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Living the dream: Living and working abroad

Updated on April 2, 2017
How would you like this to be where you go for post work drinks?
How would you like this to be where you go for post work drinks? | Source
How about this for the view from your work station?
How about this for the view from your work station?

The world is getting smaller. With air travel as cheap as it's ever been and the recession stuttering on and off in a seemingly never ending and very boring cautionary tale about banking, it's easy to dream about running away from your commute and tedious job. We all have the ideal image in our heads of sitting on a tropical beach, supping margaritas and chowing down on the best BBQ fish at a fraction of the price we pay at home. But what's stopping you? Debts? Family and friends? Fear of the unknown? Maybe it's time to face the fear and live the dream... There are many ways to travel the world and many reasons why the things you think are holding you back simply are not.

Firstly, travel is as easy as it's ever been. There are ways to get from a to b for cheaper than you think. And secondly, finding work abroad, and by abroad I'm saying the developing world, is actually fairly straightforward, sometimes more so than in our home countries. How so?

It's probably true that the single biggest outlay you will make when you go travelling is your flight. But you can keep the cost down in several ways; the date of your departure and the destination. Flying during popular seasons such as school holidays, Christmas, new year and notorious tourist periods is bound to raise the price of your flight. Try and be adaptable with your departure, check sites such as skyscanner or speak to a reputable travel agent (don't let them pressure you with the talk of having to book your ticket within 24 hours though, they all say that!) and you will find a good deal. Sometimes booking a flight within a week or even 48 hours of departure can yield a seriously good deal on flights. Another option is to be flexible on your arrival city. Are you going to Asia? Is it cheaper to fly to Kuala Lumpur than it is Bangkok? For Europe maybe its cheaper to fly into Frankfurt than it is Rome or Paris? Being flexible can be the difference between several hundred dollars.

So you've arrived, you have a limited amount of money and you don't want to go back home anytime soon. This is where the fun starts. Of course it all depends on you and your work skills and experience, your personality and even your hobbies. Maintaining focus is important in the early stages, resisting the urge to go and party or spend money sightseeing. If you're in it for the long haul you'll need to be disciplined, set yourself up first and the rest will follow. But what to do and where to look for work in a foreign land?


A common career choice for native English speakers is working as a teacher, normally a job that's easy to find in most developing countries from Asia to South America to Africa. Even if you don't have a TEFL or a CELTA certificate there are ways to find teaching jobs, but there are a million posts about this on the internet, so we shall continue looking for the more unorthodox (but legal!) methods.


Musical skills such as playing instruments, being a DJ or a singer are often good ways to find work quickly, and often well paid! From Hong Kong to Rio, it's possible with a bit of persistence and a little luck to land on your feet. As an aspiring DJ in Asia I hustled various bars, got phone numbers, met random people in obscure parts of town and ended up playing several gigs that paid me well and ensured my stay in Thailand was longer than it could have been had I not done so. Of course the major tourist spots are where you'll need to look, places like Bangkok, Sihanoukville or Siam Reap in Cambodia, Mui Ne or Saigon in Vietnam, Penang in Malaysia. If there are tourists drinking you can find a job in entertainment. I have heard of people who have busked in Japan and Korea and made a small fortune, or at least enough to pay for food and digs.

Play it by ear...

Not being a teacher or having no musical skill is no hindrance though. On my travels I met an Australian couple who ran a pub crawl company in the Islands of Thailand, expat bar managers and bar staff from all corners of the globe in every city, a travel agent from Poland working in Bangkok, showing Polish and Russian businessmen the sights of the city of smiles, various graphic designers and even the odd entrepreneur shipping items around the world for a fee. There are literally no limits to the jobs you can find, but it comes down to time and place. It's good to do some research from home but you need to be there to in with a chance.

Carpe diem!

The thing is, we all have excuses why we can't go; our job, our friends, even having children. When it comes to children this is less of an issue than one might think. Children adapt better than adults to things like new environments and will probably learn the local language better than you! Having children schooled abroad is also often no issue as there are a lot of foreign schools in all the worlds major cities. Places like the Dubai, major Asian cities and large South American cities will all have English language schools or even local schools with English speaking teachers. With the amount of English teachers out there in the world there is even the option to have them home schooled, often for a fraction of the price it would cost at home, of course.

Of course anyone can follow their dreams anywhere in the world now. Emigrating to somewhere like Australia or New Zealand is an industry and a path that thousands of people follow. Running your own bar on the beach in the Philippines or your own web design company in Buenos Aires is a dream that can be fulfilled with a bit of determination, a little bit of pocket money and a bit of luck. And, if it does all go wrong, you can always go home!

In my own experience I have seen so many people succeed abroad, simply by deciding to try their luck. Some have taken skills from home, others were just in the right place at the right time and spoke to the right guy. There is truth to the adage too, it's not what you know, it's who you know. And this is a thing that will happen naturally once you put yourself in situ. Simply by being in a travel environment you will meet people in the same metaphorical boat as you, people who are also looking for a better life. By their very nature the people you are meeting in these circumstances will be open minded and adventurous, just like you!

The truth is there is nothing holding you back. I left to go travelling with around $2000, money I saved in six months. While away I earned more than that by DJ'ing and people I know are still living the dream on tropical islands and exotic cities bathed in sunshine, beautiful people and high life living for cheap. The only thing that is stopping you from following your dreams is you. Just remember, it's better to try even if you fail then never to try at all.


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