“Travel while you’re young and have no ties. It’ll be the best time of your life.” Anyone who has travelled during their younger years will have heard this at some point. Whilst it’s true that travelling has given me some of my best memories, the misconception that travel is all sunshine and roses makes it difficult for travellers to seek help when they need it. No matter where we are or how we travel, there are always difficulties along the way.
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All that glitters is not gold
People tend to censor what they post on social media, and only show the good parts of travel. When we come home “changed”, we tell everyone about our amazing adventures and experiences. Nobody bothers to tell stories about the struggles they encountered along their journey, even though these moments have just as much responsibility for our improved outlook on life.
So far since coming to Australia I’ve experienced the following:
- Money worries
- Family problems
- Cancelled plans
All of the above are moments that shaped my experiences, and none of them are unique to my story. So here’s my advice to anybody travelling around and going through a less than perfect experience.
“It’s okay not to be okay”
If you’re struggling while travelling, the most important thing is to work out how to tackle it. Take some time to yourself or talk to someone, whichever suits your needs better. Don’t pretend that you aren’t miserable, as it won’t change anything. Then, figure out where you stand so you can work out how to fix it.
Do you need professional help?
Certain problems call for the help of a professional. If this applies to you, don’t put off seeking help because you’re nervous, worried about language barriers, or hoping the problem will just go away.
If you’re sick
No-one wants to be ill abroad, without the support of their family and friends around them, but unfortunately it happens. If you need to see a doctor, GPs are generally open Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm) and sometimes also Saturday mornings. Hospitals and doctor’s surgeries are easily located with sign posts in both rural and non-rural towns. You will also find hospitals near you on the Hospitalby website. Remember that you may be able to benefit from free medical care through the Medicare scheme.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, you should also see your GP, who may recommend therapy, lifestyle changes and/or medication.
Read more: How to get medical treatment in Australia
If you’ve been the victim of a crime
If you’ve been the victim of a crime, contact your nearest police station as soon as possible. In case of emergency, the most important number to remember is “000“, which includes police, firefighters, and ambulances, who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This number is used across the whole of Australia.
If you’re having work problems
Are you concerned you’re being exploited at work? Maybe you’re not being paid a legal wage, your employer is being verbally abusive, or your dream job wasn’t all that was promised? Get in touch with the Fair Work Ombudsman. They can help with everything from clarifying the wages you’re entitled to, to calculating your notice period if you want to leave your job. If you’re having a disagreement with an employer or haven’t been paid for work you have done, they will stand up for your rights. You can call them on 13 13 94 between 8am – 5:30pm Monday to Friday, submit an enquiry via their website or even make an anonymous report about an employer if you don’t want to get involved directly.
If you’re having passport/visa issues
If your passport is lost or stolen while you’re in Australia, you will need to contact your nearest embassy or consulate of the country you are from for help. You may need to go there in person. They may be able to give you either a replacement passport that will let you finish your trip or an emergency travel document that will get you home.
If you have issues with your visa, you can find lots of information on the official IMMI website. If you can’t find what you need to know on their website, you can also phone the Global Service Centre for assistance on 131 881. Have your documents ready to prove your identity.
If you need help with a visa application, you can appoint someone to give you immigration assistance. They must be:
Dealing with personal issues
If you’re struggling with loneliness or homesickness
I met a fellow traveller who was so miserable she didn’t know how to enjoy herself anymore. After a long conversation she finally admitted that she missed being home but because everyone around her didn’t, she felt like she was failing. She couldn’t imagine spending another three months away. The difficulty here comes from knowing exactly what it is that is making you miserable. Staying connected with those back at home is a personal preference. Some people need to hear from their loved ones regularly, others less so. She’d had enough of being away from her family. All it took was for somebody to tell her that it was alright to want to go home early if she was miserable. By bringing her flight forward two months, it gave her a closer end goal but still allowed her time to finish an abbreviated version of her trip.
If you’re having family problems
Family problems are difficult as it can feel like you’re a million miles away and powerless to help when something goes wrong. Unfortunately, all you can do is decide whether you actually CAN help. Will being back at home make any difference to the situation? Or, will your support essentially be the same if you remain abroad? Not all family situations are fixable and sometimes you simply have to accept that being there for your family over the phone is akin to being there in person.
If your physical presence won’t change anything, then think carefully before changing your plans. Sometimes the cost is worth it. Sometimes you need to accept that it isn’t. Most importantly, sometimes these decisions need to come from a selfish place. Is it what YOU want, or are you making decisions based on what you think others want you to do? It is difficult but you have to remember that travelling is something you have chosen to do to improve yourself. You mustn’t let others hold you back.
If you’re having money issues
Australia is a pretty expensive place to live, and travellers often arrive thinking they’ll easily land a job straight away, but this is not always the case. Money can quickly become tight, and when you’ve applied for endless jobs without hearing anything back, you can start to freak out a little. The important thing is not to panic or lose hope. Check that your resume is up to scratch, and reach out to recruiters for help. If you’re struggling to pay for accommodation, websites like WWOF Australia and HelpX offer you the chance to work a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation and sometimes food or even a little cash.
Read more: 20 tips to save money in Australia
Do you need advice?
Sometimes we can feel like the world is on our shoulders and that everything is going wrong. During these times, I’ve always found that something as simple as asking the right person for their local advice is the best way to help. For months I relied on the Internet to tell me everything I needed to know.
When it came time to sell my QLD car, it took weeks and more dollars than I was comfortable with trying to get the car roadworthy and fix all the ‘problems’ it had. In the end, a local in the area recommended an “honestly run” local garage, which did the job for a quarter of the price with the roadworthy included. A little local advice can go a long way. There will always be people trying to rip you off but I’ve come to discover that hostel staff, for example, have excellent local knowledge and nothing to gain by giving you dodgy information. Don’t be afraid to ask!
The most important thing when you’re struggling abroad is to work out what it is that’s getting you down and to tackle it head on. Once you’ve made a decision, be firm in it. See it through, even if it doesn’t seem like ‘the done thing’ as it’s the affirmation of making a step forward that makes you feel more positive. Never be afraid to ask for help. Make an effort with people. Don’t be afraid to do something different to everybody else. We all travel for our own individual purpose. Whilst we cross paths often, we are still making our own route and there’s no one way to do it. The people we meet along the way come and go through our lives so the only person you ever have to prove anything to is yourself.
Whether you are starting your travels, midway through them or sitting on a plane on the way home, good luck. Stay safe and remember that the good times carry more weight than the bad!
Written by Mercedes