Deciding what to do as a career has been a mind boggling frustration for me since before I can remember. There is so much pressure from those around us, trying to force us at the meer age of 17 or 18 to make life changing decisions. In our final year of high school, we are told to choose a university, choose a degree, and head off to study the following year. However for me, I was unsure, and still am, as to what i’d like to pursue. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to gain some life experience to help me figure out what path I wanted to take.
It has now been 4 years since I finished high school – and I still have yet to have attended a university. Some people may think that i’m avoiding it. Others might see it as an escape from reality.
But you know what? It’s not made for everyone.
Why should I have to choose something, pay a lot of money to study it, then come out of my degree in debt and unhappy, just because humanity has made me feel like I must follow that certain path? I don’t.
It was only last week when I had a thought – why does it matter if I don’t attend a university. I’m young. I’m only 21 years old and I have my whole life ahead of me. This doesn’t mean that I will indefinitely cross out university as an option for the future, but for now, I want to live my life how I want. I shouldn’t be worrying about the future, I should be focusing on the now and enjoying every day as it comes.
It has taken a while for me to get to this point, because I used to think it was immoral to not attend university, but i’m here.
Travel has given me so much more than expected. What people don’t realise, is that you will gain so much experience and learn so much more than you could ever have imagined by travelling the world, instead of sitting in a classroom for hours a day. Yes, you do learn a lot by achieving a degree, but all you’re doing is learning. You’re not experiencing it first hand. You’re not getting out there and exploring the vast opportunities that the world has to offer.
For those of you whose decision is unclear, I advise you to educate yourself and travel the world! Stop worrying about what others will think, live your life for you, to make yourself happy, not others.
Don’t say it’s not possible, anything is possible. There are plenty of ways to be able to afford to travel overseas. At the top of my list is to work abroad – loads of countries offer working holiday visas for people aged under 30!
So get out there, see the world, gain life experience, grow, and enjoy every minute!
After my most recent post on 10 Reasons to Become an Au Pair, I have had a number of people contact me asking how I became an au pair. Becoming an au pair may seem like a long lengthly process, but if you do enough research and prepare yourself, it can be easy.
1. Is this the right decision?
To start with, you need to think about when you want to do it and if you really want to do it. Do you want to begin as soon as you find a family? Wait 6 months to save money? Are you prepared to drop everything and move?
The decision is yours, but it needs to be made before going any further.
2. Where do I want to be an Au Pair?
Next you need to think about where you’d like to be an au pair. Almost every country in the world has families searching for au pairs!
3. Agency or not?
Now its time to decide if you’d like to go through an agency or not. I myself did not go through an agency, I went through the website aupair-world, which I highly recommend. It is a great website, and I have met plenty of other au pairs who have gone through this website also.
4. What family to choose?
Finally, it is time to find your host family. When you go through an agency, they will organise a few potential family choices for you. If you go through a website, such as au pair world, you have the chance to choose your family yourself. No matter what path you choose to find a family, make sure you are comfortable with your choice of family. Skype them, email them, get to know them on a better level before saying yes.
5. Do I need a visa and how do I get it?
Now that you have a host family, you need to apply for a visa. Depending on your choice of destination, most countries require au pairs to have a valid visa. However, if you are from the EU, wanting to be an au pair in the EU, then you are in luck and do not need to obtain a visa.
To get a visa, there are usually a number of requirements needed. To check your requirements for your chosen destination, you need to look at the website for their Embassy in your country.
For Example: If you’re from America and want to be an au pair in France, you need to visit the site of the ‘French Embassy in America’. In most cases, all countries require a ‘work contract’ filled out by your host family, signed by them and you, and then stamped by the immigration office of your chosen destination. The process of getting a visa can range from 1 month to 3 months.
6. I now have my visa, what’s next?
Get excited! Pack, prepare, and say goodbye! It’s now time to head off overseas on your life changing adventure! Becoming an au pair has given me so many amazing opportunities and I hope it can do the same for you!
Most people tend to passover the idea of becoming an au pair when wanting to work or travel abroad, as most think it’s just being a nanny. Well yes, you are looking after someones children, but you’re also a student. Most au pairs are required to take classes to learn the native language of their country while working.
The idea of being an “au pair” is to travel to a foreign country, where a host family welcomes you as a temporary family member. Here you will be required to look after the family’s children and do some light housework, in exchange for free board, food, and some pocket money. The term au pair means ‘on equal footing’.
Now moving to a foreign country by yourself, where everything is completely opposite to what you’re used to, can sound terrifying – learning a new language, figuring out your way around a new city, moving into the home of a family you don’t know, not knowing anyone. But I assure you it can be the best life changing experience, and you will grow in so many ways. I am now halfway though my second year with my host family, in Paris, and I’m loving every second of it.
I would like to share with you 10 reasons why I think you should step outside your comfort zone, find a family, book an plane ticket and become an au pair:
1. You get to make friends from all over the world! Taking language classes in your chosen destination is the best way to meet people, who like you, are au pairs/students living abroad. Facebook is also another great way to meet people. Loads of ‘groups’ have been formed online specially for au pairs in different locations, looking for new friends and fun people to do things with.
2. You get to watch the kids grow up. To me this is such a precious part of being an au pair. Becoming part of the family and being able to watch them learn and grow up is quite special. Even after your time living with them, you keep in contact and get to see them change into wonderful human beings.
3. You get to learn a new language. Learning a new language is one of the best parts of becoming an au pair. Even if you learnt it previously at school, you learn so much more about the language and the mannerisms from being immersed in it daily.
4. You get the opportunity to travel often. Depending on the location of your chosen family, it is generally very easy to travel often during your time as an au pair. As a New Zealander living in Europe, I love having the chance to explore new cities and/or countries, as they are so close to each other. Where as back home, the nearest country is still a 3-4 hour plane ride away. Also, host families often invite their au pair to join them on their vacations.
5. You get free accommodation and food. As part of the contract of being an au pair, the host is to provide them with the means of living – food, a bedroom/apartment, living costs. In most cases, the au pair has their own room in the house. I myself don’t actually live in the house with my host family, but in a small cottage on their property.
6. You get to improve your CV/Resume. What employee wouldn’t love the fact that you were brave enough to move to a foreign country, by yourself, for a year or two ?
7. You learn to love yourself. Traveling while you’re young, in my opinion, is the best way to learn to love yourself and others. You become more confident, more sure of yourself, you form more respect for yourself, you become more understanding, and more appreciative. These are just a few of the many attributes to living overseas solo.
8. You get childcare experience. Working as an au pair is a great way of learning what “parent life” is like. Before I became an au pair I didn’t even know how to put on a nappy(diaper), but now I have so many skills and experiences that will be extremely helpful when I decide to settle down and have children of my own. You also learn to appreciate everything that your own parents have done for you throughout your life. Mum and Dad if you’re reading this – thank you!!
9. You become part of the family. It is a humbling experience, and you grow to love your host family as you would your own.
10. You get to experience a new culture – not as a tourist but as a local. When visiting a city or a country as a tourist, you don’t usually get the chance to see it from the locals point of view. Short visits mean quick trips around the city to all of its most famous touristic spots. For example; in Paris, you would go and visit places like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees. But as an au pair, when you are actually living in the city/country for a long period of time, you have the chance to explore the real side of it and choose your own favourite spots – without the tourists.
In your 20’s and 30’s, life can become challenging. At the age of 20, I still haven’t decided what to do with my life – whether it’s to study or work, I really don’t know. But something I do know, is that having the chance to travel and live in Paris solo has made me open my mind to so much more. I am finding myself interested in things I wouldn’t have even considered a few years ago. So to any of you who are like me, I encourage you to jump out of your comfort zone, pack a bag, move to a foreign country, and eat delicious food (you can thank me later on). You wont regret it.
Here are 10 of my favourite travel quotes to help inspire your travels:
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the World” – Mary Anne Radmacher
“As you move through this life..You leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you” – Anthony Bourdain
“Not all who wander are lost” – Tolkien
“Live with no excuses, and travel with no regrets” – unknown
“Be a traveller, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in” – Andrew Zimmern
“There are two worlds: the world of the tourist and the world of everyone else. Often they’re side by side. But the tourist doesn’t actually see how people live” – Paul Theroux
“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, its inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are” – unknown
“Travel not to find yourself but to remember who you’ve been all along” – unknown
“The travel impulse is mental and physical curiosity. It’s a passion. And I can’t understand people who don’t want to travel.” – Paul Theroux
“Travel does the heart good” – unknown