Travel and Work: Interview with Krista Scott: Harvest Work in Australia, Teaching English in Vietnam

I always keep my eyes open for interesting people, and Krista Scott just absolutely grabbed my attention. I first met Krista 2 days ago on a whitewater kayaking weekend where she accompanied our group to do our first kayaking lessons on the Ottawa River. In the van she told us that she recently did a 13 month trip to Australia where she did all sorts of harvest work in different locations. She also mentioned that she completed an ESL program at the university and is heading off for her first teaching assignment to Vietnam this fall. I knew at that stage that this was a very interesting young woman and I decided I would get to know her a bit better.

Krista is a very cute young woman, always in a good mood and sporting a great smile. Later that evening, Krista gave a special performance after sunset at the campground of something called “poise”, a former Martial art developed by the Maori people that involves the rhythmic twirling of two long wires that have a wick at the end that is set on fire. One of her co-workers was playing the bongos and the performance did have a very aboriginal feel to it. The image that is created in the dark is of circles of fires whirling around the performer in perfect coordination with the rhythm.

So without further ado, here is Krista Scott, a very adventurous, endearing young woman, as you will discover yourself.

1) Please tell us about yourself.

I am 25 years old and I’m originally from Cobourg, Ontario. I have always loved the outdoors and loved to play outside. When I finished high school I wasn’t ready for university. I went travelling to the prairies and started working in a restaurant in Regina. I met a lot of cool people along the way. From there I went west to work in Alberta as well as in Whistler, B.C. There I worked in a grocery store and at Boston Pizza and spent the rest of my time snowboarding. I also ran into a lot of Aussies there. I knew this was a place that was going to suck you in with its addictive lifestyle, so I decided to head home. Based on my friendships with these people from Australia, I decided to get a working visa for that country, something that was pretty easy to get for a Canadian citizen. I had decided I wanted to go to Australia to travel and work there for a year.

2) Please tell us about your 13 month adventure in Australia.

After a couple of stopovers in Alaska and Hong Kong I landed in Australia. In Alaska I had a chance to see the Aurora Borealis, while Hong Kong struck me as a very busy and smoggy place. But the airport is on an island, which was really interesting.

I landed in Sydney and headed over to New South Wales to link up with a girl I had met at Whistler. I bought a 1984 Toyota Tourago camping van which had a flat nose because the engine was right under the seat. I had a tent and a stove and I lived out of the van. During this time I realized for the first time how little you need to live. I often slept on the roof of the van, looking at the stars.

In South Australia I stayed in a working hostel that connected me to harvest work opportunities. I found these places through the Lonely Planet guidebook, which was tremendously helpful. My first harvest work assignment was to sort potatoes in a shed. This was midnight work since the potatoes’ skins would crack during the day time. The heat was often stifling at 42 degrees Celsius. After the potato harvest I also harvested grapes and onions. In total I did about 3 months of harvest work there.

At that time the engine in my camper van seized up and I had to buy a new engine. After it was fixed, together with 8 other people we decided to drive to Central Australia and we visited Ayer’s Rock (Uluru) and various other little towns in the area. I heard lots of outback stories from the locals while we were there. We also went to a town called Cooper Pedy, a place where everybody lives underground in caves since the weather is too hot. We stayed in a hostel where the bunkbeds were located in a cave. While I was there I also talked to a group of Hell’s Angels bikers, who seemed to be pretty cool people as long as you didn’t upset them.

From there I went to the West Coast which is just a beautiful area. There you can have all sorts of beaches to yourself. I went to a place called Exmouth and from there I explored the Nigaloo Reef which is unique since the corals start right at the beach. The scenery is breathtaking. While there I did some harvest work and I ended up picking apples.

Next I explored Northern Australia, including the cities of Cairns and Darwin. There I got a surfboard and did lots of surfing.I explored places like Margaret River and Esperance. My friend from Canada had joined me and we stayed in hostels, parked by the side of the road, camped in caravan parks. At that time I realized that sometimes a hot shower goes a long way….

Queensland was my next stop, it’s a beautiful place with lush rainforest. I got myself a job in banana harvesting, started working in the shed, sorting bananas. Then I asked to work outside, which was very unusual for a woman. I got to drive a 4×4 and cut down banans with a machete. Harvest work is done about 80% by backpackers. The local harvest workers are a different crowd of people and they sport some amazing mullets. They are a little reserved at the beginning, but if you make an effort they are really approachable.

On the Gold Coast I met up with the same people I had travelled with earlier, we mostly did surfing and bummed around the area. We also checked out Frazier Island, did some swimming with the sharks and some skydiving. I later told my dad that I went skydiving and he said he would have really worried about me if he had known. But when I was back in Canada, my dad and I decided to go skydiving together and he really loved it. That was great.

My last stop in Australia was Sydney again from where I came home. The culture shock of coming back to Canada was harsh. I went from + 30 degrees to -25 degrees. I had also gone through this amazing adventure, while life for my friends had pretty much stayed the same. It was difficult to adjust when I came back. But it gave me the idea to take an ESL (Teaching English at a Second Language) program to get myself an international career.

3) Please tell us about the ESL program that you took.

The brochure for Trent University’s ESL program literally fell into my lap one day. I decided to take a one-year program at Trent in Peterborough (Ontario). It’s a great program, it’s 2 semesters long and includes 100 hours of theory and 20 hours of practical teaching. The classes were small, there were only 10 of us. Most of my co-students were retirees who were launching second careeers.

4) You have plans to go on your first ESL teaching assignment to Vietnam. What’s in store for you?

In the first year after graduating you don’t have a lot of choice with ESL since you don’t have real teaching experience yet. I wanted to go to Vietnam, but I figured I would more easily be able to go to Korea or Japan where there is a big demand for certified ESL teachers. Contrary to China, in these 2 countries you definitely need credentials to work in ESL. Through a stroke of luck I found out that one of my friend’s parents lives in Vietnam and he will be able to make some local connections for me and I am planning to head over there in September. I don’t know exactly yet where I am going to go, but I am sure I will find my first ESL assignment with his help.

5) You learned how to do “poise” (an impressive twirling of 2 long wires whose ends have a wick that is set on fire) in Australia, tell us more about that.

Poise was originally a martial art used by the Maori people and it involves two wires with a wick at the end that is set on fire. Then at night you twirl the wires in different patterns around your body, usually set to music or drums. I met some people in Australia who taught me some pretty good moves and I have been performing occasionally in public or entertaining people on the campground with it. It’s a really fun thing to do.

6) You now work as an intern for this adventure travel company called Equinox. What do you do there, how did you get the job?

The way I landed this job was another one of these chance encounters. I was actually supposed to do a 6-week road trip out to Eastern Canada with a friend of mine. One day my brother and I went to a pub and ended up chatting to Blair, who is the manager at Equinox’ rafting location on the Ottawa River. He had just lost an intern, so he asked me if I would be interested. It sounded great so my friend and I decided to postpone the road trip and I am working right now as an intern for Equinox from mid-May to September until I go to Vietnam. Right now I am working as a cook and I also help out with the kayaking courses.

I love being here, it’s just like being a child. Work doesn’t even feel like work, we have so much fun here. There is so much freedom here, you don’t have four walls around you and people are just so friendly. I am learning so much. I am learning about the white water, how to read the river and I am picking up the basics of river rafting and kayaking. One day I might want to become a river guide. I’d definitely like to come back next year after my ESL assignment.

7) Tell me about the lifestyle here at this outdoor adventure camp.

The lifestyle is very basic which is great. We have 12 people here permanently, and just like some of my colleagues, I actually sleep in a tent. Other colleagues of mine actually have built a tree house and live there, and another co-worker of mine has created a shack out of discarded materials that has a boat for a roof. It’s a very simple life with basically no conveniences, no TV, no Internet. We get by with so little here.

Hygiene is pretty basic, we brush our teeth, comb our hair. There are no laundry facilities on site, so I just wash my t-shirts in the shower.

My work schedule is from 7 am to 7 pm. We get the rafting or kayaking gear ready, go to the river, unload. Or when I am working in the kitchen, I am preparing the meals for the day. There are not a lot of rules here, but everything still seems to work.

8) What are your plans for the future?

Other than going to Vietnam to teach ESL I don’t really have any long-term plans. I am a very spontaneous individual and I generally trust that I’ll be in the right place at the right time. I don’t know what’s in store for me. Friends have often said you are like a missionary, you go to different places, help out and don’t get paid for it.

As far as ESL is concerned, I would be interested to teach English in places like Bali or Thailand, in small communities. I have also thought of going to Africa, to help build schools. But people have warned me and said in places like these you need to have money to be able to bribe people.

I just love to help. Somehow I think it’ll all come together. If I stay the happy person that I am somehow I think it will all work out.

Thank you, Krista, for your time. It’s been great meeting such an energetic positive spirit. I wish you all the best for your time in Vietnam and for anything that might happen for you afterwards. Stay in touch and let us know how your first ESL assignment goes!

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions( Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

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The interview with photos is published at Travel and Transitions – Interviews