For a lot of people who wish to really experience another country and culture on a long-term holiday, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is funding.
On one hand, you might be in a decent paying job right now in your home country, with all the perks and the possibility of promotion. This can all go out the plane window if you decide to uproot and travel for a couple of months/a year/several years. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the lucky few with understanding bosses who encourage personal growth by way of travel.
Alternately, you could be afraid of ending up destitute in a foreign land with no income to feed and accommodate yourself. You’ll have to beg the nearest embassy to take care of you and send you home early with your sunburned tail between your legs. Not only will you feel like a failure but you will be returning home with a zero sum bank account, and will have to either suck it up at your parent’s house or plug back into the Matrix of working life, the very things you were trying to escape in the first place.
If you have the right mindset, you can not only survive on an extended journey abroad, but actually manage to have a decent life while you’re there.
The easiest way to avoid beachside bankruptcy is to have a nest egg gathered before you even leave. Have a look at the median comfortable monthly earnings for the country or countries you plan on visiting and aim to have at least three months worth put aside before you go.
This is an ideal situation, however, and not everyone can manage to get the funds together before they set off. This can be for a number of reasons, such as a low paying job, or a high priced plane ticket, or unforeseen expenses that riddle these trips. Here are some employment options for when you arrive at your destination that will keep you off the street and out of the soup kitchen.
1. Bar work
The meat and veg of the long-term traveller’s skill set. If you’ve never worked in a bar, restaurant or club before, see if you can shadow a friend while they work (without annoying them, of course – stay away if it’s a busy place) or pick up a couple of shifts somewhere. You don’t have to be a cocktail master, just have a basic grasp of beers, spirits and the most popular mixed drinks. Bonus points if you can make one or more of the local cocktails. Just try not to get the job with zero knowledge of barwork, as you might end up pissing off the owner, who then might tell any other prospective employers of your ineptitude.
This is a solid universal option, as it doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of the language, just enough to get hired. It’s even easier if the bar caters to foreigners. After a while, you’ll soak up more of the lingo in a bar than you would attending language classes. It’s also a great way to socialize, both with other travelers and locals, and you can pick up on opportunities such as accommodation, other jobs, travel tips, and discounts in the area.
A little patience is necessary, especially in countries where “Please,” and “Thank You,” are considered superfluous, but in the long run it is a fantastic way to pay for your trip. Some places will offer just money, just bread and board, or a combination of the two, depending on the type of establishment.
2. Teach a language
For the most part, the only language people want to learn from a foreigner is English, but I did work in a language school in Brazil that taught French, Spanish and Japanese. English was the most sought after, but if you’re proficient in another language that’s always a bonus.
This is one of the more popular ways to work and travel simultaneously. Most countries are nuts about learning English, especially from native speakers. The amount of people learning English is somewhere up around one billion, so there seems to be a market for it. You can apply to ESL or TEFL courses that will hone your English skills, and a lot of them include a placement program with schools in your country of choice. Learning the country’s language is not required, but an option sometimes exists to enroll in free classes as part of the program.
A hurdle here is that in more developed countries, most schools will also require a degree in English or a related subject before hiring. People without degrees are then left with the cash-in-hand schools, some of which will not be the most stable employers (read: scam artists), or private tuition. Also, you will be in direct competition with all the other English speaking travelers who are looking to earn money teaching. This means you either have to stand out with your skills and prices, or be willing to pound the pavement and work more hours.
One of the major cons with private lessons is that they can be cancelled at the last minute, which might mean that you could spend a couple of hours of your day traveling to and from their house to earn zero cash. You can arrange to have a cancellation charge, but your competitors might not be so hard-nosed, which makes them more likely to get the job.
On the upside, if you can get a steady job or solid client base, you can make a good living teaching, and often have the luxury of choosing your hours. You can also meet people from all walks of life through your class, and most of the students will be a joy to teach, as they are paying their hard earned money to learn from you.
3. Hostel work
The hostel is the base of operations for the budget traveller. A lot of the time they are run and/or staffed by ex-pats, so you know at one stage they were in your sandals.
This is not as prolific a job as the two mentioned above, but it’s a solid option if you can find a vacancy. Smaller “Mom and Pop” style operations are your best bet, but make sure to ask around in any place you stay. A lot of the time they might be understaffed, especially for the night shift at reception. You can end up with a private room, internet access, free breakfast and discounts at local bars and businesses, and if you’re lucky, some decent “walk-around” money. You will also meet and greet travelers from all over the world, and will gain valuable knowledge about the area you are staying. Soon, people will be looking to you for advice about the locality, which is a great feeling.
The flip side is that most of your nights will be forfeit, and you might have to deal with unsavory characters at 4:00am trying to break into the hostel, or a bust pipe leaking toilet water all over the guests’ beds and possessions. This can be stressful, and requires a certain self confidence and ability to deal with issues on your own.
You will also probably need a half-decent grasp of the language, in order to make bookings on behalf of guests or deal with local businesses in regards to maintenance or deliveries.
All of these come with a caveat: you probably won’t earn a mint, and you have to be able to at least tolerate other people. If you’re the type to “lone wolf” your travels, maybe an online business you can manage on the road would better suit you. Or you can start buying up lottery tickets like crazy.
I promise though, you will really enjoy the experience of supporting yourself and immersing in the country authentically for an extended period as opposed to a photogenic stopover.