So you want to see the world, maybe take a gap year or go on a big journey, but that can be easier said than done. Not everyone can afford to just do this on a whim.
One creative solution used by many travellers is to work while travelling. Taking the odd work along the way will not only help finance your travels but will also gives you valuable work experience that will strengthen your C.V. I had a little chat with Duncan Ridgley, an expert on the subject who has recently launched a new service for people to find work while travelling.
What are your tips for people who want to work while they travel?
It’s like anything: if you expect it to fall in our lap… it won’t. The pics of gap year students riding an elephant whilst ‘working’ are… holiday brochures. They pay for that, and you know that. You can easily get volunteer work picking apples at a farm far from anywhere with no atmosphere. If you want interesting, well-paid work, you need to work smart and plan ahead.
“References are the key to more better paid work whilst traveling”
Find hosts that have a need for your skills so you can negotiate a good rate for your work. Do a really good job and get some great references. Do any work available to begin with, even locally before you leave home to get a reference. References are the key to more better paid work whilst traveling and will double as work experience examples for your CV when you get back home.
I run two small hotels and we live or die on our Trip Advisor references. A working traveller should do the same and focus on showing their next host they really can do the work they say they can do… and that they will show up and complete the work before the snow comes.
Why did you start Working Travellers and how does it work?
I was building my first hotel in the Sahara desert —after weeks of finding a local plumber he said, “Mr Duncan, no problem sir, but which way does the toilet go up?” At the same time I was looking for somewhere to advertise for a teacher for my homeschooled kids and could not believe there was nowhere I could post my requirement on the web. I saw the need and… the idea never went away. Working Traveller is quite a simple concept: it allows hosts all over the world to post their work requirements on their profile showing when they need the work and what skills they need. Travellers can then search the database for work that uses their skills in the time they will be visiting the host’s country.
Once you find the work you’re looking for it’s like eBay. You check the host’s references and you make a “handshake” agreement with them for what you will be doing, how much you will get paid, etc. and that’s it — you have some work booked up. When you have finished the work experience the host leaves a references for you and vice versa. You both help each other build your profiles.
If you don’t want to pay the 10 euro for your references to appear on your profile, you can help out with editing the ‘Work In’ wiki section and keep using all the site’s services for free.
What kind of skills are most sought after from temporary travel workers?
Hosts are used to volunteers who will do… volunteer work… but they are coming around to the idea they can rely on travellers to do more critical work for their business. “Hostel Receptionist” is probably the highest sought after skill on Working Traveler with over 200 hosts currently looking for people with this skill.
“Offer skills they cannot get locally. Social marketing skills in outer Mongolia I guess are pretty scarce…”
The skills you need to be offering are the ones they cannot get locally. Social marketing skills in outer Mongolia I guess are pretty scarce. Often just speaking English, or Spanish etc. is the skill they need to deal with foreign guests. In time, “Mosquito removal specialist” or “Reed bed sewage systems specialist” will be highly sought after, but they just don’t know they are out there yet.
But that’s the joy of our times: it’s easy for a traveller to contact all the hosts in the country he or she is going to visit and tell them about the skills they have that can help their business. Web services are an obvious one, but if the hosts are on the internet, they can use any one online, so you will have competition. Think of a skill that 100,000’s of small business around the world need and need ‘on site’. Let them know your know your stuff and you will be busy.
This is why thinking smart before you leave on your travels will pay off. Find a skill every host will need, read up on the subject as much as you can and don’t lie. Say you’re new to the subject and after 3 or 4 work experiences with Working Traveller you will know what you’re doing, your references will also show you what you’re doing and you will probably have as much work as you want for as many years as you want whilst traveling.
How long are travellers expected to commit to any particular job?
The length of time totally depends. Hosts tend to want you to stay for a minimum of a month, as it takes them a while to show you their ways of working. When you show them you’re good at what you do they will want you to stay all season. If you’re specialising in consulting and charging a high rate, they will want you to stay for as short a period as possible to keep your costs down. So it varies.
Can you tell me about your own connection to travel? I see you decided to go abroad many years ago.
I have always loved travel. I bought a house in London when I was 21 as I was making a good living as a Paparazzi photographer following the likes of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana around. I wanted to rent the house out and go off travelling but the boom turned to bust and I was paying a hefty mortgage for many years before I could take off again. My kids where 7, 8 and 11 when we could finally afford to take off for six months and give our selves a chance of making it full time abroad. We planned to live on our little bit of beach land, it was our dream, but we arrived Christmas Day 2004 in our village called Arugam bay on the east coast of Sri Lanka – 24 hours before the Tsunami would arrive.
People said “ I guess after being so lucky your all still alive you will come back to London and get a job?” It made me more determined than ever to keep me and my family out of the system and live the life we wanted. That was over 10 years ago and we’re still here. We run our hotel in Egypt and my first book about our travels on www.somewheredifferent.com and my hotel here in Transylvania on www.villagehotelmaramures.com and my photo tours on www.photographytoursromania.com
We make a good living and never see ourselves working back in London, thats for sure. Life’s a journey and not a destination and all that, so no idea where we will end up 🙂
Ducan Ridgley, www.workingtraveller.com.
Get my best travel tips
Let me show you how to travel cheaper, smarter and better!
PLUS: Get a FREE pdf chapter from my book