Travel jobs
April 8, 2005 12:20 AM   Subscribe

I’m about to graduate from a small state university with a degree in political science. I’ve decided to spend a year or two traveling either at home (US) or abroad. I'm looking to do a lot of writing and photography and maybe make a book of it. It seems the only feasible option is to get a job traveling. The closest thing I’ve found so far is teaching English in Asia to graduate students like a friend of mine is doing. The pay is very low ($250/month, but most expenses paid) and I’d rather be moving around more. Any other ideas out there?
posted by trinarian to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: trinarian unless your writing skills are already recognized it seems unlikely that you could make it a paying gig during your time away.
But teaching is a blast and in Asia particularly and as much of life is lived out on the streets, a stopover of a couple of months at a time (or less) may not seem so much like standing still as you may envision.
You can pretty easily whore your native english skills out, earn sufficient $$ to pay your way and have a good relaxing time. (Some countries are more formal about contracts and stuff, like Thailand)
I found that the longer I stayed in one place, the more I loved it, made friends and came to a better understanding of the country. can earn your keep and still have lots of time off for at least fairly local travel. And otherwise do the town/country hop and start again.
posted by peacay at 1:12 AM on April 8, 2005

Response by poster: Asia sounds nice, but again, the pay is a killer. I have some credit card dept that needs servicing and it'd easily eat up half of $250 a month. I have (minor) teaching experience and would gladly whore myself for more cash. I've heard of teaching in Korea, Japan, and China and only the latter seemed interesting to me... but Thailand has an exotic air to it and no ones brought it up. Any suggestions/link to companies? Did you do this yourself?
posted by trinarian at 1:20 AM on April 8, 2005

Response by poster: Also, how steep were the barriors in communicating with locals (i.e., what percentage of locals spoke the English, how many semi-fluently)?
posted by trinarian at 1:28 AM on April 8, 2005

I was in Hanoi. Vietnam is vvv cool. No problems really with english in the cities or at least in getting the daily essentials and arranging tours/bike hire etc. - anywhere dealing with tourists has pretty good english. I'd guess 30% know a little english but if you stay in 1 country you can pick up a bit. Mmm.. servicing credit card is a b**ch. That would make me think more about Korea/Japan - more money. This guy has a good site and although obviously for Thailand, have a good look around (I didn't today) because there's bound to be links for other countries. Otherwise have a search around. Use 'ESL' in your searching might net more and try individually with each country of interest. Having said that, less advanced countries (say, other than Korea, Japan) really require you on the ground to find out more/get an actual job (be good at selling yourself!!). Otherwise you're likely to encounter agents and the like who will slut your butt and take a cut.
posted by peacay at 1:41 AM on April 8, 2005

The best way to make a lot is to falsify credentials and bullsh*t your way through. I knew a lady who earned a fortune teaching at a Japanese Uni. supposedly with a 'Masters' in english (lucky if she could speak it intelligibly really!) - she said that her work was far easier at Uni. than the usual rabble ESL vacationing types working for a comparative pittance in language schools. P'haps you could work for a month or so at home first?? Might make it all a lot easier.
posted by peacay at 1:45 AM on April 8, 2005

Oh....I didn't falsify papers..I did a course in Southern Thailand - the cheapest of anywhere and still vvvv good quality (but hard!!).
posted by peacay at 1:48 AM on April 8, 2005

Best answer: Sounds like AIESEC would be ideal for you. I ended up in Chandigarh, India for most of 2001 thanks to them. I worked as a software developer in a mid-sized IT firm. I socialized with a few other young people who were also there through AIESEC, including:

- a girl from Argentina working as a graphic designer
- two dudes from Finland teaching computers in the local elementary school
- a guy from Slovakia designing course materials at the local tourism college
- a girl from Germany...can't remember what she was doing
- two girls from the Netherlands working as counsellors in the university.
- a girl from Canada who ran some educational programmes for the WWF (the environmental non-profit, not the pro-wrestlers).

I had a blast. It was a way better than any backpacking trip could've been. Since I was there for almost a year, I was completely immersed in the culture. I worked as a local, not as an expat, so I wasn't ensconsed in my own little reality. I got to know my colleagues and local volunteers from AIESEC really well. I can't speak enough about this fundamentally changed my life.

As far as I know, AIESEC operates in and can potentially offer you opportunities in 80-odd countries around the world -- certainly all the countries worth going to. Iraq and Iran, obviously, won't be on the list.

I'm sure there are many other similar organizations, e.g. IAESTE which is geared toward Engineering & Technical graduates. I'm sure USAID has youth programmes, perhaps you could even try the Peace Corps. I imagine "faith-based" options are available but for reasons you can probably guess I am not going to bother mentioning them. You should inquire with your university and see if they have some programmes running.

I won't slam being an English teacher -- some friends of mine have had good experiences doing it -- but I think AIESEC and similar options are vastly superior.
posted by randomstriker at 2:14 AM on April 8, 2005 [3 favorites]

BTW, Chandigarh was about 6 hours by train from Delhi, so I would visit Delhi one weekend every month or so. There were well over 50 people there on the AIESEC programme, working in all sorts of things from marketing soap for Unilever to managing projects for IT companies to devising the business plan for the merger of Air India with Singapore Airlines (though that subsequently fell through)!!! As I understand it, AIESEC is one of the most prestigious non-profit organizations in Europe -- they have a virtual monopoly on university career fairs there, as well loads of volunteering opportunities for university students.
posted by randomstriker at 2:21 AM on April 8, 2005

Good call randomstriker. I would 2nd the idea, depending on your getting in the program/destination/job of choice etc. It would be more certain moneywise as well - teaching can be a bit fickle in that regard, depending. I suppose otherwise search on 'ngo' - not sure how each country treat foreigners applying (eg. Americans working for Oz ngo's etc)
*sigh* I want to go back to Asia.
posted by peacay at 3:07 AM on April 8, 2005

Response by poster: I dig it, randomstriker... but what exactly is my technical expertise as a professionally trained news junkie? Political Science isn't one of their disciplines. I've got =other skills, sure... but not with a degrees behind them. Also, the pay look sketch. "Cost of living," but I've got to find the $1200+ to fly apparently.

/back to writing 9 page term paper due in six hours that I started tonight
posted by trinarian at 3:13 AM on April 8, 2005

trinarian, did you read my post carefully? I was the only techie out of the group that AIESEC sent to Chandigarh. If you put some effort into looking, you will find there are a tonne of opportunities for a Poli Sci grad like you. I'm sure you have other "soft skills" that are what people really care about in the real world, unless you're just a complete slacker. Then are writing your term paper at the very last minute ;-)
posted by randomstriker at 3:45 AM on April 8, 2005

OK, so the two Finnish dudes were teaching computers...well call me a snob if you will but teaching MS Word and Excel does not qualify someone as a techie.
posted by randomstriker at 3:46 AM on April 8, 2005

Response by poster: I was referring more to their web site, which seemed to strongly discourage folk like me. And I'm not a slacker... just... I work better under pressure, yeah, that's it :-)
posted by trinarian at 4:06 AM on April 8, 2005

Response by poster: I'll mark both of you with "best answer" tommorow. I'm afraid if I do it now it might deter others from answering during the more standard sleep/wake cycles.
posted by trinarian at 4:09 AM on April 8, 2005

trinarian, yes that's true of IAESTE, but from what I saw AIESEC took candidates from all backgrounds. At their inception 50 years ago they seemed to be focused on business students but that no longer seems to be the case.
posted by randomstriker at 4:56 AM on April 8, 2005

Best answer: You might find this earlier question helpful. In there I recommended the BUNAC program, which, as a recent grad, you could also apply for.

I also recommend the book, Work Your Way Around the World.
posted by Otis at 5:28 AM on April 8, 2005

Best answer: For a few years I worked for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). They are now under the Department for Homeland Security.

It was a great job if you like traveling and there are many departments you can work in, one of them having legislative interactions which would be good for a poli-sci major. Every 3 months or so you move to a new state (or however often there is a natural disaster). They pay your hotel and rental car, you get lots of overtime and you get to travel all over the US and it's territories.
posted by monsta coty scott at 7:27 AM on April 8, 2005

That you are a University graduate speaks to your ability to think critically, whether it is derived from science or arts etc. That ability is adaptable and success relies upon your selfselling skills. It's the same for career as it is for short term travel funding. Don't underestimate/undersell your valued skillset.
posted by peacay at 7:44 AM on April 8, 2005

The Jet program in Japan is considered the best. The pay is awesome, you are only assistaing so there isn't so much responsibility, and lots of time off.
posted by scazza at 9:09 AM on April 8, 2005

Best answer: I’d also recommend thinking about working for a few years, paying off debts, setting money aside, and then traveling. That way, you’ll have the flexibility to go wherever you want to go and have more options in case other opportunities arise (as they often do when you’re traveling) such as working the really low paying job in the fabulous private island location that some nice bloke named Klaus offered you after beating him at pool the night before at a random third world bar.

The key is to always be motivated to save for the trip and keep it in your mind. Car payments, credit card debt, and mortgages are the big trip killers. I found it helped to think like this – a $30 monthly cable bill over a year equals about a month a half stay a Guatemalan hostel.
posted by Staggering Jack at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2005

I want to spend more time hanging out with the likes of you guys!
posted by Jonasio at 2:49 PM on April 8, 2005

I applied for an IAESTE internship and would not really recommend it to other people. It's $50 to apply, then they tell you that there will be a $400 placement fee to take one of the jobs. You are also responsible for your own airfare. The salaires are so low that you only might just barely break even on living expenses.

The (two) people I know who did it had a great time - one was a MechE, the other a business type.
posted by whatzit at 3:45 PM on April 8, 2005

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