3 weeks ago I took a huge leap of faith, packed up my entire life as I knew it and travelled solo, across the world from my little home town in Canada to live in Australia as an Au Pair. What an adventure it has been so far; being challenged in ways I never could have imagined and experiencing life in a way I thought I only could have dreamed. Not to mention these views, like every time I look around me I have to remind myself that this is real life and I am in fact seeing this with my eyeballs.
Although I’ve been here for a few weeks now I’ll take you on this journey with me from the start – alllll the way to the beginning of even having the idea to do this. There have been many ups and downs from that point and I’ll share with you everything from the process to being here and everything in between, which will be especially helpful for anyone who has been thinking about doing this themselves.
If you don’t know what an Au Pair is, I’ll explain a little about that first so you have some context and understanding as to what it is I’m doing.
What is an Au Pair?
If you know what a ‘Nanny’ is, this will make a lot of sense as it is pretty much the same concept, but with different details.
An Au Pair is a person, typically young/foreign who helps a family with child care and often light house work in exchange for room & board, food, and some pocket money. To be clear, it is not necessarily an employment situation but more of a cultural exchange. It’s a pretty sweet deal if you thoroughly enjoy children & families and would like to immerse yourself into a new cultural right on the front line.
The host family is allowing you to live in their home and chooses to take you on as apart of their family to give you the real life experience of living in their culture. As an Au Pair, you are giving the family your time and care to help make their lives a little easier, relieve some of the stress of being working parents, and be there for support. You have set hours per week and appropriate compensation for that. Of course, on your off time you’re able to get out, travel, meet people, and live a life outside of this role.
It’s important to note too that you can be an Au Pair pretty much ANYWHERE in the world; not just Australia – this is just where I chose to come and I’ll get more into that later in the post.
The Initial Idea
What if I told you, that everything you’ve ever wanted in life is on the other side of fear?
I always thought there was more to life than going to school, getting a job, working 9-5 to survive and maybe making some extra money to have some fun on the weekends or after work. That traditional path just never worked for me, although that’s not to say it doesn’t not work for everyone – I’m just speaking to my personal world view and my personal desire for my life. I wanted something more than spending my time working in an office space, a retail floor, or a classroom.
Sitting in college beyond bored & overworked I felt like I wanted to experience life in a different way. There are SO many unique ways of living and it was always way too easy for me to get caught up in the only world I knew of. Living in my small, isolated home town, surrounded by so much familiarity, I struggled to find excitement and fulfill my sense of adventure in my everyday life. It was always the same excursions, the same activities or similar in different senses. I knew there was another way of life I could experience. Another world I could immerse myself in that was completely unfamiliar, with unique experiences that would reshape my view of this life and create opportunities to make some really damn good memories, and learn some phenomenal lessons; greater than I could learn in ANY classroom.
Working with and being with children has always been a genuine passion of mine. Naturally, I’m a very maternal kind of gal and I’ve always dreamed of having my own children. As I’m still young and feel that there’s still some things I want to learn and create before I immerse myself in that life of my own and bearing the responsibility of growing and raising little humans, I decided to get creative and figure out a way I could fulfill this passion in conjunction with my other passion… adventure.
That’s when I discovered this cultural exchange experience.
As with everything I do in life I think it’s important to have a purpose. Regardless what it is, there best be a serving purpose, otherwise I feel like I’m just flopping around in life giving away my creative power. Considering this was a pretty big idea, I sat down to really come clear with why I was choosing to do this, what kind of experience I wanted, and how this was going to serve me. If this is something you would consider doing yourself, take the time to create and understand why you’re choosing that path. What is your purpose? What are you going to give? What are you looking to experience?
As this is a (pretty much) world wide experience, there are so many countries/places you can go to and be an Au Pair. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to the climate, scenery, beaches/ocean, and laid back lifestyle of Australia. I’ve always been a beach lover; I swear my heart belongs there and under the sweet sunshine. So, creating the opportunity for myself to live on the coast of such a beautiful, warm country, and a 2 minute walk from the beach? yeah SIGN ME UP
Flying solo across the world is certainly a bit scary, but a big part of my purpose in coming here and living this life was to challenge myself in a multitude of different ways,
My purpose is to adventure, to immerse myself in the ‘new’, to keep myself out of my comfort zone as we all know that is the best, and only way we will grow.
My purpose is to embody bravery, so I can inspire courage ~ which I’ve proved to myself I’m capable of.
I created this opportunity to take full responsibility of my personal growth and embody the vision I’ve created for myself and my future. However this choice and this experience wasn’t just for me. This is for my family and friends, both present and future.
This is about being the change I wish to see, and this change is following your dreams.
After becoming clear with why I wanted to do this & why this had been such a big dream of mine, it was time to put this plan into action.
Connecting With A Family
Prior to even searching, connecting with my purpose and vision were of highest priority. My goal was to connect with a family who supported my vision and purpose, who allowed for and provided opportunity for exactly what I was looking for from this experience, and also in support of what I was looking to give.
I asked myself a few questions so I knew what I was searching for, before I began to look.
- what kind of area did I want to live in?
- what type of living space?
- how many kids? what ages?
- what kind of hours?
- what duties was I willing to do? (school pickups/drop offs/meals/activities, etc)
- what type of lifestyle did I want to experience? (in terms of hobbies, interests, meals, etc)
- how did I want to fit into the family?
- how long do I want to stay?
- do I want flexibility or a ‘strict’ routine to follow?
Keep in mind these were just a FEW of the questions. It was important to get really specific on what it was I was looking for, so it would be much easier to find :).
To begin my search, I used a website that connects Au Pairs with Host Families – each side creates a profile to share information about themselves and what they’re looking for. I did a search for families in Australia and I read through different profiles for months. The reason I was searching for a while was because my intention was to just put myself out there, and take a look at what was being offered incase anything caught my eye. A “lets just see what happens” kind of scenario. On the families profiles, they explain a little about themselves, where they live, what they have to offer, and what their expectations are for an Au Pair such as hours and duties. Any profile I liked or could see myself working for and living with, I’d “apply” – which was basically just sending a message to the family saying “Hey I’m interested in your profile and would love to learn more about you and your family.” This process works the same in the other way for families where they can read through Au Pair profiles and “apply”/send messages as well.
In my personal experience, the family that I am with reached out to me. We talked through the website messenger for a few weeks, getting to know one another and learning each others desires and expectations of the whole experience.
From there, we were feeling like it was a good match and decided to have a video chat to be able to talk in real time/face to face about any other questions or concerns. This is also a good opportunity to ask for a little tour of their place if that’s something that would make the move or transition easier for you.
I had only made it to this stage with one family (the one I am with) which made the entire process a little less overwhelming since I struggle with decisions if I have too many options haha.
We video chatted twice and from there decided we were a good match. Upfront honesty and clarity about each others personal expectations, wants, and needs was SO important at this stage, so there were no surprises either end upon arrival and settling in to day-to-day life. At best, try not to be too picky or strict with yourself and your vision, as there is a difference between being overly attached to your dreamland vs simply being specific on what you are looking for. Ultimately your role in the family is to be helpful, relieve stress of the parents, and make their daily lives a little bit easier. The biggest asset you have in this entire process and experience is yourself, so don’t forget to be that while you’re meeting and connecting with families.
*Disclaimer: This process will differ depending on your country of origin. I can only speak to what was true to me for my experience in my home country. Please do your research for your country to determine what this process will look like for you if this is something you’re interested in doing*
I started the legal process of travelling after deciding on a family. I felt that doing this worked for me personally as I was hesitant to pay the upfront expenses without having a plan of arrival set in mind.
First, I applied for my Working Holiday Visa. I had already had my passport and was sure it would not expire at all within or near my travels. The application process for the Visa was quite lengthy and required a payment upfront in order to submit it to the Australian Government. In my personal experience, the Visa was granted the same day however they say it can take anywhere from 48 hours to upwards of 4 weeks.
At this point, I still had no idea of when I wanted to leave home. It was important for me to have all of my entry documents approved and finalized prior to booking my fight as they are non-refundable and can cost a pretty penny depending on where you’re going and where you’re from.
I had kept in frequent contact with the family during this process so they were aware of where I was at on my end, so that they could prepare and do what they needed to do prior to my arrival.
One week after my Visa was approved, I decided I would leave in 2 weeks. I booked my one way flight to Brisbane, Australia and the prepping and packing frenzy began.
During the week leading up to my departure, I had phases of both excitement and nervousness, however the nervous feelings were mostly regarding the 3 flights and 25 hour travel journey I was about to embark on SOLO. I have quite the love/hate relationship with airplanes and flying, in the sense that they fascinate me more than anything, but the feeling of being 40,000ft in the air makes me a bit uneasy. I’m going to share more about my solo flight experience in an upcoming post for those of you who may be anxious flyers as well – enter your email in the sidebar to subscribe to updates of when I post so you don’t miss it! (I also share updates on my instagram, you can follow me here).
I’m pleased to sat that the entire travel process was pretty straight-forward and easy, which I am incredibly grateful for as I do understand that long-hauls and travelling can be rather challenging.
Arrival & Settling In
Seeing land after being in the air for the previous 22 hours was such a blissful feeling. I had left the below 0° temperatures in a light sweater, yoga pants, and warm socks (+ a wearable blanket because airplanes are so darn cold) – and entered the tropics of +30°C, clear blue skies, and the sun shining so beautifully all at 9:00am.
Even though I had slept maybe 2-3 hours our of the previous 48 hours, I had passed over 8 time zones, and somehow skipped a day of my life, but as soon as that plane touched down I was amped. Like that feeling when you have a lil too much espresso even though my caffeine levels were very much in the negatives.
Navigating the airport and going through customs and immigration certainly wasn’t as challenging as I had anticipated. The hardest part of all of it was collecting my big ass luggage off of the carousel without any help haha. Security was almost all electronic and it was a pretty simple process. It was all completely new to me, but I followed the crowd of other travellers from my plane, asked for help when needed, and easily found my way.
Each step I took forward, I knew was one step closer to meeting the person that I’ve never met before, but felt that I already knew so well. I can’t even begin to explain the mix of overly excited but semi-nervous butterflies that I felt. Before exiting through the sliding doors, I stopped to collect myself, which included a mini personal pep-talk. “You did it girl, you made it this far – you fucking got this. Here we go”. This is really funny looking back but I share this because I encourage you to be your biggest supporter, your number 1 cheerleader in your life. The only person I knew in that airport was myself and there was no one else to turn to, but me. Own your self love and down ever be afraid to show it, especially when you feel you need love the most. I share some tips on how to develop this type of relationship with yourself here; I use these myself as with any type of relationship it requires effort in order to stay healthy & thriving.
Walking through those doors and seeing the host Mum waving, with the biggest smile on her face within a crowd of people was a moment I can’t even put into words. I had felt so much love before even approaching her and any ounce of uneasiness I had just melted away.
The drive to their home took longer than it was supposed to due to traffic, but I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery that was all new to me, and the time for conversation with the host Mum. Although I was still high on life at this point, the exhaustion and insane time change (+16hrs from home) had me feeling a bit delusional. I had made it my goal upon arrival to create an easy adjustment by staying up for the whole day (keep in mind I arrived early in the morning) and sleep at a reasonable bed time in order to get onto their time schedule. By no means was this “easy” but I managed to stay awake until 9:30pm and slept so good that night. Theres something about sleeping in a bed after being on an airplane that makes you appreciate it that much more.
Looking back I’m really glad I accomplished this as I have been on their schedule ever since and I feel I didn’t struggle too much with jet lag.
We arrived to their (my new) home about 2 or 3 hours later, and the rest of the family greeted with all smiles and open arms. Genuinely it felt like home from the second I got there. They showed me to my room and provided me with the opportunity to take some time to myself to freshen up/shower, and unpack a bit to start feeling settled. Feeling so exhausted and undernourished due to travel (if you know how airline food is, you know what I mean), taking in so much all at once from new places/scenery/faces/energy – it was a bit overwhelming when I got the chance to reflect on it.
Travel is often over-glorified and while everything I mentioned rings true, its not always sunshine, rainbows, and absolute bliss. I stood there in my new room that I would be calling home for the next phase of my life, filled only with the beautiful furniture set they had set up for me, and my entire life packed up in the 2 suitcases I had standing beside me. I had a brief moment of “what the actual fuck am I doing” followed by a minor breakdown in the shower. This was definitely bound to happen after being so amped up for so long (with every high comes a low!), but I’m glad it happened then and not later on. It was really good to allow those emotions to pass through me, knowing that I was safe and very much okay. The realization of being 14,000km from everything I knew was a tough pill to swallow when 2 main components of me being weren’t taken care of (aka self care is so important). I gave myself some time and tender loving care, unpacked a little to make my new space feel a little ‘homey’ – which is something I definitely recommend doing. I got myself ready and went back up to the main house to see the family.
The host Mum was extremely kind to help keep me busy and awake that day – she took me on a little tour of the town which was a lot of fun. We got lunch at a local cafe and I loved diving right in to experiencing ‘life as a local’ with a local! and you guys…. THE BEACH she took me to see it and it was all so surreal. Could have been the delusional exhaustion but I swear in that moment I couldn’t believe that the warm white sand, and beautiful blue ocean was right in front of me. Seriously for the first like week I had to keep reminding myself that I in fact wasn’t dreaming and this was real life. It’s such an incredible feeling to look outside and see the palm trees, walk 2 minutes to the beach, and know that I did it. I created this reality.
What was once a dream, turned into a plan, and now it’s reality. If I can do it, I PROMISE you can too – whatever your dream may be.
So there you have it, my experience in becoming an Au Pair in Australia. This is mostly just a reflection of my personal experience of the process with a few tips, if you want a more in-depth post on the entire process and exactly what I did and how I did it, let me know in the comments below or send me a message on Instagram
I’m so excited to share more of this journey with you while I’m here, both the ups and downs of experiencing life in a brand new place in a brand new role. There are so many challenges, amazing experiences, and valuable lessons.
I have a really funny story coming up about my first solo road trip – which I’ll give you a little context, here they drive on the left side of the road in the right side of the car, and at home on the right side of the road in the left side of the car, so its a BIT of an adjustment haha.
Anything you put your mind to can be achieved, and that’s why I’m sitting by the pool under the sweet sunshine sharing some insight and how-to’s – because you too deserve to turn your dreams into reality.
You got this xx