Top Jobs Abroad for Long-Term Travelers
How to Find Paid Work Abroad to Extend Your Journey
Article and photos by Jonathon
|A volunteer in Guatemala.
You’ve reached the end of an epic journey
sometimes happens to long-term travelers such as myself,
grown weary of constant travel and want to settle down for
a while. You don't necessarily want to hang up the backpack
for good, but perhaps stuff it under a bed for the time
being. You’d love to find a job that’ll keep you above water,
conserve funds until you’re renewed and ready to continue,
something that’ll last a month or six in a place that isn’t
“back home” but feels like home. Fear not, options abound.
As in any job market, the more qualifications
you have going for you, the more opportunities will be at
your disposal. Luckily, many of these qualifications are
relative easy to pick up before you leave or while abroad,
and can even be part of your traveling adventures. What’s
more, considering the types of jobs we are about to explore,
it’s important to remember that pay isn’t so much an issue
as just keeping yourself overseas—working to break
even while continuing your journeys.
Have you ever considered being…?
An Artisan: If you
like to make stuff, this is a perfect way to earn a little
cash anywhere on your travels. Some artisans take a very
serious approach, setting up carpets or stalls at popular
tourism spots, selling skillfully constructed crafts, like
macramé bracelets, metal jewelry, or crocheted beanies.
With a few sales, there’s money to supplement your funds
and allow you to linger until you’ve saved enough to move
on to your next desired destination. Often, the job often
is as simple as selling to folks you meet in the hostel
for some bonus cash. Make something in the common area,
and someone will always ask about it. Then, you’re nine-tenths
on your way to a sale.
- Be respectful of local
merchants and artisans by not duplicating
something they do for a living. Remember, making
handicrafts is often their sole livelihood, whereas
your crafts may just be a means to travel longer.
Optionally, if you are having success, be creative
and generous; teach some locals how to make your
products, and learn to make theirs. That’s a true
|A visiting artisan in Flores,
An Au Pair: Not everyone
is down with childcare, but if kids are your thing, it's
good to know that there is a need for your skills and patience
all over the planet. Anywhere there are kids, you’ll find
parents in need of a little relief, and they are looking
for au pairs. Traditionally women have taken these jobs,
but that is very slowly changing. Arrangements often include
housing with varying degrees of responsibility, which can
be as simple as looking after the kids while parents are
at work, to full-service home care. Because learning English
is so critical to many abroad these days, more and more
families are looking for au pairs who speak the language
- Families are different as are
cultures, so be prepared to make necessary adjustments.
That said, living with a local family is perhaps
one of the deepest cultural immersion experiences
and a great way to improve your language skills.
|Overlooking Florence, where she
enjoyed her work and life as an au pair. Photo by Janine
A Bartender: Being
a bartender can be hard work, especially during "happy
hour," but doing so abroad offers a certain unique
splendor. It’s an easy-going way to live, with days open
to explore (or even time to do
some good in the community), and nights for carousing
with other travelers. Everyone loves the bartender, so it’s
an easy way to land your pick of friends, including locals
and expats who can make you privy to cool inside information.
The challenge is not becoming a complete bum and trading
in that sense of wonderment, adventure, and idealism for
too many cocktails every night.
- It’s good to choose a place
that hires locals for most of the jobs. English-speaking
bartenders are a bit of necessity in tourist haunts,
but you don’t want work for a place that doesn’t provide
jobs for natives. Local colleagues will also enrich
A “Chef”: Lots of hostels
and guest houses offer simple fare for travelers, and they
are often on the lookout for competent cooks who can cater
to Western palates (even if you, personally, are after local
foods). These jobs often don’t require any formal training.
They usually don’t mean understanding the intricacies of
a beurre blanc, or which knife to use for a given
dish. If you are you a decent cook with who can turn out
good burgers, pasta, and burritos, then you have a great
shot in many parts of the world.
- Central America is fantastic
for this sort of gig. Many hostels host family-style
dinners, with all guests sitting together to enjoy
the same meal, often prepared by creative expat cooks,
while standard breakfast and lunch fare is prepared
by locals. Contact hostels directly through the many
online hostel websites or use a forum
for hostels jobs to gain inside advice.
A Dive Guide/Instructor:
Granted, not everyone is qualified to do this, but that’s
not to say you can’t easily become so. If scuba diving interests
you—which is the case for many travelers—then
you should already know you aren’t that far off from being
a qualified professional
dive instructor. The qualifications may require up front
costs depending on the certificate you seek, but where there
are beautiful beaches, there are generally dive shops looking
for instructors. And that’s not a bad spot to stop for a
while. What’s more, with this qualification/certification
in hand, you’ll be able to find work all over the world.
- Don’t forget to look
into working as a diver in lakes as well.
While ocean diving may be more vibrant, lakes offer
unique experiences for divers, and they don’t seem
to have quite as many applicants as tropical beach
|The author as a diver in the
An English Teacher:
With only a quick qualification under your belt (sometimes
not even that), it’s possible to find
work teaching English across the world. Literally, from
Korea to Colombia, from Russia to Chile, people of all ages
are seeking to learn English, and the consensus seems to
be that native English speakers are the best people to show
them the way. You generally earn an above-average salary,
adjusted for the local standard of living, and often get
assistance procuring a long-term visa if you wish to stay.
- Do you lack qualifications working
as a teacher before your travels? No problem as long
as you have a college degree. Certification
courses are offered in just about as many places as
English teachers are in demand. Most take about a
month to complete, which is often just the
right amount of time to hang out at a location. Editor's
certifications are also readily available, though
contacts you make at schools abroad often lead to
job placements more readily.
- Yet another excelent option is to teach English online using Skype in a location-independent manner as described in courses such as “The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Online.”
|Teaching English to Hugo in Brazil.
Photo by John
A Farmhand: Depending
upon your location, farm work can be either paid or volunteer.
Generally, paid jobs are common during intense harvesting
seasons involving long hours and lots of work with a quick
monetary reward. Volunteers put in a few hours a day performing
an assortment of odd jobs in exchange for room and board,
and there is plenty of time off to explore the area, relax,
or pursue other interests. If you are able to go without
partying or booze, it’s possible to live
long-term doing farm work for months at virtually no
- Either way you decide to work,
it’s unusual for any prior experience to be necessary,
though skilled people often find themselves viewed
more favorably. It’s also much harder physical work
than most beginners expect. Regardless, the
option to work on a farm is available across the
globe via WWOOF and other organizations.
|Farmhands in a permaculture jungle.
A Freelance Writer:
Now that most publications have moved online and Wi-Fi can
be found in jungle huts the world over, it’s possible to
write from just about anywhere. Breaking
into the travel writing scene can take a little time,
but it can be a great way to provide yourself with enough
income to help finance your travels. Bloggers make money
by selling ad space on their sites or by promoting products,
and there is
hard-won cash to be earned by writing travel articles for other blogs or sites.
- The inclination for long-term
travelers to write about travel because that is what
you are doing and is likely your passion, but don’t
forget that you can write about anything, namely genres
that don’t have so much competition vying for limited
|Some of the tools of the trade
for a freelance (travel) blogger.
A House-Sitter: Especially
if you are handy, house-sitting is
a great option for taking extended stays all over the world.
These arrangements are usually a money-free trade: gratis
lodging for looking after someone’s home. But, there are
definitely more complex situations in which house-sitters
may earn an income by running someone’s guest house.
You may end up doing home improvement projects, caring for
a pet, or maintaining a farm for a while. Once you prove
yourself reliable, there are lots of opportunities.
- Each job is different, including
issues such as who pays the bills, how guests are
handled, the freedom to travel short-term, etc., so
be sure to establish all the ground rules from the
|A house-sitting job has its unique
perks, including living in places like the one pictured
An Interpreter: Many
travelers go to places to practice their language skills,
and if yours are strong enough, you may be able to find
work as an interpreter. An interpreter handles verbal communication,
unlike translators who deal with the written word and often
require quite a bit more in the way of qualifications. The
ability to interpret for people can land you gigs with tour
agencies and hotels, as well as fellow travelers looking
for a little guidance during their stays.
- Being an interpreter
doesn’t require you to be perfectly fluent (though
that does not hurt, of course), but basically requires
that you capable of communicating effectively in
the languages concerned without needing outside
sources (dictionaries) to translate.
|Tour guides must often also act
A Masseuse: Granted,
this is a job that requires some training beforehand, but
if you’ve got the skills, there is work as a massage therapist to be had on land and sea. Hostels
and guest houses are often quite accommodating to folks who
want to offer these sorts of services to their guests. Get
yourself some business cards or print up a flyer and promote
yourself around town on whatever bulletin boards you can
find. This goes for reiki and other healing therapies.
People love this sort of stuff on vacation.
- Look for hotspots for
yoga, adventure travel, cruise ships, and the like, and generally you will find a steady flow of customers
wanting these sorts of services. Give restaurant
and hotel owners a freebie, get a couple of recommendations,
and you are ready for work.
A Musician: Depending
upon your location, the competition for English-language
singers can be quite slim, which means confidence and hustle
are just as important as talent. Use the open mic night
to land some gigs at local bars, restaurants and hostels,
or anywhere you notice live music is popular. A couple of
weekly spots will keep you in money, dutifully occupied
and connected to the local scene. If you are not a professional
musician by trade, settle in small cities along the travel
- Obviously, you’ll have
to be competent on an instrument that travels well
and supports singing a tune. There are
sadly not too many gigs for instrumentalists abroad.
|Working as a musician, with talent
and in the right place, can earn enough
cash to keep you going.
A Sailor: Okay, let’s
be honest, this terminology sounds more official than vagabond,
but isn’t it fun to carry the title? The truth is that cruise
ships (and private boat owners) are constantly looking for
crew members, and while this may mean long hours and
days at sea, it also comes with a lot of adventuring and
promises a plethora of stories. Cruise ships are always
looking for employees, and some of the work is quite seasonal,
but there’s a lot out there to be had, including cabin crew,
cleaners, entertainment, deckhands, chefs, and so on.
A Seasonal Worker:
In general, seasonal
work does not seem to be for the faint of heart. Like
(and including) seasonal farming, it tends to be more laborious
than fun but also yield a rewarding chunk of change for
more traveling afterwards. Plus, there is something to be
said for the relationships developed in these intense situations,
as well as the related opportunities that often become available.
For example, a
ski instructor in Colorado can easily instruct folks
- Seasonal work offers
a wide range of options—everything
from working on oil rigs to leading groups down
springtime rapids to crewing on a fishing boat.
Such jobs are also a great way to learn or become
more proficient in your interests.
|A job in ski instruction can
be found in many locations.
A Travel Guide: This
for travelers who fall in love with a place, are passionate
about it, and learn (or want to learn) all they can (or
even just some specific aspect). There are tours that focus
on just about everything—graffiti, religion, architecture,
food, volcanoes, etc.—and tourists desperate to do it all.
Find tour companies looking for a hand, or just get in cahoots
with a local eatery or hostel and develop something special
to fill a need.
- We presume in this piece that
you are still abroad and looking for work. However,
if you’ve gone home and still have the itch, there
is also lots of work to be found guiding
vacations from start to finish.
Whitman leads tours in Bhutan, India, New Guinea,
Southeast Asia, and many other locations, working
as a guide, a publisher, a blogger, and much more.
A Volunteer: One common
misconception about full-time volunteers is that they have
to foot the bill for their work. While the work required
for any pay received is usually not on par, volunteers who
take on long-term posts (think six months or more) sometimes
get a stipend to cover their costs. Of course, the other
benefits of taking on this kind of job—learning
from locals, trying to improve their lives, and gaining
a deeper understanding of a place—are the true reward.
- Volunteering doesn’t have to
be a long commitment with a big organization, such
as the Peace Corps, but it can also be in service
of one of the thousands of grassroots
NGOs looking for international volunteers.
A Yoga Instructor:
Obviously, some flexibility (quite literally), is needed
for this work. Depending on where you wish to practice,
credentials may be necessary as well, but yoga
instructors are in demand. Options can include at startup
yoga studios in a tourist destination, sacred mountain training
facilities, or established big city businesses.
In addition, plenty of confident
yogis simply set up at obliging hostels looking for
more amenities to offer guests. And, credentialed or not,
many seem to find work.
- Being a certified instructor,
while not necessary, obviously does not hurt, and
this can be accomplished abroad, generally near places
where yoga teachers are in demand.
|Teaching yoga abroad.