People often ask me how I manage to travel so much, or look astonishingly at me when I recount the last two years of my life. Well, first I was in China, then Ireland, then China again, then the U.S., now Prague and soon, London. For some people, that’s a lot of moving. Too much maybe. For others, it’s living the dream.
Traveling is a big commitment and if you’ve got the wanderlust but aren’t sure how to make your dreams a reality yet, there are a lot of considerations. First you have to have a goal, or several. What sort of traveler do you want to be? There are lots of ways to make travel into a lifestyle, and not all of them work for everyone. Maybe you don’t want to be a full time expat but still want to travel regularly. Or maybe the call of the wild makes you giddy and you want to jump on the next plane out of your current life. Maybe you’re somewhere in between.
Figuring out your style and goals is probably the most difficult aspect of realizing your travel dreams. Once you’ve got that down, it’s just the simple matters of finding funds, figuring out how to incorporate your career into your travels (or between them), planning, packing and going!
This is the most difficult aspect of travel. You need to find a level of travel commitment you’re comfortable with, and this will determine your travel goals and how you incorporate travel into your lifestyle. Ask yourself these few questions to help narrow things down:
1. Do you like your current job and want to have a home base where you are now?
2. Do you want to A)live abroad or B)just go for short trips? Maybe something in-between, such as a short stint of several weeks or months abroad before returning home?
3. If A) is there a business or “work-from-home” scenario you can imagine yourself doing, and do you have those skills?
4. What are you willing to give up in order to travel?
There are no right or wrong answers here. These are just questions that will help you sort out what kind of traveler you really want to be. Armed with this information, you can begin to plan.
This is, of course, the most common type of traveler because it requires the least amount of upheaval. What it does require, though, is a lot of sacrifice. Unless you are a super high-buck stock broker or family rich – not me – then you’re going to have to save up to make your travel dreams a reality. You might have to give up fancy dinners out for awhile to grow your travel fund, or perhaps forgo growing your Blu-ray collection. Fancy TV or travel? It’s up to you.
If you’re a creative type and your feet are constantly itching to move, you can join the world of digital nomads. More and more people are starting to jump on the wagon of being “location independent”, meaning they work from their laptops anywhere in the world. If your job or skills are transportable (very common in this digital age), this might be easy for you. From writing to web design to marketing, lots of jobs are now transportable, giving you the option of working on the go. Maybe your current job would even offer you the possibility of working from home, meaning you could literally travel the world as you go. To make this work, though, you need to be the type of person that thrives on making your own schedule and can actively seeking freelance work.
This is a great option for people that want to get away from the humdrum of the everyday for a few weeks or months and experience what it’s like to live abroad, but without the full commitment of actually selling everything and moving. There are some great ways to travel like this. Voluntourism is one. Numerous NGO’s and organizations around the world accept volunteers on short and medium-term bases, and you can find yourself doing anything from building a house in Nepal to teaching orphans in India or working with rescued jungle animals in Africa. Sites like Voluntourism.org offer great advice and lists of organizations for volunteers.
Study abroad is another way to get yourself overseas for a few weeks or months, and you don’t have to be a college student to do so. People of all ages can enroll in short term language courses, TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification programs or specialized skill courses, such as cooking classes, in exotic locales around the world. GoAbroad.com has some great resources for this, including program listings and links.
Like me, you might really want to give up the ghost and go live abroad. For some, this begins with their jobs at home, when they are offered the chance to take up a post in a foreign country. If you work for a large corporation and desperately want to go live abroad, check out their international job listings or speak to a human resources rep to find out about your options. If you don’t currently work for a big corporation, there are still plenty of options for you. Starting out with the Short-term Expat options above is a good way to go. You can also consider teaching English abroad. Many countries actively recruit native English speakers for teaching posts starting from 6-months and going to 1 year or indefinitely. East Asia, especially China, Korea and Japan, are hotspots for teaching English right now, and while you might not make a heap of savings, you will be offered a huge salary by local standards and live a really rewarding lifestyle.
For more information about teaching English in China, check out Megan’s book, This Is China: A Guidebook for Teachers, Backpackers and Other Lunatics.