“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving,” Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once famously said.
But as much as we’d all love to endlessly wander the globe, who really has the money?
When most of us travel, economic responsibilities force us to stick to a fixed itinerary. We arrive at a set destination within a specific time frame. Exactly the opposite of what Lao-Tzu recommends!
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Working while traveling grants the freedom and flexibility to extend a trip… perhaps even indefinitely.
Only then can you become a true nomad with the luxury of choosing your next destination on a whim.
Keen to know more? Here’s how to live life on the road.
Why work and travel abroad?
Above all else, working while you travel permits an extended stay in a destination that appeals to you.
The result? Meaningful cultural immersion that goes far beyond what an ordinary tourist could possibly hope to achieve.
Of course, the life of a wandering worker isn’t always smooth sailing. Visas, tax obligations and foreign languages are hurdles that must be overcome.
But it certainly can be done. Some positions require no experience at all! Others even include sweeteners such as free rent and board.
The traveler who does make the effort will receive invaluable experience, both in life and on their C.V.
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Where to work and travel abroad
Where on Earth should you focus your work and travel endeavors?
Wherever you want!
Granted, pay and conditions are better in developed regions such as Europe, Australia and North America. However, these places tend to have the strictest visa requirements, as well.
Employment wise, Asia and the Middle East are hankering for native English teachers, while anywhere with a low cost of living could be a haven for digital nomads.
With hard work and perseverance, virtually any kind of work can be undertaken abroad. However, this list focuses on occupations that are relatively easy to arrange on the road.
The difference between short- and long-term nomadic workers
Short- and long-term nomads have distinct approaches to their work and travel plans. There’s no right or wrong way! Just choose which style best fits your needs.
Short-term work and travel
Short-term nomads tend to invest less in their adopted home, knowing all too well they could pack up everything and leave at a moment’s notice.
Most pick up odd jobs with the sole aim of extending their travels. Here’s what you can expect as a short-term traveler:
- Staying in temporary accommodation, such as shared housing or hostels
- Seeking out temporary, entry-level jobs
- Foregoing complex residency processes
Long-term work and travel
Long-term nomads and expats are more perennial in their approach. Here are some things to expect:
- Learning the local language when settling in a country or region (i.e,. South America) for a significant period
- Following a set career path that allows you to work anywhere, such as teaching English or remote work
- Basing yourself in a travel hub from which you can easily reach other destinations
From British Pubs to Malaysian Schools: 5 Jobs to Work and Travel Abroad
1. The hostel worker
Hostel work is a classic gig for short-term travelers who want to stay somewhere for a few months or less. Most positions pay rather poorly and involve sharing cozy quarters with other workers, which isn’t ideal for long-term nomads.
Reception and bar jobs seldom require experience and have modest time commitments, sometimes as short as a few weeks. Administrative positions are more competitive and typically require managerial experience.
Hostel jobs in the developed world tend to offer an actual paycheck, while those in poorer countries may only provide compensation in the form of free food and accommodation.
Wherever you decide to work, hostel stints are a fun and social way to prolong your trip.
Try Workaway, Hostel Jobs or Hosteltraveljobs for listings.
2. Bar and restaurant staff
Given its low entry requirements, the hospitality industry is a hit with roaming adventurers looking to top up their travel funds.
Typically, people don’t want to hire travelers who’ll only be around for a few weeks. So this option is more suited to the long-term nomad.
Of course, pay varies tremendously between regions. Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. offer competitive rates, while North America can be lucrative when tips are factored in. Many travelers pick up hospitality jobs on the highly sought-after Working Holiday Visa.
Experience isn’t always required, but it certainly does help. Be sure to ask your boss for a reference to help you land the next gig.
Try Gumtree in the U.K. and SEEK in Australia and New Zealand for finding work.
3. The tour guide
The tourism sector is ideal for both short- and long-term wayfarers.
Many adventurers take on seasonal work as a tour guide. Examples include anything from city walking tours to outdoor activities such as hiking, whitewater rafting or horseback riding.
Naturally, the applicant will need a degree of relevant expertise and the necessary language skills to serve the target market.
Need to brush up on your language skills before applying? Learn through videos with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like sports programs, TV shows and news broadcasts—and turns them into language learning experiences.
With one account, you can access all nine FluentU languages. That makes it perfect for nomads who want to work and travel across multiple countries.
Long-term tourism industry professionals prefer working with overland operators who run regional bus excursions. Drivers, administrators, customer service staff, tour guides and chefs are in high demand, all of which have varying entry requirements.
In Europe, Contiki, Busabout and Topdeck are the main players.
South America has Dragoman, Oasis Overland and Tucan Travel, while Asian and African tours are dominated by Geckos Adventures and Intrepid Group. Many of these operators serve various continents across the globe.
4. The English teacher
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is an exemplary career for both short- and long-term nomads. Given that over a billion people are currently learning the language, opportunity abounds for native English speakers virtually anywhere in the world.
Newbies on a sabbatical or gap year can easily land a job without experience in most countries. Contracts typically stipulate a one-year commitment, though shorter stints are also common.
Some teachers go on to become “lifers,” building upon their qualifications and experience to command cushy roles at ritzy private schools and colleges.
TEFL certificates go a long way in helping the novice teacher find better-paying work while simultaneously preparing them for the realities of the classroom. Most consist of a 140-hour course, either online or in a classroom at a specific location.
Teachers seeking the highest possible standard of living tend to make a beeline for Asia, where salaries are generous and living costs are low. China, Vietnam and Malaysia offer ample bang for your buck, while stronger economies such as Japan and South Korea also have a thriving TEFL scene.
Depending on where you work, salaries for novice teachers can leave something to be desired. In these situations, it’s common to pick up a few private students or turn to an online platform such as VIPKID for additional income.
Online job boards, Craigslist and school websites are all good places to scout for work.
5. The digital nomad
Rather than seeking out work locally, many travelers are using the internet to finance their adventures.
From writers to designers, programmers and entrepreneurs, working remotely while on the road has become the archetypal lifestyle of choice for the 21st-century vagabond.
However, the legality of the practice is murky at best. Digital nomads can indeed register as a resident of their home country for tax purposes to avoid international fiscal obligations. Nevertheless, performing remote work on a tourist visa is technically prohibited across much of the globe.
Becoming a successful freelancer is no easy task, either. The budding digital nomad must work hard to market their skills by constantly seeking out new and better-paying clients.
Platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr facilitate the process, although applying for gigs directly can often incur better results.
Most digital nomads choose to base themselves in the developing world where costs are low. Once well established, a successful freelancer could need to bill just a few hours per day to make ends meet.
Regardless of where you go or how you finance your trip, working as you go is a unique experience that will change the way you travel.
Maybe you can even earn enough money that you can globe-trot without any fixed plans. Lao-Tzu would be proud!
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts, and culture, among many other things.