Updated November 18th, 2017.
Many people believe the long term travel lifestyle is somewhat of a fairytale story that only a select few people can obtain, but I’m here to tell you… That’s not true. I’m an average girl from Florida who had the desire to travel since the day she found out what a map was, and I’m doing it. I know my mom told me I was special, but I’m not. I’m a person who had a goal, worked for it, and made it happen. I wanted to live and travel abroad. So I did.
Here’s how you can live and travel abroad by working abroad…
Two things you’ll need to come to terms with when debating a life of long-term travel:
Do you have a trust fund? Does your bank account balance resemble the barcode number on a ketchup bottle? No? Me either. So this means we have to work. This is the reality of being a long term traveler. I’ve been asked…
- Are you rich?
- So how much money do your parents give you?
- Are you an heiress? (this one is my favorite.)
Nope. I just work! And if you’re in a similar situation as me, you will need to work as well. You will need to work before you jet abroad and continue to work once you get there.
You will need to have money saved. Yes, I’m sorry, but that means even more work.
Hey, I never said this was going to be an easy task!
But will it be worth it? More than you can imagine. So, how much should I save before I take off? That’s likely the question on your mind. Well, I can’t tell you a number.
I don’t know you and your spending habits, I don’t know what country you’re trying to go to, and I don’t know how quickly getting a job will take in X country. There’s a plethora of factors that go into this. So here’s a rule of thumb I like to recommend:
Save enough for at least two months of a having a wicked time in *insert awesome country you desire to live in* with enough to buy a ticket home. If anything falls through, you’ll have money to still enjoy your time out there and get yourself home.
Want to hear a real life scenario?
Sure. Let’s talk dollar amounts. (amounts in USD)
Before moving to Thailand…
I saved: $6,000
I paid off my student loans: 8 months of loans prepaid. About $200 per month. (And yes, I still pay these off every month and can travel.) I left the US with zero debt which means I paid off all credit cards. I also canceled all subscriptions, sold my car, sold my electronics, and anything else that would give me an extra dollar to my name. This took me nearly two years and working three simultaneous jobs to accomplish.
You will need to do a bit of research
So I know most backpackers live by the rule,” just go with the flow, don’t plan,” I’d like to suggest planning and researching a bit. Actually, I’m not suggesting, I’m telling you, you need to.
You need to know:
- The cost of living
- Visa requirements and work permit situations.
- If the job you want is needed in *insert your desired country.*
- Will the amount you’ll make working be able to sustain you? And will you be able to save a bit for extra traveling? That’s kind of a huge deal, right? You want to work abroad so you can travel more.
- Other factors that might be specific to the country you have in mind.
Possible jobs / volunteer opportunities abroad…
Alright, so I told you you needed to work, but you might be wondering why type of jobs are available abroad? There are plenty!
- Working holiday visas – For example, I’m from the US, I obtained a working holiday visa for Australia which allows me to work there for one year. Where are you from and what working holiday visa can you obtain?
- Dive Instructor – Are you a diver? Awesome, go teach somewhere in this world. (Depending on your experience and where in the world you are going, this might be a paid or volunteer with perks position)
- Teach English – This is one of the most popular ways to make money abroad. It was my first job abroad and I’d highly recommend it!
- Yacht crew – Go work on a boat and travel on your time off or when the excursion is done. I’d totally do this if I didn’t get sea sick.
- Tour Guide – Self explanatory. You usually will need to be living in the area for quite some time though. This might be a down the road type job / do it in your current city if you can and save money.
- Online work / Freelance – This is what I’ve done for the last few years. Do you have a skill that can be done using a computer? Cool, you can work online. Graphic design, writing, IT, and a wealth of other “computer needed only” type jobs can be found online.
- Peace Corps – They offer to send you to another country and they even pay your student loans back if you meet certain qualifications. This could be an option for some, but it definitely caters to a specialized person.
- Doctors Without Borders – Again, this is for a specifiic person, but an option nonetheless.
- Musician – If you’re good enough, you could get paid to play live music or at least bum a free room and drinks.
- NGO’s – Another job opportunity if you find one that fits you.
- Other instructor – Yoga, kitesurfing…What are you into and are you qualified to teach it? Go for it.
There’s other work that you can do that isn’t paid, but will provide you with a place to sleep and sometimes even food. You might even take on a new skill!
- WorkAway and HelpX – Volunteer your time and you don’t have to pay for a room or sometimes food. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Farm, build, garden, nanny, other weird odd jobs… It’s all found on these sites. (Yes, the small fee they ask for is worth it. You can browse jobs before paying, and then sign up when you find a few you really want.)
- WWOOFing – Farm around the world.
- House sit– Literally just live in someone’s house while they are away. There are websites that connect you with these people and it’s next on my list of things to try. Living in a legit house for free? Score!
- Be a drop in – Literally rock up to a place and ask if they need a bartender or someone to help at the hotel’s front desk for a free room. It works. I’ve seen it a million times.
There are surely more, and again, opportunities can depend on where you’re from and where you’re going. So, remember that Google is your friend. You can even try reaching out to people who have done what you’re looking to do. So many people blog about their experiences, I’m sure they’d be happy to help.
I’ve taught English in Thailand and online, I’ve HelpXed, I’m currently a digital nomad (freelance and travel writer), and I’m soon embarking on my trip to Australia to use my working holiday visa. Feel free to drop me a line.
Last Minute Tips:
- Find a job straight away – This tip, you can take it or leave it. It’s not a rule. But my thoughts are- I’d rather find a job now than get “lost” traveling and blow through my savings before the thought of working had a chance to cross my mind. Plus, getting a job ASAP will immerse you better into the culture and you’ll quickly find the cheapest places to eat, exactly how much a scarf SHOULD cost, and start learning the language quicker. Traveling after will be much easier after this experience.
- Sell it – If you’re serious, sell it. Sell everything! By the time you get back it will be out of style or old anyway. You’ll need all the cash you can get. There’s no sense in storing your TV and old clothes just to collect dust.
- Don’t force it – Be serious about this. Otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time and money. Also, don’t force yourself to a country for X reason. Go where you can thrive on all spectrums.
- Live simple – If you’re going abroad, it’s best to live simply. You’ll save your money to travel more. That’s the whole point right? To travel. Well, if you’re blowing your money on six beers a night and a fancy room, you’re probably not going to be able to afford to travel much.
Why working abroad is awesome!
How is it not!? Working abroad, is hands down, the best and, unless you’re rich, the only way to travel for long term. It also happens to make things a hell of a lot cheaper.
Not to mention, it gives you a chance to immerse further into the culture, develop relationships, learn the language a bit, and let’s face it- have a way better time than you would trying to cram everything in a 2-3 week adventure.
I won’t go on anymore as to why it’s the best choice if you’re serious about traveling a lot. You’ll have to just try it out and see for yourself! Never in a million years did I think my one year teaching English in Thailand would end up like this… 4.5 years later, still on the road, working online, and making travel a career! I’m so thankful I took that leap.
Feel free to leave comments and ask questions. Is this for you? Have you lived abroad long term and worked? What was your experience?
Cheers to living that long term travel lifestyle, my friends!
About the author: Nina Ragusa is the intrepid soul behind Where in the World is Nina? This American wildflower shares her world explorations and methods of living the travel lifestyle – without fluffing the details. You can expect wit and sarcasm dashed between REAL travel information and adventurous stories. Nina is a professional beach bum, a hula hooper, and revels in getting lost on purpose. Tag along to see how to travel and live abroad forever fabulously, rather than frivolously. Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
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