Escaping the Cubicle: How to Make a Living Abroad

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I called my father on my lunch break in between my 9 to 5 to let him know that once again, 10 months of sitting behind a computer screen for eight hours a day was no longer working for me. I could hear the ruffle in his voice as he sat cushy in his office seat at the same desk he has been sitting at for the past 15 years.

“I don’t get it Jen, it’s a job, no one ever really loves their job, you just have to do it.” In a way he is right. I guess I would be more empathetic of his statement if I didn’t feel like every time I sit for more than an hour on my ass, I get a splitting headache or start fantasizing about living in a thatched hut in a jungle somewhere.

You assume I am being dramatic, but I am not. You assume I am lazy, but I am not that either. Since the moment I shot out of my mother’s womb (it took me less than 20 minutes to make my debut into this world), I have been buzzing like a fly, with wandering wings, from project to project. I was diagnosed with ADD along with the rest of Generation Y, whom despite taking most of their daily recommended Ritalin dosage through their nasal cavity, ended up just fine and are now working in fancy suites in the Financial District of Boston.

Luckily I have been blessed with some pretty rad jobs that combine elements of both studio and/or field work mixed with administration. Despite working dynamic 9 to 5’s that require less sitting and more “doing” I still find the wind relentlessly biting at my heels to take off and travel the world.

So how do you make a living abroad?

Try to Google, “jobs abroad” and you will be slapped in the face with gimmicky search results that promise a customer service job  greeting high-rolling Tommy Bahama guests at a sweet little island front in the Caribbean.  I’m sorry ex-pats but I have done my research and jobs abroad are hard to come by and it is detrimental you do your research, or else you may find yourself broke, or worse, on the set of Hostel (just kidding…kind of).

The good news? I have done the research, so I can offer you a few quick tips on how to really find a legitimate job abroad.

Tip 1.  If you want to teach English Abroad, have a bachelors degree or get certified.

As my fellow GGG writer Claire put it, “First and foremost, you need to be a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree.”

It’s true folks, the best way to get hired abroad to teach English is to either have a degree, or get certified through a TESL/TEFL course. There are plenty of them out there, so do your research and understand how much you will be compensated for your visit and check out our article, “What They Don’t Tell You About Teaching English Abroad”  for tips on how not to get scammed and what to expect. For instance, many jobs pay in-line with the Country’s salary. You can travel to Guatemala and teach at the Utalan Spanish School for around Q20 per class. That’s about 2.51 cents an hour. However, the living in Guatemala is cheap, you can rent a furnished room with a shared bathroom for around 100(usd) a month and spend less then 20(usd) a month on groceries.

Whatever country you are traveling to, do the math and compare hourly pay to living costs.

Tip 2. Search Credible Job Directories

This is a big one. I can’t tell you how many times I have perused through Google with the search query, “Jobs Abroad” and have come across phony or unrealistic jobs. First rule of thumb: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Working at a jungle hostel in the Thailand with all meals and  accommodation provided and with compensation? Plausible but no probable.

Here are a few directories that usually return credible job opportunities or work trade exchanges:

http://www.workaway.info/ : Offers unique work-exchange opportunities like working on a Wine Vineyard in Chile or a Coffee Farm in Antigua in exchange for free meals, accommodation, and sometimes a small stipend.

http://www.idealist.org/ : “The world’s best place to find volunteer opportunities, nonprofit jobs, internships, and organizations working to change the world since 1995” This directory is so rad, and it lives up to it’s mission by providing some amazing opportunities to volunteer or snag a job like a volunteer coordinator for Habitat For Humanity in the Capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. Awesome.

http://www.wwoof.net/ : I view this is somewhat a pioneer directory on the work-exchange front. If you are looking to live both rustically and modestly search this directory for work on organic farms all over the world.

Tip 3.  Contact Restaurants and Hostels Directly

If you don’t find what you are looking for in the directories above, try contacting a hostel in a place that you are interested directly. Last week I sent an inquiry to a hostel in Antigua, Guatemala by using their contact page and just asked blatantly if they had any work for ex-pats. It took them about a week to get back to me but, they said they were currently looking for servers at their hostel cafe. Yes, it’s easier to be down there and apply in person, but if you want to secure a job beforehand, just simply reach out.

Tip 4. Look for American Companies in Far Away Places

If you are looking to stay corporate abroad then considering applying to an american company like, Hilton Worldwide, where you can apply work as high-up as a Director of Public Relations for the hotel  or apply to be a room attendant/housekeeper.  Think big resorts like Marriott Worldwide,  or even places like Nestle Global,  who have operations in almost every part of the world. Sweet.

Tip 5. Save 1,000 dollars before you leave

Hey. Before you go, wherever it may be, save 1,000 (usd) and make sure you have no ‘pending’ automatic withdrawals from old bills you have accrued in your country. It’s a good cushion to have in case your job abroad doesn’t work out.

I hope these tips will help you find the perfect job or work-exchange opportunity abroad. I am still researching and waiting for mine. Meanwhile my father still sits anxiously in his office chair back east, shaking his head, wondering where my fleeting feet will take me next 🙂

 Have you had any cool jobs abroad? What were they?

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About Author

Since a young age Jenna has always had an undeviating desire to explore the world and all its hidden niches. This desire has catapulted her willingly into some of the most memorable experiences of her life! Starting with delivering shoes to underserved villages in the Dominican Republic to bussing it down through Mexico and Central America, she currently lives and works in Cochabamba, Bolivia and believes experiencing first hand what foreign culture is really like, serves as her ultimate passion.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Best in Travel: Travel Mistakes, Language Learning and Croatia | WildJunket MagazineWildJunket Magazine

  2. Hi!

    Everything sounds great but, as many of these articles (not talking about the site, just the topic) they just focus on the American/Uk/Australianish sidewalk, i’d love to see if there are any job offers “abroad” for latinos or asians or other fellow foreigners. But no, that would mean you’re working just as an inmigrant… you’re not a traveler.

    This is not a criticism to the article, but the fact that apparently this is a privileged only of developed countries. I’m an English major with a certificate to teach Spanish as a second language and expierence in TEFL, an English proficiency certificate and a desperate need to be on the road. However, most of the jobs offered never think of anyone but someone from the countries I mentioned earlier. I’ve done my research as well and sadly my findings are way more scarce than yours. If anyone has more info about it that would be great, but for the time being unless you’re incredibly talented, lucky and resourceful stepping out the cubicle is restricted to other cultures.

    Greetings from Chile

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