I’ve estimated that a yearlong trip around the world will cost you an average of $50 per day. That includes day-to-day expenses, flights, gear, insurance, and everything in between. (It’s why my book is called How to Travel the World on $50 a Day!)
For most people, the thought of saving thousands of dollars to travel the world — or just travel at all — is a daunting prospect. While there are many ways to save money and travel on an ultra-tight budget (less than $50 a day), for some, there’s no amount of spending cuts or saving tips that will help them save enough. (Of course, to me, being broke is the best reason to go travel but that’s another story.)
Reading articles on how people saved [insert some crazy amount here] for travel (and how you can do it too!) can make you dispirited. “I could never do that,” you say. “Sure, those people saved tens of thousands making minimum wage, but I can’t even afford food.” All those articles on travel blogs, Elite Daily, Buzzfeed, and the like do people a great disservice — and are sometimes unrealistic.
I admit I’m guilty of this too. I’ve highlighted those folks and have often talked about how mindsets just need to be changed. I’ve said, “You can save all this money too” — without also saying “but if you can’t, it is OK because there’s another option.”
Travel within the budget you have, not the budget you wish you had. If you can’t save X, who cares? Just do the best you can with what you have. I think what gets lost in all those articles is that no matter how much money you save, that number is good enough. It’s not all or nothing.
I recently talked to someone who saved $5,000 for his trip. It took him close to a year to get there. Instead of giving up his dream, he simply decided to go to Central and South America. This part of the world is cheaper and his money would last longer. Moreover, he decided to do some volunteering to help cover his costs. He’ll go as long as his money lasts, but he’s still going!
If you don’t have as much money to travel as you want, consider option B: working overseas. Leave with what you have and then find work along the way to keep your wallet flush with cash — and keep you traveling.
It’s an option not enough travelers consider. Many people know about it but few actually do it.
But it’s not as hard to do as you might imagine.
Working abroad is a unique and wonderful experience. It provides new insights into a country. It exposes you to a different culture. And it allows you to learn a new language, meet new people, and get a new perspective on the world. It’s an experience not many people get a chance to have. I worked in Thailand and Taiwan and it was life changing. I learned more about myself during that time than I did at any other point in my travels.
Finding work overseas is an informal process, and if you remember you are looking for a job rather than a career — and stay flexible — you’ll be able to find work anywhere. Whole economies and industries are built around employing travelers. (Heck, I don’t think the Australian economy would survive without the labor backpackers and travelers provide!) Many of the jobs will be unglamorous and hard, but they will allow you to earn enough money to keep you on the road longer.
Here are some examples of jobs that are easy for travelers to get and often don’t require a long commitment:
Teaching English (or any language!)
This is the easiest type of job to get for native English speakers. Teaching jobs are incredibly abundant around the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Really, when in doubt, find a teaching job. They pay well, the hours are flexible, many many countries offer huge bonuses, and some schools will pay for your flight over. I saved over ten thousand dollars by teaching in Thailand. I’ve had friends pay off their student loans by teaching in South Korea. There are a lot of online resources for potential teachers, but if you’re interested.
Not a native English speaker? Teach your own language. There’s a language school out there for everyone, especially in big international cities! You can also use websites like iTalki to teach people your native language online (if anyone wants to teach me Swedish, let me know!). You can do this from anywhere in the world and you don’t need any special accreditation. Sign in, talk, and get paid! (Benny Lewis from Fluent in 3 Months is a huge fan of the site — and he’s the best language expert I know, so it must be good!)
I taught in Thailand and Taiwan: not only did I have a fantastic time being an expat, I also learned a lot about myself and living overseas, and made enough money to keep me on the road for years. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Get seasonal work
Move with the seasons and work in ski resorts, as a camping guide, on boats, in bars or restaurants, whatever. There are many options — wherever there’s a big tourist season, you’ll find a big demand for temporary labor. Make sure you get to your destination well before the season starts to secure a job — if you show up mid-season, all the good jobs will be taken. Ask around at hostels in the area and they will be able to point you in the right direction!
Do freelance work online
If you have a background in web services, design, programming, or anything tech, a website like UpWork is a super way to find virtual work as you travel. There’s a lot of competition, but if you build up your portfolio, you can get a lot of work over time. I have a friend who gets all her freelance consulting jobs from UpWork and it pays her enough so she can keep traveling. If you don’t have tech skills, you can still start a profile and find clients for a variety of research-based and virtual assistant jobs.
Work on a cruise ship
This option is an excellent way to earn good money while getting a taste of the world, gaining some solid work experience, and networking with people (both fellow crew and passengers) from around the world. Many of the easy, low-wage jobs usually go to people from developing countries, but there are many other jobs available to choose from.
This book by Wandering Earl (who worked on a cruise ship) is a great place to get started.
Under 30? Get a working holiday visa!
Working holiday schemes allow people under the age of 30 to work abroad. These programs tend to be used mostly by gap-year travelers, students, or young adult backpackers. Most of the countries that offer these programs are English-speaking Commonwealth countries such as Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia (under 35 now). The visa application process is pretty simple, and the visas are usually issued for one year. Typically, the visa comes with the stipulation that you can’t work in one place for more than six months.
Most of the working holiday jobs you can find are typically service or low-wage office jobs. Most people become office assistants, laborers, bartenders, or waiters. The pay is not always great, but it’s enough to live off of and usually will give you a little extra money to save for traveling.
For these jobs, you’ll need to bite the bullet, fly to these countries, and look for work when you land. While sites like Gumtree have some listings, you’ll find the majority of work when you land. Many companies specialize in placing travelers. And hostels usually have job boards and can offer a lot of assistance in finding work!
Be an au pair
Love kids? Take care of someone else’s! You’ll get room, board, and a weekly paycheck. You’ll have to be around a lot to watch the kids, but you’ll normally get the weekends off and some vacation time to explore the country! These are some popular websites for finding au pair jobs.
Work in a hostel
Hostels are often looking for staff to work the desk, clean, or show the guests around town. You can often trade a few hours of cleaning for a free bed. Even if you aren’t getting paid, but just getting free room and board, it’s still a way to save money. When you aren’t spending, you’re saving! Moreover, these jobs can often be for as long as you want — a day, a week, a month… whatever you want and they need.
Worldpackers is a great resource for finding this kind of work in hostels around the world.
Become a scuba diving instructor
If you are a certified diver and want to become an instructor (additional classes may be needed), there are dozens of huge scuba destinations around the world where you can easily find work (including Thailand, Cambodia, Honduras, the Caribbean, and Bali). You can find jobs just by going there and asking around.
Use your skills!
Use your existing skills and talents to find work. Teach people how to play music or how to dance, cut hair, offer business consulting, cook for people — use whatever skills you have to find a job. Don’t be shy. Be creative! Websites like Craigslist and Gumtree are two places to advertise your abilities and find work. Where there’s a will, there is a way!
Creating your job is one of the easiest ways to get a job. Somewhere at the destination you are going is a person who wants to learn the skill you have. Teach them. Get paid.
Become a bartender
Bars need bartenders. So you’ll find plenty of bars that pay cash to travelers looking for work. Bars in party destinations or at hostels are the best places to start looking, as they often have a high turnover and the work can be steady. In countries that have working holiday visas, these jobs also often go to travelers. I’ve also seen bars in Southeast Asia and Europe hire travelers under the table to do work and pass out fliers. It’s not a lot of money but it’s enough to cover some meals and drinks.
Work in a restaurant
In that same vein, waitstaff, busboys, and dishwashers are always in demand, since people come and go from those jobs very frequently. These jobs are easy to get, especially in popular backpacking and party destinations, as well as large cities. Again, in countries that have working holiday visas, travelers become the backbone of the service economy and jobs can often be easy to get.
Do volunteer work
While these jobs don’t pay, you’ll save money on room and board, which will keep you on the road longer. Plus, you’ll be doing something good. Win-win! You don’t have to spend a lot of money with large global organizations in order to volunteer; those companies just end up keeping a large cut for themselves for “operations.” Instead, when you arrive at a destination, find volunteer opportunities where your time (and money) can help the most. I also highly recommend the website Grassroots Volunteering; it’s the best site for finding small-scale, local volunteer initiatives. Additionally, Worldpackers, Workaway.info and WWOOFing are other good resources to find volunteer opportunities.
Be a tour guide
Use your love of travel to work in travel! Tour companies are always on the lookout for new tour guides. This is more of a “real” job than the rest, but it’s a fun (though tiring) means of employment. The pay isn’t great, but you get your expenses paid while on the tour and get to meet people from all over the world. Companies that often hire travelers are Busabout, Kiwi Experience, New Europe Walking Tours, and Contiki. (Note: these jobs often require a long-term commitment.)
Work on a yacht
If you love the water, work on a boat (and forever be singing “I’m on a Boat” by Lonely Island). Yachting jobs are surprisingly easy to get without much experience (though it helps), and you’ll be able to sail around while doing so. One of my readers did it so she could see the world. You can find jobs on the following websites:
Note: Positions are long-term, and you’ll be required to get a STCW 95 certificate, which covers all basic yacht training, including fire and water safety training.
Take whatever you can find
You can always trade your labor for pay. There are a lot of short-term jobs around the world, jobs that you can get on the fly. If you’re willing to work a few hours each day in exchange for room, board, and extra cash, you will always find something you can do. Here are several incredible resources for finding jobs as a traveler.
For those who want to work abroad but aren’t interested in any of the above, finding work is a bit harder — but not impossible. For older travelers or travelers with a skill or master’s degree, you probably want a better-paying, more traditional job relating to your skill set. You can find them, but it takes a lot more time.
In the European Union, visa rules require companies to give job preference to people within the EU before they hire someone else. In Asia, most companies want a foreigner to be able to speak the local language.
Finding “good” jobs requires more work and a lot of networking. While there are some job boards (see below) that can help, getting a more traditional job overseas requires you to either get contacted by a company or building your network and pounding the pavement when you get there!
Some steps you can take to find a job overseas:
- Search job boards before you leave.
- Contact expat groups before you leave (and when you arrive). Attend their meetups.
- Create a LinkedIn profile.
- Bring copies of your résumé, recommendations, and any other professional certificates.
- Make business cards.
- Go to as many networking events as possible.
- Apply for jobs from local job boards.
You can find good jobs, but it is not easy. I’ve had many friends who have decided to stay in cities longer and, as they built up their social network, they’ve found traditional jobs.
Here are some resources for finding jobs overseas:
- Council on International Educational Exchange Work Abroad Program – It offers students and recent graduates short-term work permits for Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, and Costa Rica. The Council also offers advice and support, but it is your responsibility to find a job.
- Alliances Abroad – Guarantees paid work placement before your departure and organizes accommodations.
- BUNAC – Offers work-abroad programs in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
- Peace Corps – A US governmental program that places people around the world. Open only to US citizens. Volunteers get a stipend and money at the end of their contract. The program also helps pay off student loans.
- US State Department – Has a good list of job placement websites.
- Go Abroad – This site also has a list of available jobs from around the world. It’s geared towards younger travelers.
Whether you are going to teach English, wait tables, bartend, sit in an office, work at a hostel, or land a high-paying job in your field, working overseas is something that will change you forever. Living in a different country is a unique experience not many people get to have. It teaches you a lot about yourself and your perceptions of the world. At the end of the day, that is what travel is about.
Don’t let money woes get in the way of travel. If you are creative and flexible about what you want to do, you will find work. Remember you aren’t looking for a career — you’re just looking for work. When you are flexible in what you want to do, there will always be work available to help increase your travel funds and get you to the next destination. You can worry about a career when you come home!
Don’t worry bout saving a lot of money for your trip. If you can’t, just get out there, find a job, work overseas, earn money, and then explore the world longer!