I was born into a U.S. military family, which meant that we moved and traveled together often. When I began traveling on my own as an adult, I realized that the duration of my stays overseas would be constrained to my budget and my ability to acquire the appropriate visas. I wasn’t able to rely on my father’s military job to stay in Europe for years at a time anymore. I had to come up with creative ways to find work, free accommodation, or acquire alternative-type visas.

The question I get asked most regularly about how I’ve spent my twenties almost entirely on the road is “How do you afford staying abroad?”, and I get it! Most people have student loans, car payments, and other bills that require a steady stream of income. Others might have the financial independence to go overseas but aren’t sure how to lengthen their stay beyond the regular tourist visa allocated time frame.

There is no secret to my lifestyle. I don’t have a money tree or a seven-figure inheritance, at least not that I know of. I simply saved money and, with a bit of research, I’ve found a multitude of ways to earn an income while abroad, cut costs, and stay longer. These are the 7 of the ways I managed to go abroad and stay long-term.

Girl Inca Trail Tara on the Inca Trail with local guides to support community-based tourism.

STUDY ABROAD

I remember the days of eating Top Ramen while hitting the library late at night, saving every penny so that one day I could head out into the world to travel further and tick off more items from my bucket list. One day, a flyer caught my eye in the student union and I realized I didn’t need to wait any longer–I could study abroad.

I spoke with my advisor, filled out the application, and prepared myself to work on my degree in New Zealand. I started Silly Little Kiwi as a way to keep my family in-the-know as I was on the other side of the world, which opened up more doors for international travel later down the road.

Studying abroad gave me the ability to make lifelong friends, progress towards earning my Bachelor’s degree, and travel across a new country–all without having to worry about fitting my stay into a measly week-long mid-term break. I had the necessary time to really see the country and understand the inner workings of the culture by living in New Zealand on a proper student visa.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

There are endless opportunities to study overseas, though acquiring a higher education anywhere is an immense privilege. Requirements vary–typically, you must be a university student who is currently enrolled in a degree program. Most schools offer programs for both undergraduates and graduates, so the opportunities aren’t limited to those working towards a four-year degree. You’ll need to meet with your academic advisor to see what study abroad programs are offered by your university for your degree.

Paying for university can be overwhelmingly stressful and leaves many believing that studying abroad is not an option. I’ll admit, it can be costly. I was studying at a small, private school in the U.S. on a running scholarship when I decided to jump across the Pacific to finish up my degree, which seemed ridiculous given the cost I was taking on to do it all.

To justify the expense, I contemplated what I’d be gaining. Studying abroad gives you the chance to see how education systems in other countries work. It also allows you to experience a different culture in an immersive way. You’ll be living, studying, and creating a life for yourself for an elongated period of time.

Are there ways to make it affordable? Yes! First, many universities offer “sister school” programs. This means you’ll pay the same tuition you do at the school you are currently enrolled in, avoiding pesky international student fees. It also means that any existing scholarships you have will be honored.

There are also study abroad scholarships. Most Universities have a faculty member that is required to help those interested in studying abroad find affordable avenues to study abroad. Talk with your school’s faculty member and discuss your options at length.

I can personally recommend USAC’s study abroad programs, as it’s the program I used to study abroad. USAC clearly mapped each step of the application process out for me and offered 24-hour support while I was abroad. USAC also offered resources for those who experience reverse culture shock when returning to their home university.

BECOME AN AU PAIR

After studying abroad, I wanted to stay in New Zealand. Unfortunately, I knew that visa red tape would make obtaining a 9-to-5 office job difficult and expensive. Instead of applying for traditional office roles, I became an au pair. I lived with a single mother who was a CEO and took care of her five-year-old son. During my year as an au pair, I was given plenty of time off to travel around New Zealand and I earned an income that helped fund my trips!

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

An au pair is a nanny who lives with a family while looking after their children. The process of finding an au pair position is incredibly easy. Create an Au Pair profile on a recruiting site, like AuPairWorld, and you’ll be able to communicate with thousands of families looking for the right person to care for their children. Families will contact you through the recruitment site and arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview where they’ll ask you questions about your interest in the country, experience with children, and overall expectations for living arrangements and wages. It’s during this interview that you’ll get the chance to ask all the questions you have about their family culture and the country they live in.

Meals are usually covered by the family hosting you, as well as accommodation (since you’ll be living with them). This cuts your cost of living down to nearly nothing. Wages for au pairs can be a bit low, but if you aren’t paying for food or rent it’s a decent way to earn some money while living overseas and exploring a foreign country.

Every au pair opportunity comes with different housing arrangements but at the end of the day you will be living with the family you are working for, which is sometimes tricky. It’s also important to ask all the questions you have about what’s expected before you make your move. Does the family expect you to help with language practice? This is common for au pair positions in parts of Europe, South America, and Asia where English isn’t the native language. Will you have to share a bedroom or a bathroom? Sharing spaces might seem like no big deal at first, but after some time you might want your privacy.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A WORKING HOLIDAY VISA SCHEME

Those between 18-30 years of age from the United States, certain countries in the European Union, and the can enjoy a working visa for up to a year in places like New Zealand and Australia. I did the program when I wanted to return to New Zealand and wasn’t able to secure a sponsored job, which is when a company pays for your work visa fees. Typically, these jobs are in retail, agricultural labor, or very basic front desk administration.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

There are many, many stipulations to these visas, but they are easy and free to acquire. One example of these obstacles is the six-month rule that applies to the working scheme in New Zealand and Australia. While you can stay for a year, every six months you must find a new job to work.

UTILIZE WORKAWAY OPPORTUNITIES

Another big step for me to become a freelancer was laid in front of me thanks to a call for travel writers on Workaway. In exchange for writing content for a newly launched website in Hoi An, Vietnam, I was able to stay in a nice house with a huge bedroom and clean bathroom all to myself. I was given a small food stipend and had the opportunity to attend yoga and Muay Thai classes for free.

I only wrote a few hours each day and had more than enough time to explore the city I was in with new friends I made along the way. While I wasn’t being paid for my writing outrightly, on top of the money I saved with comped accommodation and food, my experience doing a work exchange with a  Workaway host prepared me for many paid writing gigs.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

You have to create a Workaway account to view and apply for Workaway opportunities. Registration and membership cost USD $38 for an individual and USD $48 for a couple. By registering with Workaway, you’ll get access to all the listed opportunities that exist in 184 countries around the world. Other sites to consider are Worldpackers, WOOF, and HelpX. The responsibility to obtain a visa to enter the country you work in rests upon you, so make sure you plan accordingly.

TEACH ENGLISH ABROAD

Girl in China Tara living her best life in China.

Teaching English in China was a fairly simple way to earn a ridiculously good wage, something I sorely needed after working in Laos with an NGO. Switching from a project coordinator role in the world of philanthropy to teaching in urban China was like jumping from one planet to another. I had already acquired a TEFL while working as a project coordinator in Laos. I enjoyed being in a classroom, creating curriculum, and meeting language milestones with Lao students.

I saw too many people coming over to China to live overseas and earn good money. They’d party away their earnings and spend mornings in the classroom hungover and half-present. It’s because of this that I only recommend teaching English to those who enjoy children and are interested in careers in education. I am keenly aware of the responsibility that comes with teaching and working with young learners. You should contemplate the weight of that responsibility before signing up to teach overseas because what you do in a classroom creates opportunities for those sitting in it.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

Requirements for an ethical English teaching role overseas should include wanting to teach and work with children, having a TEFL or CELTA certification, and having a Bachelor’s degree. It’s preferred in most countries that your Bachelor’s degree be in English or Education (especially in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Japan), but there are still some places where any degree will do (South Korea, China, and the Czech Republic, just to name a few).

Your salary will vary widely depending on your experience and desired location. For instance, you earn as little as USD $800 a month in Vietnam and Thailand if you’re a first-time teacher but you can earn upwards of USD $2,500 with the same experience in China. The cost of living in China is higher than Vietnam or Thailand. Those with TEFL certifications often make less than those with CELTA.

Cultural differences need to be factored into your decision for teaching position locations. For example, those wanting to teach in the Middle East, should know that many schools require their teachers to wear traditional, conservative dress. The expat communities in this region are also typically made up of families with children who are more settled.

OPPORTUNITIES TO WRITE

After obtaining a working visa in China and determining teaching wasn’t for me, I decided to follow my passion for travel writing. I had always been afraid to take the necessary steps towards writing professionally but, in China, I had finally decided I’d never know if I could write for a living if I never took a chance.

I noticed an expat magazine in a cafe, got brave, and emailed the editor to ask if they offered internships or if there was space for a contributing writer. Almost immediately, the editor replied inviting me to come to the head office for coffee, intrigued by my reaching out. After an hour-long discussion about what I wanted to write and why I wanted to write, the publication took a chance on my ability to write. The best part was that I was given a well-rounded experience where I had to write news stories in an hour or less, personal essays to suit the publication’s monthly theme, and articles about travel trends and Chinese culture through the lens of a foreign observer.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

Writing opportunities vary widely. Currently, I’m working as a freelance writer and it is a far shout from the writing world I was used to in China, where I came in every Monday to a small office and pitched my story ideas in-person to my editor, face-to-face. Writing in a fixed position also gave me security in regards to pay, meaning I knew what I’d be earning every month. As a freelancer, it’s entirely up to me to negotiate my pay for each article I write and for me to land an article with a publication.

There are questions that you’ll need to ask yourself before you decide to take the plunge into writing as work. What is your cost of living? Starting out, it can be more manageable for a writer to live somewhere with lower costs. Can you meet deadlines? Working for a print publication meant there were hard deadlines dates. Are you good at networking?

In any writing position I’ve ever had, whether it be an in-office position or writing remotely, I’ve always had to network and collaborate with people. If you don’t like connecting with people, it’s going to be hard to find leads to jobs or the inside scoop on news stories. Can you handle rejection and unpaid work? I cannot count the number of times I’ve been rejected by editors in regards to the stories that I’ve pitched. Worse yet are the number of emails I’ve sent that go unanswered. This means there are a lot of unpaid hours spent sending article ideas to editors, vetting publications, and negotiating payment.

VOLUNTEERING OVERSEAS

Girl teacher Laos Tara teaching a women’s empowerment lesson in Laos.

In 2015, I volunteered with a voluntourism organization in Laos. Since then, I’m more informed about the ways that voluntourism agencies actually do more harm than good. I’m also aware now that as an eager young adult who was enthusiastic about helping the world, I wasn’t educated about the multi-billion dollar industry that voluntourism is despite the good intentions in my heart. However, there are reputable volunteer service organizations that exist for long-term volunteers and ways to volunteer abroad that promote sustainable initiatives.

HOW IT WORKS + WHAT TO CONSIDER

Volunteering overseas is a good way to travel internationally for longer while giving back to the local community you are a visitor in. There are various highly-vetted volunteer programs. Voluntourism programs can come with steep fees, but your accommodation and food are covered in the program fees. You’re also guaranteed to meet like-minded individuals and find friends since you’ll be working with other

Before you agree to volunteer overseas, make sure the charity is transparent about their funding. It’s also helpful to speak with past volunteers and do some research to see what kind of press the organization receives. Email project managers to ask about the benchmarks used to measure the impact and success of the project. Also, ask questions about the mission and values of the organization. Many organizations align themselves with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ask them how they are aligned–what are the exact ways they are doing their part to achieve these global goals.

It’s important to consider how long you can commit to a project. Most impactful volunteer programs want people who can commit to a minimum of 1 months’ stay so that their volunteer programs are more sustainable with less volunteer turnaround. If you only have two weeks to volunteer, there might be a better way for you to give volunteer like projects that are shorter term like Habitat for Humanity.

If you want to travel, an avenue exists for you. Traveling for long, uninterrupted periods of time, slower and more responsibly, is made easier when you can earn an income and eliminate your accommodation and food expenditure.

tara tadlock headshotTara Tadlock is a travel writer documenting her slow travels rooted in an adventure across over 40 countries on Silly Little Kiwi. Growing up in a military family, she’s always lived life with a boarding pass in one hand and a camera in the other. Tara loves finding the best coffee and vegetarian food anywhere she goes, learning about culture and customs straight from locals, and cuddling any dog within reach. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. This is super helpful! Thank you for posting this kind of information. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family and have been eager to find a way to go overseas.

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