How to shotgun a beer, what not to look for in a boyfriend, and how to drive a car on icy roads with a car that’s not equipped for icy roads were a few things I learned outside of class during my college years.In class, we learned about the ways the world worked. With a liberal arts foundation, we connected ideas and discussions across multiple subjects from marketing, to pop culture, to sociology, math, and political science.
Senior year was all about the infamous job hunt - the race to secure full-time employment the day after graduation to make that expensive piece of paper (diploma) “worth” something.
It seemed like everything I was told about life after college was aimed at getting a corporate job. Is that a bad thing? Not at all!
But there are more options than just one way to live your life.
I was always told as a Public Relations major that there are more ways to work in PR than an agency. Instead there were two main types: agency or in-house (corporate).
I didn’t want to work at an agency...or at a corporate office…
Instead I started to apply that mindset of all options and ways to work after college.
The smartest thing I (didn’t) learn in school?
...that it’s okay to not go the “traditional route.”
The “traditional route” is supposed to be filled with security, once-a-week happy hours, a picket fence and a dog. But when a few of the corporate job offers I got included unpaid internships, unfulfilling work, or a low salary, I didn’t feel secure at all. Plus, I wasn’t ready for a picket fence and a dog.
It didn’t hit me until a month before graduation: I needed to travel.
Yes, needed. I knew that if I were to get a traditional job, I’d be sitting there every day, looking out the window dreaming of the travel life I wanted to live.
Yet at the same time I loved college, my degree, and still wanted to work.
I can’t believe it didn’t hit me until April of my senior year that I could get a travel job. That there are jobs out there that actually allow you to travel. Or jobs centered around traveling. That you can get paid to travel, in exchange for work!
I tried to plan out a 2-month backpacking Europe trip with a friend, which downsized to 2 weeks, to 1 week, and we still couldn’t afford it, looking for a travel job instead was a no-brainer.
As someone who didn’t grow up traveling internationally, this was a foreign concept to me.
However, I seriously SO glad that I chose a travel job - the “nontraditional” route - after college as I was happier, had a more meaningful experience, and didn’t have the FOMO feeling of “what if?”
Making the choice to take the travel leap can be scary, but it’s definitely worth it.
AND, if you want to travel, working abroad is one of the most financially stable ways to do it. Here are five reasons why:
1. You work in exchange for something, like a paycheck or amenities
Whichever job you have, you’re traveling as part of the job or live somewhere that allows you to travel a new city/region.
You’re earning a stable income from your job, or have amenities (such as housing, transportation, or food) covered in exchange for work.
Compared this to a traditional vacation where you're paying for a hotel, airfare, food, transportation, and activities, in addition to all the expenses of your life at home. That's the reason why travel seems so expensive, because that's the way most of us grew up traveling.
Working abroad significantly reduces travel costs, especially when you compare it to a vacation.
2. Or, both
There are travel jobs out there that cover your housing, transportation, food, etc. and also give you a paycheck or stipend. If certain things are covered your paycheck might be smaller (or not, depending where you work), but when huge chunks of your average monthly expenses are taken out you can save more or travel longer.
When I was working in Washington, DC and New York City two summers ago, my housing, food, and transportation was covered for the whole summer on days that I worked. I also got paid every two weeks. On days off I still lived in the hotel we worked at, but only had to pay for personal expenses like food.
Tip: When looking for a work + travel opportunity, see if the company or organization covers other amenities on the job. If they do, that’s a significant cost you don’t have to think about!
3. It can extend your trip longer or you can even move somewhere new
One of the cool things about working abroad is that since you’re making money while you travel, you can travel longer. Think about how long you can live at home while working a regular job - now, replace where you live with the new location(s) of your ideal travel job. You have somewhere new to explore that's far less expensive than a vacation.
When I was working in Italy our staff apartment and travel on trips we worked were covered by the company. You can read more about the full breakdown on this blog post, but not having to pay rent and travel to 11 countries for my job covered WAY more than you’d think.
When you work while you travel, you get to not only experience the awesomeness of traveling but have the opportunity to extend your travels longer. You can find many travel jobs around the world based in other cities, or if you're a digital nomad you can base yourself anywhere with a WiFi connection. Moving abroad allows you to be immersed in a new place and to get to know that culture for a longer period of time.
4. Or, if you’re working or in school full-time, find a short-term opportunity
You don’t have to move across the world to live a work + travel lifestyle. There are many short-term jobs that you can do on your vacation time off of work or breaks off of school.
How about doing a one-week volunteer program in Costa Rica with your vacation days off work? Or working at a ski resort during winter break, and a white water rafting company over the summer between semesters?
You also don't have to go to a foreign country to work + travel; there may be cool opportunities near where you live.
5. There are places around the world that are cheaper than where you live now
Especially the non-Western world, non-touristy destinations, or places with a good currency conversion rate will allow you to stretch your money further.
If you’re traveling or moving to a foreign country, also consider the currency compared to your own country and determine the cost of living. For example, European border countries Austria and Czech Republic are both awesome, but have different currencies - Austria is on the euro and Czech Rep. is on the koruna. Five euro in Vienna could get you a drink at a bar, while that would get you 5+ drinks at a bar in Prague.