I really don't like these headline/titles. I think it's pretty clear in the question.
April 11, 2007 6:10 PM   Subscribe

What can I do for a month this summer that will get me out of the country, cover my costs, and cover my bills back home?

I am starting a graduate program around the middle of August in the same town where I already live. My temp job is ending June 30th. So essentially I have about a month and a half this summer to do something interesting. I could get a job waiting tables and just dick around for a little while, but that just won’t cut it.

What I really want to do is to go abroad for about a month (ideally Florence, Italy). The catch: it has to be pretty much close to free and would hopefully make me some money. I have to be able to cover about $1600 in household expenses to cover a month of my absence (I can’t sublet, I love my roommate too much to do that to her) and afford airfare and whatever expenses there will be once I get there. In an ideal world, someone would pay me $3000 to housesit in Florence for a month. But since that probably won’t happen I need to come up with ideas of somewhere I can go for a month that will give me $3000 to do it, and put set me up with a free bed in the process. Short of winning the lottery (which I have tried a few times, damn scratch-offs), there is no way I could save even 10% of that amount by the end of June. I looked into au pair programs but those seem to require more time than I have and pay very little.

I know this is a ridiculous hope, and I don’t expect anyone to have any answers, but if you have ANY off the wall ideas to get me out of town (anywhere, I’m presently in NC) for cheap (or for pay!) for a month this summer, let me know. Or if YOU need a housesitter or au pair where ever you are and have $3000 laying around….
posted by greta simone to Work & Money (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You might want to check into being an air courier to get a free or discounted airline ticket. I can't offer any advice on getting paid to chill out in Italy for a month, but I will closely monitor the activity in your post to get some answers for myself!
posted by HotPatatta at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2007


I think there have been at least a few "how do i travel for free?" questions here before. Try the search engine.
posted by rhizome at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2007


I've looked at some of those but they aren't really doing it for me.
posted by greta simone at 6:25 PM on April 11, 2007


if i were nuts enough to want to do this, this is how i would do it, in order:
1) buy plane ticket now: summer prices just go up up up.
2) simplify life and earn money through eBay
3) start learning Italian
4) start looking for a hostel that may be interested in your work for their bed. from what i've heard, you may need to find others who've worked there, have references, or even stay for a while before working at all to prove you're absolutely serious about this
5) use new Italian skills to find other under-the-table work, e.g. bartending.
would it work?! who knows. but at worst you'd be out $3K and have a lot of great moments to relive when you're in the stacks.

but recognize that you want to go in high season, to a country where you have an extraordinarily unfavorable exchange rate, not pay any money, and actually come out around $3,000 ahead to cover the expenses you're missing out on at home. have you considered just having it over with and spending the money on your last huzz-ah before grad school sucks the life out of you?!? also, is august vacation month in italy the way it is in other parts of europe? if so you may be in for additional inconvenience.

Me, I'd give up on Italy and go somewhere cheap, and just suckitupanddeal with the costs.
posted by whatzit at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I really don't like these headline/titles. I think it's pretty clear in the question.

For future reference, the headline/title is used in the RSS feed.
posted by nitsuj at 6:39 PM on April 11, 2007


Oh, thanks nitsuj. I didn't know that.
posted by greta simone at 6:45 PM on April 11, 2007


Seconding whatzit, August -is- the vacation month in Italy.
This sounds like the impossible.
As far as I recall, Italy is pretty strict on non-EU folks working there, and if you/your erstwhile employer get caught, it's lots of red tape and legal trouble.
How shall I put this... if you're trying to do it this cheap, you might not be able to eat. My experience is at least a year out, but the Euro sucked then too.
posted by lilithim at 6:48 PM on April 11, 2007


Do you have a useful skill? Something that people in Italy might pay for? Or are you trying to do this via under the counter table-waiting or being a day laborer? If so, you are hoping to earn more money ($3000 plus food plus lodging plus airfare plus other expenses) than these occupations actually pay. You might be able to do it by working something like three or four jobs at once (at the hostel to pay rent, waiting tables, bartending, and weekends on a construction site or something) but that's a pretty miserable vacation.

On the other hand, if you are a hotshot IT consultant with an EU work permit and lots of contacts, you are probably golden... but then you wouldn't be asking here. Going over and earning enough to keep you afloat is relatively easy, but going over and trying to earn enough to keep two households going is not easy at all.
posted by Forktine at 6:55 PM on April 11, 2007


(I think what we're all trying to say here is that this six week whirl in Firenze will cost you a lot of time, a lot of money, and either way be a challenge to pull off.)
posted by whatzit at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2007


Maybe see if any American universities have summer programs in Italy that need TAs?
posted by k8t at 6:58 PM on April 11, 2007


OK, so since this idea of mine is apparently impossible, anyone have any ideas of ANYWHERE I can do this? A ranch in Reno? A free volunteer program in Prague? Exotic dancer in Demark? I just want to get out of town, and I am shit broke. Am I doomed to never travel because I will probably always be poor due to my future career path?
posted by greta simone at 7:02 PM on April 11, 2007


My husband taught Princeton Review in Bangkok one summer. They paid airfare, room & board (a pretty sweet apartment), and salary while he was there, and he had enough random downtime to travel. I don't think there's a PR office in Chapel Hill (are you in Chapel Hill?), but I'd imagine there's one in Durham, and I know they have programs in a lot of countries.

Last-hurrah it up! And congrats on the grad program.
posted by paleography at 7:27 PM on April 11, 2007


Am I doomed to never travel because I will probably always be poor due to my future career path?

What you lack in funds, you will need to make up for in planning. In the future, plan ahead. Like more than 3 months ahead. Think about house swaps (if you are living alone at some point), house sitting, volunteer positions, temp positions out of town, etc. Start planning 9 months ahead and sell stuff on ebay, pick up freelance gigs here and there, etc.

Also, if your school loans/grants will cover it, take advantage of study abroad programs while you are in school.

It isn't unreasonable to plan for travel on a budget, it is unreasonable to think you'll somehow come out ahead and someone is going to pay for your vacation and cover your expenses back home.

Finally, if you are set on getting away this summer, try finding a WWOOF opportunity in a location you can get to cheaply.
posted by necessitas at 7:43 PM on April 11, 2007


Is it possible you could use your current connections in the fields you are currently working in to secure a chaperone-type position on a school trip/summer program?

Just an idea
posted by thivaia at 8:08 PM on April 11, 2007


Poland is cheap, and it's got visa-free entry for Americans for something like 30 days. Romania and Bulgaria are probably the same or similar, now that they're in the Union. Croatia may be more expensive, since it's got all that beautiful coastline. Ukraine is cheaper than Poland and supposedly has visa-free, but check with a consul because these things change fast. And in Ukraine, you will practically have to speak one of their two languages, whereas the impression I got from Poland was that an English-only traveler could get by OK.
posted by eritain at 2:19 AM on April 12, 2007


Am I doomed to never travel because I will probably always be poor due to my future career path?

Depends what that career path is, and whether it gives you any free time. But why not apply for travel grants, and maybe even plan a semester abroad, while in graduate school? Do research, or study at an Italian university, or do an internship in Italy. Six months or even a year there, paid for by your university, sure beats one month there working three jobs.

But the real way you manage to travel on a low budget is to cut your expenses the rest of the time. $1600/month in rent and utilities seems pretty high to me, if you aren't living in a place like Manhattan, especially if you have a roommate. But if your monthly expenses were more like $800, it would be easy to save up a couple of months of expenses and then travel away. This is a case where you can't really have your cake and eat it too -- something has to give. You can either live the stylish lifestyle at home, or you can have money for travel (unless you have a trustfund, or a high-earning spouse, or you find a way to get paid for travel). And long-term, if travel or living in Italy is really your dream, then make it happen -- but it won't come without some sacrifices and risks.

I have no idea what your skills and background are, but if you are looking for paid ideas that get you out of town for the summer, are you applying to anything? The suggested idea of leading student trips is ok, but most have done their hiring by now, and the pay is really low (you mostly get a free trip out of it, plus some pay), and you need to know an area relatively well. What about temp work in the oil / natural gas sector, whether as a roughneck or a dishwasher? A month on an oil rig in the gulf of Mexico might be different enough from your regular life to be fun. Out west, farms and ranches still hire casual labor, but they mostly want people who have a clue and can do stunningly difficult labor day after day -- still, someone, especially a hippy organic / grass-fed beef / alternative markets producer might think hiring an urban easterner would be fun. Canneries in Alaska still hire, but that is again very very hard work, and a long way from where you are. Lots of tourism jobs up and down the east coast, but mostly lower paid than what you want.

Fundamentally, you will either need to be entrepreneurial and take risks, or work your social networks very hard, or just get lucky. If there was an easy and risk-free way to be paid to travel around and live the easy life, people would already be doing it.
posted by Forktine at 4:13 AM on April 12, 2007


Call Johns Hopkins CTY program and see if they need any teachers anywhere in the country. They have sites all over the place. You could teach, earn $, and have your room and board taken care of.
posted by orangemiles at 7:35 AM on April 12, 2007


But the real way you manage to travel on a low budget is to cut your expenses the rest of the time. $1600/month in rent and utilities seems pretty high to me, if you aren't living in a place like Manhattan, especially if you have a roommate.

No, $1600 is for everything: rent, utilities, car payment, car insurance, health insurance, credit card bills. I mean my basic daily life costs $1600 a month. Which I can still barely afford. I barely spend over $150 on food a month. I have nothing to cut out of my budget.

Also, for those suggesting ebay, I have nothing to sell, save maybe a few old disney soundtracks and some tshirts. Might net me $10.

I already work over 40 hours a week and have a volunteer commitment on the weekends, and I house sit and pet sit and babysit on the side, so I have hardly any time to get another (a third or fourth) job to actually make a few bucks that wouldn't even add up to the $3000 dollars would probably need.

Oh well. I guess my dreams are squandered for now. Maybe in five years when I've had enough time to save $3000.
posted by greta simone at 8:57 PM on April 12, 2007


Also, for those suggesting ebay, I have nothing to sell, save maybe a few old disney soundtracks and some tshirts. Might net me $10.

You don't have to sell YOUR stuff on ebay. What I like to do is go to marshals or tj max and buy obscure designer jeans on clearance (you have to do a bit of ebay research to see what sells best) for $12.99 - 19.99 and then resell them for $40 - 70 (yep, some brands will go for 70 and more because they are typically 125+ in stores. Why people haven't figured out they, too, can buy them at tj max is beyond me. But I'm sure glad they haven't figured it out). I've had success with dresses, shoes and other items of clothing, but it is riskier than jeans. So if you can set aside $20 to try it out, you'll make some money. If you keep recycling $20 back into purchasing stuff, you'll keep making money. No, it isn't a windfall like winning the lottery, but overtime you'll build up some savings for travel (or emergencies).
posted by necessitas at 9:22 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, $1600 is for everything: rent, utilities, car payment, car insurance, health insurance, credit card bills. I mean my basic daily life costs $1600 a month. Which I can still barely afford. I barely spend over $150 on food a month. I have nothing to cut out of my budget.

And I'll repeat, you travel on a limited budget by living cheap the rest of the time, or by making someone else pay for the travel. Getting someone else to pay for the travel is easy in grad school, so you are set for next year; what we are really talking about is a long-term question.

But your monthly costs relative to your income sound kind of high to my biased ears, and you might want to rethink priorities and goals. If your goal is travel, you have to either cut costs or raise your income. Post grad-school, your income will probably rise, but people commonly raise their expenses by at least as much, and at least for the first few years don't actually end up much ahead.

Another way to think about this is that at many universities in the US, a fully-funded PhD stipend / TA-ship pays about $1600 per month (the range is probably from about $1200 to $2000, more in the better funded fields like engineering, maybe more in expensive cities like NYC); sometimes health insurance is included and sometimes it isn't; sometimes subsidized housing is available but often not. So you have a group where everyone is earning about the same amount, and some of them are poor all the time and supplementing with loans and gifts from family, and other people are putting money in the bank and traveling all the time. The difference comes in things like car payments, credit card debt, ability to have fun on a limited budget, entrepreneurship at scrounging up additional funding, etc -- my point is that it is not your income that is the limiting factor here.
posted by Forktine at 9:24 PM on April 12, 2007


If you attended university at any time in the last 6 months, you are eligible for the Bunac program. It has opportunities for working and volunteering all over the world. I came to England under the program (and ended up staying, but that's a long story) but with your budget issues I would recommend staying far, far away from Western Europe. Anyway, I paid about 300$ for the visa, 700$ for airfare, and I borrowed 1000$ from my parents to get me by until I found work (and that wasn't close to enough, I had to have them wire me money more than once before I got on my feet). I think that unless you stay in the US, 1500-2000$ is the minimum you can expect to spend for any endeavor of this kind, even if it's a volunteer or work opportunity.
posted by Wroksie at 1:04 AM on April 13, 2007


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