From the outside looking in, a lot of people fall prey to the misconception that when you are traveling long-term or backpacking, you can’t live a stable life. They might think your life is on pause, and that it isn’t until you return home that you return to the “real world”. While this might be true in some respects, I don’t think it has to be true when we are talking about your career trajectory. Most people don’t realize how many opportunities there are out there to grow your resume and career while on the road. While of course there are always some exceptions and certain careers that can’t be sustained on the go, for the majority of us, there are a number of ways you can have your cake and eat it to.
Starting with schooling. Studying abroad is a great way to live in a different country and experience a new culture. I did my first year abroad in Spain and London with Florida State University. However, this was an expensive choice, costing more than in-state tuition would have. Instead of spending a pretty penny, you should apply for scholarships and grants that will cover at least some of your stay. An example of a few are: David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant. Another idea is to do an exchange program or actually attend a foreign university outright. Depending on the exchange program, you may either continue to pay your normal tuition or the tuition of the foreign university. Most other universities in the world, like in Europe for example, have extremely low tuition rates compared to the US and you can actually save money by being abroad.
Now what about your career? A good way to get your foot in the door would be an Internship abroad. This might not be the most financially rewarding situation to be in, but you will definitely learn a lot. If you’re looking for a legitimate job, have you ever thought about creating your own? There are so many possibilities with online businesses or freelance work. For example, Fiverr and Upwork are sites where freelancers can create ads to promote their skills. If you’re a translator, an editor, a designer, etc. you can find an outlet for your services there.
Another possibility is the magical working holiday visa. For most countries, this option is only available if your 30 or under. For US citizens, it’s easy to get a working holiday visa for the following countries: Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, and Ireland. Speaking from personal experience, the visa process for New Zealand is so simple; it can be done online and usually only takes a few days to process. The visa duration is typically one year, and will allow you to work in their country just like a regular citizen. If you can find the right job, it’s certainly possible to continue your career just like you would at home.
For those of us who plan on teaching in some facet or whose career goals would benefit from teaching, may find themselves faced with the overwhelming decision of where in the world they want to go. The options for teachers of English are bountiful. You can teach in private language schools, but then you run the risk of illegally overstaying your travel visa. I would recommend the government-run language programs which will ensure a visa for your entire stay. Many countries have these, like Japan, Spain and South Korea (just to name a few). In fact, I actually applied for one in Spain, but I declined the opportunity after they placed me in a small town in Northern Spain that is plagued with interminable rain. Instead, I decided to get a student visa and attend a local Spanish language school in Valencia, where the sun always shines.
I’m sure there are many other options out there to continue your work abroad. The important part is to think creatively and outside the box. Once you allow yourself to break the mold of the typical life, you’ll find a whole world waiting for you.