra few months here, just put everything in order for me.

While we don’t plan to stick around here for too much longer, Thailand in September-Yesss!!!, we would like to return. How, you ask? Stay tuned. My mission has always been to stay on the road for as long as possible and I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve to help me do that.

But today, I’m going to celebrate a year in New Zealand, two and half years traveling and almost two years with my favorite travel partner and best friend.

Home is wherever I’m with you-bad’un.

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Three ways to get your tax back-Australia

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad, Other, Tips & Facts

Three ways to get your tax back-Australia

4 Comments 02 December 2011

A surprise to some, and lifeline to others, a nice end to any working-holiday year or two spent in Australia is receiving tax back and superannuation.

In a country where wages are high, these two things can accumulate to a large chunk of change. But in a country where living expenses are also extremely high, that large chunk of change may be needed just to book a flight home.

Depending on how much you spent on your working holiday abroad and how desperately you need money, there are three options to getting your tax back. However, your superannuation may be a bit more complex.

I have spare money so I’ll do my tax back whenever.

A year in one of the wildest countries in the world, in nature and party, and you’ve still managed to be thoughtful with the money you’ve earned. Good on ya!

If there’s no need to receive your Tax Back now, then do it on your own through the Australian Tax Office (ATO). This process probably takes the longest to complete depending on your knowledge of tax forms etc.

Don’t be too daunted by the process. It’s actually quite simple and the ATO website goes through the process with you.

When can I file my tax return?

The fiscal year starts on July 1 and ends on June 30, if you want to file for a tax return this way, you should wait until the June 30 following your year of work. This may mean filing twice for your tax return depending on when you worked in Australia.

What do I need?

Be prepared with personal information including your Tax File Number (TFN) as well as payment summaries from all employers in Australia. These are available at the end of each fiscal year.

How can I lodge my Tax Return this way?

The ATO website gives directions for lodging tax returns online or by mail. Go through their e-tax demonstration to learn about the process online. You may find most of the information needed to lodge your return is already available on their website. For people still in Australia at the end of the fiscal year, most news agents offer paper tax back guides and forms for free.

When do I receive my tax back?

For the basic working holiday maker, the process usually isn’t too complex. Though any tax office works at its own pace. Most people can expect Tax back anywhere from two weeks on. I received my tax back about a month after it was lodged. After six weeks, I would recommend a call or email asking for an update.

I’m traveling, so I would like the money soon, but don’t have time for paperwork.

If your adventure in Australia ends with the beginning of another adventure in some place new (tax back goes far in southeast Asia), then you most likely will have some money to spare, but won’t have the time or resources to lodge a tax return yourself. The best option is to see a tax agent.

When can I file my return with an agent?

Whenever you want. Even if your tax back with an agent includes work after July 1, but it is not yet June 30 of that same year, they can get your full return with an early tax assessment. Foreign residents applying individually can do this as well, but it gets a bit more complicated, so it’s better to leave it to the experts.

Try to meet with a tax agent while in Australia. They’ll talk you through the process, give you some paper work and let you know about any loose ends that need to be tied up before leaving the country. After leaving, just follow whatever they tell you to do post-departure.

What do I need?

Information needed on the application from a tax agent includes personal details such as your TFN, employment details (it can be as simple as the name of places you worked, they’ll research the rest, but the more information given, the quicker the process and sometimes the cheaper) and bank account information.

If you can keep the Australian bank account you were paid into open, then do. It makes the process easier for payment of funds and tracking how much you’ve earned.

You must also sign a power of attorney allowing the tax agency to complete this work.

Once all this information is returned to a tax agent, your work is done.

How much does it costs?

Some agents charge a percentage of your tax return, others charge a flat fee. Look into how much you’ve earned to pick which option is best for you, but usually it’s easier just to go for a flat fee. Make sure to go through an agency with a policy of only charging after your refund is complete.

When do I receive my refund?

It depends on how long it takes the agency to lodge your tax return as well as the tax return process by ATO. Good tax agents are very educated in tax law and usually sort out information and file it pretty quickly. I used this option and received my tax refund about two months after mailing in my application with no payment summaries.

How do I find a reliable tax agent?

A lot of travel agencies in Australia also offer tax back. If not they can recommend places to you. You can also find registered tax agents on the government website.

I don’t even have the money for a flight out of Oz. I need cash now!

Yes it’s possible to get your tax refund within a week or less, but it’ll cost you.

I’ve heard twice of people receiving up-front tax back payments. This means an agency does the usual estimate on the amount of tax back you will receive, pays that amount to you out of their own pocket and actually collects the tax back for themselves later.

You’ll go through the same application process as with a tax agent. Only difference is they must complete an identity check first to give the money up front.

Expect to pay at least 9% of your tax back. Backpacker Buddy offers what they call a 12-hour refund. They charge 19.8% of your tax back with a minimum fee of $250. This means no matter what your tax back estimate is, you’ll pay at least $250, but possibly more.

(Note: This is NOT and endorsement for Backpacker Buddy. I’ve never used them personally. I only mention their name, because they are one of the few agencies I’ve heard of that refund this way.)

Yipee, you’ve gotten some money back from your time in Australia. Now it’s time to get more. While superannuation refunds can be slightly more confusing, money is money, and all temporary workers who have left Australia for good are entitled to these funds. Click here to find out how.

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Last day in Oz

Australia, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under

Last day in Oz

11 Comments 26 January 2011

What a difference a year makes?

That’s the biggest understatement of my 2010.

More so than any other year of my life, this one has been the most changing and unexpected.

I came to Australia in a drought and leave it in floods. I arrived with one friend on the continent and depart with heaps all over. All I wanted to see last January was a koala, now I won’t settle for anything less than a cassowary. I expected to head directly out west and spend most of my year there, but found my heart in tropical Queensland.

My wardrobe to consisted of J. Crew, Old Navy and Anthropology. My wardrobe from contains Cotton On, Witchery and Country Road. I didn’t know of another Bobbi this time last year. Now I know three, one of which is one of my greatest friends-that’s going to be confusing. I came thinking I KNEW good coffee, but leave Melbourne realizing I had NO IDEA!

I thought I’d meet and make friends with tons of Aussies, but the majority of mine came from the UK. A year ago the thought of Manchester, England wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, now I’ve adopted a family of “Mancs.”

I arrived single, selfish and uninterested in anything other than business and travel and leave committed, in love and counting the days till I see him again.

It’s definitely been a year of surprises, but best of my life thus far.

I’ve thought of how I would write this post a million times throughout my trip. The first draft explained it as just a nice, impacting visit filled with a few good people and great photos. The next was written as just a one year anniversary, rather than a good bye. The following was a letter to the government, begging them to let me stay just a little bit long. But the last, this one, is a huge thank you and can’t wait to see you again.

This year and this country has made me a happier person.

Through a lot of great times and even some bad, I can honestly say that I love this country for better or worse. It’s home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. The culture changes over and over from top to bottom. The only thing its people are serious about is being proud of their homeland, and sport. They never miss an opportunity to celebrate life and they’ll take the piss out of just about anyone, including themselves.

It’s just a care free and easy place to live- and I got a whole year here.

Those who have followed me through this trip know what I’ve taken from it. But besides a few comments, I’m not sure what they’ve taken. So on my last day here, I’ll say what I hope it is.


I spent a lot of my last year in college on the computer, trying to figure out what to do next. After 22 years of following what in America people are just suppose to do, I finally had a chance to make my own decision. I wanted so badly to travel, but was scared and lost hope quite a few times. Whether because of money, work or circumstance, I didn’t think it was possible for me at that moment.

I followed “the American dream” a bit more and landed a sweet job. I was happy, but it wasn’t what I wanted. So I revisited my dream, this time with determination. It started with putting a bit money aside, continued with a passport application and finished with a plane ticket.

I’ve received so many emails from people saying they wish they could do what I’m doing. My response will always be, “You can.” It may not always be easy, but anything is possible.

Maybe travel isn’t your passion. That’s fine. Follow whatever makes you happy. But for those with who dream of life abroad like I did, stop reading about it and do it. Stop Googling to make sure it’s okay and just see for yourself. Stop limiting yourself to one place and realize the possibilities available to you all over the world.

Never have I felt as many possibilities as I did during this past year in this country.

For that, thanks Australia. You’ve made more opportunities possible for this little American than you’ll ever know.

I’m here!

Australia, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under

I’m here!

9 Comments 28 January 2010

Hello…how bout that ride in? I guess that’s why they call it down under.

I’m here! I’m here! After months of saving up, planning and saying good bye, I am finally here.

The past few days have been hectic to say the least. I started my departure in Chicago. I spent my last weekend in the states there visiting friends I made while studying abroad in London a few years ago. It was a great weekend and a fantastic send off.

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare around 5 a.m. Monday morning. My flight did not depart until 10 a.m., but I am always paranoid about missing flights so I got there really early. This was the most nervous I have ever been for a flight. Not for fear of danger, but because of all the negative commentary by fellow travel bloggers about TSA since the recent scare in America in December. But I had a great experience. It was quick and everyone seemed on point.


I flew with Japan Airlines (JAL) to Tokyo. The flight was about 13 hours, but felt quick. JAL is a fantastic airline. The staff were friendly. The food was delicious. It provided endless entertainment. I watched “This is it,” “Up,” and more. “Up” is my new favorite movie and perfect for travelers.

I didn’t sleep much on the first flight, but when I arrived in Tokyo I didn’t feel half bad. My main goal at the airport in Tokyo was to eat sushi. I failed! I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I was delirious, but I settled on Pho, which was ok.

My layover was five hours long and I crashed about two hours into it. All that non-sleeping finally caught up with me and it was painful. It took all my energy to just stay awake until boarding the plane. As soon as I hit that seat, I was out. I didn’t even eat one of my meals and I am never one to turn down free food. The second flight, also with JAL, was only nine hours long. I slept through most of it and drank coffee through the rest.


Finally, I arrived in Sydney, Australia at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, January 27. After through customs and security I bought a Vodafone. I just bought the cheapest pre-paid plan and phone. I still don’t know if that’s right for me. If it’s not at least it was an inexpensive risk. A shuttle dropped my off at the Sebel in Surry Hills. I only stayed in a hotel my first night to catch up on sleep.

My goal for day one in Sydney was to stay awake at least until 8 p.m. I made it until 7:30 p.m., which isn’t bad. I didn’t plan to visit any major tourist attractions that day, but I ended up at the Opera House and Darling Harbour.

I’ve only been in Sydney for a day, but here are my thoughts so far. The city’s look is hard to describe, but beautiful. It has a lot of European details in the buildings and decor, but also American influences in the entertainment and size. There are 711s and The Simpsons are on Fox all the time!

The people are calm and in suits-like any other city in the world. One thing I noticed is that the women seem to wear less make-up than in the states. They all carry a sort of rustic beauty.

I started walking around the city at 10 a.m. and there were tons of people out running and exercising. I’m not sure how so many people can be exercising on a work day, but it makes me want to work out more.

There’s a feeling you get when you finally see something in person that you have been looking at on paper, in books or on TV your whole life. You’re taken back by it’s size, because you never imagine it to be so big. I got that feeling twice yesterday with the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. It’s one of the best feelings in the world and makes two days worth of travel totally worth it.

1/28/09-A view of my new city from my 9th floor hotel room at Sebel Surry Hills. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

1/28/09-A view of my new city from my 9th floor hotel room at Sebel Surry Hills. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I haven’t felt homesick yet, but I am still too excited to really start thinking about things left behind. I’m sure it will set in eventually. I am staying a Big Hostel for the next few days. My plans for the next week are to find friends, a job and stability.

It’s not going to be an easy adjustment, but doing it in such a thrilling city makes it a lot easier.


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