How to Find Work While Traveling or Living Abroad

This post is a guest post by Rachel Stern, who was a speaker on working while abroad at the 2012 Meet Plan Go San Francisco event.

For some, travel is a prime opportunity to flee the day-to-day demands of work. Yet for others, working while traveling or living abroad can not only be a way to finance and prolong big trips, but the very core of them. Working in a new environment, often in a new language, is a prime way to bolster cross-cultural skills, polish a CV, and above all have an unforgettable experience.

Below are some tips on how to find work abroad, whether as an assemblage of odd jobs or a longer position in a specific locale.

Embracing Odd Jobs, and How to Find ‘Em

A number of big cities around the world, and sometimes countries as a whole, boast an English language publication, which often advertises a slew of jobs. The Local, for example, has editions in a handful of European countries, and lists available positions on its homepage. Don’t see what you want listed? Reach out yourself. Ask around at local events, and post signs offering your skills.

When I was living in Sweden for five months, I tacked up a flyer at a nearby university offering help editing papers in English, and received a number of responses. Also capitalize on your skills. If you are a hairdresser, for example, cut hair at hostels, or if you are an artist, consider creative ways to utilize your talents. At one music festival in Buenos Aires, I met a Canadian woman who set up an impromptu face painting booth, and received a long line of kids and adults alike. Look also into seasonal work, such as WWOOFing on farms around the world, or working at a resort. InterExchange is a great resource for temporary jobs in Australia and New Zealand.

Fulbright and Teaching English Abroad

A lot of people are familiar with Fulbright grants just for study, but there are just as many opportunities through the program for research or teaching English abroad. Countries such as Argentina and Spain are flooded with applicants, so if you are not set on one specific place, you may want to consider someplace “off the beaten path” such as Latvia, where this past year there were 0 applications for one spot available. Compare this to Spain where there were 400 applications for 68 spots.

Check out the language departments of universities and community colleges and government websites. Often U.S. embassies around the world will maintain a listing of English teaching jobs and fellowships, but you can also contact them. GoAbroad.com also maintains a comprehensive listing of teaching jobs.

Transferring Within Your Own Company

If you work for an international company, consider asking to be transferred. A lot of companies do not openly advertise these jobs when they open a new office, but rather rely on word of mouth referrals. Reach out to the office where you would like to work to inquire about available opportunities. At the very least, you can be on their radar for when a job does open up.

Being an Entrepreneur

Create an opportunity when it’s not readily apparent. Set yourself apart: In most areas of the world, being a native English speaker is already an asset. Look for areas where the field you are in is expanding, and see what niche you can fill. Learn the local language, or improve your skills in it, before you go. You may be able to get by in a new country without the language, but for longer-term endeavors, having skills in the local tongue demonstrates your dedication to, and understanding, of the place.

Take cues from the successes of others who have successfully launched a company abroad. American expat David English combined his love for wine and Argentina, opening a business in mountainous Mendoza. He details his successes and those of other entrepreneurs he meets in Expatriate Entrepreneurs in Emerging Markets: Ten Success Stories from Argentina, published last year. Go to American Chamber of Commerce events in your new city to network and meet like-minded folks. For more information, Entrepreneur.com offers an excellent lay-out of how to launch a company in a foreign land.

Kristin note: Long-term traveler Lee O’brien write this post on starting a business abroad.

Other Opportunities

World Nomads maintains a comprehensive list of travel scholarships around the world. Look for the ones that resonate the most strongly with you, and apply. I have been abroad on a number of such travel grants over the past few years, and often hear the following sentiment: “I wanted to apply but it seemed too competitive.” Remember that there are often less people submitting applications than you think — maybe because they’re thinking the same thing!

Strike a Balance of Work and Travel

You’re heading to a cool new locale for work. Take the time to actually enjoy it and get settled before plunging into a full-time job. Arrive a few weeks early, step away from your emails, and explore your surroundings. Check out Couchsurfing.org and Meetup.com for free venues to mingle with locals and travelers alike — and as an added plus often brush up your language skills in the process. Have fun — you may forget you are working!

About Rachel:
Rachel Stern is a Bay Area-based journalist and travel writer. Her reporting projects have taken her around the globe, from Buenos Aires to Berlin. She just returned from a 2.5 month sabbatical in the latter, penning stories from throughout the country for prominent European and U.S. media outlets and failing to master German grammar. She’s been a big proponent of solo-travel since 2007, when she extended a plane ticket from a two-week volunteering trip in Argentina on a whim, spending several weeks backpacking in Patagonia. She chronicles her travel adventures and advice on a Huffington Post blog, and hopes to encourage people to pursue their travel ideas, no matter how “unrealistic” they initially appear.

Website: Rachel Stern on HuffPo

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