Home :: Overseas Jobs
How to Fund Your Travels with Overseas Jobs
Updated 4 September 2017 - Working overseas may not have been part of your plan
- but knowing how to find a job or how to make money could be a lifesaver if
you're short of cash on the road or thinking of extending your travels.
NOTE: In many countries and depending on your nationality, working while you're traveling is ILLEGAL. To work, you may need a work visa. Some countries are strict about this, others have special provisions for very short-term seasonal work or for students, yet others don't much care. Check first with the country's embassy website in your country or in the nearest large country, and ask questions in expat forums to understand how things actually work on the ground.
I've done lots of strange - and less strange - things to earn
money to travel: English teacher in Brazil... Union interpreter in Algeria...
Freelance writer (everywhere)... Office manager in Italy... UNICEF consultant
in Laos... Conference hostess in Geneva... Toilet seat sales in Montreal (yes,
really)... This website, Women on the Road...
This page is about physical show-up-in-person jobs, but there are also plenty of online jobs for women out there. It's also about jobs as opposed to a career. (Click here if you want to browse one of the main online job services to get an idea of what's out there for someone with your skills.)
How to find jobs overseas for women
It can be luck or perseverance or a mixture of both, but there are a few ways you can put luck on your side. Here are a few tips and resources for finding a job abroad, and below you'll find specifics under each job. But generally...
- Check to make sure you have a visa to work or permission to do so - or are willing to suffer the consequences if you don't. These can range from a rap on the knuckles to deportation to imprisonment - do your research and make sure the risk is worth the reward. You'll find the information you need on any country's embassy website.
- Check expat forums for the country you're planning to visit. Few people will openly advertise jobs that are paid under the table but it's easy to post questions, get to know people locally and eventually connect by messenger or email to get inside advice.
- Make sure you're qualified for the job you want. Do you have credentials to teach English? Hospitality experience to work in a ski chalet?
- Take your CV with you, or at least have access to it online. However menial the job, the person hiring you will want to know if you have experience. The benefit of having it online is that you can change it as needed...
- Get out there and network. Almost every job I've ever had overseas has come from someone I knew, sometimes very casually, but personally nonetheless. Here's a good article on basic networking skills (and it's not just about joining LinkedIn).
Teaching English abroad
Teaching English is a common way to make money for travelers of all ages. Being a native English-language speaker is helpful, and a proper qualification is even better.
Until relatively recently, demand was so high that many organizations would snap you up just for being English mother tongue. No longer. Now you need that piece of paper, which schools like MyTEFL can provide (you'll get 35% off the course if you use my promo code, SCRIBE35). Or click here to find out how to choose the best TEFL course.
Good luck plays a part too...
- Existing teachers may have a last-minute change of plans.
- Being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference if someone gets ill and you happen to be there.
- Substitute work may be available.
- Private tutoring of individuals or businesses requires no qualification at all - other than speaking the language and being able to teach it.
Demand is highest in Asia but there are plenty of teaching opportunities in other parts of the world.
Interested? Here's more about teaching English abroad.
Careers at sea: Finding the best cruise ship jobs
Imagine sailing into a different port each day, sightseeing, tax-free shopping, banking your entire salary, meeting exciting people from all over the world, having several months off a year, using passenger facilities on board for free...
Sound too good to be true? Not at all. You absolutely can see the world and get paid for it - on a ship.
Admit it - a seaview is unbeatable
According to Amanda Hathorn-Geary, who runs a business as a cruise employment specialist, "If you love travel, saving a ton of money and meeting and working with amazing people, working on a cruise ship will be one of the best career moves you will ever make."
Amanda knows what she's talking about. She started at the bottom as Seasonal Youth Counsellor with Princess & Cunard and over the next decade worked her way up to Human Resources Manager. She has trained thousands of crew members and now provides consulting and recruitment services to potential cruise employees through her books, her course or a Skype coaching call if you have a few questions.
According to Amanda, there's a specific profile for cruise ship
staff, and before you apply you should make sure you fit it. A cousin of mine
worked as a croupier on a ship for years and only gave up her shipboard lifestyle
when she started a family, so being solo can be helpful (although cruise lines
do hire couples). Just make sure you understand what cruise ship employment entails before you jump on board.
And by the way, although cruise workers tend to be on the youngish side, there are many exceptions to the rule!
Cruise Ship Lackey - contributed by Christy from Walnut Creek, California, USA
On my 21st birthday I joined the MS Maasdam as a youth counselor during summer break from University. I spent the next six weeks running youth activities and dances, riding horses in the Puerto Rican rain forest, swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman, hiking a waterfall in Jamaica and getting the best tan of my life! Not to mention enjoying an ultra exciting life onboard a cruise liner. Dances and parties every night and close friendships to be made. It was fantastic!
Overseas jobs with non-profit organizations
If you have any experience that can be put to use in a developing country, you might pick up some short-term work with international organizations like the United Nations or its agencies, or with charities like Oxfam and Save the Children.
Here are some areas in which you might find work - if you're qualified:
- Communications and report-writing
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Web work and social media
- Health and medical specialties
You get the picture. If you have the skill, flog it.
It can be relatively easy for these agencies to hire people for very short-term assignments (as opposed to nearly impossible if you're looking for a real job).
The most complete job listings for UN agencies are usually found at UNjobs.org, and a good alternative is UN Jobs List. You could also look for non-profit jobs overseas or check out the boards at DevNetJobs. Let's face it: development or humanitarian not-for-profit jobs require special skills: unskilled work goes to local people (and rightly so).
And here's a great guide to getting a UN job - with links to most UN agencies, making your job a lot easier!
Wherever there is poverty, help isn’t far behind. You might find some work with one of these groups.
Plan in advance. Look up the UN and NGO offices where you're going. Write ahead. Spruce up your CV. Or just call once there.
I got lucky in Laos: I called the UNICEF office in Vientiane when I arrived and offered myself up as a writer. They had a project in Luang Prabang and no one to do it so they flew me up for a few days; I attended a workshop and wrote up the report. I was qualified for the job - but all I did was ask. You never know!
If you're a professional, using your skills will probably be the first thing you think about.
I've been a professional writer or journalist all my life so working with words is the first thing I look for (even if I do sometimes end up doing strange things, like selling toilet seats!)
If you're a health professional or an engineer you're lucky: you have naturally portable professions, like mine. If you're a schoolteacher, you may be able to find replacement work or a real job (this site has a lot of listings).
There are plenty of nursing jobs (have a look at my page on international travel nursing for a few ideas), medical jobs, accounting jobs, and other professional jobs to be found in other countries.
And here's where you find them:
- On major job boards, like monster.com (actually I never look at these megasites - they're too broad for me)
- Through LinkedIn - a step up and often good for networking
- On professional job forums (this is where Google becomes your best friend) - getting better
- And finally, on expat forums - just Search for country + expat + forum and you'll find local discussion forums, often with local job classifieds; expats are usually helpful and knowledgeable! This is often my best source of job leads.
Some offbeat jobs women found in their travels
Saudi Arabia - Brenda from Florida worked as an Ultrasound Technologist and faced profound cultural change: "It felt as though I might be on a large movie set, but no one ever called cut!"
Switzerland - Maegan from Texas worked as a Proofreader for a woman writing her thesis. "She was so impressed with my work that for an extra bit of cash I proofread her husband's English translated website."
France - Amanda worked as a Grape Picker. "We were given free meals at lunch - and in France that isn't just a sandwich and a Coke but a full four-course meal."
Germany - Pamela from Southeast USA was a Musician by Night. "I played 'living room' concerts, usually pre- and post-dinner parties. We had quite a lot of fun!
Nigeria - Dorcas from Lagos worked as a Maternity Ward Assistant for her sister-in-law, a nurse. "It was both scary and exciting! I got a chance to witness the birth of several children in her clinic."
Ireland - Missy from Seattle overheard a pub conversation which landed her a job as a Milkmaid. "He thought an American wouldn't know how to do old-fashioned farm work! But I was raised on a farm.
Australia - Mattie from the US found a part-time job as a Telemarketer. "The job consisted of hours of cold-calling and trying to convince grumpy victims to complete a five-minute survey."
Canada - Cintia from Sao Paulo found a job as a First Aid Assistant at a camp. "My job was to receive camper and staff health forms and assist the first aid attendant."
UK - Jackie from Melbourne worked as a Granny Nanny - caring for elderly people. "I stayed in some lovely homes in quaint English villages and nice London suburbs."
The world - Angela from New Orleans worked as a Professional Storyteller in schools worldwide. "I met so many people, heard so many different languages in a relatively short time and had over the top experiences I wouldn't trade for anything."
Still not enough? Find even more job ideas for travelers here!
Casual and seasonal jobs overseas for the younger crowd
Let's face it, some jobs are usually more suitable - or available - to travelers in their 20s and 30 (I say usually because I've found all sorts of unlikely jobs but that's more the exception than the rule).
So if you can't type and the thought of teaching sends shivers down your spine, you could always try...
- Working on a farm, the 'odd job' - the pulling, picking, plucking or hauling when manual labor is hard to find.
- My friend Lisa worked as a barista in Australia, and plenty of other travelers find jobs in bars and pubs (lost on me as I don't drink - I wouldn't know how to pour one!)
- There is also seasonal work to be found in the hospitality industry, for example ski resort jobs, serving in cafés, working in a bar or hotel (yes, in my twenties I worked in many hotels), working at a Club Med, being a club DJ...
Why not a job in a winter wonderland?
- I've worked as a hostess at major conventions before - check the major congresses in town and call up the administration. If you speak English plus another language or two, you may be in luck. Bear in mind you'll often need a work permit, though.
- Yacht jobs on smaller boats that ply well-traveled routes to the Caribbean or across the Atlantic often need crew. The pay may be low, but you'll get where you're going without having to pay for hotel rooms.
- If children are more your thing and you have a few months to spare, au pair positions are sometimes available, through forums or local agencies. There's no better way to truly immerse yourself in a culture (and saving some money while you're doing it).
- Now this is a long shot - but you could work as a movie extra. In London? Try browsing this site just for fun.
- And if you're just looking for room and board, hostels have been known to provide work in exchange for a bed. Nice, if you're desperate.
One of my all-time go-to travel sites, Transitions Abroad, has a great page with advice about finding tourism and hospitality jobs. And if you're considering a gap year, the British site Payaway (not just for Brits!) has fabulous resources.
Au Pair in Switzerland - contributed by Katrina Whiteman, Seattle, USA
I lived in gorgeous Switzerland for two years as an au pair. I bought a one way ticket to Europe, a place I had never been before... I was scared yet anxious to discover the world. I was with the first family for a couple months before I realized they thought I was cinderella. Instead of being discouraged and returning home I decided to search for another au pair job in the same area.
I found another family who actually hired me and I stayed with them for a year and a half. I had the most amazing experiences! The best two years of my life for sure. Obviously traveling and living abroad has its drawbacks and there were many nights of feeling lonely and missing my loved ones, however now that I am back in the States I am ready to get out and discover more of this fascinating world!!