Backpacker from Ireland moved to Australia – Damien Hennigan’s story


Life back home – Ireland

As a child, Damien always dreamed of other places beyond the boundaries of his quiet little home town of Roscommon in the west of Ireland. He acquired a taste for adventure early in life when family holidays would take him across many countries and allow him to experience cultures throughout Europe, fuelling his desire to leave Roscommon one day. Little did young Damien know at the time that this inner yearning would one day become his wonderful reality.

Growing up, Damien lived a very normal and happy life with his parents and younger sister. Being a bright young man, Damien fared very well in his studies. After successfully completing his high school education, he was accepted into a civil engineering course at a nearby college and his family could not be prouder. Although Damien performed very well at his tertiary studies, there was always a little voice at the back of his mind reminding him that he could be doing something he really loved. For as long as he could remember, he had wanted to become a personal fitness trainer, but to avoid disappointing his parents and perhaps himself as well, he had chosen a safer option, a more reliable career path he could count on to see him through the rest of his life. Though he persevered bravely, his longing to become a personal trainer grew stronger until finally, Damien decided to quit civil engineering.

Slightly dejected from the whole experience, Damien felt the need to get away from Roscommon for a while and headed for the United States for three months on a holiday visa. That particular trip re-ignited his sense of curiosity about the world once again and re-invigorated his desire to realise his ultimate calling. On his journey, he met many wonderful people from different parts of the world who were in similar circumstances. They also were looking for direction in their lives and wanting to pursue their aspirations.

The start of a life-long ambition

Damien returned to Ireland invigorated and ready to get on with his life. Upon arriving in Dublin, he decided to stay there instead of going back to Roscommon, to improve his chances of employment. He eventually found a stable job working as an assistant IT manager in a drug rehabilitation centre. For a while everything was working out very well. He was well-paid, enjoyed his work immensely and lived an enjoyable lifestyle, but for this ambitious young man, it was not enough. Damien decided to get back on track and enrolled in a part-time course to study neuro-muscular therapy, the first of many courses to obtain his personal training certificate. After a gruelling two years, Damien at last achieved his dream and completed his studies, but again, there seemed to be a niggling itch to move on and this time, it was with a clear focus in mind to gain some experience as a personal fitness instructor and put all of his learning into practice.

In February 2008 and just shy of his 24th birthday, Damien officially kicked off his career at a local gym and he was absolutely stoked. He really felt so proud that all of his sacrifices and efforts had finally paid off, except for one thing, the salary for a young and inexperienced trainer was absolutely lousy. He always knew that he would have to take a pay cut but this job literally halved his income and he quickly had to re-assess the lifestyle he loved so much. Once more, Damien found himself in a less-than-ideal position. The tough economic climate in Ireland forced a lot of people to re-prioritise their expenses, and as a result, the gym suffered. What had been a steady stream of regular customers declined rapidly and the personal fitness industry was no longer a viable career option in Dublin. Damien had to act quickly before he became a jobless statistic himself.

Read all of Damien’s inspirational story in Backpack to Briefcase Australia, published by Tribus Lingua and available at: