Have Job… Will Travel! 5 Stories of People Who Work Abroad Doing What They Love

We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at work dreaming about travel. Reading blogs and travel websites and living vicariously through the adventures that you read. Perhaps you are doing it now? Usually these musing can be written off as mere fantasies and easily whisked away by grumbles about money and making ends meet.

Can you earn money and travel?

Travel and work don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, countless people, from a diverse range of professions are figuring out ways to make travel and work compatible. There’s no doubt that on your travels you’ll come across a number of people whose work allows them to travel the globe. Instead of stamping a time card, these people are stamping their passports. So how do they do it? Is it as good as you imagine? Does it really pay the bills?

It’s time to get the real deal of a job-on-the-go, Travel writer, Marisa Charles caught up with a few of these working travellers to see what it’s really like when the world of work and travel combine.

1. The Online Poker Player

  • Name: Not given
  • Age: 22
  • Nationality:  British
  • Currently located: Thailand

Poker Player, working and living in South East Asia

THE JOB: I play online poker games against opponents that I feel I have a skill advantage over. I employ a highly analytical approach to my work and it usually pays off.

SKILLS NEEDED: An analytical and logical personality. The ability to control your emotions.

YOUR TRAVELS: I’ve mostly stayed in Thailand and travelled around Asia. My work has also taken me to Macau, China – Asia’s version of Las Vegas.

PERKS: Freedom. I make my own hours and work from home in my underwear. I don’t answer to anyone’s schedule and enjoy being my own boss. I can work from anywhere with WIFI giving me amazing opportunity to travel.

DOWNSIDE: Losing. You are bound to have big losing days and weeks and even the occasional losing month regardless of how good you are. Long runs of bad luck do happen and can be annoying and stressful. Sometimes I don’t feel like playing and with nobody forcing me, it is easy to take days off and get lazy.

THE MONEY? You can earn good money, but you have to work hard and approach it from a professional mindset. Poker is not just a gambling game of luck, it is a game of skill and strategy. I always have to be reviewing and focused to remain profitable. It’s not an easy or mindless way to make money. I’ve supported myself with no problems for the last 2.5 years.

COULD YOU BECOME A POKER PLAYER? Soak up all the information you can. Study intensely and learn how to manage your bankroll and control your emotions. Then, start playing a lot of hours, making sure to review your play and look for ways to improve. With discipline and dedication, most people can become skilled enough to at least make a supplemental income. But it’s definitely not for everyone. It is not do-able for someone getting in to poker only because they heard they can make money! Every pro starts off as a player who enjoys the game, becomes obsessively analytical, suddenly starts to make a lot of money and realises they could make a living.

2. The Entrepreneur

  • Name: Berthe
  • Age: 35
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Currently located: Holland

Starting your own business in Thailand

THE JOB: I am the founder of an online social network for women in Thailand called Chicky Net. I began by starting a Facebook group for women in Phuket which quickly developed into a website. Since 2009, Chicky Net has become a platform for over 2,000 women across Thailand.

SKILLS NEEDED: Managing a social network means you’re managing people, the technique of your site, doing your own PR, marketing and sales. You have to be creative, enthusiastic and persistent; it isn’t easy to get the masses moving.

YOUR TRAVELS: Chicky Net is a national website with networks in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, HuaHin and Phuket where I spent time organising events, meeting members and getting a feel for the place.

PERKS: As my work is online I can work whenever and wherever I want to, which is a great luxury. A trip to the other side of the world on any day is no problem. I have freedom to go wherever.

DOWNSIDE: Since the beginning I have been a one-woman show so this means that I am responsible for everything! A social network is a 24-hr business and I check every day if things are in order – even weekends and holidays I have to work.

THE MONEY? Setting up a business was expensive, as is website maintenance and hosting. Right now I break even, but I am confident however that I’ll make a profit one day with advertisers on the site.

COULD YOU BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR? I stumbled into this job; I never intended to set up a business. Being inexperienced I had to learn a lot. Many things I dealt with as they came along which in some occasions has been a costly experience, personally and financially. My advice is to work with a plan, this will save you  time and money!

3. The Dive Instructor

  • Name: Clynton Oldsage
  • Age: 26
  • Nationality: South African
  • Currently located: Fiji
Dive Instructor in South East Asia

THE JOB: As a SCUBA Diving Instructor, I get to travel the world whilst doing a sport I love and meeting interesting new people. Diving is an escape from reality and I help people to experience this whole new world.

SKILLS NEEDED: First and foremost, you need to have a passion for diving. In terms of qualifications, you will need all of your dive courses up to your Dive Master Instructor Course. When teaching you need to be extremely patient, whilst being enthusiastic and displaying role mode behavior. It’s no good turning up to teach people to dive with a hangover! In this way, you need to be self-disciplined.

YOUR TRAVELS: I first started diving in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, where I gained my certifications. The sport has since taken me to Borneo, Indonesia and I am currently living and working in Fiji.

PERKS:I wake up every morning in paradise, spend the day with sand between my toes and teach people something that I love. Diving is definitely a lifestyle rather than a ‘conventional’ job.


THE MONEY: Your salary depends greatly on where you choose to work. Living in remote locations can be expensive. You can certainly earn enough to live, accommodation, food, social life etc, but it is difficult to save in the long-term. Basically, being a Dive Instructor means that you are never going to be a millionaire, but I have chosen to be poor in money, rich in life!

COULD YOU BE A DIVE INSTRUCTOR? Anyone can be a dive instructor if they have a passion for it. But just remember that someone else’s ‘dream job,’ may not be the ‘dream’ for you. My advice is to find a job that you love and you’ll never have to work a day of your life.

Learn to Dive Open Water

4. The English Teacher

  • Name: Marlies Tumolo
  • Age: 26
  • Nationality: American
  • Currently located: Chiang Mai, Thailand
English Teacher in South East Asia

THE JOB: I lead a class of 4-6 year olds at a private Thai elementary school teaching them English through music, art and experiments. I open my students’ eyes to the world and teach them to be helpers, thinkers and doers.

SKILLS NEEDED: The minimum necessary to get a good teaching job is a TEFL or CELTA certification. You get better offers in more locations if you have a teaching credential that is valid in your home country.

YOUR TRAVELS: I have worked as a teacher in Mexico and Thailand and have been offered work in Korea, China, Turkey, Colombia and Italy. Teaching allows you to go anywhere; just spin a globe!

PERKS: The people that I meet. Being able to travel around the world allows me the chance to connect with people very different from myself but with whom I share so many things! I love the challenge of being in new places and the ability to learn something new every day.

DOWNSIDE: The time I enjoy the least is the time I spend away from my students, things like report cards.

THE MONEY: With good credentials you can make more than enough money to pay the bills and save a lot. Also, good jobs will pay for your housing, flights home, and sometimes even bills. The perks are unbelievable!

COULD YOU BE AN ENGLISH TEACHER? Get a TEFL Course and some experience under your belt. Shop around when looking for jobs, you don’t want to get scared into a bad contract. Apply to as many as possible and be picky with offers! READ your contracts before signing them. Also, make sure the school has a good go-to person that is used to dealing with foreign teachers.

5. The Engineer

  • Name: Josh Kearns
  • Age: 34
  • Nationality: American
  • Current Location: Thailand/Burma border
Engineer in Asia

THE JOB: I am a specialist in technologies for sustainable water management through my own non-profit organization, Aqueous Solutions. My work supports sustainable livelihood security and public health for rural, remote, impoverished and marginalised communities in Asia.

SKILLS NEEDED: Scientific training in chemistry, physics, environmental science, and engineering, plus work experience in development and sustainability. Also writing skills, public speaking, stamina for physical work, willingness to challenge authority and established convention, competence in trade skills such as masonry and plumbing, competence in laboratory and field research methods, perseverance and stubbornness.

YOUR TRAVELS: Mainly north Thailand and Burma’s border regions, but also Nepal, Ladakh and north India.

PERKS: The gratification of employing the scientific method to solve real-world problems and make a positive impact on the lives and well-being of people. I enjoy working with my hands and brain together, doing real work, in collaboration with amazing, skillful people who have changed and benefitted my life immeasurably.

DOWNSIDE: Dealing with bureaucracy (University, NGO, government, philanthropic, corporate), worrying about money and living grant-to-grant, going to fancy-pants conferences, travelling in airports and staying in hotels in “developed” areas of cities.

THE MONEY? Several years on the job has so far paid the bills. It can work if you are (1) doggedly committed to the work, (2) willing to live a thrifty, efficient and adventurous life, and (3) are resourceful and creative and a real do-it-yourselfer. (Think MacGyver.) Not for sissies, new age-y hippie types, or those who want to recline in the banality of affluent middle class comfort and consumerism.

COULD YOU BE AN ENGINEER? Meditate on these words from Chris Guillebeau’s A Brief Guide to World Domination, “The two most important questions in the universe are#1: What do you really want to get out of life? and #2: What can you offer the world that no one else can?“ Guillebeau also recommends that we “remember two things: #1: You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to. #2: The world is waiting for you to figure out what only you can contribute. Take as much time as you need to find the answer, and then get started on it.”

What is your dream job abroad?

Are you feeling inspired? These are just a few examples of people working and living abroad now and doing what they love every day. If you are stuck in a job you hate, don’t be scared to step outside of the box and look for your job of dreams overseas – it is out there if you look!

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