A lot of people have been asking me how I fund my language-learning travels – did I win the lottery? Do I have really rich parents that pay for everything? Maybe I sell property or invest in the stock market?
Actually, I’ve got quite a normal job that you would rarely associate with a perpetual traveller. I’ve actually been working as a freelance translator for several years, and here is all info about how to become a location-independent freelance translator!
[Edit: Since writing this article, I have changed my working situation and earn from sales of my Language Hacking Guide but will leave explanations for how I worked previously here since it was my longest-term job during my travels. I'll also update some links for more info about travel tips]
My wage is quite normal for my level of education and work experience and for someone living in the likes of say, London or Paris. Only, I don’t live in London or Paris. Taking western wages and bringing them with you to cheaper countries in Europe, Asia or South America, means that you actually can live very well on the same money! Or even better; work less and enjoy the country and life in general!
Your laptop can be your office
So many of us have work that we do on a computer, so if you are convincing enough to get your boss to let you do it from home, especially if you accept slightly less money (to balance out daily commute costs and time wasted in that commute, for example), then you can work from your own office. You can even take that work somewhere else and travel with it as long as you guarantee the same quality output. Telecommuting from your current job, or getting a new one and working as a freelancer or running your own company on the road and becoming location independent is not as hard as it sounds. You can even search online for jobs for digital nomads.
There are plenty of challenges of course, so there is a certain risk to it. Even this summer I have had hugely reduced workflow, but I am working around it and always learning to adapt. I consider a life stuck in a job that you dislike and always wondering “what if” to be much more risky to your health and stress levels than actually attempting to live your life the way you want to!
Of course, there are lots of jobs were this is not possible; you can’t teach children in school via the Internet or take care of the elderly, for example, by clicking mouse buttons. If your work is more hands on, then it may still be possible to find work in your field in another country; especially if language isn’t that much of an issue. Even if you have a family you can still become location independent and travel the world longer than just for week trips. But some other “technomads” have even had to give up trying to convince people that this type of lifestyle isn’t as hard as it seems, because of the many excuses (some of them valid) that people give for not being able to try.
You can teach English!
If you can’t get your dream job (or the job you studied for and work best at) and presuming you are a native English speaker, take a “gap year” break from your current job and teach English! It’s easier than you may think! And even non-natives can do this. If your English is very good you can still teach it, even though it’s more work convincing someone to hire you.
You can get a TEFL certificate for just a few of hundred dollars/Euro close to home in just one weekend! A lot of schools accept this (I’ve worked for the Wall Street Institute and Berlitz as well as countless other schools based on just these qualifications and some teaching experience), and as you get more experience it is easier to find work in more places. Even getting paid in the local currency, English teachers generally earn more than most other jobs.
Even without any qualifications, you can also skip the schools and just give private lessons by putting up advertisements in universities or shop windows, or on sites for such ads . Teaching experience is ideal, but it can be easier when with people with intermediate English already, since they mostly want to practise and get corrected, which most of us can do with very little effort. If you teach English then you can decide to only ever use the local language when not at work to make sure that you learn it quicker. Once you speak the local language then you can get back to something you’d be more passionate about!
I have had my current Internet-based work for several years now, but before that, I found work every time I arrived in a new country. I worked in a youth hostel in Rome, ran a yoga shop in California, interned as an Electronic Engineer in Paris and of course taught plenty of English pretty much everywhere else! Arriving in the country without much money and looking for work was hard every time, but with the right attitude and approach, and some imagination, it’s quite possible; even in the current economic climate.
Of course, I’m a happier in my current location-independent situation since it takes away the need to look for work each time or even arrange a working visa. But even forgetting the advantages you can have from earning in Euro and spending in rupees/Czech crowns/Brazilian reais etc., you can still focus on not spending as much with the money you do have.
Instead of earning more, learn to spend less!
If you give up expensive addictions like smoking, and drink less, and are generally wiser with how you spend your money, you don’t need to earn that much. I’m also a vegetarian, and cook at home whenever possible so no expensive meat (especially in Europe) makes a big difference in my weekly shopping budget. Flights to nearby countries and even across the world aren’t as expensive as you think if you buy them in advance or find special offers. If you sell your house or car, as well as having some extra money, you won’t have to pay insurance and mortgage costs every month. My only necessary monthly expenses are food and accommodation (and travel/health insurance, although I don’t really need to pay extra for health insurance when in Europe).
In my days of being on a tighter budget, all I would need to save up for would be the next flight and a tiny bit of extra spending money for any other things that really were necessary. My budget has changed since then, although I still make sure that I get the best deals, haggle prices down every chance I get and go through local rather than touristy channels. Speaking the local language makes a huge difference on the price you’ll get on almost everything. There are plenty of other ways to save money as you travel!
Of course, the best ways of saving money are simply not spending it at all. You can use Couchsurfing for free accommodation (on a temporary basis) when travelling, instead of buying your books you can exchange them with others and watch them travel the world through Bookcrossing, and hitchhiking or ride sharing saves you on travel costs.
The links included in this post all show that I’m far from alone in travelling the world without needing to break the bank! If you have any other ideas for finding work abroad or saving money to fund travels and language learning projects, please do share them in the comments! Don’t forget to share this post with your friends if you think the ideas are interesting!
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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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