Get Paid to See the World: 12 of the Best Jobs that Combine Work and Travel

We'll get you on the<br/> road within a year
We'll get you on the
road within a year

The point of RTW Wednesdays and this column is to inspire.  We want to inspire people to get out of their comfort zones, see the world, and travel extensively.  For many cultures, particularly America, this is still a very abnormal way of thinking.  The hang-ups prevent many people from ever pulling the trigger.

Typically these hurdles revolve around jobs and money.  Even though leaving a job in a down economy may not spell disaster, it’s still a leap of faith that some just aren’t willing to take.  I totally understand that taking a chance like this just isn’t for everyone.

If you are one of these people who love travel but don’t want to risk quitting your job and not having a steady stream of income, there are other ways to see the world.  Travel is an important requirement for many jobs and careers, so if quitting your job to gallivant around the globe is not for you, consider looking into the following opportunities to have the best of both worlds.

1. ESL teacher

Becoming an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher is perhaps the most popular way of seeing the world and still make some money doing it, especially for young people.  Obtaining a certificate (there are several different ones-TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA the most widely accepted) is encouraged and necessary in many parts of the world, but in others, particularly SE Asia and Latin America, having a college degree and being a native English speaker is enough.

The type of work varies wildly depending on the area of the world you are teaching in.  South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan tend to pay the best, but make sure you do your homework before signing on, as horror stories abound.  Teaching ESL in another country, particularly a developing country with low costs of living, typically gives teachers a lot of flexibility and time off to travel around the region they are teaching in.  Plus it gives the opportunity to live and work in another culture, all the while putting some money in your pocket.  There are people who work their whole lives as ESL teachers, moving to a new place each time their contract is up.

>> Check out 17 questions you should ask before accepting a TEFL job, or visit Dave’s ESL Café, the premiere site for teaching English around the globe

2. Travel writer

Most people think of travel writing as a glamorous job that sees one traversing the globe on the company dime.  And while that is the case for writers of certain publications, the reality of the situation is that most aspiring travel writers work way really hard for little pay.  For every Rolf Potts or Leif Pettersen, there are hundreds of freelancers making the equivalent of minimum wage.

While it may seem like I’m dissuading you from becoming a travel writer, it’s also important to point out that having someone else pay your way during a trip is pretty awesome.  It’s a long and arduous journey at times, but if you love to travel and write, there’s no better way to combine both of your passions.  While a degree in English or journalism certainly helps, it’s just as important to have a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial skills to make it as a travel writer. Getting hired as a full-time travel writer on staff is unlikely though; most people start doing it as a second job or hobby and slowly build up their experience and portfolio.  Starting a blog is a great way to get your name out there and get noticed, and there are tons of publications that accept pitches from aspiring writers (including here at BootnsAll).

3. Cruise Ship Employee

The work may be long and the pay not very great, but if you want to see the world, consider getting a job on a cruise ship.  The opportunities are seemingly endless, and if you have any background in food service, entertainment, health care or hospitality, finding a job will be easier. DJs, dance instructors, child caregivers, hosts and hostesses,  lifeguards, swim instructors, tour leaders, doctors and nurses, spa technicians, hair stylists, cleaning staff, engineers, chefs and food servers  all are in demand on a cruise ship.

The best way to get into the cruise business is to contact one of the many recruitment agencies or simply visit the websites of large cruise lines to see their job openings and requirements.  Any offshore experience in any of the related fields can help you get a job on a cruise ship.  Keep in mind that accommodations are typically shared, hours are really long, and pay isn’t the greatest.  However, you get room and board for free, so saving most of what you make is possible, and you’ll visit great destinations all over the world.

4. Tour Guide

If you love action, history, and working with people, then it might be a good idea to look into becoming a tour guide.  If there are certain destinations and activities that you are passionate and knowledgeable about, then becoming a tour guide can allow you to see and explore the world and get paid for it.

You can get trained and certified to become a tour guide at a school, and while it may help you find a job, it’s not a necessity.  The most important traits a tour guide must have are people skills, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the area you want to lead tours in.  Being bi or multi-lingual makes you extremely appealing, so if you speak more than one language, your opportunities skyrocket.  If you have many interests, consider freelancing to maximize your expertise and money-making abilities.  The pay isn’t always the greatest, but keep in mind that many tour guides receive tips, so the better you are, the more you make.

>> Check out ITMI and IGA, two of the oldest and most popular schools for becoming a tour guide.

5. Flight Attendant

The downside to many of the jobs on this list is low pay.  You may get to see a lot of the world, but you’re still not going to be padding your bank account.  A job as a flight attendant offers the best of both worlds as the pay is generally pretty good while allowing you to see many part of the world as part of your career.

While many think flight attendants are there to take care of customer service issues and keep passengers happy, it’s not as simple as that.  Enforcing safety and security measures while having first aid certification and expertise is also vitally important if you want to become a flight attendant.  Flexibility is another essential trait, and if you are multi-lingual, more opportunities (and better pay) will be available to you.  A degree, especially in hospitality, certainly helps but is not a requirement.  While there are online schools and flight schools to become a flight attendant, it’s more important to focus on hospitality training and customer service experience.

6. Pilot

Another position that combines the best of both worlds is becoming a commercial airline pilot.  It’s a glamorous job, and if you are looking for a way to see the world and get paid well for it, then this may be the career for you.  There are pros and cons to every career, and while being a pilot pays well and is great for the travel lover, the road to becoming a pilot is not an easy one.

You need to obtain commercial pilot and medical certificates to get started.  Then it’s necessary to pass several tests and log at least 250 hours in the air, all of which costs money that comes out of your pocket.  A college degree is preferred and many pilots have them, but it’s not a necessity.

>> Check out the FAA site for all the specifics on becoming an airline pilot.

7. International School Teacher

While ESL is the most widely known way to teach and travel, the main issue, particularly in developing countries, is that the pay is poor.  Sure, countries like South Korea can pay well, but the administrative processes can be a pain, and some of the schools and situations are horrible once over there.  If you are already a certified teacher in a western country like the US, UK, or Australia, and you love to travel, it might be a good idea to look into international schools.

International schools are set up around the world to educate ex-pats in the curriculum of their home country.  So if you are a certified teacher in the US, look into international schools with American curriculums.  They are located in countries around the world, many times educating military children and offspring of international businessmen and families living abroad.  Pay is typically in the home country’s currency and on par with what you would get paid at home, and housing and flights are usually included as well.  It’s a great opportunity for teachers who love to travel, and even if you are married with children, there are plenty of schools who welcome families.

>> Check out Teach Anywhere for more information about teaching at international schools around the world.

8. Travel Nurse

Like certified teachers, certified nurses also have the opportunity to travel while still pursuing their careers.  Medical care is one of the few professions which hasn’t been terribly affected by the recession, so travel nurses remain in high demand.  If you are already a nurse and looking for a new experience that can also benefit your career, then consider becoming a travel nurse.  You can learn new practices and practice in a variety of clinical settings, all the while getting paid well (while staying in free housing) and having the opportunity to experience a completely new culture.

If you are already a certified nurse, the best way to become a travel nurse is to sign on with a Travel Nursing company.  There are tons out there, so do your homework.  It’s best to join one that has been around for a while and has a experience placing nurses in the right environment.  Ask to speak personally to clients of theirs who they have placed in the region you want to go.  Assignments typically range from 8-52 weeks, with the average being 13 weeks.  They look for all types of nurses, but it’s good to have at least 1.5-2 years of experience at home first before looking into this opportunity.

Other Opportunities to Travel and Work

9. Au Pair

For younger people (typically age 18-27), becoming an au pair in a foreign country is a great way to travel, experience another culture, and learn a new language, all the while being paid to do so.  Au Pairs usually move into a family’s home to take care of children and pitch in on the housework.  In exchange, the au pair typically gets paid a small stipend, receives free room and board, and some form of education, usually language classes.  It’s a great immersion program for young people and can be a great experience.  Like travel nursing, there are a great amount of agencies assisting in the placement of au pairs, so make sure you do the necessary research.

>> Read Everything You Need to Know About Au Pairing Your Way Around the World

10. Peace Corps

Another great way to see the world, experience another culture, all the while making a difference, is to become a Peace Corps volunteer.  It will not be easy, it will not be glamorous, and it will not be lucrative (you are volunteering, remember?), but it will be fulfilling and it will change your life.  There’s a million things to look into and consider about joining the Peace Corps, so don’t make a hasty decision to join.  It’s definitely not for everyone.

>> Read Five Reasons Not to Joint the Peace Corps

11. NGO Worker

Working for a non-governmental organization is another great way to see the world and make a difference doing it.  There are all types of jobs and opportunities out there, from farming to medical to business to teaching and everything in between.  The pay is not good (and sometimes they only accept volunteers), and a degree (particularly in social work) and experience in the field you’re looking into is helpful as working for an NGO is quite competitive.  If you’re willing to overlook the low pay and fierce competition, you can live and work in a completely different culture while making a major impact in others’ lives.

>> Check out Transitions Abroad, a great site where you can find information about Au Pairning, the Peace Corps, and working for an NGO, amongst many other opportunities.

12. Digital Nomad

Digital nomad is a key word that is becoming more and more popular as the years go on.  Being able to live and travel while still working is gaining major steam, so if you have any skills that can be done solely online, then think of ways to make that into a business.  Many web designers, writers, artists, photographers, and consultants are making the move to a nomadic lifestyle because they can.  If you can work with clients from developed countries throughout North American, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand, get paid in your home currency, but live and/or travel throughout developing countries and regions, then you can save a ton while still working and experiencing the world.  Becoming a digital nomad is the future.  It allows you to do what you love, see the world, and actually make a living wage doing so.

>> Find out about the Best Places for Expats to Live, and read Corbett Barr’s post about 10 of the most successful digital nomads.

While we would all love to just up and quit our jobs, hop on a plane, and travel for an extended period of time, the reality of the situation for many is that it’s just not possible.  Work and money constraints keep too many people from seeing the world, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  If handing in your two week’s notice with no future job opportunity in sight is just not in the cards for you, then consider one of the jobs or careers above.  They all give you the opportunity to see the world while still putting some money in your pocket.

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Have you ever had a job that involved travel?  What did you do, and how did you like it?  Comment below to share your experiences.

Further reading:

Adam Seper and his wife, Megan, decided that 50+ hour workweeks with 2 weeks of vacation a year simply wasn’t going to cut it.  So they decided to take a leap of faith and put The American Dream on hold.  In October 2008, they took off on an epic, year-long adventure, traversing the globe and traveling to 89 cities and 11 countries across 4 continents, never to be the same again.

Now Adam is going to tell you how you can plan your own epic adventure. Every week, on “Round the World Wednesday” he’ll share tips for planning, budgeting and selecting a route, plus advice on where to go and what to see and do all around the world.

Photos by: hannahspannareal00, marhargen, Adam Seper, dcmaster, Fly For Fun, barnabywassan, IFRC, alexlc13, Wayan Vota, The Advocacy Project, Georgia Montorsino

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