Married and trying to leave the states for a while
September 23, 2010 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Can a married couple still have the youthful abroad experience?

My fiance and I are both 23 and about to graduate college. My major is in financial planning and hers is in elementary education. We have been told our whole lives to work toward the goal of getting a job back home and starting a family. We have decided that we don't want to do that just yet. Our dream is to head off to Europe (we are really open to anywhere though) and live with menial jobs for a year or two. Really learn the culture and have some amazing experiences together with our new married lives. Think of it as a very long honeymoon (with jobs.) I have heard of people finding "under the table" jobs at bars and such, and I wouldn't be opposed to that. My fiance was talking about trying to find a job teaching english. My question is first, has anyone done something like this? Could you share your experiences? Second, what country would be the best to go for this with? and third, is there any reason we shouldn't do this?
posted by alextprice to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
My wife and I went to Ireland for a year after school , and it was a wonderful experience. Met great friends we still see nearly 15 years later and generally had a blast. You should be able to get a temporary work visa to a number of countries the US has reciprocal agreements with-- STA Travel was the place we arranged it through: http://www.statravel.com/cps/rde/xchg/us_division_web_live/hs.xsl/work-abroad.htm

Good luck!
posted by hwickline at 10:04 PM on September 23, 2010


Why bother with menial jobs? It will hurt your resume and your career. If you're okay with being poor for a year, why not make it two years? You're so very young at 23!

Instead, why not go to grad school in Europe? It's quite easy to find master's programs in English in large cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, etc., and you shouldn't have a hard time securing at least some sort of funding. You can still have jobs, like doing research part-time after you move, but they won't have to be under the table and they will actually contribute to your future careers. You don't need foreign language proficiency (if you worked in a bar in France, you'd better speak fluent French) nor GRE scores, although they do help.

As I recently learned, a master's degree is the typical education cutoff in most of Europe, so it's not particularly difficult to get into those programs.
posted by halogen at 10:17 PM on September 23, 2010


We sort of did this the other way around - we're non-USonians who moved to San Francisco.

Watch out though. We liked it. We liked it a lot. We moved here in 1998, for eighteen months or so. We're still here.
posted by rdc at 10:18 PM on September 23, 2010


You two are 23 (read: youthful). I think it is great that, although you've been told our whole lives to work toward the goal of getting a job back home and starting a family you are living life on your own terms and doing what you want.

I always wanted to do the junior year abroad during college but paid my own way through school and didn't have a chance of doing it. One day when I was 26, I woke up and decided I would do it anyway. I worked a few jobs for a year and traveled the next. Best thing I've ever done.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:22 PM on September 23, 2010


Yeah, you're 23 and the world is your oyster. Move somewhere for grad school, or hell, even a half-decent job - who needs menial?

What country? Well, which one do you want?
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:24 PM on September 23, 2010


Thanks for the suggestion @halogen but grad school is out of the question. We have been in school for 20 years now, and we aren't about to get into more debt to pay for grad school abroad. Thats why I really want to find a place where we can both get jobs to finance the fun.
posted by alextprice at 10:34 PM on September 23, 2010


I wouldn't worry about menial jobs affecting your future career prospects, because you are going to change careers several times during your life. The issue I have with menial jobs is the pay, but an issue with a more professional job may be lack of flexibility.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 PM on September 23, 2010


My question is first, has anyone done something like this? Could you share your experiences? Second, what country would be the best to go for this with? and third, is there any reason we shouldn't do this?

I've knew many couples who did this when I lived in Asia. The best country is the country you want to go to. In general, though, poorer countries are easier logistically and harder culturally. I think if you want to do it, you should do it.
posted by smorange at 10:51 PM on September 23, 2010


When I was in the middle east I met a german couple in their early 30s that were living there for a year. They had both decided to switch jobs and decided that it was a good opportunity to travel. One was working for a european organization doing office work, the other was doing private english tutoring. They loved it and said it was even better than when they traveled before working. TOTALLY doable.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:04 PM on September 23, 2010


If you want to do this legally, your options for working holiday visas are as follows:

- Ireland (1 year)
- Australia (4 months or 1 year, you can do both but you have to do the shorter one first)
- New Zealand (1 year)
- Singapore (6 months)

There are also tons of random work-for-accommodation/etc. type opportunities out there, too. For example, I volunteered for a venue at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2006 in exchange for accommodation & a small stipend & free shows (at the time the Pleasance was supposed to be the best one to work for, but any of the big venues are cool).

Feel free to drop me a line if you have any Qs about working holidays. I've done a fair few - and somewhere in there I got a career, too.
posted by clipperton at 11:04 PM on September 23, 2010


My boyfriend and I did this when we were 24. I had already lived overseas with my family but he had never been outside Australia. We both agreed however that we wanted to go somewhere as different from Australia as possible. So we went to Japan and taught English for two years. I didn't particularly like Japan (I was beyond thrilled to leave) but I'll never regret going. After that we went to London and managed a pub together. Worst. Job. Ever. But because we lived in, we were able to save enough money to travel for three months through Europe. Next we lived in Edinburgh for three months to save up for South East Asia, where we travelled for another three months before returning home. Except for Japan, we just turned up in places and found jobs & accomodation within a fortnight every time.

I won't lie - we are much worse off financially than those friends who stayed home to focus on their careers and mortgage while we were sleeping in parks in Belgium cause we didn't have any money. But I wouldn't change places.
posted by Wantok at 11:23 PM on September 23, 2010




If you want to do this legally, your options for working holiday visas are as follows:

- Ireland (1 year)
- Australia (4 months or 1 year, you can do both but you have to do the shorter one first)
- New Zealand (1 year)
- Singapore (6 months)


Keep in mind that Singapore has some harsh laws that could make carousing difficult, so if that is your thing, go to Ireland or NZ.
posted by vrakatar at 11:57 PM on September 23, 2010


I did this when I was 18, went to uni, got a job, and I'm now 25 and very seriously considering doing it again.

Firstly, your age is no obstacle at all. Most of the people I met then (and have since met on subsequent travels) were in their early twenties. Many were in their late twenties to early thirties, and had no problem travelling, getting jobs, or meeting people.

As for what country, much of Europe (especially the UK and Ireland) is very used to backpackers, so you'll have no trouble finding resources for travellers there. That being said, there'll be competition for jobs (especially in Ireland). Australia also has lots of backpackers doing the travel/work thing, and you ought to be able to find work picking fruit or serving drinks or whatever.

In all honestly, the main obstacle to these sorts of trips is the one you're facing now - the 'is it possible? Can I do it? What'll I do when x happens?'. Once you get there, with a visa (it's possible to do it without one, but far easier with it), these things will all sort themselves out. You may not always be comfortable, you may not always be wealthy, but you'll be right. Just get out the door and let it happen.
posted by twirlypen at 12:15 AM on September 24, 2010


My former boss is in her 40's, and she and her husband picked up a few years ago and did a year-long round the world trip, picking up odd jobs to help fund it along the way (mainly in Oz, i think). They had a wonderful time. So yes, it is done and not just when you're young!
posted by ukdanae at 12:16 AM on September 24, 2010


China, Korea, Japan are all excellent places to do this, I met quite a few young couples with menial jobs in China (mostly teaching English). It's very, very easy to make ends meet with two English teacher salaries in China and still have plenty left for traveling around. If I had to do things over again, I'd consider moving to Vietnam instead, but it's just depending on what you're looking for. Consider daveseslcafe.com for more information on teaching English abroad.
posted by bluejayk at 12:25 AM on September 24, 2010


Thanks for the suggestion @halogen but grad school is out of the question. We have been in school for 20 years now, and we aren't about to get into more debt to pay for grad school abroad. Thats why I really want to find a place where we can both get jobs to finance the fun.

The great thing about graduate school (particularly in European countries) is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Varies from country to country but don't exclude it because you imagine it's a $40-50k tuition bill like masters' almost always is in the US.
posted by polexa at 12:26 AM on September 24, 2010


Your options for legal working in the European Union (if you're not a student, who are allowed to work some hours in most countries) are pretty limited and penalties for illegal working on a tourist visa are severe (deportation, 10 year travel ban to any EU country). People still do it, but you have no legal route visiting any EU country for longer than 90 days or so, with the odd exception like Ireland, who have a working holiday programme. You can apply for longer visas, but in most cases you'd have to show evidence of support (i.e. I have enough money that I won't be a drain on the state during my stay).

I'd say Australia and NZ would be your best bets.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:55 AM on September 24, 2010


This is actually a really good time in your lives to do this, because on a practical basis you've been living a student lifestyle for four years and that makes it way easier to cope with the backpacker thing. I'm 38. If my husband and I wanted to do this, we'd have to rent out our house, hack our careers, and make sure we had enough income to cover non-optional bills like insurance and pension plans. Also, while I can happily live out of a backpack, I'm past the point of hostels, which makes this kind of travel more expensive.

I would very much suggest Ireland, Aus/NZ or anywhere else with visas for this. Ireland is useful because of a high minimum wage (compared to the US) and access to the rest of Europe. You can get on a cheap flight from Cork or Dublin on Friday night and go to Paris or London or Amsterdam and be back at work on Monday morning, no problem - people do it all the time and your visa will allow it, so you should!

Employment is more problematic; we're having a recession like everyone else and unemployment is high. However, my feeling is that there are still unskilled jobs going in shops, offices etc. You will be able to find a room in a furnished house share as a couple fairly easily as well. You will need liquid cash for rent, visas etc and I think that's often the biggest hurdle - it's the best time in your life to go but the hardest time financially!
posted by DarlingBri at 3:13 AM on September 24, 2010


If you can find another way to fund yourselves, tourist visas can do the trick. You can get an automatic 3 months in the Schengen area (most of continental europe), 3 months in the UK, and 3 months in Ireland. This means that (pending the approval of border authorities) you can effectively cycle between these areas every 3 months and be within the law. You can't legally work, but you can rent an apartment whereever you want (via the appropriate country's version of craigslist).
posted by beerbajay at 5:25 AM on September 24, 2010


Oops, it's 6 months in the UK. I was thinking if you needed to cycle just between Schengen and UK, you'd have to do it in 3 month intervals.
posted by beerbajay at 5:26 AM on September 24, 2010


The great thing about graduate school (particularly in European countries) is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Varies from country to country but don't exclude it because you imagine it's a $40-50k tuition bill like masters' almost always is in the US.

This!
In Germany for example, you'd pay a paltry 1k a year in tuition. There are some English language programs available as well.
posted by Triton at 5:56 AM on September 24, 2010


See the documentary A Map for Saturday, it's great and was suggested on my question What films are about people who decide to live on the road?. It's more about the spirit of living abroad, but it examines some of the logistics of being mobile. You say you want to get jobs, but I suspect you'll be doing some wandering, so the film is apt. It also has a fellow in his (50s or 60s?) who travels this way. Age is not an obstacle.
posted by artlung at 7:09 AM on September 24, 2010


If you're looking for a cultural experience I would suggest somewhere like Asia or Latin America as opposed to Australia/NZ or the UK. You can go to Argentina for an extended period of time by simply extending a tourist visa every 3 months by taking the ferry to Uruguay and back. It's very lax there. I believe Brazil also has a 6 month English teaching visa. You could look into programs like JET in Japan or the Hong Kong equivalent. You could also simply sign up for a Spanish language University course in any Latin American country's major universities which in places like Argentina would cost less than $1,000 and get you a student a visa for a year. Don't limit yourself to only places that have formal work abroad programs, because most of those places speak English anyway.
posted by the foreground at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2010


This means that (pending the approval of border authorities) you can effectively cycle between these areas every 3 months and be within the law.

No, you can't. For every 90 days you spend within Schengen, they'd be looking for you to spend three times that outside Schengen. If they see you hopping in and out of the Zone on 90 or even 180 day cycles, they will pick it up and you will be questioned. Tourist visas are tourist visas, for tourists. If you want to stay in a country for longer, it's always worth following the procedures, especially if you want to work.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2010


As far as I know, the US doesn't qualify for working holiday programs, in general (because we won't extend those privileges to other countries...sigh).

I'll once again issue my (largely futile, I realize) request that people not recklessly join the ranks of untrained English "teachers." It does neither the professional English teachers of the world nor the English learners of the world any favors. Knowing how to speak English doesn't prepare anyone for the real job of explaining English or teaching effectively, and neither does reciting some McEnglish school's packaged curriculum. (There are always exceptions, and I know some really dedicated people who've managed to pull it off, but generally speaking, I don't recommend attempting to do this job without at least getting a reputable TESOL certificate.)

You might look into HelpExchange or WWOOF. I don't have personal experience with either, but they look interesting. There are positions for things such as helping out with the front desk and farm at an organic inn/restaurant in the highlands of [some country] in exchange for room and board. There are some listings for couples.

Good luck! I hope you find a great situation and have a wonderful time. I wish we'd done this when we were younger (we're not exactly old now, but still).
posted by wintersweet at 1:10 PM on September 24, 2010


Happy Dave: "No, you can't. For every 90 days you spend within Schengen, they'd be looking for you to spend three times that outside Schengen."

Sorry, wrong. See, for example the page for Estonia on the Department of State's website:
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS: As a U.S. citizen, you may enter Estonia for up to 90-days for tourist or business purposes without a visa during any 180-day period. ... Estonia is a party of the Schengen Agreement ...
I know that this works because I have done exactly this. You might have misunderstood what I meant: I did not propose that the OP get a job, rather that they act as tourists for 3-month stays first in Schengen, then in the UK, then back in Schengen. Your entry, however, is dependent upon the discretion of a worker at the border who iirc, can reject entry for pretty much whatever they feel like (for example, if they think you're entering the country to work, or you're going to overstay the allowable visa time).
posted by beerbajay at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2010


Fair play, but what I was saying is that border officers can see from your passport when you last entered Schengen, and a pattern of going in and out more than a couple of times in a year will almost certainly be noticed. Add to that that the UK has pretty strict border controls and you are very likely to be turned back after maybe getting away with it once or twice. And every time someone abuses a Visa Waiver programme, they're incrementally making it more likely that people who just want to go on holiday for a couple of weeks are going to get mistakenly turned back.

So, based on that, I still recommend that the OP does not abuse the VWP to stay in Europe, and looks into a country with a working holiday programme or longer stay tourist visas if they're set on living in Europe for a while.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:33 AM on September 25, 2010


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