By the time I was 24 I had graduated university, backpacked Central America and Mexico, walked across Spain, been to Burkina Faso, West Africa (twice), worked in SE Asia, and took down time in New Zealand. This all happened before I married, had kids, and we kept traveling as a family-unit.
It’s not an impossible thing to do, TRAVEL. Even fresh out of Uni with a load of school loans to pay off, I still found the means to meet my payments, while bouncing around the world on my own dime. So why aren’t more people doing it? If I gave you real ways that you could pack your bags and take off tomorrow, would you jump at them?
Ever felt like you just wasted a precious 10 minutes of your time sifting through a post that can “coach” you on HOW TO START TRAVELING TOMORROW! and by the end you haven’t learned anything you didn’t know already. There must be thousands of articles out there offering advice on how to save up your every penny to be able to afford travel.
These may be helpful and encouraging to some, but most of them are just fluff pieces. More often than not I leave those pages feeling duped, where are the specifics!?
Sure savings are nice to have, a cushion to fall back on, and emergency Plan B, but not always feasible as a full-time travel fund. If you don’t budget and manage your money really well, it’s going to disappear before it even touches your hand. Totally exasperating when you are trying to put that cash aside for future travel.
Sometimes you just have that urge to go…not in 10 years, or 1 year, or 6 months, you want to go now.
There is a way. WORK WHILE TRAVELING.
It’s an option that many have heard about and have schlepped off. But it’s doable, and easier than you think.
HOW DO YOU THINK WE HAVE MANAGED TO KEEP MOVING FOR SO LONG. Sure, we started with some money in the bank, but that wasn’t an amount that would keep us sailing forever. To get our original savings we sold our stuff (car, furniture, anything of worth). When that money disappeared but our desire to travel continued, we sold our house…when that money was gone, we did the necessary, we started working, ABROAD.
Working abroad can be a wonderful experience. It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture, get to know the community, the language, the way of life. By working while you travel, you “force” yourself stay in one spot long enough to really learn the place.
NOW THIS IS KEY!
If you keep in mind that you are looking for a job, not a career (and stay open-minded and flexible) you’ll be able to find work anywhere. Most of the jobs you will find abroad will be hard (and most likely in the service industry), but they will earn you enough money to keep the travel bug alive a bit longer.
Forget the fluff articles, this might be the kick in the pants that you need to get you to buy that plane ticket. These are some ways you can work abroad that we have had PERSONAL experience with:
GET A WORKING HOLIDAY VISA
(must be under the age of 30/35 *country dependent* and only applies to certain countries)
If you’re in the right age bracket you should check to see if your government offers the Working Holiday Visa. The idea of this visa is to get young adults out travelling the world, while providing them with a work visa so they’re able to financially supplement their travels if needed.
The list of countries that offer these working holiday visas is quite extensive and bound to have a destination that peaks your interest. With this visa you get to go discover a country, and if you run out of cash you are legally allowed to look for work “over the table”!
The visa application process is pretty simple, but MUST BE MADE BEFORE LEAVING YOUR HOME COUNTRY.
After graduating from university I used this type of visa to travel and work in both New Zealand and Japan. After spending a long time in SE Asia, on my own, I bit the bullet and flew to New Zealand in the hopes that I would land myself a job on the ski hill for the season. I was hoping for a job with minimal responsibility and lots of interaction with other people, enough of this solo traveling!
I got the “lifty job”, but ended up turning it down to bartend and be a barrista instead.
*I turned it down because I knew there were MANY other travellers there, hoping for this same job because it came with a season lift ticket, and I foresaw myself only skiing a handful of times, unfair to those ski bunnies who wanted to be on the hill daily.*
I stayed in Wanaka, New Zealand for nearly 7 months, enjoying the town, the people, and saving up enough money for my next plane ticket, to Japan.
TEACH ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE
If you are a native English speaker then ESL is probably the easiest job you can find. There is an overabundance of schools looking for good teachers, especially in Southeast Asia. In general the wages are good, the work hours are flexible, some schools will offer bonuses for renewing past a three month contract, and some will even pay for your flights over!
Some of the teaching positions simply require you hold a Bachelor’s degree from an English speaking institution, while others will request TEFL or ESL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language, English as a Second Language) training and certification.
Even if you have no teaching experience at all, the fact that you are a native English speaker means that you will still likely be able to find yourself a job. If English is not your first language, don’t despair, I have seen similar job posting for French, Spanish, German, you-name-it speakers.
When I was done with a work contract in Malaysia, I found a ESL school in Thailand that was recruiting teachers. As a sign-on bonus they were offering the teacher training and certification for free. I took the two week training (which included food and lodging) and am now certified to teach English abroad. I taught at an elementary school for two semesters, in a small town a couple hours south of Bangkok. My contract included my housing (I had a basic, but comfortable, apartment) and $1000 Canadian a month in exchange for 25 hours of work a week. With food costing next to nothing, this job allowed me to experience rural Thailand while putting money aside for my before mentioned trip to New Zealand.
Don’t believe me about the overwhelming amount of teaching positions available, check out this website (no affiliation), which is where I found 2 out of 3 of my teaching abroad positions.
GET SEASONAL WORK
Where ever there’s a strong tourist season you will find a large demand for temporary labour. By moving with the seasons you can land yourself a job on a ski hill, as a camp counsellor, as charter boat crew, or in a bar or restaurant.
Seasonal tourist spots get bombarded with customers but often times there aren’t enough locals to fill the jobs, this is where you step in. The key however is to get there before the season begins, because you are not the only one who will be vying for a job. If you show up mid-season all of the good jobs will already be taken.
I arrived in Wanaka, New Zealand about a month before the ski season started. I canvased that whole town, handing out my resume to not only the ski hill, but every restaurant and shop in town too. Because I was there before the influx of other seasonal job hunters, I landed myself three jobs, kept two, and dropped down to just one when the full-time hours began. Being there is when I realized that seasonal travel-and-work is a real thing. There were a ton of, mostly Canadian and US, travellers that arrived looking for work in this ski town, and the opposite is true, when the seasons flip and the Aussis and Kiwis hit North America seeking those same jobs…chasing winter year round.
WORK IN A HOSTEL
Although I never worked in a hostel myself, during my backpacking years I came across many travellers who were. Hostels will often hire people to work the front desk and clean the place for a few hours in exchange for a free bed. Even if you are not making money doing this, you are SAVING money by not having to pay for your room and board. The money you save in this manner can be put towards extending your trip!
USE YOUR CONNECTIONS
Those people you meet while hanging out at the beach bar, they may be your connection to a local job. Every person you come across could be a lead. If you put yourself out there that you are looking for work, you may just meet someone who has a job to offer.
While we were in the DR we made a Canadian friend there that was working with a Canadian non-profit. Little did we know that this friendship would one day lead to us living and working in the Dominican Republic for six months. One guy, that we randomly met at monkey jungle, led us to a life/work experience like no other, simply because we liked each other and he had connections.
If you aren’t in your destination country it may seem hard to make these connections beforehand, but you’re WRONG. With the world wide web it is now easier than ever to find a job abroad. Jump on to Facebook and see if your destination has a group/page where housing, jobs, and stuff is offered for sale…most places we have travelled to have them. Throw it out there that you are heading that way and looking to work while you visit, you’ll likely find some job offers or be directed on where to look.
USE YOUR SKILLS
Use what you know to get a job. We’ve come across people that offered their services as hairdressers, musicians, chefs, etc. Get creative! If there isn’t an existing position for you, then create one.
As we were sailing through the Bahamas it became known that Eben knows how to repair sails and sew boat cushions. Next thing we knew we LITERALLY had people lining up on the beach waiting for their turn to get their stuff fixed.
As boating goes, we weren’t always paid in money, sometimes it was food, sometimes it was in exchange for boat parts that we needed, whatever the payment, it was once again saving us money, so that our dollars could go towards more travel.
Another example, some publications have found my blog posts relevant to their readers and have asked to share them, or pay me to write something specific for their site. Doing the occasional freelance work that I have done is not enough to pay for a plane ticket, but it can give us a nice meal out at our next destination, again money saved is money gained.
**More SAILING specific: while on the water we have met other boaters making money by using their own skills, we saw people gettting paid to clean boat bottoms, to sew torn sails, teaching kids sailing clubs, selling lobster/fish they caught while out spearing, running other peoples private docks, becoming chefs and captains on charter boats…there are jobs out there for boaters too!**
DO VOLUNTEER WORK
As the word volunteer implies, you are not getting paid. But as I have mentioned more than once, if you are getting room and board in exchange for your time, then your savings is not being spent, keeping you on the road longer. If you can live in a foreign country, “for free”, while giving your time to a good cause, then its a WIN-WIN.
The google machine is an easy way to see what opportunities are out there, as well as other sites geared towards this kind of travel, such as workaway.info
Our recommendation would be to try and find a small-scale, local volunteering initiative, this way you know that your efforts are going directly to where they are needed most.
WORK WITHIN YOUR OWN BOARDERS
If the cost of flights and visas still seem too daunting for you, why not travel within your own country. I know there are still a ton of places in Canada that I would love to discover. By staying within your own boarders you won’t have to seek out any foreign work visas, all you will have to decide is how you want to spend your time.
If you are looking for a paid income check out sites like Craigslist or local FB forums for job openings in whatever city you are going to visit. If you don’t mind trading your time for food and lodging (rather than pay) then sites like WOOFing and Couch Surfing have plenty of opportunities.
My brother in-law and his family have been doing just this; they have been taking in “workaways and woofers” from around, who are helping them build their earthship in exchange for food and lodging. It has definitely been beneficial for all involved. They get the extra hands needed for all the manual labour that goes into building a home, and the “workers” are getting to learn new skills, discover a new lifestyle, and live with the family in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
If you are looking for a more specialized “career” type job, rather than the ideas offered above, it is still possible, but slightly harder. It will require a lot more foresight, research, and networking. You will have to look into long-term work visa requirements, and see what each countries rule and regulations may be. Some countries require that you get contacted by a company beforehand, others prefer you speak the local language, whatever the hoops may be, they are not impossible. You may even find yourself in the position of having stayed in one location long enough that you have built up your connections and a more traditional job gets offered to you.
Don’t let money woes get in the way of your travel dreams. If you stay open-minded and flexible you can make money while on the go. By being flexible you will always be able to find a job, it might not be the most attractive work, but again, its a job, not a career. You can worry about “your career” when you get home. For the time being, if traveling is your priority, and your savings account isn’t padded, this may be the way to go.
If working while travelling seems like an encumbrance, remember that travel is about learning about yourself and gaining world perspective. What better way to do that than by fully immersing yourself in a foreign community and staying around (while earning money) long enough to start understanding what life there is truly about.
Awesome article, cheers!