IF THE TRAVEL BUG BITES YOU, HERE’S HOW TO SCRATCH THAT ITCH WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts for Quest, you probably know that I’ve got a pretty acute case of the travel bug. I can be stationary for about 6-8 months before I start getting “itchy feet,” daydreaming about which far-away place I’ll end up in next. This is usually followed by hours upon hours of Googling and the impulsive purchase of a one-way ticket, because ya know, it was such a good price, I had to.
When I tell my peers I’ll see them in half a year, I usually get an exasperated side eye glance, followed by something like “aren’t you ever going to settle down? or “Doesn’t your family care?” The interesting thing is, when I tell those same people’s parents that I’m hitting the road again, their reaction tends to be a little more along the lines of, “Good for you, do it while you can.” Or, “I wish I had traveled more when I was young.”
Considering all the additional life experience the latter have under their belts, I usually choose to take their advice to heart. And what they’re saying isn’t really so surprising. Numerous surveys of elderly people have found that not having traveled more is one of their top regrets in life. It’s pretty easy to see how this happens. People tend to think they will travel in the future because there is so much time. But careers happen, marriage happens, children are born, and then thirty years down the road when you finally have the time, it’s a question of your health. Suddenly dreams of African Safaris and Asian adventures are replaced with a cruises around the Caribbean because well, it’s just easier.
In an ideal world there are three things one must have in order to travel: time, money and health. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world, and it’s near impossible to have more than two of these at once. For example, I have time and health, but I’m not exactly in a position to brag about my bank account. However, I haven’t let that stop me from visiting more than thirty countries in the past three years. It’s easy to find excuses not to leave your comfort zone, but since I’m here to encourage you to do otherwise, here are four ways (really, it’s five ways, but two are really similar) to see the world even though you’re broke.
1. GO ON A WORKING HOLIDAY
It might sound like a bit of an oxymoron but hey, I’ll take a working holiday over pure work any day! A working holiday is when you receive a special type of visa that allows you to find employment abroad. This is the perfect solution for someone who wants to travel but needs to maintain an income (student loans anyone?). While rules and age restrictions vary, US citizens can currently get working holiday visas to Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Korea, and Singapore. Angel Spadero, 29, recently returned from a working holiday in New Zealand. “My working holiday in NZ was incredible. I worked at a restaurant in Queenstown, a winery in Matakana, and WWOOFED on farms. I worked only three months but in that time I saved enough money to take the next three months off and travel the rest of the country. I exhausted that country. There isn’t a corner I didn’t see or an adventure I didn’t partake in. I *highly* recommend a working holiday in NZ. It’s so traveler friends, extremely simple to get around, and you won’t meet kinder people nor visit more beautiful places. If you can just get to NZ, you can make it work.”
2. WWOOFING AND WORK AWAY
Tired of the grind? Do you sometimes fantasize about dropping out of the rat race, moving somewhere quiet and living off the land? How about rural Tanzania? Or maybe in the Italian countryside? WWOOFING might just be your great escape. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an organization that connects people who want to live and work on an organic farm with someone who is in need of labor. In exchange for help around the farm, participants are provided with room, board, and priceless experiences.
Similar to WWOOFING, Work Away, is an international organization that connects travelers with volunteer opportunities in more than 150 countries. In exchange for an average of 25 hours of work per week, participants receive room and board. Workaway offers a wide range of opportunities, from relaxing working at beachfront hostel in Costa Rica to helping out at an animal shelter in Ireland to assisting with cooking classes in Tuscany.
Besides the obvious savings in room and board, there are so many benefits to doing a work exchange. You get to meet people from around the world, experience the local culture as more than just a tourist, learn new skills and discover passions you never knew you had. While I haven’t personally done an exchange like this, I know plenty who have and I’m pretty sure I just convinced myself to sign up (I mean, cooking in Tuscany or sitting in front a computer all day, really now).
3. BECOME AN ENGLISH TEACHER
While as a country we might not be as bi or trilingual as some of our European friends, we are native speakers of the World’s most sought after language. This fact alone makes you qualified for a handful ESL (English as a Second Language) jobs around the world. While your country options are pretty much limitless, requirements and salary vary drastically. While many schools prefer teachers to have some sort of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification, two of the more lucrative destinations, China and South Korea do not. Schools in these countries typically entice would-be teachers with round-trip airfare, free housing, and a salary of up to $2,000 per month. If you’re more interested in breaking even but living in in a tropical paradise, there is Southeast Asia. And if you’re really in it for the money, well, get some experience under your belt and head to Saudi Arabia. Dave’s ESL Café is a great place to get started and see what’s out there.
4. JOIN THE PEACE CORPS
For those who are serious about getting away and making a difference, there’s the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is no walk in the park. It’s a 24+ month commitment that will challenge every inch of your being and teach you more about the world than you ever though possible. The Peace Corps isn’t for everyone, and the intensive application process is designed to weed out the not-so-serious applicants. Unlike a few years ago when applying to the Peace Corps meant you could end up everywhere, applicants can now apply for specific positions, which allows them to work in fields they feel passionate about, whether it’s public health, community development, environmental issues or teaching there’s a position for you in the Peace Corps. Participants receive a monthly stipend along with medical and dental coverage and $9,450 upon completion of service. Volunteers are also eligible for loan deferment or forgiveness, career support, graduate school benefits and noncompetitive eligibility status within the federal government.
Liana Schapiro, 31, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda from 2008-2010 had this to say about her experience: “I gained so much from Peace Corps. I can’t tell you exactly what your experience will look like, you might be in a rural village or in a modern city with high speed wifi – all volunteers have a different story, but I will say this: you’ll travel, you’ll learn new languages, you’ll make new friends, you’ll have an amazingly autonomous job where people respect your ideas. You’ll join a special club with others who have also been volunteers. You will have hilarious stories, and probably some horrifying ones, too. You’ll see a lot of things you might not want to, and you will learn a lot about who you are as a human being. No matter what, it will be one of the biggest adventures of your life, and it will change you forever.”
So we know there are all of these amazing opportunities out there, why hasn’t everyone left? Excuses are plentiful. I’m sure you can come up with thousands of reasons not to travel, not to leave your comfort zone, not to change life as you know it. What it really all comes down to is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being lonely, uncomfortable or scared. But you won’t know until you try. We are never too old, too broke, or too boring to experience the world and learn something new.
So where will you go?…