Archives For Australia

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It’s all happening…

Here I sit, cruising at 37,000 feet, somewhere in between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, on my way to AUSTRALIA! In some ways, I still can’t believe it, but now, it’s starting to actually FEEL real- it’s finally settling in. Now I can actually begin to BELIEVE that this whirlwind dream I’ve been living for the past several weeks is not some fairytale, but reality. Let’s review:

Picked from over six-hundred THOUSAND people, from 196 different countries, to be one of 3 Finalists still vying for THE Best job in the WORLD, and now I’m headed to Sydney for what promises to be the trip of a LIFETIME?!? IN-SANE! I’m fidgeting in my seat, I’ve got a smile a mile wide, I’m telling anyone and EVERYONE that I’m on my way DownUnder… Yes, I’ve gotten a few strange looks, and I’m sure they all think I’m nuts, but heck, I don’t care! I’m headed back to AUSTRALIA, people!

If 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 that you should need any though- it’s AUSTRALIA, for crying out loud! The Land DownUnder! The Opera House and The Outback; the land of koalas and kangaroos; the home of surf, sun, and sand- and SO MUCH more… What’s NOT to be excited about?!?


Kickin' it in the VIP Lounge at the Virgin Australia LOFT in LAX... SWEET AS!

Kickin’ it in the VIP Lounge at the Virgin Australia LOFT in LAX… SWEET AS!


This trip will be unlike any other I’ve been on before. Not only does The Best Job in the WORLD hang in the balance- along with an amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams and passions- but Tourism Australia and the South Australian Tourism Commission have gone ABOVE and BEYOND to plan an incredible itinerary for us while we’re in AUS. Now, you all know that I’m used to going ‘Backpacker Style’- hostels and guesthouses, street food and communal kitchens, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, and broken-down busses. Nope. Note here. Top-notch, first-rate, and high-class- that’s how THEY roll… It’ll be rough, but I think I’ll manage… 🙂

Here’s just a taste of what’s on tap for us in Australia:

Roundtrip to Sydney with Virgin Australia

Photo shoots and media calls with all 18 Finalists at exciting locations throughout Sydney.

Pub Tours and swanky dinners at some of the hottest spots in the city

A cruise through Sydney Harbour and a tour of the world-class Toronga Zoo

A scrimmage against the Sydney Swans Australian-Rules Football team

A guided tour of Cleland Wildlife Park in South Australia

Swimming with sea-lions at Port Lincoln

Helicopter rides and guided tours through the pristine wilderness of Kangaroo Island

Leading tours of Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island

Tracking cute and cuddly (?) echidnas in the wild

All that, and much, MUCH more…


It's good to be 'HOME'...


Now you see why I can’t wipe the smile off my face, why I cannot HELP but tell every ticket agent, food vendor, flight attendant, restroom janitor, and EVERY person sitting around me on the plane all about this crazy adventure? I’m sorry- there’s just nothing I can do about it. The excitement is OVERFLOWING, and to tell you the truth, it’s pretty contagious… I almost had a family bound for Hawaii convinced to alter their travel plans to come to Australia with me! HA! One thing is certain- it’s THEM who’ll be missing out…

This trip is going to be AMAZING, and I’m ready to throw my arms open, embrace the moment, enjoy the ride, and soak up every SECOND… Bring it ON, Australia!!!!!

Stay tuned- things are about to get CRAZY….


Twitter: @n_tilley

Tourism Australia Web Portal (Should go LIVE this week):



To learn how YOU can experience the thrills of traveling in Australia, click HERE.



May 25, 2013 — 4 Comments


backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, field, note, professor, Australa, Sydney, New, South, Wales, opera, house, tourism, best, job,


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…


backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, field, note, professor, Australa, Victoria, Great, Ocean, Road, twelve, 12, apostles, sunset, best, job, tourism wildlife, caretaker

Sunset at the Twelve Apostles- Port Campbell National Park


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



May 16, 2013 — 1 Comment
travel, backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, expert, professor, field, notes, tourism, australia, best, job, world, wildlife, caretaker

The 18 Finalists for The Best Jobs in the WORLD


CRIKEY!!!! I’ve made it to the FINAL ROUND of Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Jobs in the World’ competition!!!

It has been a CRAZY 3 weeks since the Shortlist was announced- non-stop campaigns, long nights editing videos, raising HEAPS of money for the Australian Koala Foundation… what an experience!

The next round of the competition will be held IN Australia, so I’ll be headed back DownUnder in the next few weeks… Obviously, I am EXTREMELY excited, and can’t WAIT to get back to my ‘Home away from home.’

A MASSIVE ‘THANK YOU’ to EVERYONE that has backed my campaign  in one way or another- NONE of this would’ve been possible without your help and support. You ALL are LEGENDS!!!

Ok, I’ve got to get moving- Yoda’s already got his bags packed, and keeps asking when we’re leaving for the airport…


Thanks again, EVERYONE! I cannot WAIT to see what happens next…


Stay tuned!




April 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

travel, backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, expert, professor, field, notes, tourism, australia, wildlife, caretaker, best, job, world


Ok people, it’s time to rally the support and send The Backpack Professor DOWN-UNDER!!!

Here’s the scoop:


A Call to Action- we need ALL HANDS ON DECK!

Nick Tilley, The Backpack Professor, has been selected out of 600,000 applicants as one of 25 finalists for the ‘Wildlife Caretaker’ position in Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Jobs in the World’ competition. For the next phase of the competition, he has planned a HUGE event this Thursday here in Chesterfield, along with a MASSIVE on-line campaign to raise support for both his cause, as well as for the Australian Koala Foundation. Here is a link to the Facebook page:

Here’s all the information you need for the event, and more importantly, how to cast your vote for Nick Tilley as the best man for The Best Job in the World:
EVENT:  ‘Send the Thunder Down-Under’
               Thurs, May 2, 2013
               International Tap House- Chesterfield (161 Long Rd.)
There will be drink specials, games, raffle prizes, good music, great beer, and one lucky winner could win a round-trip ticket to Australia. Food will include the Australian staple of “shrimp on the barbie”, with donations benefiting the AKF, as well as other delicious food supplied by PM BBQ. There is no fee to attend the event.          

For those of you who can, come out to iTap on Thursday. It is going to be a lot of fun.

More importantly, here is how YOU can cast your vote for Nick: make a donation to the Australian Koala Foundation, and type ‘NICK TILLEY’ in the ‘Further Instructions’ field at the bottom of the form. $1, $5, $10- it doesn’t matter- just VOTE. Here’s the link:
Vote for Nick, save a koala. Too easy, mate!
ALL donations ARE tax deductible, and need to be made by 8pm Sunday, May 5th.

Also, please do us a huge favor- SHARE this- on Facebook, on ‘The Twitter’, through your email networks- send this on to friends, family, coworkers, etc., and ask them to do the same, and then forward it on to their friends. Let’s take this thing VIRAL- it will make an enormous difference in Nick’s campaign to be selected for this amazing opportunity.
Finally, Nick is looking for high-profile support for his campaign, both in the ‘Wildlife’ realm, as well as in main-stream media and entertainment. If you have ANY connections that could possibly help get Nick support from anyone that fits this criteria, please, please, PLEASE get them in touch with Nick- Twitter: @n_tilley; Facebook: ‘Nick Tilley’ and/or ‘Nick Tilley for Wildlife Caretaker’.



April 24, 2013 — 5 Comments

travel, backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, expert, professor, field, notes,


So, by now, hopefully you’ve seen the shenanigans that were my submissions for the Best Jobs in the World- if not, check them out here.

Well, apparently the panel loved Yoda, because they put me on the shortlist for the Wildlife Caretaker position!

Yes, you read that right- out of over 600,000 applications submitted, mine was one of only 150 selected for the shortlists- 25 applicants for each of the 6 jobs available.

Wait a second… Let’s read that again- together.


I still can’t believe it…

Excited, elated, exhausted- I hardly slept at all last night… I don’t even know how to describe how I feel. Just honored and really happy to have the opportunity to pursue this- it’s gonna be awesome…

There are 24 other applicants that have been named to the shortlist for Wildlife Caretaker- you can view all of the videos here.

We’re still getting the details on the next steps of the selection process- I’ll definitely be passing those along as I learn more.


In the meantime, I’ll be scheming with Yoda and assembling the rest of the Wildlife Braintrust to discuss how to tackle the next stages- getting on the shortlist is a HUGE step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before I’m back DownUnder…


I guess I had better start brushing up on my SEAL…


travel, backpack, backpacking, budget, adventure, explore, U, university, world, campus, expert, professor, field, notes,

Gettin’ some FaceTime in with the seal pups…


Best Jobs in the World

April 17, 2013 — 7 Comments

The Sydney Opera House- Iconic Australia


Sooo, Tourism Australia is running another round of their famous ‘Best Job in the World’ competition… The previous competition was held in 2009, with the winning applicant assigned to a post on Hamilton Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, charged with blogging and posting about his experiences and adventures while living on the Great Barrier Reef for a year. Rough gig, right…? SIGN. ME. UP.

I was living in Sydney at the time, and made a hap-hazard video of me running around the city, doing various ‘Aussie’ things in a Speedo. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly what the selection committee was looking for, and I was not chosen for the job. Alas, that allowed me to continue my trip through Australia, travel to Africa, and pursue the development of BackpackU. Which brings us to 2013…


This time around, there are 6 different positions involved in the competition, each with unique responsibilities and requirements. The positions are:

1) Wildlife Caretaker- South Australia (Wake up the kangaroos, swim with the sea lions, etc.)

2) Taste Master- Western Australia (Eat you way around WA, find the best local produce, explore the best bars and restaurants)

3) Chief Funster- Sydney, Australia (Be a Sydney VIP, attend festivals and events, tweet, post, and # everything)

4) Park Ranger- Queensland, Australia (Patrol the beaches, check the water temps, etc.)

5) Outback Adventurer- Northern Territories (Seek out adventure in the Outback, hang out with the locals, etc.)

6) Lifestyle Photographer- Melbourne, Australia (Interact with local artists, design city and country photo shoots, etc.)


Again- SIGN. ME. UP. NOW!!! If you know me at all, you’ll have already realized that I would be a PERFECT fit for ANY of these positions. It’s a shame they went and split it up into 6- I would do it ALL!


The application for the competition required those interested to create a video, 30 seconds or less, detailing why they were the best fit for the job. That’s it. That’s all I had to go on.

After hours of brainstorming, scripting, poring through THOUSANDS of photos, shooting, re-shooting, re-shooting AGAIN, editing, and producing- all with a half-marathon thrown right in the middle of everything- this is what I came up with… Enjoy!


Here’s my application for the ‘Wildlife Caretaker’ position:

Yoda. He’s so full of wisdom…


Here’s my video for the Taste Master position:

That smoothie could’ve used a LOT more Australia…


Here’s the application for the Chief Funster gig:

I think my  mom missed her calling when it comes to acting… She is BRILLIANT.


Here’s the video for the Park Ranger position:

I miss patrolling the beaches… They’re few and FAR between here in the Midwest…


And finally, here’s my application for the Outback Adventurer spot:

Gotta LOVE the ‘locals’… HA!


Anyway, that’s what we ended up with. We had a lot of fun making the videos, regardless of what happens with the competition. I’m working on putting together a blooper reel- my Dad said I should’ve just sent THAT in as my application. It is HILARIOUS. Coming soon…