Visa Bureau and STA Travel's lucky
winner Kara Lyons!
Well as some of you will know we at the Visa Bureau teamed up with our friends over at STA Travel a couple of months ago to offer one lucky working holiday goer a full refund on their flights to Australia up to the cost of £1,000!
We received plenty of entries but there could only be one winner so.......
Step forward Kara Lyons!
We finally caught up with Kara this week, she's already in Australia putting her Australian working holiday visa to good use.
Entering the competition
The Visa Bureau and STA competition had been running for a while when Kara processed her and booked her flights but was in a such a rush, she says it wasn't the chance of winning that made her choose Visa Bureau and STA.
"I found Visa Bureau online and used them because the process was so easy and efficient, the only issue I had which slowed down my application was I needed to have chest scans. Visa Bureau found a clinic for me in London and I got everything sorted in less than two weeks as I had to leave for Canada. My mum booked my flight to Australia for me while I was in Canada. STA Travel got me a great deal on a top airline with lots of baggage allowance. I was happy enough with that, she didn't even tell me I had been entered into a competition."
Winning the competition
Flights to Australia aren't likely to be the cheapest part of anyone's trip so Kara was understandably shocked and overjoyed to find she wouldn't be paying for hers, especially as she didn't even know she was in a competition:
"It was a complete surprise! I didn't believe it at first, I had to get my boyfriend to check. He had just woken up for his 5am shift so I turned to check my phone and there was the email. I made him check it because I thought it was a scam! Then I called my mum and asked her to read it too."
Kara says now she knows she's definitely won and doesn't have to give a stranger her bank details over email her working holiday plans have changed.
"I have credit card and overdraft debt back home thanks to my previous travels that I hope to pay off now while I'm working out here. Plus it now means I can enjoy more of my hard earned dollars on my future travels!"
While winning so much money is enough to make anyone's day, winning is just the icing on the cake for Kara in a long term adventure she's been planning for years, and her working holiday in Australia isn't her first trip.
"I first decided to go travelling when I was at University, that I would go when I graduated. It seemed like the best time to, after all that hard work and before I settle down and start my career. My dear friend Alex was also losing his battle with cancer at the time and as I'd already lost my dad as a teenager, I was reminded of how quickly life can be taken away.
"But Alex's fight and zest for life was so admirable that he inspired me not to waste time and begin my own life changing journey.
"In January 2011, me and two of my best friends travelled the east coast of Australia as well as New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand before we went our separate ways. I stayed in Thailand for a year teaching Kindergarten kids English. Teaching completely brought me to life; the energy and enthusiasm of those kids was truly infectious.
"While I was in Thailand I also had the opportunity to travel through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos before heading home to the UK for a quick visit, a family holiday to Florida, a trip to Canada and then finally back out to Australia on a working holiday, phew!"
However, it's not just the prospect of seeing the world, living on beaches, experiencing a different culture or even just getting to wear sandals every day that persuaded Kara to head Down Under.
"Like all perfect travel stories - I fell in love. I first met my boyfriend on his travels through Cambodia and Thailand. He was going to Australia on a working holiday visa so when my time in Thailand was up it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work and travel together and see everything I missed the first time around!"
Despite winning a competition and falling in love and lots of other good stuff, Kara says there's still plenty of practical aspects to her trip and has one piece of sage advice she says no traveller should be unaware of.
"Take a travel towel! I wouldn't travel with an ordinary one ever again. They're so easy and when you're on the move daily you need something that can dry quickly before it's shoved back in your bag. They are so thin and light they hardly take up any room too which is a bonus, especially seeing as my boyfriend Dan and I are both working in the Outback of Western Australia in a town called Laverton - it's remote to say the least!"
Kara has already done so much on her trip but still has plenty of things planned for the rest.
"It's all been amazing but I would have to say sky diving and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef are in my top 10.
"I've surprised myself many times! I certainly never thought I would jump out of a plane or that I would be even the slightest bit capable of surfing!"
"I really want to go whale watching off the west coast of Australia and I'm dying to go see Ayers Rock. I also can't wait to spend Christmas and New Year in Sydney - it's such a great city!"
Well we were happy we could manage to get hold of Kara during what sounds like the trip of a lifetime but she had a few last thoughts about the travelling experience.
"Every day is a new experience when you're travelling and you never know what's around the corner. It's definitely not all about where you're going but who you are going with and I feel like I've made some lifelong friends this past year and a half.
"I just hope to keep having fun with great company while seeing a bit of the world too!"
|We expect Kara doesn't need telling to enjoy the rest of her working holiday!
- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor with the Australian Visa Bureau, an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications for a Working Holiday Visa to Australia.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013