Working/Volunteering Abroad

Working while you are abroad is great for several reasons- you supplement your travel budget; you meet like-minded people from all over the world; it gives you a break from the routine of traveling; it gives you periods of ‘consistency’ in your life that are inherently missing when out on the ‘Backpacker’s Trail’; and it invariably gets you more ’connected’ to the local community and the culture. All of these are good things, and can be very beneficial during an extended-length trip.

Obviously, when you set out, you’ve got a budget for your trip in mind (At least, I HOPE that it’s obvious- you NEED to have a budget in mind...). If you’ve got the time, why not make a few bucks while traveling? It stretches your budget a bit further, allowing you to see and do more in the long run, and has other financial benefits as well. Depending on where you are working and what type of work you do, you’ll invariably meet others from the local community and surrounding businesses. It’s true what they say about ‘It’s good to know people’- the ‘friendly neighbor discount’ comes into play all the time in these situations. A free beer or two at your buddy’s bar after you knock off for the night, a few dollars off equipment rental at the ski or scuba shop, complimentary appetizers or bowls of chips at the restaurant next door- all perks of working in the community, all keeping more money in your wallet.

While working abroad, you will inherently have co-workers. More often than not, they will be in the same boat as you- traveling abroad, looking to make a few dollars to support themselves during their trips. Working abroad is a GREAT way to meet other like-minded people from all over the world, inevitably forming a virtual global network of friends. If you’re lucky, these people may end up being your core group of friends while you are settled in that particular spot- friends that you’ll share life-long memories with, unique to that period of your life. You will always have ‘that summer on the beach’, or ‘that season on the mountain’. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

If you’re on an extended-length trip, you will probably need a break from the rigors of backpacking. As mentioned in the ‘What is ‘Backpacking?’ section, life on the Backpacker’s Trail isn’t necessarily ‘easy’, and can be very exhausting at times. You will inevitably run out of gas, desperate for a chance to just stay put for a few days, weeks, even months, recharging your batteries while you gear up for the next ‘phase’ of your adventure. Finding a place to stop and work for awhile is a great way to do this- not only do you get a break from being on the road, but you also make some money while you’re doing it. If you’ve got the time, it’s a great way to help finance your trip while avoiding driving yourself into the ground.

Along these lines, stopping and working somewhere along the way adds an inevitable source of consistency to your life that is inherently lacking when you are traveling. When you are backpacking, you don’t have a ‘home’- ‘home’ on the Backpacker’s Trail is wherever you happen to be laying your head that night. You don’t have a core group of friends- your ‘friends’ are whoever you meet in your room, whoever turns up at the hostel bar that night. If you typically stay in dorms, you don’t have any personal space- your ‘personal space’ is often limited to the bathroom or shower stall you temporarily occupy. Put short- there is no consistency in your life whatsoever. It’s one of the trade-offs of backpacking, and after a while, all you’ll want is a place to call ‘home’- a couch you can crash on without wondering who else has been sitting there; a chance to sleep in without having to get up at 8am to visit the Reception Desk to avoid getting booted from your hostel dorm room; a consistent group of friends that you can text on any given night to get together for a coffee or a frisbee session down at the beach. Though ‘Breaking free from the routine’ may have been one of the primary factors that contributed to your setting out in the first place, the lack of consistency in one’s life invariably catches up with everyone, and finding a place to stop, settle down, and work for a while is a great way to get a good dose of what’s missing.

Finally, perhaps the GREATEST benefit of working abroad is the connection you get with the local community and culture. Though you may find yourself working with fellow travelers foreign to the country you are working in, you will inevitably come across more locals while you are working there. These interactions will provide you with a better understanding of that particular culture, the ins and outs, the nuances of how that country differs from your own. You’ll make friends that you can ask questions of, whether they be pertaining to local sports, politics, or social norms. Working (And coincidentally living) in a community is really the only way to get a good feel for the daily ‘reality’ that those living there experience. If you’re backpacking, ‘experiencing and getting to know foreign cultures’ is probably one of your primary incentives for traveling, and there isn’t a better way to do exactly that than finding a job and getting amongst it.

If you want to work while abroad, it is important to check the Work Visa requirements for the country(ies) in which you plan on working. Some countries have special visas- such as a Working Holiday visa- that are geared specifically towards those wanting to supplement their budget while traveling (Read: BACKPACKERS). Have a look on the appropriate websites to see what options are available, and go from there. Too easy!