Australia is filled with dazzling landscapes and exotic wildlife. Truly, it’s a land unlike any other. But this country is enormous and also quite expensive (especially when compared to Southeast Asia).
Enter the working holiday visa programme.
The Australian government grants one-year, multiple-entry employment visas to young people around the world, which allows them to work freely while exploring the country.
We decided to snap up the opportunity to see Australia and replenish our travel funds at the same time. Two friends from Germany we had met in Vietnam suggested that we could take over their jobs, as they were leaving to travel again.
And that’s how we found ourselves in the middle of the Outback.
Where the heck is Tennant Creek?
Tennant Creek is a little town on the north-south Stuart Highway that runs through the “Red Centre” of Australia.
The population is a little over 3,000 and yet it’s the fifth largest town in the Northern Territory. It takes about 6 hours to drive to the next proper town. This part of Australia is very rural, and it’s not safe to drive after dark because the livestock isn’t fenced in.
Welcome to the Bluestone!
For the past four months, we lived and worked at a busy motel/restaurant called the Bluestone Motor Inn. We hosted many government and corporate workers, as well as travellers and coach groups on their way to and from the Red Centre.
When we started work after a year of unemployed vagabonding, it was a shock. By day, we worked in housekeeping and reception. At night we served dinner and drinks in the restaurant.
The job is physically demanding and in high summer the weather was unbelievably hot and dry. I was a zombie for the first week, crashing into bed every afternoon for a few hours’ rest between shifts.
Thankfully, we soon got used to the long hours on our feet and learned all the details. We had awesome coworkers who made the job fun even when we were flat-out busy (which was almost always).
Housekeeping was actually not bad because most of our guests aren’t disgusting. We listened to podcasts and chatted with the other staff while we cleaned. I found the tangible results gratifying. And sometimes we found beer abandoned in the mini-fridge!
Working in the restaurant was very social, because our accent was an instant icebreaker. We don’t sound Aussie at all! Some guests were really curious to hear where we were from, and how we ended up in the Outback. It was fun to share our journey and make connections with people from all over the world.
Tennant Creek may be a dusty highway town, but in a way it’s also the middle of everywhere.
That Hotel Life
We worked so many hours that honestly, we rarely left the hotel complex. Most of our downtime was spent resting in our room, peppered with the occasional trip to the lake or the library. More than half the staff lived on the premises, so we spent a lot of time together even when we weren’t on the clock.
We had some rough spells during our tenure as hospitality “allrounders.” Sometimes we’d feel so tired that it made us cranky. There were days when we’d have to clean almost 50 rooms, and nights where dinner service was pure hell. Some guests could be demanding and difficult. And we definitely had a period of cabin fever where we wanted to escape Tennant Creek!
But we made so many great memories as well. Our superstar coworkers from China, Thailand, Fiji and Australia became new friends. The chef made it her personal mission to educate us on Australian
obscenities slang, which was hilarious. Everyone celebrated my 30th birthday with a Mexican fiesta— and a couple months later, a pizza party for Schuyler. Some of the frequent and long-stay guests we got to know quite well. The hotel adopted a precious little black cat named Jemima. There were staff drinks after hard nights, and sometimes just because. Everyone was working away from home and we became a kind of family.
Schuyler and I counted down the days until our jobs would be over, but when the end finally came in it was bittersweet. I’m good on making beds for a while, but our time in Tennant Creek was more than a money-making gig: it was a rich and colorful life experience.
We were sad to say goodbye to our friends but excited to finally hit the road again. After a long bus ride in the middle of the night and a flight out of the Red Centre, we found ourselves back on the crowded east coast. With some money in the bank and flights booked, it’s time to continue the adventure!
Superstars! Our managers Sharon and Jarrod.