This is an abbreviated collection of ideas and suggestions for finding work and making money while traveling. Go to Vagabond Journey’s Work Abroad Blog or our series on Independent Travel Work for more in-depth information and tips.
Doing Archaeological fieldwork has been my main way of coming up with bean money on the road for the early years of my travels. It is an interesting profession, to say the least, and you can do it anywhere in the world where humans left signs of previously occupation and the current population cares enough about it to engage in research. It is also a profession that demands you to travel, so it keeps you perpetually roving around the planet from site to site, project to project.
The credentials needed for this work are somewhat varied. Officially, you need a B.A. or even an M.A. in anthropology or archaeology along with the completion of a legit archaeology field school, but it has been my experience that a field school alone sometimes suffices — but a field school combined with a B.A. degree vastly improves your chances of finding field work. Field schools can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000 depending on where you do it and if you want university credit for it. But do not be put off by this price tag, as you will surely make this money back during your first month or two of professional work.
I did archaeology fieldwork for eight seasons prior to having a university degree, but I did have a field school and a handful of relevant university courses under my belt. Though I do not believe my case was typical (I first got hired for professionally by knocking on the door of a principal investigator’s home until she hired me). So if you want to get into this field of work, completing a university course of study is highly recommended.
This may seem like a lot of preparation in order to have a job that you can travel with, but I state firmly that it is worth it. Typically, a field archaeologist in the USA will be paid $11 – $15 per hour with $30 to $120 (tax free) given to them on top of this per day to cover living expenses — hotel room and food. Often an employer will also reimburse travel expenses incurred while getting to a project area — sometimes paying a full wage for travel days or directly paying by the hour for the duration of the journey. So although the base pay of a field archaeologist is relatively low, the per diem and travel expense reimbursements more than make up for it. When working on archaeology projects, I am able to put my complete paychecks into my savings and live and travel well off of the fringe benefits.
I have found that working three or four months of archaeology field work in the USA provides enough money to full travel internationally for the rest of the year. What is better is that for those few months of work I am still able to travel — as each project only tends to last 2 weeks to 3 months. For the traveler, the life of the wandering archaeologist is an optimal choice.
Teaching English Abroad
Those of you who have not engaged in this type of work before may think that it is a little presumptuous to think that you can score a job as a teacher in a foreign country with no prior experience, little education, and no other skill other than the ability to speak your native language. . . and be paid $12- $20 an hour for it. But it is true. The luck of the draw at being a native speaker of English is an employable skill all throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. I know many wanderers who jump from country to country, school to school, in six month to one year jaunts just teaching English. They seem to make a really good living at it too.
The credentials needed for teaching English are varied. Often times, like in China, you can just walk into a private English school, state that you want a job in good solid, native English, and be working the next day– being paid more than you could probably make in the USA any paying out well under $500 per month in living expenses. Though many other countries desire teachers who possess university degrees, English teaching certification, and experience. Honestly, only the bottom of the barrel jobs are available to those with no other qualifications but their native tongue, and the possibility of securing high paying English teaching jobs are reserved for those who have the education credentials and experience. Although the bottom of this barrel is vast with opportunities, the beauty of obtaining these credentials — a degree, English teaching certification, and experience — on top of your native ability to speak English means that you will pretty much NEVER have to worry about finding work in most corners of the world.
It is highly recommended to go into the English teaching profession prepared. At least have a 100 hour TEFL certification under your belt.
I am now certified to teach English and have a university degree, but I had neither the first time I took a teaching position. I had to learn how to teach my native tongue the hard way: I was thrown into a classroom in front of 40 Chinese people and told to “teach.” I pulled it off, but I think that it would have been vastly easier if I had been prepared.
English teaching certifications do not cost that much either, and you will surly make back all of the money that you put into one of these courses during your first month of teaching. The types of these certifications are also varied, as you can can take full semester, one month, two week, and even internet courses. In point, if you have one of these little certificates you will have a much easier time procuring work that is already easy to get.
Teaching English Abroad Resources
- Dave’s Esl Cafe– One of the best resources on the internet for finding English teaching positions around the world.
- TEFL International– Teaching English as a Foreigner Language training center.
- TEFL Online– Online certification for only $325.
Farm Work – Volunteer or Paid
This category can be a much more open, to the wind style of working on the tramp. It is actually pretty easy to secure such temporary work on farms all around the world if you are willing to work hard long hours for an often modest wage.
One way finding farm work in foreign countries is through the internet. Just search for farm jobs in the location where you want to work, or you can use a work database such as Idealist.org. Very often, small farms are open to travelers working during the yearly harvest season when they need a lot of workers for only a short period of time.
Another way of finding farm work is to find out about the harvest cycles of the area that you wish to travel through. Then go to a rural center during their time, ask around for the meeting place for seasonal farm laborers (often a café or restaurant), and get there early in the morning to await the arrival of a farmer looking to hire some extra workers. Put the word out around town that you are looking for work on a farm and that you are all set and ready to go. Try to find feed warehouses or farm equipment shops to ask around in.
There are seasonal harvest cycles that spin around North America, Europe, and Australia that I am familiar with, within which a traveler can go from area to area working on farms.
Volunteering with a farm organization such as WWOOF (willing workers on organic farms) or Organic Volunteers, can also be a great way to get your room and board paid for you while tramping, as well as a good place to meet up with other travelers. A dollar saved on the road is often as good as a dollar made, so volunteering on farms for room and board as you travel is often a good way to have an interesting experience, learn new skills and build your employment creds, as well as drop the cost of living down to almost nothing. Spending $0 a day can sometimes be as good as making $20: don’t scoff at volunteer opportunities that offer room and board for work.
Working as wait staff or as a dish cleaner in a restaurant is another possible way to make up some money while on the Road. Basically, restaurant work often becomes more or less available with the ebbs and flows of tourism, so if you arrive in a town at the brink of their high season look for a job in a restaurant.
Work in Fisheries
Fisheries work is another seasonal job where a traveler can land short term employment and take out a relatively large chunk of change. The jobs themselves seem to border on the same parallel as hell, but the long hours, smelly working conditions, barrack style living all become worth it when you look at how much money you can make in such a short amount of time.
In general, there are two types of jobs that a traveler can take in the fisheries. The first is on the boats actively fishing, the second is in the processing, packing, and canning plants. The on the boat jobs seem to pay vastly better but seem to be more competitive to get, while the canning jobs employ just about anyone who is willing to work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week for a month and a half stretch.
In the USA, Alaska is probably the epi-center of commercial fishing activities, and employers in this industry hire thousands of seasonal employees. Often, these positions provide workers with a place to sleep (dorm or barrack style), food, and transportation to and from Alaska. To get a job in the Alaskan fisheries, just apply to a company such as Alaska General Seafoods.
Bars are all over the world, and in non English speaking countries, the ones that cater to backpackers and other tourists often hire foreigners to bartend. These jobs are often not the highest paying (countries where tipping is expected, like the USA, are oddities), but they do provide some temporary bean money for a traveler looking to further fund their journey. To find a bartending job abroad, head to the biggest tourist town you can and start asking around at all the pubs and restaurants. It is my observation that many tourist oriented bars have revolving staffs, so landing a job behind a bar in this setting should not be the most difficult thing to do. Keep in mind that this work will probably be under the table, black work, as I have rarely heard instances of bars sponsoring employees for work visas.
The art of international trading is about as old as travel itself. For thousands of years people have traveled across large expanses of the planet carrying goods for sale. The modern traveler can do this as well, just keep in mind that the independent business minded traveler who thinks they can make a fortune buying and reselling commodities is an oddity — I cannot say how many times I have run into people thinking they could get rich importing gold, silver, jewels from the source to countries like the USA who end up just going broke. In point, in the internet age, going to the source for commodities and expecting a big deal are over: most legit brokers seem to already have import/ export arrangements in place that there is little breaking into. Be very wary of stores or individuals who try to invite you into import/ export schemes: these are almost always scams.
To set up an import/ export scheme I would recommend trying to establish a relationship between prospective shops in the USA or Europe prior to setting out to foreign lands in search of bulk purchase bargains. Alternative/ antique/ or unique jewelry shops tend to be the most interested parties.
Though I highly recommend setting up your own online business, and sell your goods through a website. Have a partner in the USA or Europe to send the bulk goods to and have then put them up online. Only buy up to the level of your sales: when you begin selling more, purchase more. If someone were to travel with this independent travel business for a number of years they could build up an impressive and varied stock of goods from around the world.
Don’t expect to make much money doing this, but it is often relatively easy for travelers to get tour guiding jobs on the road. Just find a suitable tourist destination and put the word out that you are looking to work for a tour company. Expect to be paid a local wage — if that — and to make little more money that what would cover living expenses.
Work in Hotels and Hostels
One of the most common jobs for travelers to take on the road are found in hostels and hotels. Finding work abroad is never easier than going around the the backpacker and foreign tourist hotels and asking if they are looking for reception or cleaning staff. Keep in mind that the pay for this type of work is often very low, and it is common for hostels to look for accommodation trade volunteers more than paid employees. But a free place to stay in an expensive city is often worth a few hours of work per day. Working in hotels and hostels is a good way to either make a little money on the road or to land free accommodation.
Internet Content Writing
Content — information — is a bigger commodity than perhaps it ever was with the maturity of the internet. There are many firms that hire out content writers to contribute pages to their client’s websites. Sometimes this work pays little, sometimes it can be decent, but it can always be done from the road.
Do Odd Jobs/ Grunt Work
On two occasions I was able to land temporary jobs as a gardener as I’ve traveled and I have had many more opportunities to work for a day or two doing various odd jobs and grunt work. In point, when on the road with little monetary resources to back you up, be on the look out for any employment opportunity possible. Talk to people, tell them you are looking for work; when you get a beer at a bar ask the bartender for a job; query every hotel and hostel that you stay at if they are looking to add staff members; offer to work for less than the local minimum wage; put yourself out there and seize the employment opportunities that will allow you to keep traveling. There are little odd jobs available everywhere, you just have to put yourself on the right path to get them.
Follow the High Seasons Tip
It is far easier to find a job when traveling when the employers are hot to hire as many workers as they can get. Very often there are certain high seasons in places around the world, and following this wave can be critical if you intend to work your way across the planet. Discover when the tourist, harvest, fishing etc . . . high seasons are in various places in the word and construct a path that links them together with proper timing.
If you have any questions about how to find work while traveling please do not hesitate to ask me. I have been picking up work on the road for the past 13 years and have worked as everything from an Archaeologist to an English teacher to a gardener. Just email me and I will try to help you out the best that I can.
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