I can't wait to get on the road again...
January 13, 2011 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Year on the road...help me plan a working year across the globe!

I've been planning on traveling across the world after I graduate from college oh, since I was about 11. I'm going to load up a backpack and spend a year bouncing from place to place, working for a couple of months at a time.
I've already done some preliminary research and I MUST find work while traveling. My initial plan is to spend 3-4 months in 3-4 different places working for my keep. I wanted to start in Europe (ideally Amsterdam or northern Europe) then stay at a Kibbutz in Israel, potentially volunteer in Africa then teach English in India, Thailand or Vietnam.

I've started looking at oneWorld and StarAlliance for tickets. If anyone has done a trip like this, which do you prefer?

I'm basically looking for insight and information from people who may have done something similar. I still have 2 years to plan, so I'm in the very developmental stages. In terms of work, I'm hoping to find places I can work for my keep so I don't come out completely broke.

My questions:
What do you recommend to use to book a ticket?
Where do you suggest working? What counties, cities, etc. (I named a couple, but I am obviously very flexible and open to suggestions)
Has anyone done a trip like this? Would you mind if I endlessly badger you with questions?
What am I forgetting?
posted by allymusiqua to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Two words: pack weight.

Of all the things worth obsessing over, that should be high on the list. Too heavy, and you'll shoot yourself every time you have to go somewhere. Too light, and you'll be leaving stuff beyond you really needed.

That silly overpriced travel clothing really does work well for your particular purpose.
posted by zug at 9:22 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Eagle Creek compression bags are the best I've used to keep space down, and to separate dirty clothes from clean. They aren't too expensive.
posted by zug at 9:26 PM on January 13, 2011

What am I forgetting?

Visa research. Find out which countries will let you work legally, and prioritise them.
posted by pompomtom at 9:28 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the kibbutz portion of your trip: You will be in a remote location of the country, probably in the far north or far south, doing a very monotonous job, getting up early and working until mid-day (I packed apples and worked in the laundry). The rest of the day will be spent watching tv, reading, and eating in the dining hall. If you're there during the summer, if you're lucky, there will be a pool. I don't know what it's like now, but when I was there, there were lots of Europeans, who spent their evenings drinking.

You can travel to the rest of the country on weekends, but you probably won't have Sunday off, and it's a long bus ride from most of the kibbutzim to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (most of Jerualem is closed anyway, because it's Shabbat, but the Arab and Christian sectors of the Old City will be open, as will East Jerusalem).

The pay will be lousy, and will not afford you much, so plan to have funds for any travel on the weekends or before or after your kibbutz stay.

This is not to dissuade you, but just to prepare you for the fact that working on a kibbutz is not the best way to see Israel. If you have any more questions about traveling through Israel (I lived there for 3 years) feel free to send me a private message.
posted by lemonwheel at 9:44 PM on January 13, 2011

Best answer: I've started looking at oneWorld and StarAlliance for tickets. If anyone has done a trip like this, which do you prefer?

I prefer Star Alliance only because of the airlines it includes and United is based in my hometown so there's more flights and I earn miles. There are benefits and drawbacks to both of their RTW ticket options which you will have to look into. No one here can really tell you which is better. I suggest picking your ideal 4-8 places to go and see which of the two above fly there and if both do, which is cheaper or more accommodating to your plans.

Personally, I don't buy RTW tickets because they usually don't fly to many of the places I want to go. There is the option to string a bunch of one-way tickets together (Air Treks does this all the time). I like to buy one-way tickets along the way. Maybe you'll meet someone great in destination #1 and they will tell you about a nice place to work and you'll want to change your plans for destination #2. Just watch out for the countries that require an onward ticket when you enter the country. This was never a problem for me (and the only country that asked was England) but it's something you might not be aware of.

I'm hoping to find places I can work for my keep so I don't come out completely broke.

I've been on two RTW trips but never worked on them. My experience is that it's worth it to stay in your home country and save than to try to earn money in less fortunate countries with lower wages. If you can work remotely for a Western company or freelance and be paid Western pay levels that's great but bar work, working in a hostel, etc. probably won't even pay enough for day-to-day living expenses.

Volunteering in Africa (or most places these days) usually costs money. Unless you're willing to devote 3-6 months, preferably more you won't worth the effort to train and will have to pay for your own room and board.

I worked for 5 years after college to get a footing in my industry and my career before leaving. This made it much easier to re-start my career when I got back.

What do you recommend to use to book a ticket?
I recommend researching and quoting out RTW tickets (One World & Star Alliance), get a quote from Air Treks and research the cost to buy one-way tickets. Buying tickets along the way is almost always cheaper than from home in my experience.

Has anyone done a trip like this? Would you mind if I endlessly badger you with questions?
I answer questions all the time but first do some research on where you want to go. Look at the seasons and weather in each place and plan out when you don't want to be there—that will give you a starting point.

What am I forgetting?
There are entire forums and websites for RTW travel, expat living, location independent working, etc. You have a lot of Googling ahead of you. Hopefully my answers don't sound too negative, RTW travel is amazing and life-changing. Good luck.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:10 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

in europe, ryanair is your friend...if you plan on seeing japan, the japan rail pass (good for 1,2,or 3 weeks of unlimited high-speed train travel) is only available OUTSIDE of japan...and if you don't see the Louvre, i will never speak to you again.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:35 PM on January 13, 2011

I would think about getting a head start on some of the skills you need to support yourself. What kind of work can you do? I went backpacking for almost three years after finishing my first degree and I was glad to have done part time secretarial work while I was studying - it made getting temp work a breeze, and added interesting things to my resume.

What I really wish I had done however, was hairdressing or some other easily transportable skill. I traveled with a hairdresser and any time we were stuck for money, she pulled out the scissors at hostels and cut hair for cash. Get some transportable skills because my college education intellectually informed my travels but brought in very little cash. Teaching English sounds noble but it's not the easiest thing to tee up quickly. Get properly certified in your country before you leave.

You should also check out Couchsurfing and WOOFing [working on organic farms] sites. I host a lot of couch surfers and it is a great way to travel and get to know locals. You can't do it the whole time, but it's a great experience, and informative.

I wouldn't buy a RTW ticket especially not for your first big adventure. I have canceled so many return and RTW tickets due to better opportunities arising on the road.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:46 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. In your case, don't expect to make any money while working. You can land a job doing manual labor or teaching English or the like, but as you are likely going to be doing so in a developing country, your pay--though it may be high for said country--won't really be enough for you to use later in your trip. In other words, you'll likely break even with the money you make. Maybe work an extra six months before leaving?

As for ticketing, don't plan ahead too much. Keep your options open and avoid airplanes; traveling by rail is more interesting anyway. And if you have the time, see about working for your passage on a ship. Air tickets ain't getting any cheaper...

And seconding the packing light suggestion. Keep your bare, bare necessities: maybe two changes of clothes, medicine, toiletries, etc., but not much else. A lightweight travel towel is a lifesaver! You'd be surprised how much a damp cotton towel weighs down your pack, and how heavy your pack becomes by the end of the day. You can buy whatever else you need on the road. When you've collected enough souvenirs, mail them home.
posted by zardoz at 11:29 PM on January 13, 2011

Best answer: Some resources that you might find helpful:


The Rough Guide First-Time Around The World (practical advice, planning, and how-to)
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (philosophical musings on long-term travel)
The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World (mix of practical & philosophical)
Work Your Way Around the World (jobs, ideas, contact numbers, websites, etc.)


OneBag.com - the classic, uber-detailed, uber-awesome guide to packing light
Experimental Travel - neat ways to make traveling a bit more silly and unpredictable

Best of the AskMe travel threads:

How to make your trip meaningful
Tips for RTW travel
How to plan for a long trip
Packing advice - one, two
Ideas for documenting your trip - one, two
posted by danceswithlight at 12:10 AM on January 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Also check out Seat 61 for international train info.
posted by pompomtom at 1:05 AM on January 14, 2011

Really do research work visa's. It could be difficult to find a job in Europe for anyone outside the European Union.

Also: my sister-in-law went travelling for couple of months in South America. At first she got denied entry to Brazil because she only had a one-way ticket. Many countries only allow entry if you can show you will be leaving again.
posted by charles kaapjes at 2:24 AM on January 14, 2011

If you are planning on taking budget airlines in Europe, be very, very careful about not only your bag weight but your bag size. You will be hit with horrendous fees for each leg of your journey that your carry-on is too heavy or if you have to check it. I had a 60-liter backpack, not gigantic, and it only barely fit in their measuring box without hardly anything in it. I had to wear most of my clothing one on top of each other during each Ryanair or Wizzair flight I took.

You are allowed 90 days in the Schengen Zone and depending on where you enter and exit they can be strict about it. I had an airport guard take me and my travelling partner in a windowless back room as he made us reiterate our journey through Europe and he counted up every day we were spending in the Schengen Zone. This was with a return ticket in hand. Most places probably won't be like this but you will want to have an idea just in case.

Packing things that saved us over 97 days:

Platypus water bottle that folds up when empty
Lightweight towel
Sarong that doubled as a dress, napkin, shawl, emergency towel, etc
Finding local grocery stores
Packing cubes
Safety pins
Clothing that can go from rural to urban without you being embarrassed
Multiple debit/credit cards
Asus EEE PC Netbook

Get in the habit of washing your underwear and socks every night before bed, and having a spare pair so that you aren't forced to wear filthy or wet clothes.
posted by amicamentis at 5:46 AM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Check out farm work abroad
posted by nickrussell at 5:51 AM on January 14, 2011

Response by poster: So helpful thus far...thanks everyone!

In terms of "transportable skills"--what are thoughts on getting TOEFL certified? I looked into a program and it costs something like $1000 to get certified (worth it?).

A couple of people have brought up work visas, do you know if there's a website where I can explore which countries will allow me to work?

Any favorite travel blogs that I MUST stalk?
posted by allymusiqua at 5:53 AM on January 14, 2011

Consider bicycle touring for part of your trip. Read tour journals here to get a sense of the adventure.
posted by conrad53 at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dealing with work visa's may/will be a headache. One thing you may want to try to get around that is sign up for some transcription/proof reading work. Files get emailed to you, you do the necessary work and send in your completed text and some money pops into your bank account back home. Pretty much everywhere you go will have access to internet, and on a couple of hours a day you should be able to do enough work to get by. Another option, if you only need money for food/lodging is to wwoof, although by definition that would take you out of the cities and into the countryside.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:15 AM on January 14, 2011

Look into working holiday visas. That's the term for a visa that allows you to take non-permanent employment in another country. This chart gives you a good idea of where you might be able to arrange a temporary work visa. There's still the challenge of finding work – I spent a year in New Zealand cobbling together a few different jobs: in vineyards, a university, and the power company (the last through a temp agency). It was an amazing year, but it was always tough to find a job. Bunac is one organization that helps people get working holiday visas; there are others as well.
posted by bassjump at 6:57 PM on January 14, 2011

Finding work in three to four different places in just one year will be difficult. Logistically, it's just not enough time to find a meaningful amount of work when you consider the time it takes to job-hunt. I suggest focusing on ONE main job/volunteer opportunity and using that as your departure point for travelling.

Find out where you can get a working holiday visa, and go from there. What country are you from, because that will make a huge difference in what countries you're eligible to work in. EU citizen? You can automatically work in 27 different countries without hassle. US citizen? You'll be a bit more limited so narrow down the countries you're eligible for. From a British commonwealth country? You'll be able to work in any other commonwealth country pretty easily. Check out Wikipedia's working holiday visa page for your options.

Since you have time to prepare, getting English teaching certification is another a good idea. You'll have a good base for working in Asia, especially. I'm thinking about doing this option myself.

To save money and travel in countries where you're not legally eligible to work, you can usually trade work for accommodation in hostels. For a few hours cleaning or reception work per day, many hostels will give you free accommodation. It's an easy way to cut down on a major expense to stretch your dollars (or Euros).

As far as RTW tickets, most people I've met doing this have been strictly travelling (not working). You won't be country-hopping as much as someone who's just travelling, so you probably won't be saving that much in airfare. Buying one-way tickets as you go along is more flexible and will probably cost you the same (or less) as a RTW ticket.

Good luck and happy travels!
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 9:45 PM on January 14, 2011

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