Dreaming of a job that pays you to travel? Who doesn’t? Competition is stiff and salaries aren’t always something to write home about, but here’s our pick of the best jobs to turn that daydream into reality.
Yes, flight attendants travel the world but short haul staff rarely leave their destination airport. If you’re hoping for long layovers in exotic locations apply to a major airline serving long haul destinations. Several days on a Thai beach or exploring Hong Kong is a bonus but cabin crew also get generous travel benefits so you, and often family members, can fly at greatly reduced rates on your days off. Customer service experience, fluent English and the ability to swim 25m are essential. Jobs are generally advertised directly by the airlines who also provide about six weeks of training. Try aviationjobsearch.com or cabincrew.com for more information.
More a lifestyle choice than a fortune maker, work as a tour leader offers unparalleled opportunities to see the world. Whether you’re dreaming of a seniors’ coach trip through Tuscany or an epic overland voyage across Asia, you’ll need oodles of enthusiasm and patience, strong leadership skills and plenty of travel experience. Mechanical skills, first aid, a foreign language, a geography or history of art degree, and possibly a PCV (passenger carrying vehicle) driving licence are also useful. Above all though, you’ll need a positive, can-do attitude; your boss and support team will be thousands of miles away and you’ll be on call 24/7. Most companies such as Explore (explore.co.uk/about-us/jobs) advertise vacancies on their own websites and it’s a distinct advantage to have taken a trip with the company you intend to apply to.
Sometimes billed as the last hope for the directionless, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) lets you work practically anywhere in the world. The pay is good, jobs often come with flights and accommodation provided, you’ll meet plenty of locals and have time to soak up the culture. Contracts can be for as little as a few months or up to a year or more. For the best jobs you’ll need a degree plus a TEFL qualification. CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) qualifications are often preferred and typically take about four weeks to complete. For more information see tefl.com.
Know your genitive from your subjunctive? Your imperative from your vocative? If you’ve got true fluency in at least two languages then work as an interpreter can take you all over the world. Interpreters are needed at political and business meetings, international conventions and conferences, in court rooms and hospitals, refugee camps and multinational companies. Although you’ll generally be based in one location you can easily see the world on a series of short contracts. You’ll need a language degree, a qualification in interpreting and specialist knowledge of science, politics, law or economics. More information from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (iti.org.uk), the American Translators Association (atanet.org) or the Australian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (aiti.edu.au).
Cruise ship crew
Like to spend your winter cruising around Hawaii and your summer exploring the Norwegian fjords? Luxury cruisers have jobs for everyone from cooks and cleaners to nursery staff, musicians, fitness instructors and beauty therapists. If you’ve got a recognised qualification and experience in customer services or hospitality you’re well placed to start earning as you cruise. Many companies advertise vacancies on their own sites or try cruiseshipjob.com or allcruisejobs.com.
Roadie or techie
Although it’s not all screaming groupies and wild orgies, working as a sound or lighting technician on tour is still pretty darn cool. If you can land a job with a big name artist you’ll get to visit major cities across several continents, but there’s a lot of time on the road and not so much time to explore. Courses for lighting and sound technicians take one to three years but you’ll need plenty of experience and a lot of luck or good contacts to clinch a plum job. Find more information on courses at londonamp.com or performing-arts.org.uk in the UK, NYU Steinhardt (steinhardt.nyu.edu/
It’s not the easiest way to earn a living and income is never guaranteed, but photojournalists, landscape and travel photographers see some of the most beautiful and harrowing parts of the world while at work. Options for travel are endless and many photographers direct their own projects as well as working on commission. A photography degree will take three years to complete but formal qualifications are less important than a good eye and demonstrable talent. For some great hints and tips check out journalismdegree.com/photojournalism-career.
A classic way to travel, learn a language and experience a new culture, working as an au pair won’t earn you big bucks but will provide you with a roof over your head, food and plenty of time to explore. Au pairs are needed all over the world and work is often part time. Some experience in childcare is beneficial but a personality match and positive attitude will be far more of a deal maker when searching for a family. Sites such as greataupair.com and aupairworld.com advertise jobs in numerous countries making it easy to string contracts together to work your way around the globe.
Virtual assistants work from home on a freelance basis doing admin work for small businesses, but who’s to say where home is? With a reliable phone and internet connection you could work from almost anywhere. To set yourself up as a virtual assistant you’ll need at least five years experience working in a senior administration role in an office environment. Companies such as timeetc.co.uk in the UK, US-based Zirtual (zirtual.com) and the Australian Virtual Assistant Association (avaa.asn.au) may be a good place to get some initial experience. But if you’re planning to travel you’ll need to research the market at your target destination or set up your business at home first, build a client base and when you’re sure of a steady work flow, hit the road.
The quest for beauty is universal and women, particularly in expat communities, like to be treated by someone who speaks their own language, shares their sense of style and understands their requests. Although you’ll have to travel on spec in most cases, there are job opportunities from Delhi to Dubai, as well as on luxury liners and in holiday villages worldwide. You’ll need a recognised qualification and salon experience before you travel. Take a look at hairandbeautyjobs.com for an idea of what’s available.
Ski or scuba instructor
Fancy half a year in Whistler and the other half in Wanaka? Winters on the Gili Islands and summers in the Red Sea? Ski and scuba buffs can live the dream by qualifying as an instructor. You’ll need a Level 2 qualification (15 days of coursework and 70 hours practical experience) from the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (basi.org.uk) to teach snowsports internationally, or a PADI (padi.com) Divemaster qualification followed by an Instructor Development Course and a minimum of 100 dives to teach scuba diving.
Winters in the Caribbean, summers in the Med, what’s not to like about crewing on a yacht? Everyone from cooks and nannies to engineers and captains are needed by those lucky enough to sail their way around the world. Although you’ll get to see new ports every few days, casual crew on recreational vessels often don’t get paid so it’s worth having some recognised qualifications if you want to earn as you travel. Courses run by the Royal Yachting Association (rya.org.uk) range from basic skills up to Yachtmaster but time on the water and experience in a variety of conditions are essential. You’ll find jobs advertised on crewseekers.net or findacrew.net.
If you’re interested in organic farming and willing to volunteer your time for approximately 4-6 hours a day, you’ll get food, board and an insight into local life on a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) exchange. There are WWOOF hosts right across the globe from banana plantations in Costa Rica to rice farms in China, even in Swedish Lapland close to Arvidsjauran artists’ eco village (learn more on wwoof.se/host-list). You can work for a few days or a few months and can search opportunities on wwoof.net.
Traditionally, higher professionals find it difficult to transfer their skills abroad but international aid agencies are always looking for suitably qualified staff to run operations in developing or disaster-hit countries. Placements are often in rural areas and conditions can be basic. Médecins Sans Frontières (msf.org.uk) places logicians, nutritionists, pharmacists, biomedical scientists, financial controllers and HR professionals as well as a broad range of medical staff.
Know a Kremlin colonel from a Moscow mule? Practically every student has done some bar work and it’s a good way to travel despite low pay and unsocial hours, but if you want to get your foot in the door at the very best establishments worldwide it’s well worth having some professional training. City & Guilds (cityandguilds.com) offers a 60-hour professional bartending course in the UK, the New York Bartending School (newyorkbartendingschool.com) has similar 40-hour courses, while BarMax (barmax.com.au) runs training around Sydney. Along with some experience, a course can mean the difference between pulling pints in a phony Irish bar and serving cocktails at five-star hotels.
Last updated in February 2017.