Work, eat, sleep, such is the life of the fruit picker. Where to work, eat, and sleep are major decisions that can greatly affect how much money you can save at the end of the day. There are many factors that influence what choice is best for you. Do you own a car, van or just a greyhound bus ticket? Are you an independent person or would you rather follow the crowd? Is your goal to save money or just to have a good time?
Working Hostel! The pros and cons
The easy option, shelter, work and transport all rolled into one. All you need to worry about is getting there. But is it the best option? Let’s consider the pros and cons of staying at a working hostel. The pros, the hostel will do the hard work of finding a job for you. All you need to do is get yourself out of bed in the morning and into the bus. Transport to the farm is also organised for you. You are surrounded by other backpackers, all of whom share in your misery. The aches and pain, the sore muscles, the supervisors from hell.
They also share in your exuberance at the end of the working week. Party time! Plenty of new found friends to share a few beers with. Your aches and pains will soon be forgotten. Which brings us to the cons. Where did all my hard earned money go? Two hundred dollars for the hostel, hundred dollars for transport. One hundred and fifty for alcohol. Wages for the week five hundred… Let us do some advanced mathematics, $500 minus $450 leaves $50 dollars for food. Just some rough figures but you get my point.
Often backpacker hostels will advertise endless jobs when in fact there is not enough work to go round. You could end up working only a few days a week as one job is divided between 3 people who are earning just enough money to pay for their accommodation. Leaving you stranded, unable to save enough money to move on.
Camping pros and cons
If you have your own transport other options become available. If you were smart enough, or lucky enough to have bought a Van or at least a Station Wagon, camping becomes a possible and pleasurable option. Although, even with a Sedan it is a viable option, yet you would have to be more of a minimalist. Often cars complete with all camping gear can be bought cheaply from backpackers ready to leave the country.
Caravan parks are reasonably cheap and often have camp kitchens with shared fridges, etc. These can be great socialising places. You may get to meet professional pickers, who might help you get a job on one of the better farms.
You will meet people from different walks of life, Grey Nomads working their way around the country, self-funded retirees with their big fifth-wheelers. Talking with these people can be very interesting and add to your Australia experience as well as yield different travel destinations, free camps and jobs.
On Farm Accomodation pros and cons
Some farms provide either cheap or sometimes free accomodation or allow you to camp on the farm. Your fuel bill is drastically reduced, travel time almost non-existent. You can work longer hours, or have a long break in the heat of the day. On crops that are weather sensitive you might be able to work half a day, when you would have lost the whole day were you not staying on the farm. These farm camps can become like a small community, often they have a central fire pit where all gather to wash away the dust from the hard day with some amber fluid. During these gatherings you may learn where and when the next season is. Or even arrange to tag along with a professional picker to their next destination.
The cons, it can seem like you never get away from work. If you decide to have a day off the farmer may harass you for not going to work. You may be exposed to chemical sprays, and the noise of machinery after hours and on days off. Sometimes it is the ‘desperate’ farmers that provide accomodation. Either they underpay, or the working conditions are poor so they need to entice workers by offering accomodation.
Dodgy contractors and employers
Just a word of warning, dodgy contractors and employers can be found anywhere jobs are advertised: Gumtree, Facebook and specialised job search websites. Just recently I read an account of a young backpacker couple who had parted with $400 dollars for two weeks rent to secure a job only to find the ’employer’ vanished into thin air after the money cleared. Try to talk with people face to face before you hand over money to secure accomodation and a job. Although backpacker hostels might be more concerned with their reputation on social media than individual employers, and thus are not likely to outright scam you, they are often not in a position to screen employers as they are primarily in the accomodation business. So do your research online before you drive thousands of kilometres for the promise of a job.
To sum it up, each option has its pros and cons. If you are after a good time and money is not a major consideration a working hostel might be your best bet. Should you prefer more independence and wish to mix with people of all ages and walks of life a caravan park would be a better choice. However, if your focus is to earn and save money staying on the farm where you work will put more money in the kitty.
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