It was back in the mid-90s that I quit my job in the Australian Public Service, stuffed a few pairs of board-shorts, a bunch of t-shirts and a brand new pair of flip-flops into my trusty old backpack and headed off on an eight month jaunt to London.
I had myself a ticket on board the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth, onward passage to Bali and then the rest was to be over land and sea by bus, train and ferry to the UK—the home of my thieving distant ancestors.
I was following in the footsteps of many thousands of Aussies before me. I had a few grand in savings and a destination in mind and that was about it. I knew I'd be broke upon arrival but that was all part of the adventure. I had a mate from university who'd put me up for a month or two and I had it on good authority that there were a heap of employment agencies in London where I could register for work once I'd found my feet. I was planning to rely upon blind optimism, a cheeky grin and a decent suntan to woo any potential employers. It would never have occurred to me to seek employment before departure. That sort of thing just didn't happen back then.
Having bluffed employment as a web developer for 18 months prior, I was slightly more tech savvy than most of my friends but it was all relative. At the time the Internet was in its infancy—Skype was a typo and Amazon was still just a river.
I distinctly remember feeling pretty chuffed after signing up for a Hotmail account before departing for Perth. I also remember how soon it became apparent that it was pointless to have a Hotmail account if none of your friends had a Hotmail account. Even though times were are a changin', like those that came before me, I'd still be relying predominantly on the telephone and air-mail to keep in touch with loved ones back home.
How things have changed for the traveller in twenty short years. Today, there's no real chance for travel to take you off the radar. Is that a good thing? Personally, I'm not so sure.
Parents and friends no longer expect reverse-the-charges calls at ungodly hours or a monthly postcard for a scribbled three sentence update on your well-being. Nowadays it's all laptops and smart-phones and wifi at every cafe, hotel and backpackers from Tierra del Fuego to Reykjavik. It's Skype and Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. Want a taxi? There's an app for that. Need a VISA for Argentina? Visit our website, por favor.
As for finding work... If you want lawyer jobs based in London, engineering jobs based in Paris or a bar jobs based in Budapest, if you've got the skills, it's as simple as jumping online and registering before you leave. Agencies do the leg work for you and can serve up a bunch of potentials. Full-time, part-time, casual, you decide.
My own experience finding a job after arriving in the UK? As it was, a little thing called the dot-com boom followed me to the London, so landing a web-developer job in the capital proved about as a difficult as finding a pub.