If you think that you can’t afford to travel the world, finding a job on the road may be just the ticket. Travel’s wonderful, sure, but little things like food and a place to sleep are good too. We’ve found some of the best ideas to get paid as you travel the world, with some help on how to land each job.
You should know the basics of sailing for this gig, although some jobs only require a keen willingness to learn and a great attitude. Check out Find a Crew, Crew Seekers or Crew File online or ask directly at a local yacht club. Well known jumping off points include Darwin, Phuket, San Diego and Panama. We volunteered as yacht crew for evening cruises at the yacht club in Brisbane and found the club and captains to be friendly and open to our help.
Freelance Travel Writing
Traditional freelance travel writing is a tough gig. The competition is stiff, and the life of a freelance travel writer usually doesn’t pay well (or reliably). Even if you’ve got stellar contacts, don’t expect to get much pay in the first year or so. Even irritatingly talented writers struggle as travel writers.
If you’re the enterprising sort, you can start your own travel blog. You’ll be putting in a lot of work (trust us on this) as you build your blog. Even if your blog becomes well known, you’ll need great business sense and a way to stand out from the crowd before you start bringing in any income. We’d estimate it takes about a year of hard work blogging before you can start to make any real income here (and by real, we mean around $1,000 per month).
While volunteer jobs by nature don’t pay, some will provide (often very basic) accommodation or meals, or both. Conservation Volunteers provides basic accommodation, but not meals, in exchange for help on conservation projects. Be careful with this strategy, as many voluntourism placements charge you a significant amount of money to volunteer. This helpful article from Wisebread will point you in the right direction.
If you’ve ever been interested in volunteering on an organic farm, this might be the gig for you. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) brings together volunteers and farmers. You’ll work a set number of hours in exchange for room and board. No previous farming experience is required.
Flight attendants wages vary depending on the airline, and new employees don’t have a great choice of shifts or destinations. That said, you can still score some great flights while being paid. Airline employees often get substantial discounts on airfare for themselves and their family. Some airlines even allow you to pass on discounts to specified friends.
While this is out of the reach of most of us, those with flight experience can score great flights. To become a pilot, you’ll need over 250 hours of flight experience, perfect vision, a clear criminal record and good health.
Technical Writer or Editor
If you’re technically (or scientifically) inclined, and have great writing skills, technical writing and editing can be a great gig on the road. Technical writers write everything from website text to software user manuals to detailed computer hardware specifications. I’ve worked as technical writer for the past ten years, both remotely and in cubicle nation. I’d suggest getting a certificate in technical writing and a few clients under your belt before you hit the road. Starting pay is about $25/hour for North American gigs for native English speakers, but experienced writers and editors can earn $60 an hour or more.
Busking can be great if you have a skill in some sort of performance art, from singing to drumming or juggling. Pick a busy area to maximize your tips, and be careful not to run afoul of local city ordinances for street performers. Check out the video below of talented electric violinist Ed Alleyne-Johnson doing some busking work to get you motivated. Amazingly, all the music you hear is coming from his violin!
Cruise Ship Work
Cruise ships hire all sorts of folks, from entertainers to waiters to cooks. This type of gig is best for those without kids or a spouse. Earl from Wandering Earl has used cruise ship work to fund a large part of his 12 years on the road. Royal Caribbean even hires horticulturalists and cupcake supervisors (now that’s a job I could handle). Check out careers at Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Lines.
Bartender or Waiter
Depending on the country you’re visiting, you may be able to score a job waiting tables under the table. As you’ll be working illegally, you face a few risks, including being nabbed by the tax man, or even deported. That said, if you’re looking to work in a restaurant or bar, try to find a place where tips are good, as most of your income will come in the form of tips.
Work for Your Accommodation
Many hostels will let you stay for free in exchange for light work around the hostel. While we were in Adelaide, Australia, we exchanged a couple of hours cleaning the hostel each day for a comfy double room with shared bath. All in all, it wasn’t a bad deal, as rooms were going for about $50. You can apply before you leave on sites like Hostelworld.
Peace Corps Volunteer
The Peace Corps is serious business. Only apply if you’re able to commit to a long engagement in what might be a difficult environment. The application process is stringent, and usually includes an interview. The Peace Corps doesn’t pay a lot, but does cover health insurance and deferrals of student loans (for US Citizens), plus a bonus at the end of your term.
Run an Import/Export Business
The premise is simple: Find a product in one country, and sell it for a tidy profit somewhere else. This is perfect if you have a strong entrepreneurial bent, as you’ll have to dig up the product, the market and the suppliers all on your own.
Interpreter or Translator
You’ll need to be fluent in either written (a translator) or spoken (interpreter) two languages or more, and many employers want a university degree in linguistics.
If you can herd groups of confused people, and enjoy talking about the sights, this job might be for you. Tour guides don’t just schlep people around museums; you might even score a job as a wilderness guide. Speaking multiple languages isn’t a must but would be a definite asset.
If you can build trip itineraries, plan visas and stay arrangements, group tour organizing might be for you. Check out Adventures Abroad for more information.
Seasonal Fruit or Vegetable Picker
The work is long and hard, but demand is often high for seasonal farm labor in Australia and many other countries in the world. Because the jobs depend on the harvest, timing can be a bit tricky. Here’s a tip from a backpacker we met in Cairns: Don’t pick watermelons, they weigh a ton and you’ll be exhausted within the first hour. Anywork Anywhere is a good place to start looking for jobs.
I have to admit to being a little skeptical when I first ran across this job. Ethnomusicologists are involved in the anthropology of music and study how music and culture relate. The Society for Ethnomusicology is a good place to start. Grant competition is fierce, and an academic background is highly recommended.
Online Poker Player
While this requires mad poker skills (obviously), the good news is that it’s open to anyone with a good internet connection and a small bankroll to start. According to the FBI, online gambling is illegal in the United States.
Day traders buy and sell stocks and other financial securities online, usually within the space of a day. A word of warning: You really need to know what you’re doing here, as this is a risky job for those without solid experience and knowledge. The large majority of day traders actually lose money.
You’ll need a minimum of a PADI Open Water Scuba instructor course (or a similar accreditation). The more qualifications and specialized courses you take, the more marketable you’ll become. Instructors don’t make a lot of money, but the great perk of this job is that you get to teach in some of the world’s most beautiful locations.
While you don’t technically need an accreditation to be a massage therapist, it may help you land clients and gigs. There are probably hundreds of styles of massage, ranging from deep tissue to Thai. Pay depends on the country you’re in, but the job can extremely flexible if you work as a freelance massage therapist.
In most parts of the world, ski instructors must take courses and become accredited. Canadian ski instructors earn about $12 an hour to start.
With the advent of digital cameras and the Internet, freelance photography has gotten a lot more competitive. That said, if you have great photography skills and a keen business sense, you may be able to sell some of your travel photos.
Years ago, being a travel agent was one of the dream jobs for would-be travelers, who dreamed of perks and discounted fares. Today, travel agents are a rarer breed, as commissions have been cut and the internet has allowed consumers to book more of their own trips. You can work as a home based travel agent through a web-based travel agency. Successful travel agents today often offer specialized services that don’t compete with discounted web fares. Commissions and wages these days are low and perks are hard to come by.
An au pair is a nanny who may also be expected to do light housework. A large proportion of au pairs are female, and tend to work in Europe, the US and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand. If you’re looking to cover a lot of ground, this arrangement may not work well, as au pair contracts range from six months and up. Check out the International Au Pair Organization to start.
While house sitting may not pay all of your travel bills, it can take a huge bite out of accommodation costs. MindMyHouse and Trusted Housesitters are great places to start. Also check for caretaking jobs, which generally involve a longer time commitment and increased responsibilities (like taking care of someone’s motel while they’re on vacation). Caretaking jobs often pay a stipend in addition to free accommodation. You can find caretaker jobs through Caretaker-Jobs , the Caretaker Gazette, and Housecarers. There’s a small membership fee for most sites.
If you own an apartment or house, consider swapping for a place at your destination. You can save a fortune in accommodation costs, and often live much better than you would in a hotel. Check out HomeExchange to start.
International Resort Worker
International resorts like Club Med hire a wide variety of people, from electricians to bakers to activities coordinators. Check out Club Med jobs for information.
Time Share Salesperson
The bane of resort goers everywhere, time share salespeople make a commission by convincing vacationers to purchase a partial ownership of a vacation property (or multiple properties). For a set amount of money, the vacationer gets access to a vacation property for one or two weeks per year. Timeshares have taken a beating in the press for scamming vacationers out of their money. Even timeshares on the up and up are often sold with restrictive dates for access, hidden fees and taxes. Check out RCI.com to get an idea of what kind of time shares are available worldwide.
Work at a Campsite
If you’re the outdoorsy type, you may be able to combine camping and work in Canada and the US. Work camping involves either hooking up your own RV or on-site housing and working as a camp host, desk clerk or even a tour guide. Private campgrounds and national parks like Yellowstone offer seasonal employees RV hookups or onsite housing.
Real Estate Agent
You’ll need to pick a specific area, become knowledgeable in the local real estate market, but many expats make good money as real estate agents, especially specializing in selling to other expats.
Location Independent Businesses
You can take many businesses with you on the road. These are usually computer-based business like website development or computer programming. All you’ll need is a laptop, internet connection, and a mad set of skills and you can work anywhere in the world. Sites like Elance and oDesk let you bid on jobs from all over the globe.
Deckhand on a Cargo Ship
While not as glamorous as working on a luxury cruise liner, working on a container ship can be a more leisurely way to see the world. Workers often acts as lookouts and perform maintenance like painting and maintaining containers. You’ll need a high school diploma and many deckhands have training through industry or labor union schools.
Back in the day, legit international businesses would pay couriers to fly packages as carry on between select destinations. Cheaper and faster international shipping, increased security and transporting docs electronically have made these jobs almost non-existent. Use a lot of caution with courier sites, as most seem to be trying to sell a membership, a supposedly discounted airfare or an outdated e-book written 10 years ago. Courier List, one of the biggest names in the business, has suspended subscriptions because of decreased opportunities.
Transport a Car or RV
Car and RV dealerships or car rental companies sometimes hire people to drive cars to a different destination. Car rental companies sometimes find themselves with too many cars in one destination and want to move them to an area where rentals are more in demand. Car dealerships may need a specific car, with specific options or colors that they arrange to get from another dealer. While most companies work with full time, professional drivers, there may be some opportunities for one time trips. The trick with these jobs is getting a car that’s going where you want to go at the right time. You’ll need a clean driver’s license and may need a specialty license to drive RVs. Transport companies like DAS Auto Shippers and RV Transport hire drivers. HitTheRoad.ca is a well known Canadian company that offers mostly long distance, one way, one trip driving contracts for cars, while AutoDriveAway has listings for the USA.
Countries as diverse as Canada, the USA, Croatia and even Russia hire camp counselors. Check out Bitten By the Travel Bug’s helpful articles on camp counseling.
Teaching English as a second language is a well worn staple for travelers, and for good reason. Some countries, like Japan, China and Korea are well traversed by ESL teachers, though there are opportunities around the world. Japan and Korea pay reasonably well, while countries in South and Central America generally pay less. Depending on the country, accommodation may be included in your pay. Many teachers also tutor after hours for extra cash. An English as a Second Language (ESL) Certificate helps, as does a Bachelor’s degree, though with persistence it’s possible to get a job without either if you have the right connections. If you can figure out a way to break into the field, teaching business English to adults is reputed to pay better. Nomadic Matt’s travel site has a great overview of teaching English overseas.
Online Teacher or Tutor
Many universities and colleges are moving to online learning. While this is great for students, it’s also a fantastic perk for teachers or tutors, who can work from almost anywhere to teach their online students. An advanced degree is helpful for teaching, but it is possible to teach for a trade or technology school with experience and good connections. Check out Teaching Traveling for a profile of a web and mobile design instructor who worked remotely for nine months while traveling from US to Argentina. The best part of this gig? You’re paid as well as if you were working at home. To find work, browse the teaching listings at university like the University of Phoenix, community colleges, and even technology and trade schools. You can find online tutoring gigs at Tutor.com or Tutor Vista.
Geologists often travel as a requirement of their work. They can work in fields as diverse as oil and gas exploration, climate change and mining. You’ll need a minimum of a four year undergraduate degree .
Join the Military
Joining the military simply to travel seems like a bad idea, given the chance that you could be permanently stationed in your home town, or … well… killed. That said, military service can lead to opportunities to work overseas, though there may be little time for recreation.
A personal assistant wears a thousand hats, depending on the needs of their employer. Personal connections seem to be critical.
Marine or Wildlife Biologist
For nature lovers, the great perk of working as a marine or wildlife biologist can be location. Marine biologists can be stationed in fantastic locations like Hawaii and Costa Rica, while wildlife biologists can be found anywhere on the globe. Biologists need a minimum of a four year undergraduate degree, though researchers who work with universities usually require a PhD.
Internet Affiliate Marketer
Internet affiliate marketers create websites that sell other people’s products and then take a percentage of the sales. While the industry has a smarmy reputation, it is possible to make money through affiliate programs. No formal education is required, but a strong entrepreneurial bent and tech savvy is needed.
Of course, once you’ve decided to make the leap, you still need to get the job. TravelFREAK has some great tips to help you land your dream travel job.
If you’re under 35, see if your destination country offers a youth working holiday visa. Many countries have agreements that allow youth to work on a working holiday visa for up to one year. Check out Wikipedia’s list of working holiday visa programs.
When planning to work in a foreign country, check into visa requirements first. In many countries it’s possible to work illegally (under the table), but be aware that there can be consequences that include immediate deportation. Receiving lodging or a stipend for volunteering may fall within the category of working under the table, depending on the country.
We hope we’ve inspired you that there are a lot of ways to make money on your travels. Now get out there!
— Micki & Charles (@BarefootNomads) September 2, 2012