It’s funny how life works out sometimes...

When you’re a kid, it seems everyone wants to know- ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

As a 2nd grader, typical responses include things like ‘I wanna be a doctor’, or ‘I’m gonna be a baseball player!’ You might even get the adventurous ‘I’m going to be an astronaut and fly to the MOON!’ Young minds, full of dreams and a boundless future.

For me, my response to this question may have appeared curious to some:

‘I want to go to Australia, and live with the kangaroos.’

Different, to say the least- definitely not what one would expect of an 8 year-old in the Midwestern United States- but it’s true. I’m not completely sure where the idea came from, but that’s what I wrote on an elementary school survey- an old, wrinkled piece of paper my sentimental mother somehow dug up when I was heading off to Australia for the very first time- for a semester of university in Sydney at the age of 20. At the time, we smiled and laughed, waxing nostalgic about a young boy’s dream about to be realized, 12 years in the making.

So I went to Australia, and my life has never been the same. Sure, I studied, but that’s not what I remember most about the experience. I remember the kangaroos and koalas, the wallabies and the wombats. I remember getting certified to scuba dive in the bays of Sydney. I remember traveling the Queensland Coast, diving the Great Barrier Reef, and venturing deep into the Outback. I remember cheering on the United States at the Sydney Summer Olympics, and somehow finding myself joining in with the exuberant Aussies whenever they weren’t competing against the US. ‘Aussie-Aussie-Aussie! Oi-Oi-Oi!’ I remember sitting on Bondi Beach, a few days before my return home, watching the surfers and feeling the sun on my face, trying to soak up EVERY LAST DETAIL. I guess it worked, because I remember it all like it was yesterday...

6 months flew by in the blink of an eye, and before I knew it, my semester DownUnder was over. I was back in Chicago, hurdling snow drifts along the cold and windy shores of Lake Michigan- a stark contrast to the sun and the sand of Sydney. Then and there, I vowed to make it back to Australia someday- to do a proper ‘Summer DownUnder’, to go back and explore the rest of that amazing country of which I had only barely gotten a taste. A seed had been planted, a new dream began to take root.


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Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia


Fast-forward 8 years, and I found myself about to realize that dream as well. Giving in to the desire to travel and explore the world, I bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand in 2007, and as fate would have it, found myself meeting up with two travel mates in Sydney in October of 2008, Working Holiday visa in hand. I had an entire YEAR in Australia, and I was going to take advantage of EVERY precious second contained in those 365 days...

And I did. I spent 6 months working in Sydney, living by the beach, learning to surf, and hanging out with some of the best people I have ever met, followed by 6 months of literally traveling around the ENTIRE country- I even made it to Tasmania for 2 weeks! ‘The Summer DownUnder’ turned into an EPIC year in Australia- one full of mind-blowing adventures, countless memories, lifelong friendships, a MASSIVE road trip up the West Coast, and me finding a home on the other side of the world- that is what ‘Australia’ came to represent in my life. But once again, those 12 months flew by all too fast, and before I knew it, my visa was up, and I had to move on...


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Sea lion colony on the Neptune Islands, South Australia


Since then, I’ve often found myself dreaming (Read: SCHEMING) up different ways to get back DownUnder- apply to Graduate School, seek out international employment, go back on a ‘Tourist Visa’ and just get lost in the Outback- but none of those ever really felt like the right path... In the meantime, I began to pursue my professional dreams- beginning my ‘career’ as a travel advocate and adviser, launching BackpackU, and continuing my travels around the globe. Still, in my heart, I’ve always known that I want to go back to Australia. The question was ‘How?’

Enter Tourism Australia and ‘The Best Jobs in the World’ competition. What started with an afternoon of family fun making the application videos has ended up being one of the CRAZIEST rides I have EVER been on- to imagine that it would ever come to my making the FINALS- that is just ridiculous...

But now, here I am. I AM headed back to Australia, headed back to that incredible place that has become my ‘home away from home’- this time, to compete for my DREAM JOB- a job that will allow me to share my love for Australia and its natural wildlife with the rest of the WORLD. Seriously? Is this real?? They want me to come to Australia, talk about how amazing the country is, and highlight the unique wildlife DownUnder? That’s the job?

Ummmm... Ok...(?)

I was MADE FOR THIS. I LOVE Australia. I love the people and the places, the air and the animals. I love the ruggedness and the rowdiness, the style and the sense of unity. There really is NOTHING like Australia- it's unique to any other place in the world.

This will be my 5th trip DownUnder, and I can honestly say that the excitement about this trip surpasses all the others. Well, maybe ‘surpasses’ isn’t the right word, because I ALWAYS get excited when I’m headed to Australia... It’s just a different kind of excitement. I’ve been working toward this moment for 6 years- countless late nights developing content for BackpackU; hours spent scouring user forums and online codices, teaching myself the ins and outs of website design; innumerable phone calls, emails, and texts to people that know a lot more than I do- and now, through all of that, I find myself on the cusp of something HUGE... It feels like that moment on a roller-coaster, when you’ve clickity-clacked your way to the top of the first drop, and then everything goes quiet. Your stomach tightens, your pulse races, you suck in your breath, and all you can do is hold on and wait for the ride to begin. It’s a moment packed with emotion- excitement, elation, achievement, promise, gratitude, joy, and above all- hope. That is what this moment feels like.

And now, I’m ready to throw my hands in the air, embrace the moment, and enjoy the ride. This experience is going to be nothing short of AMAZING, and I cannot WAIT to see what happens next...

Again- I was MADE FOR THIS.

It’s crazy- one day, I'm just an 8 year-old boy, scratching out an innocent answer on a 2nd grade survey, and the next, I'm a 33 year-old man, overjoyed at the opportunity to continue to pursue his dreams. Through it all, not much has changed...

‘I want to go to Australia, and live with the kangaroos...’

It’s funny how life works out sometimes...


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Sunset at the Twelve Apostles- Port Campbell National Park


To learn more about how YOU TOO can fall in love with Australia, click HERE.


5 Responses

  1. I can tell this is from your heart Nick. Good luck to the best guy for the best job in the world. Can’t wait to visit

  2. Great piece, Nick. You know we will be pulling for you to get that greatest job.

  3. You are MADE for this, mate!

  4. Your destiny awaits you…just living the DREAM!

  5. 1st grade for me, teacher was Aussie. 🙂

  6. […] you missed my last post about Australia, check it out here. It will give you a little background as to why I am so excited to be heading back DownUnder. Not […]

  7. […] If you missed my post about how I fell in love with Australia to begin with, check it out HERE. […]

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