Find a way to travel abroad.
This is one of the most basic pieces of advice I could give to anyone wanting to expand their view of life, themselves, and the world. I’ve written previously about why traveling abroad will be the best decision of your life and the empowering realizations you can’t afford to miss.
Still, I know that for many people the prospect of globe-trotting is a far-off, seemingly unreachable fantasy. Folks think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I had the money to do that?” or “Sigh, I could do that if it weren’t for [insert excuse here].” or “Some day I will do that, after [insert arbitrary life event].”
People tend to believe that traveling abroad will cost them a fortune, or else deep down they haven’t overcome a fear of entering the unknown. Well, I’m here to tell you that traveling abroad doesn’t have to break the bank. I mean, sure, if you want to live a 5-star lifestyle in a foreign country it will cost a pretty penny, but you shouldn’t want to do that. You should want to live with the people and experience the culture because that’s where the magic happens.
Between cheap flights, living in hostels or CouchSurfing, and finding ways to earn money, food, and/or accommodation while abroad, travel can cost far less than you might imagine. Here are eight ways to partially or entirely finance a trip abroad.
1. Teach English
In just over one month, I will be heading to Asia to teach English in Busan, South Korea for at least one year through the EPIK Program. English is, in many ways, becoming a universal language. There are job opportunities in countless locations all over the world, and often you only need to be a native speaker or take an online certification course (you may also need a college degree). Many programs will pay for your airfare and housing on top of a healthy salary. Google and Dave’s ESL Cafe are good resources to begin discovering your options.
This is something I’m probably going to do within the next few years. Through the World Wide Organization of Organic Farms (WWOOF), you can travel to many different countries and work on organic farms. Basically, you work for 4-6 hours per day in exchange for food and housing with a host family. This leaves the majority of your day open for exploring and other activities. With the necessities covered, you only need to pay for travel expenses. I have friends who “WWOOFed” for 6 months in Japan, and some friends of a friend did the same for about 6 months in South America.
3. Peace Corps
Peace Corps is another option I’ve strongly considered and may still do. Corps members make a two-year commitment to live and work in a developing country. Members work in the sectors of education, youth and community development, health, business, agriculture, environment, and HIV/AIDS, among others. In exchange, you receive a housing and living allowance, student loan assistance, a re-adjustment stipend of $7,425 upon completion, full medical and dental coverage, plus a few other things. I know the Peace Corps would be a profoundly life-changing experience.
4. Work on a Cruise Ship
Recently, I went on an extraordinary Alaskan cruise with my family. While on the ship, I met a woman from London who encouraged me to check out working for a cruise line if I was interested in traveling abroad while earning money. She said she makes $1,800 per month, and her housing and food are completely covered. She also told me she was on a 6-month contract, so the job wasn’t an overly large commitment.
5. Housesit or be an Au Pair
When I was in Spain last summer, I met a girl who was working as an au pair for the summer. She was spending time in Germany, Italy, and Spain looking after different family’s children during the workday. She was then able to spend her evenings as she liked and travel on weekends. It seemed like a pretty sweet gig. Housesitting is another related option I’ve heard about. Unlike being an au pair, you wouldn’t be paid to housesit, but you would have a free place to say. Some people bounce around the world housesitting for years at at time.
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VSO‘s vision is a world without poverty. They are an organization that puts people first, and I love that. VSO volunteers work in areas of animals and natural resources, communications and fundraising, communities and social development, engineering and technical, health, business, education, and more. VSO covers the travel expenses, insurance, and day-to-day living expenses for their volunteers.
They also offer Youth Volunteering Program for young people who might not yet have the experience to qualify for one of their main volunteer opportunities. Additionally, keep in mind that VSO and Peace Corps are two among many volunteer organizations around the world that will finance your travels to volunteer abroad. Don’t be afraid to do some digging and check out others.
7. Work at a Resort
Resort positions are among the most common forms of employment that can be easily acquired by people from foreign countries. And, there are resorts all over the planet. You could potentially work as a front desk attendant, in a restaurant, or in the activity/entertainment department. You could save money, and in your downtime, experience a tropical locale.
8. Blogging/Freelance Work
I had to include this one. It’s becoming more feasible all the time to work from a remote location, and people are capitalizing on this state of affairs to become digital nomads. Chris Guillebeau and Wandering Earl come to mind. A friend of mine and her husband recently quit their jobs to travel the world and started This World Rocks as a way to document their travels and gain some funds.
Make no mistake — there are no get-rich-quick-and-easy methods of making money as a blogger or freelancer. But, there are many people who do it, and if you’re curious, you’ll find mountains of helpful info online from places like Copyblogger. If you’re looking to brainstorm more ideas for making money while abroad, check out this longer list from Wandering Earl.
Bonus Tip: Read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
If you’re serious about earning money while seeing the world, The 4-Hour Workweek is the unofficial Bible for this type of lifestyle. I recommend reading the key insights from the book for free on Blinkist.
Will You Do What it Takes to See the World?
Once you’re awakened to the reality of affordable travel experiences, it’s difficult to fall back on the same old excuses.
You’re forced to confront a difficult truth: I either want this badly enough or I don’t. If seeing the world is something you feel you definitely want to do (and it should be), you really have just one obstacle left to overcome: internal resistance.
We tend to resist change with all of our being. We procrastinate infinitely. Fear, anxiety, and distractions become ready-made reasons not to do things. We crave consistency and the eternal comfort zone, but whether we like it or not, life will change and we won’t be ready for it. That’s a fact, but you have a choice.
You can lock yourself indoors, peak out the blinds, and wait nervously for the day when life becomes a kamikaze. Or, you can dive headfirst into a foreign environment, gain invaluable experiences, and come out stronger and more capable than ever of facing life’s inevitable quagmires.
It’s up to you.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb
P.S. I’m excited to share that an article I wrote was published today on HighExistence.com, one of my favorite websites. Fittingly, it’s about one of my favorite philosophers, the notorious Friedrich Nietzche. Check it out if you get the chance — ‘Friedrich Nietzsche’s Guide to Conquering Your Existence’.
Note: Due to a few comments made on Reddit about this post, I want to clarify a couple things.
First, I do not believe traveling is necessary for personal development or an automatic way to improve yourself. With a curious attitude and open mind, however, I think traveling is an exceptional means of broadening one’s perspective on one’s own country and gaining a global awareness (two items which I view as vitally important for more people to gain in our world).
Second, I didn’t intend for this post to make it sound as if traveling is cheap. Relative to the average daily wage for people of the world, it isn’t. Not everyone is able to do it, so if you are, view it as a privilege and try to learn as much as possible. The point of the post was to show that there are options to make it more financially feasible for a greater number of people than is often assumed.
Finally, I want it to be clear that not all of these options will work for everyone. Some require degrees. Some would only partially finance your situation or provide a small side income stream. I’m sorry if the post was misleading in any way. It was meant to be a catalyst to get you thinking creatively and entrepreneurially about how you might travel abroad, if that is what you feel you need to do. Cheers, everyone.
Photo Credit: LASZLO ILYES