Have you ever considered making a career out of travel? Working your way around the world? Being a digital nomad so you can travel wherever, whenever? Years ago, the idea of working while traveling never occurred to me. I thought in order to travel you had two options: 1) wait until your annual vacation days rolled around, or 2) save up so you could quit your job and budget your way around the world until your travel fund ran out before repeating the process again.
Back then, I knew there had to be another way. I felt homesick for Italy (where I had studied abroad two years prior) and with a yearning desire to see more of Europe, I consulted Google University to see if there was any way I could travel for my job. Not much came up on Google back in 2013, however, I remembered the names of some group travel companies for students during my time in Italy. There are tour guides leading the trips, right? So that’s exactly what I set out to do: be a tour guide.
I applied for a company based in Italy, landed an interview, and got the offer. A few months later I found myself stepping off the plane in Florence, Italy, dragging my luggage across cobblestone streets to the apartment I would call home for six months.
Everyone said I was crazy when I told them what I wanted to do; they would say that when you graduate college you “have to” get an 8-5 job you don’t really like in order to justify your diploma. “Keep your head down for two years” was a phrase I heard many times. When life is anything but guaranteed, “keeping my head down” and droning through my days was the exact opposite of what I wanted – especially when I had a feeling my work + travel experience would boost my resume, not hurt it.
Working while traveling is a challenging, rewarding, and growing experience. Not only do you gain valuable skills through your job (or simply by being on the road), working abroad stands out on your resume. When I returned home after working in Italy, my work + travel experience was always a point of conversation during interviews, and it helped me land what was my dream job at the time (yes, it was an 8-5)!
Now having worked multiple jobs abroad, whether it was during my vacation time, between moves, or most recently, online work for my business, I truly believe travel careers are something worth considering for those who feel called to them.
Here are 11 ways you can get paid to travel.
Location Based Jobs Abroad
There are many ways you can work abroad, whether it is short-term, long-term, or open-ended.
First, you’ll want to consider your schedule, current work situation, and – if you’re looking at long-term or open-ended jobs – if you’re able and willing to move to another city or country when looking at location-based jobs.
After, you’ll need to determine how you’re getting paid and/or if the job covers any travel expenses.
1. Tour Guide
As mentioned above, being a tour guide in Italy introduced me to the world of working abroad.
You can work for a group travel company like I did, which offered full package multi-day trips (this means working overnight and long hours, but you’re literally traveling for work so it’s not a bad tradeoff).
Alternatives could be leading city tours, day trips, or specialty tours (think wine tours or food tours).
2. Work for Your Company at Their International Office
Do you already work for an international company? Do they have offices in other countries, and can you do your position at any of those offices? Do you speak the language if the international office doesn’t communicate in your native language?
A friend of mine did this a few years ago. She works for an international hotel chain and was able to transfer to the hotel in London, and her husband did the same with his accounting job. I have another friend who works at a public relations agency and transferred to the New York City office.
Look into it!
3. Work for an NGO or a Government Organization Abroad
There are both NGOs and governmental organizations all over the world. If you have the experience and drive to work abroad in support of an NGO or your country, then it doesn’t hurt to see what’s out there.
4. Educational Conferences
Over the past six years I’ve worked eight conferences as a faculty member for international students, teaching curriculum on cross-cultural communication and business/entrepreneurship. Doing this took me to Europe, China, Washington, DC, New York City, and Yale University. In exchange for the (very) long hours I would get a paycheck and/or travel expenses covered, like flights, housing, and meals.
The conferences I personally worked at ranged from nine days to 2.5 months, and I applied for conferences that worked around my schedule (shorter ones when I was using vacation time from my 8-5 job; longer ones when I was working for myself since my work was flexible).
There are many educational conferences or student travel companies, usually in the summer. Like any event, conferences don’t just need educators or speakers – they need managers and logistical, behind-the-scenes staff, too. There are many roles you can find with this if you’re looking for a short-term work + travel opportunity.
5. Seasonal Jobs
Going off the point above, there are many seasonal jobs you could consider if you’re looking for something short-term. Summer camps and ski resorts around the world are two examples that come to mind of places who seek additional help for a short time.
6. Flight Attendant or Pilot
This one seems obvious, doesn’t it?! You are literally traveling for your job and go wherever the plane goes. Flight crew tend to get decent perks and discounts from the airline they work for, too.
7. Cruise Ship Employee
This is another job that has you traveling for work, as you go wherever the ship goes!
Because a cruise ship has a lot of moving parts in order to keep it running successfully, there are a variety of jobs available, even ones you might not normally think of – a few years back I considered applying to be a fitness instructor (out of all positions!) aboard a Caribbean cruise ship.
8. Teach English Abroad
If you’re a native English speaker, consider teaching English at a school abroad. This is a very popular travel job, especially for recent grads, as the requirements are usually pretty simple: be a native English speaker, have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, and hold a certification with TESOL or TEFL. Many TESOL or TEFL certifications can be done online, and there are also companies that will match you up with a school.
You’ll be based in a foreign country and can travel on weekends and school breaks. Some positions might cover your travel expenses, too, like flights, housing, or travel insurance.
Do your research on this one. Luckily, there is plenty of information online you can find with a simple Google or Pinterest search.
Work Online and Travel
We live in a fascinating day and age with the advancements of technology. Many people are working a full-time job remotely, doing freelance/contract work, or starting businesses they can run entirely online.
If you have the self-motivation to get work done on your own and an entrepreneurial spirit, then consider these opportunities you can do anywhere with Wi-Fi.
9. Freelance Work
When you are freelancing, you are self-employed and work with clients (businesses or individuals). You get paid for the service(s) you provide, whether that be hourly, project-based, or on an on-going basis. You can freelance anything, and if you’re working online, all you need is your laptop and an internet connection.
Many companies that hire freelancers do so to save on costs they would put toward a traditional employee like health care or benefits. Depending on what you’re doing, as a freelancer you can usually set your own hours (get work done on your own time) and work from anywhere.
For the past 2.5 years I’ve worked entirely online as a freelancer, doing social media marketing, Pinterest, and online coaching for various companies. Most of my client work is month-to-month which helps me feel more secure with my income.
I highly recommend looking into freelance work if you are just getting started with your work + travel lifestyle as it doesn’t require you to start a business or create products of your own. You can get started with no upfront cost, and since you’re getting paid for your services, there is no physical inventory you need to worry about when traveling.
10. Start an Online Business
With that said, starting and running an online business is definitely something you can do while traveling. Depending on what you do it will likely take a lot of work, hustle, and determination to validate your offerings, make sales, and keep it running.
But wait, how do you run an online business without physical products?
For one, you could do something service-based, like run a marketing agency or do online coaching. You could create a mobile app. You could sell digital products like e-courses, online memberships, e-books; license stock photos or videos; do consulting, do drop-shipping…the list goes on!
11. Blogger or Content Creator
Many people are monetizing their online presence and personal brands, whether it be through blogging, social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and podcasts.
This is usually not the quickest route to making money online, though it can be entirely rewarding if you feel passionate about it. Additionally, you can use it as a platform or portfolio for freelance services (before my blog made any money I used it as a portfolio for potential clients to showcase my experience building an audience).
As far as making money as a blogger or content creator, there are many ways to do so. The most popular and common way is to work with brands and showcase products in exchange for exposure on your platform.
Bloggers and content creators often set up affiliate marketing links (earning commission off recommended products clicked through their links) on their blog posts or video descriptions.
Another common option is to consider selling digital products based on the niche of your platform. For example, if you are a photographer you could create and sell an e-book or e-course on photography tips for beginners.
There you have it! Use this list as a launching pad to see what is out there in terms of working abroad, or even making a career out of travel. Do your best to ditch the excuses and get resourceful about how you can make it happen!
Free online training on working online: bit.ly/passport-pursuits