Five life lessons I learned during my UK Working Holiday

Five life lessons I learned during my UK Working Holiday

It’s funny how easy it can be to settle into that age old template for life. You know the one… Finish high school. Go to university. Pick a major. Graduate. Get a job. Find a partner. Start a family…

I almost did it myself.

But somewhere along the way, the idea of travel found its way into the back of my mind. At the ripe age of 24, I got myself a Youth Mobility Visa, booked a one-way plane ticket to London, packed my bags, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

To anyone who’s not worked abroad, it can be tough to explain how much those 24 months changed my life. The lessons I learned while living and working in the UK serve a much broader, more valuable purpose in my life today.

Here are five important life lessons that I learned on my 2 year UK Working Holiday in the UK!


For real. And apply this to everything in your life. It’s so easy to have expectations – expectations for people, for experiences, for how you should feel in any given situation, or even for how others should feel/react.

Cut it out.

The world doesn’t conform to your expectations. Life doesn’t conform to your expectations. Let go. Be present. Accept every person for who they are, and every experience for what it is. Don’t let your expectations dictate your ability to enjoy your time in a new country. Dive in, free of expectation, and enjoy the hell of out of every experience, positive and negative. They all come around to serve a larger purpose in the end.

And more than likely, you won’t spend the rest of your life telling everyone the great stories of tours, or jobs, or trips that went exactly as planned, conforming perfectly to your every expectation. You’ll tell the stories of times where everything went wrong, but you had a killer time anyway.


I cried on my 3rd day in the UK. I felt like I had made a huge mistake. Why was I there? What was I doing with my life? What if it all went wrong?

I looked for flights home, my mouse hovering over the ‘book now’ button from what felt like hours. But I didn’t click it. I didn’t leave.

I leaned into the discomfort. I took on each and every challenge that came my way. I jumped from couch to couch, trying to find a place to live. I went to interview after interview, determined to find myself a job where I could prove my worth. I got lost. I felt alone. I second guessed myself.

But I stayed.

And in the blink of an eye, two years had gone by. The moments of challenge burned into my mind at the time were replaced by amazing experiences, by friendships that would last a lifetime, and by the realization that nothing worth doing in life is easy.


Before I left for the UK, I was saving for a down payment on an apartment. I had become attached to the balance in my bank account, and had some major anxiety about watching that balance decline.

I didn’t make as much money in the UK as I was used to, and my cost of living had increased greatly.

But I was out there to live life fully – to squeeze every drop out of each and every opportunity that came my way. And in doing just that, I saw stonehenge, and the white cliffs of dover. I had a blast at Oktoberfest in Munich. I people-watched at sidewalk cafés in Paris. I danced the night away at a warehouse party in London. I saw West-End shows, and visited museums, and stood in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I took a bus to Scotland, rented a car, and drove along Loch Ness. I flew to Belgium for the weekend. And Switzerland. And Spain. And Austria.

And that was just my first 6 months in the UK…

So while I may not have come home with much money in the bank, the memories I made living abroad will forever be priceless to me.


You’re not special. You’re above anyone or anything. Stop thinking that you are.

I arrived in the UK with more than 5 years of management experience in the hospitality industry. I definitely had expectations around what that would mean for my ability to find a job, to be paid well, and to command respect quickly.

And then I was hired as a server at a burger joint. My supervisor was younger than I was, and with less experience to boot. I had to adapt to systems that I didn’t always agree with – systems that I felt were inefficient.

And I fought it.

I was resentful.

But in time, I realized that the true measure of my worth and value wasn’t to be better than anyone or anything else, but to be the best in the role I was employed to fill. To be supportive, and to learn the new systems, and to understand when it was appropriate to challenge them, and when it was not.

Once I had accepted this – that I was not above anyone, and I was not above the work, I was promoted. And then I was promoted again.

By accepting that I was not special, or better than anyone else, or above doing anything that was asked of me, I learned to focus less on how much value I deserved, and more on how much value I could provide.


I had reservations about leaving home, about all the things I might miss while I was away. Major FOMO over here.

But after 2 years of experiences, and opportunities, and lessons learned abroad, I returned home, and home was much the same.

Sure, my friends had grown up a little (and so had I). Some people were in new relationships, some settling into exciting careers, and some were starting families. But home was still there, and it hadn’t changed all that much.

But I had changed. And I was better for it.