10 Jobs That Let You Travel the World While You Work
Eric Reed — Moral Compass
“How do they do it?”
You might have asked yourself that a few times on vacation, enjoying a Mai Tai or corralling your luggage at some far-flung tropical destination. You saved for months to take this trip, but across the café/bar/plaza, rocking a laptop in his shorts and sandals, is a fellow traveler who has been on the road for months (or even years). Welcome to the world of the digital nomad.
Historically there haven’t been many ways to work while traveling. Pouring drinks was one of the best-case employment scenarios for globe-trotting adventurers of yore. These days, with the expansion of the internet and globalization, all of that has changed, and determined travelers can build a career while seeing the sights—though working with clients and employers back home requires they approve of that remote status, too.
Interested? Here are 10 of the most popular jobs for the full-time traveler, in no particular order.
Work in this industry doesn’t have to be limited to cheesy bars in tourist towns, though that’s obviously an option. Rather than setting your sights fairly low and hustling for tips at hostel-set hotspots like Angkor What?, think Hilton. Think Four Seasons. Think Michelin stars. Think career.
For hospitality professionals, globalization means that industry giants have properties all around the world and overseas transfers are absolutely a possibility, if you ask. Most major hotel chains have developed programs to send employees to their international properties, meaning that you can start a career in Florida and end up the night manager in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, local restaurants and hotels frequently take international employees. Entire master’s programs cater to global students interested in the upper echelons of this sector. This isn’t just an industry for kids trying to scrape by, it’s a career path for passionate food and wine connoisseurs who also love to travel.
Online Marketing/Social Media Manager
Most travel bloggers also offer their services as marketing gurus. It makes sense, after all, as running a successful blog in this oversaturated field requires quite a bit of marketing savvy.
Online marketing often involves content writing, overseeing social media accounts, SEO management and more, all of which can be done from just about anywhere. As a result, these jobs have become incredibly popular for the global set.
The last time I was in Krabi, a port town in southern Thailand, I met a guy who traveled around town on a motorcycle with two portable hard drives on his person at all times. One night I asked him what the deal was, and he explained that he wrote security code for several banks and never wanted to let the software out of his sight. Now, not everybody has to be as much of a road warrior as my friend in Thailand—most coder nomads do much more standard work.
Web development involves a lot more design than programming does. In addition to knowing code, a web developer needs an eye for style and layout, and the good ones are always in demand.
Writing computer code and designing for the web (unsurprisingly) happens solely on one’s computer, while email and cloud services make delivering the final product seamless.
Some developing countries host hundreds or thousands of organizations dedicated to projects like food distribution, education, water purification, mine removal, and more. At their best, NGOs can run tight, effective programs that step in where governments do not. But do your due diligence and make sure the organization makes a responsible impact before you sign on.
Note too that this is quite a bit different than “voluntourism,” which, of course, does not pay and is not a career. A formal job with programs like Kiva, OxFam, or the United Nations can create real change, looks great on a resume, and allows for relatively easy vacations within the region you’re based. These jobs can be competitive, so if you’re really interested, consider getting a related degree or at least good experience in your home country first.
These days there are lots of ways to work as a writer and a lot of people making a living doing it. Interestingly, most of them don’t involve traditional journalism.
Some people create content for corporate websites, others write ad copy, some run blogs. The possibilities are too long to fully list here, but none involve actually sitting in the same room as your editor.
The catch? Most people start with the two hardest options: journalism and travel blogs. Journalism demands the kind of flexibility that digital nomads rarely have. Putting together a news story requires interviews, phone calls, and often real-time responses under deadlines that are very difficult to meet from the other side of the world. Meanwhile, travel blogs can be a great form of passive income, but getting one off the ground requires patience, perseverance, and a whole lot of self-promotion.
Customer Service Agent
As the digital age expands, more and more companies choose to interact with their customers exclusively online. Businesses like Uber, Apple, and many others conduct much of their customer service via email and online chat, leading to a distributed workforce of agents who may work from home.
And in most cases, if you can work from home you can also work from anywhere, though your motivations should, of course, be discussed with your employer in advance.
One of the hardest parts about starting a new business is after the majority of the heavy lifting is finished, but no real profits have been made. For someone sinking their time, sweat, and money into launching a startup, it’s tough to spend all your time on a business that isn’t yet paying rent, and living abroad could make those lean times quite a bit easier.
One of the realities of being a digital nomad is that you can live a lot cheaper abroad than at home. Costs of living in a place like Bangkok, Delhi, or Cusco are rock bottom compared to an American city.
That’s not just a nice perk. It can make starting your business far more plausible than it ever would be back home, because you’ll need a lot less money to keep the lights on before you turn your first profit.
If you know more than one language, translating could be a unique and lucrative way to see the world on someone else’s dime.
Companies, universities, and individuals hire translators on a regular basis, and written work is almost always remote. This is a job for people who love their language skills and don’t mind burying themselves in a laptop while they transcribe boring documents like contracts and ledgers.
If you aren’t able to keep your eyes open reading through and translating thousands and thousands of words, you can still use your gift for languages to travel. In-person translating can offer the social traveler a way to see the world, meet new people, and hone and grow their skills. Legal aid programs across the world, for example, commonly hire translators to help communicate with immigrant communities, while businesses often bring in translators to help facilitate meetings or intra-office social events.
Developing a specialty will be your friend here. Global companies, governments, and universities always need people to help bridge the language gap, and fluency with an industry’s specific terms will really make you stand out from the crowd. Market yourself well and you can build a vibrant professional network.
Since many companies require graphic design work but don’t need someone full time, graphic designers often work as freelancers, delivering their finished products digitally. For them, living abroad could be as easy as buying a plane ticket and letting everyone know they’ll be out of pocket for a day or two. Even designers with a fixed employer may be able to negotiate working abroad.
Like NGO work, one of the problems with teaching English abroad is that it often comes in two forms. There’s the tourist version, where people with no experience teach classes they set up themselves, moving from place to place and often taking advantage of wealthy locals instead of doing any serious instruction.
Then there’s the professional version. If you’re serious about teaching, have a degree or a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate, and are willing to stay in one place for at least a few months at a time, teaching English abroad in this way can be an extraordinary opportunity. This is a career-building job that you can take back home and apply to future teaching or management careers, and in many countries the pay is above average and includes housing, allowing English teachers to save quite a bit of money while they live abroad.
Or maybe corralling a classroom isn’t your thing, in which case individual tutoring might be a better choice. In some countries it’s even more common than teaching classes.
Be warned, however: This is not an easy job nor is it one where you can just show up for your designated hours and expect to thrive. But for someone who wants to be a teacher and is a people person, it’s a great way to see the world.