Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad    

Top Jobs Abroad for Long-Term Travelers

How to Find Paid Work Abroad to Extend Your Journey

A volunteer in Guatemala.

You’ve reached the end of an epic journey or, as 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 cultural exchange.
Artisan in Flores, Guatemala
A visiting artisan in Flores, Guatemala.

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 natively.

  • 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.
Au pair in Florence, Italy
Overlooking Florence, where she enjoyed her work and life as an au pair. Photo by Janine Sobeck.

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 your experience.
Working as bartender
A bartender.

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 towns.
Working as a scuba diver
The author as a diver in the Philippines.

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 note: Online 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.”
Job Teaching English in Brazil
Teaching English to Hugo in Brazil. Photo by John Clites.

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 financial cost.

  • 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
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 space.
Travel writertools
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 get-go.
House-sitting job
A house-sitting job has its unique perks, including living in places like the one pictured above.

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 guide and interpreter
Tour guides must often also act as interpreters.

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 trails.

  • 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
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 almost anywhere.

  • 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.
Ski instruction
A job in ski instruction can be found in many locations.

A Travel Guide: This is perfect 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.
Beth Whitman tour leader
Prolific Beth 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.
Teach yoga abroad
Teaching yoga abroad.

Related Topics
Jobs Abroad
 Related Articles by Jonathon Engels
Permaculture Jobs, Sustainable Living and Endless Travel
Guide to Volunteer Farm Work Abroad
How to Volunteer Abroad Effectively Short-Term
Dual Volunteerism in Guatemala
How to Survive and Thrive Living in Korea as an EFL Couple
Teach English in Guatemala

Jonathon Engels Jonathon Engels, Living Abroad Contributing Editor for Transitions Abroad, has been an expat since 2005, just after he earned an MFA in creative writing and promptly rejected a life teaching freshman composition. He has lived, worked and/or volunteered in seven different countries, traveling his way through nearly 40 countries between them. For more, check out Jonathon Engels: A Life Abroad.


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