“I wish I could do what you’re doing!”
“You’re so lucky your parents pay for all that!”
“Must be nice to not have to work!”
These are just a few of the things I’ve heard over the past 7 months while I’ve been living and working abroad. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have parents feeding me money each month and I wasn’t simply vacationing for all that time. I took the time to plan, save, and find ways to make money abroad instead of draining my savings account. And here’s the kicker…I’m in $20,000 of student debt and managed to maintain payments on it and not accrue anymore! There are seriously so many ways to make it work if you really want it to. I’m here to tell you how to make it happen. I just booked a flight to Iceland, as well as planning 2 other trips as I type this!
Rewards Credit Cards
Before you click out of this for even suggesting this as an option, seriously consider more research on the topic. I’m not going to suggest getting yourself in any sort of debt in order to earn miles or anything like that, but to find a card that works for you. I use the Chase Sapphire card and it has worked WONDERS for me, but I think I’ll have to dedicate an entire post to the world of how to use travel friendly credit cards to your advantage.
Get a Job
DUH! I worked two (well, technically three) jobs across 7 months and easily made a living off of them. The first 4 months I spent as an au pair and the following three as a tour guide across Europe. Both the jobs provided free accommodation (usually the most expensive part of living) and a weekly stipend.
Au Pairing 101:
I have another post on this that delves more into my experience the first month on the job if you’re interested in that, but for now I’ll give you the basics. It’s typically a situation where you become somewhat of a live-in nanny for lack of better words. It is incredibly situational and I suggest beginning to talk to families months in advance. I started looking around March and did not secure the family I went to until end of July. It entailed me picking up the girls I lived with from school, helping them study, reading with them, speaking to them only in English, etc. Some families want this – more of a culture and language exchange, and some want more of a housekeeper/babysitter role.
I went to Madrid, Spain for 3 months and looked after 3 girls who quickly became like my little sisters. I worked afternoons and some nights and made 70 Euro a week. I had mornings and weekends off and it was such a good experience. My next family I au paired for was in London and was completely different. I was definitely more of a babysitter and found myself with little to no time off. I was watching a one year old and became completely stressed out and quickly realized which situation I preferred.
In both positions I had more than enough pocket money to sustain my travel and shopping needs, as food and accommodation were included as part of the job!
Becoming a Tour Guide:
So this is really when my traveling started picking up. Once I knew I could no longer handle being besties with a baby, I packed my bags and headed to Florence, Italy. I moved in with 11 strangers and had a boss in another country. It was one of the weirdest positions I’ve put myself in to this day, but it totally paid off. This was the deal: promote the company and our trips to students studying abroad and you get to lead and go on the trips for free. You get a promo code and basically the more you sell, the more you earn. I didn’t really put forth my best effort in selling the trips since I knew I was heading home halfway through the semester, but some of my coworkers made serious $$$$! I got 50 Euro a week and then paid for sales twice a semester.
The housing was free, the people were amazing, the 15 hour bus rides will definitely stick in my brain for years to come but this was essentially study abroad without the studying. I wholeheartedly do not suggest committing to this job unless you do have a bit of money saved up however. It’s Italy. You’re going to want to eat out, drink 5 days out of the week, see new places, etc. A coworker there is now doing essentially the same thing over in Bali, so if Europe isn’t your thing look elsewhere!
WWOOFing, Volunteering, Working at Hostels, etc.
I cannot give too much perspective on these as I have not done them, but I do know the stories of several people that have. WWOOFing is unpaid work. You pick a place…say, a vineyard somewhere, help with the work required, and you stay for free. Depending on the place each one will have its own pros and cons.
My friend is on her gap year before college and has now au paired, worked at a hostel in Puerto Rico, and helped out at a camp in Colorado.My sister worked at a surf camp in Costa Rica and on a farm in Nicaragua. Work is literally everywhere if you want to travel!
This is the one that I am still trying to conquer. I joined an online community called Digital Nomad Girls and quickly had my eyes opened to thousands of girls working from their computers across the world. These are not all customer service, run of the mill jobs either. I’d see posts from graphic designers in Portugal, Virtual assistants in Chiang Mai, Freelancers in Mexico, you name it! So I’m currently on the hunt to secure an online only position…at least for the time being. Any suggestions are appreciated 😉
Soooo, there are all my secret or, not so secret ways I’ve been seeing the world for the past few months! No help from my parents, no crazy things I had to do to earn money, just knowing where to look!