When I look back on my life, I don’t want to have any regrets. I see many unhappy people who settled into marriages and careers they never really wanted. Sometimes it’s because they thought it was the right thing to do. Other times, it was the convenient choice. And more often than not, it’s because they were too scared to go after what they really wanted. Long ago, I decided that I would never become one of these people. Instead, I wanted to have a career and life of travel. So for more than 10 years, I found opportunities to study, travel, and work overseas to support my lifestyle. Here are 5 ways you can make that happen.
5 Ways You Can Build a Career and Life of Travel
1. Transfer with Your Company
Starting over in a new city, let alone a new country, can be hard. However, having the option to transfer with your current employer can make the transition easier. The greatest advantage is that you won’t have to worry about money or finding a job as adjust to your new life.
If you go this route, the company will sponsor your visa and assist with your immigration/transfer paperwork. Sometimes, they will even provide housing and a stipend to help you get established. This option causes minimal disruption in your finances and also helps you retain seniority in the company. You can explore new locales, find opportunities for career advancement, and receive significant salary increases depending on your skillset, employer, and destination.
2. Study Abroad
Education has always been my path of choice. Although I first caught the travel bug as a teenager, I knew I wanted to experience a career and life of travel. So in my early 20s, I started looking at international universities and opportunities to study abroad.
Rather than doing a single semester, I applied to a foreign university for graduate school. I was fortunate to spend 2 years studying in another country and meeting people within my career field. The proximity to the university presented several chances for me to network and discuss research opportunities.
Although the paperwork may seem daunting, I learned that it is fairly common to transition from a student visa to an employment visa. And since I was already familiar with the government offices and staff, it made that process that much easier.
3. Teach ESL
When I decided to leave the world of academia, I wasn’t ready to return to life in America just yet. There was still so much more to see. So, I chose to pursue other international career options.
I have always had a strong desire to explore new countries and cultures. However, traveling isn’t cheap and I had to find a way to pay for it all. As I met more people who had made the same choices, I saw that many made a good living by teaching ESL. Since I already had teaching experience and most positions only required a bachelor’s degree, it seemed like a good fit.
So, I searched the job boards looking for the best opportunities. I quickly learned that teaching ESL can provide a comfortable salary, especially if you move to a country with a low cost of living. After teaching overseas for 8 years in various countries, I earned enough to support myself, pay off my debt, and start investing for retirement.
4. Online Opportunities
As a student and world traveler, there were times when I needed temporary or short-term work to stay afloat. This would happen between semesters, moving between countries, contemplating career changes, and when any other major life changes came along. Unfortunately, my savings weren’t enough to cover these expenses. And when bills come due, you have to find a way to earn money.
During these periods, I turned to the internet to see what online opportunities were available to me. I frequently used sites like Upwork and Fiverr and won many contracts over the years for writing, editing, transcription, and translation. There are also plenty of postings for other digital services including graphic and web design, virtual assistants, data entry, accounting services, admin and customer support, sales, marketing, etc.
In the post-Covid world, there are more employment options than ever before. And when you work remotely, you have the option to work as much or as little as you want. After several years, the work was steady so I decided to turn it into a full-time career.
5. Starting Your Own Venture
Being adaptable has allowed me to enjoy a career and life of travel. But, being opportunistic has helped me achieve financial success while doing it. While all the options above can accommodate this kind of lifestyle, they still have limitations. So about 3 years ago, I decided it was time to branch out on my own.
When I finally returned to the States, I took a huge leap of faith and started my own business. Although I enjoyed each professional experience, I wanted greater control in determining when and how I do business. For one, I wanted to choose the clients I worked with based on shared values, not financial needs. Additionally, I craved more flexibility with my schedule for a greater work/life balance.
Now that I’ve enjoyed the freedom of being my own boss, I’ll never look back. I’m happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been. I’m building something that I can be proud of and that still affords me the option to have the life of a digital nomad.
Taking the Plunge
After living and working overseas for 10 years, I’ve learned many things about building a career and a life of travel. But if there is one thing you should take away from my experiences, it’s that anything is possible if you want it badly enough. And, it’s not as hard as you might think.
For me, making the decision was the hardest part. But once I did, I took it step-by-step and things quickly fell into place. Of course, there are immigration and tax issues that you will need to research. However, it is well worth it to find fulfillment and job satisfaction without sacrificing your travel goals.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.