Would Working Abroad Enhance my Travel Experience or Slow me Down?
Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel
01.09.08 | 12:12 PM ET
Would finding work in the midst of a long-term trip enable me to see my destination thoroughly or just slow me down?
Finding work as you travel will definitely slow you down—and that’s exactly how you can see a place thoroughly.
A short-term job is in fact a great way to “mix it up” on a long-term journey, and have the kinds of experiences you’d never have as a here-today-gone-tomorrow tourist. Stopping to work from time to time can also earn you a little extra money for your travel-fund—or at least ensure that you’ll be breaking even for a spell.
Interestingly, one of the best benefits on-the-road work has to offer a long-term traveler is the opportunity to be frustrated. For example, I was occasionally frustrated when I worked a short stint as a bar tout in Jerusalem several years ago—but the experience allowed me to see the city (and the tourists who visit) in a whole new way. And no tourist visit to Korea could have compared to the two years I spent teaching English in Busan. I wasn’t always happy working long hours in that unfamiliar and competitive society, but my work experience taught me things about the culture I might never have learned otherwise.
So, should your long-term travel experience last six months or more, definitely plan on stopping to work (and experience a single location deeply) at some point. Overseas work opportunities range from farm labor to hospitality work to teaching, and can be found as you go or planned in advance. Regardless of whether you plan specifics in advance, it’s a good idea to research the work opportunities out there.
Transitions Abroad maintains a fantastic listing of work-related resources, and Susan Griffith’s book Work Your Way Around the World is another useful resource. Elsewhere, Backdoorjobs.com and Frontier Club are worth a look.
Overseas volunteering, which I wrote about in an earlier column, is another activity that can enrich a long-term journey.