By Luke Harris
People often ask me, “how do you travel so much? I wish that I was lucky enough to do that.” I am not one to quibble over words, but I have always hated the use of the word “lucky” as to why I have been able to travel. My answer to those who wish that they could travel extensively is always the same. “You Can”. For those who make traveling the world a priority, there are a plethora of solid options conducive to the nomad lifestyle that are readily available. This article is not limited to, but it heavily targets Americans wishing to live abroad. In my experiences, it seems like Americans have a much more difficult time traveling extensively compared to others from developed nations. Perhaps much of this is just the perception of difficulty on the part of Americans.
1. Teaching English in Asia
I specify Asia because Asia offers the most opportunity and the best compensation in this field. I know people who have taught in South America and Europe, but barely made enough money to get by. In Asia, teaching English in China, Japan, and Korea are the best options—in that order. China is the best in my opinion simply because of the demand that exists, therefore employers are willing to pay good money for teachers. In addition, one can freelance and build their own schedule, which will allow them to make a lot of additional money each week. English teachers in China average about $30-$40 USD per hour. Japan and Korea, in contrast, are much more structured, and it is harder to freelance like teachers in China do. Most employers in these countries offer solid wages and accommodation, however teachers will definitely be working and in the classroom and office a combined 40 hours per week.
Pros of China
-High wages per hour
-Very easy to move up in ranks (I will elaborate on this later)
-Can easily have a set-up where you create your own hours
Cons of China
-The Chinese government is beginning to crack down a bit on undocumented foreign workers. Many times, you will need to sign a year contract in order to receive a working visa. Otherwise you would need to be working on a tourist or business visa (which is illegal, yet tons of people do it)
-The quality of life is not nearly as good as it is in Japan or Korea. China is much more third-world
Pros of Japan & Korea
-Quality of life is really good. These are two of the nicest countries that I have ever been to.
-They are more ethical, and employment is more structured. Personally, I liked China’s wild-wild-west atmosphere, but a lot of people prefer the structure of Korea or Japan
-You will get a livable wage, and will be able to save a good amount of money (not as much as China though, in my opinion)
Cons of Japan & Korea
-There is not nearly as much time off of work
-It is difficult to move into different sectors when you are in education.
2. Teaching at an International School
With the proper accreditation or experience, one could apply to international schools all over the world. These schools follow American, Canadian, or British curriculums, and cater to both expats, and locals who are seeking a western education.
This is what I did my second and third year abroad. In China, international education is a booming market, so the demand is really high. Teaching, private subject tutoring, and college consulting are the common jobs in this market. I taught US History, World History, and Literature at an American program in a Chinese public school. These schools are not too particular about what their employees’ degree is in, so long as they have a college degree. They will try and match employees with something related to their field. This is definitely a much better job than teaching English, because teachers actually have real teacher responsibilities, and they teach material that actually has substance. Teaching English to little kids becomes monotonous very quickly. The pay at international school is better as well, and the job still offers a lot of vacation time over the course of the year. This is the perfect job for inexperienced teachers who want a job more fulfilling than teaching oral English.
In Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, there are a lot of jobs in this field as well. The jobs are very serious, but the pay and accommodation are really good. The classes comprise of both children of expats and locals, as opposed to all Chinese students in an American program. The lifestyle is a lot different in these countries (Saudi and Kuwait have zero nightlife), however there is a lot of money to be made in these places, and those working in these countries frequently take trips to nearby countries like Lebanon, Oman, or Egypt on the weekends.
Pros of International School in China
-Good place to get real teaching experience
-Better money than English teaching
-A more fulfilling job than teaching English
-A lot of time off to travel
Cons of International School in China
-These schools are a bit disorganized, and this can be stressful
-Sometimes contracts are not honored
-Same cons as teaching English in China
Pros of International School in the Middle East
-Wages are very good, and accommodation is provided
-Countries have a high standard of living
-A good amount of time off to travel around the region
Cons of International School in the Middle East
-The lifestyle is much different in these countries, and it is very important to adhere to local laws and customs
-Many of these locations have zero nightlife
3. Working Holiday Visa
This is an extremely popular option, specifically amongst Brits and Canadians that I have met abroad. They get a 1 year visa to live in Australia or New Zealand. In Australia, one can work a second year, but must work on a farm for 3 months in order to extend this visa. One can choose from a variety of jobs in these countries, but most people that I have met who have chosen this option work in bars or for tourist companies. The minimum wage in Australia is really high (nearly $20 AUD per hour), so this is a major perk of choosing this option.
Pros of Australia
-One has the ability to save a lot of money, presumably so they can travel through Asia for a couple of months after the conclusion of the visa in Australia
-The job will most likely be very stress free
-There seems to be a high demand for foreign workers, so one shouldn’t have trouble finding a job in a good city.
-There isn’t a drastic cultural adjustment that takes place when moving here
Cons of Australia
-There is not much mental stimulation or career growth. While there are some people who find jobs in their trade in Australia, the majority of people who I have met do not fall under this category.
-Australia has become quite expensive
-Because Australia is so geographically isolated, you kind of need to wait until your year working there is finished to travel, with the exception of short trips to Bali.
Pros of New Zealand
-The wages aren’t as high as Australia, but one will still have the ability to save money to travel
-The job will most likely be very stress free
-New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries that I have ever been to. The people are friendly, and the lifestyle is very laid back. If you chose to go there, I would HIGHLY recommend Queenstown. This is one of my favorite destinations in the world. In the summer it is a lake town, and in the winter it is a ski town. There is a ton to do in terms of adventure sports and excursions.
Cons of New Zealand
-There will be a bit more competition for jobs, so just make sure to get there before the peak tourist season begins (in December, and June)
-Same cons as Australia
4. Hostel Travelers
This is an especially popular option for those traveling the Southeast Asia circuit (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand). All of the best hostels and bars in popular destinations of these countries are staffed partially by foreigners. These jobs typically provide housing, food, and some provide weekly stipends. These aren’t jobs that allow one to save a lot of money, but this is definitely a path that I recommend for those who would like to travel inexpensively over the course of 6-12 months. This is a really easy and really fun job (honestly, probably the best job in the world), however, much like the ‘working holiday visa’ option, there is not too much mental stimulation or career growth. For those who decide to choose this option, it is important to have an adequate amount of money saved up prior to going.
Pros of Hostel Travelers
-You will live in paradise
-There are an abundance of jobs in this field, and one can stay as long as they want in their selected destination
-You will meet tons of backpackers, and make friends from around the world
Cons of Hostel Travelers
-There is not much career growth or mental stimulation
-Not much money (if any) will be saved
-An exorbitant amount of alcohol will be consumed (is this such a bad thing though?)
5. China–The Land of Opportunity
The south of China is a land of opportunity. Foreigners who began as oral English teachers move up very quickly, and it is not uncommon for them to move into the manufacturing and import/export sector a few years after arriving in China. There are a ton of factories and large shipping ports that maintain a demand for aspiring entrepreneurs and hustlers. In “American In China: A Three Year Case Study”, I elaborated much more on the situation in China based on my experiences living there. Many young westerners who have hit a plateau developmentally are able to find a lot of success in China.
6. Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is another option, but the experience will be much different doing this option than the previous options that I mentioned. The Peace Corps is a two-year contract, and it places its accepted applicants in heavily impoverished areas. There will not be so much time to travel over the duration of the contract, however the experience looks extremely good on a resume. This is an intense social and cultural experience, and is not for the feint of heart. This is nevertheless an amazing opportunity, with position offerings all over the world. This experience will definitely build one’s market value. Check it out more on the Peace Corps website
7. Multi-National Companies
Those who work for multinational companies (especially in finance) have the option of transferring to major international cities such as Hong Kong, Singapore, or Dubai. These cities have really solid communities of expats, so I envy those who are transferred to one of these places. These particular places are excellent locations in terms of proximity to a variety of desirable places to visit. This option is very good for those who are looking to both advance their careers, and see far-away beautiful parts of the world. Of course the prerequisite would be to get hired by a multinational company.
For those who are interested in a Master’s degree or even a Bachelor’s degree, Germany is definitely worth checking out, because there is NO tuition at public universities for either German nationals or foreigners. There is actually an American organization that helps foreigners find, and get into universities there. This article is very informative on the schools that exist, the degrees offered, the costs of living, the process of admission, etc. This option allows one to increase their market value very inexpensively, while living in a strategic location for travel. Anyone who has been to Europe knows that options like RyanAir or the Eurail make it very cheap and easy to travel within the region.
Just Do It
Choosing one of these options to live abroad makes traveling substantially easier. Between the bus systems, train systems, and budget airlines, the ability to knock out 5-10 countries while living abroad for a year is not at all unreasonable. While living abroad, the location that one chooses begins to feel like home after a while, yet every day still feels like an adventure. While many expats do become homesick to varying degrees, I have yet to meet one who has regretted their decision to live abroad for a point in time. At the very worst, the experience will be eye opening, and filled with growth and maturation. At the very best, living abroad the adventure you have been seeking for a lifetime, and will be addicting unlike anything that you have experienced before.