Before travelling we sacrifice everything. Clothes desperately need replacing, friends believe we’ve hibernated, and our cupboards only contain baked beans. Years of saving go into our jaunt around the world, every cent being scraped together in order to squeeze another day of unemployed bliss into the itinerary.
Then we set off, blow our budget within two months, and only make it home after maxing out both emergency credit cards. Sound familiar? Sound avoidable?
Travel can pay. It might not seem that way when we’re gallivanting around in striped cotton shirts and Jesus sandals, but there are many avenues that can help extend the once-in-a-lifetime world trip.
It’s not easy. Everybody wants to travel forever and not worry about income. And everyone is envious of those that achieve this mythical goal. The pay is poor and the competition fierce. But working while travelling offers more than just financial gain.
A couple of months in one place replenishes the funds, but also offers an opportunity to refresh the body after gruelling months on the road. Then there’s the experience of becoming one of the locals in a vibrant destination. To help get you started, here is a quick guide to some of the ways travel can pay.
Before jetting off and considering a new career as a deckhand or burlesque dancer, think about what you already do. Translation, web design, admin support, graphic design; many businesses are turning to freelancers for their work. You can be earning money from your laptop, discussing details with clients on Skype, with a hammock and beach view as your office.
Websites odesk.com and elance.com are the two biggest freelance marketplaces, allowing anyone to create a profile and respond to job postings. The flexibility matches that of your wanderlust, and it is perfect for those atmospheric destinations you stumble across and can’t bare leaving. Soak up the charming town, befriend the locals, but earn some money instead of prolonging your stay with card games and drinking marathons.
Provide services to other travellers
It’s tradition to go around the world and come back with an unruly mess of hair that resembles a lion’s mane. Non-travellers laugh and stare at your new-found style. But they’ve never tried to find an English-speaking hairdresser in Uzbekistan. Which begs the question, what can you do to make your fellow traveller’s life a little easier?
Cutting hair, offering massages, making jewellery, teaching tricks... in every hostel dorm there is someone with their own angle to make cash. At every destination you’ve got a new market of potential clients, and if you’re savvy, word of your services will spread quickly.
Work in a hostel
This classic traveller job places you at the top of the travel coolness barometer. Most people who work in a hostel will spend the next few months boasting about and romanticising the experience, claiming the hostel was an off-the-beaten-track-organic-party-wonderland, and failing to mention that they spent many lonely hours behind a reception desk.
Everyone wants to work in a hostel, which is why hostels rarely pay. Most offer free board and food in return for a few hours work each day. Stay for a few months and you might earn enough to keep you in beer money.
It might not seem that way when we’re gallivanting around in striped cotton shirts and Jesus sandals, but there are many avenues that can help extend the once-in-a-lifetime world trip
But hey, you were willing to pay to stay here because it’s so much fun. Being drunk at work is promoted, as is cavorting with the opposite sex and creating a party atmosphere. People now listen to your travel advice and become insanely jealous that you don’t have to leave. Don’t expect to get rich, but if it keeps you afloat, working in a hostel could be your number-one travel memory.
With most of the world gravitating towards learning English, the opportunities to teach continue to grow. English teaching can pay well but this isn’t a short-term fix.
No school or customer wants a teacher that’s going to quit after three weeks. They want commitment; so forget your romantic ideals about stopping for a few weeks all over Asia.
You’ll need a formal certificate in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) – Tesol or Celta are the most recognised – and it’s an industry that rewards longevity. Without experience you’re likely to be pigeonholed into the jobs few people want, like endless school hours in a rundown city or private tuition to geriatric pensioners.
But persistence and references bring access to the dream jobs, like getting paid €1,467 a month to teach 20 hours a week at a paradise village by the ocean.
Get your hands dirty
Sat at our grimy desks we dream of arriving in a foreign country and taking the perfect job. Unfortunately, immigration officials are a little less enthusiastic about foreigners taking jobs that could have reduced local unemployment figures. Regardless of your skills if you’re looking to make money in a country like Australia, you need to take the jobs that nobody else wants, and that means getting your hands dirty. Picking fruit or working on a farm is a gruelling existence, but it pays well and if you’re savvy, three months of hard graft can pay for six to nine months of travel.
Write about it
Surfed with witch doctors? Been arrested at a remote immigration office? Celebrated a festival at a rural village that’s never seen white people? Travelling produces stories that are scarcely believable. Every day you’re scribbling furiously, thinking that your words will become viral sensations. But while your friends and family might eagerly await your blog posts, if you haven’t reached Z-list celebrity status the only way to make money is to tailor your writing to other people’s needs.
The majority of content in newspapers and travel magazines is written by freelancers. By dispensing with the ego-boosting superlatives and closely following the editor’s style and guidelines, you stand a chance of accessing this world.
Be creative with your potential clients. Each hostel and tour company you use will have a website and marketing material filled with written copy. Can you rewrite it in exchange for a free stay or trip?
We’ve all seen buskers. Which means we’ve all seen how terrible they can be. Busking has been around for over 1,000 years and there is still no quality control. No matter how tone deaf or limited you are on the guitar, busking offers an outlet to earn a little bit of cash every day. If you’re good then you can earn a living, and if you’re bad a little bit of pity money can go a long way.
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