I’ll be the first to admit that I can be an impulsive person, especially when it comes to travel. In the past, I’d rarely think twice before booking a one-way ticket to some far-flung corner of the world.
I’d try to live as cheap as possible by couch-surfing, staying in dingy hostels, volunteering… You name it, I’ve done it. Whatever gave me just a little more time on the road before returning to my mind-numbing job at home.
I envied those who seemed to have a golden ticket to the elusive world of full-time travel, especially those that seemed to find travelling jobs with no experience. Thankfully, through the backpacker grapevine, I discovered that it was easier than I thought to get paid to travel the world and have a job that’s cool as f**k.
I’m not talking about the regular digital nomad jobs, teaching English, becoming an influencer, or joining a culty pyramid scheme. Nope, there are tons of other articles out there to read if that’s your jam.
Instead, I’m focussing on a few not-so-typical jobs, for the not-so-typical traveler. While some are a little outlandish and require previous qualifications, for others, you just need to be flexible and ready to jump into something new.
Music, mud and mayhem— working festival season isn’t for the faint of heart, but if these three words make your heart skip a beat, being part of the crew might be for you!
There are always tons of volunteer opportunities at festivals, but you’ll find a decent number of paid jobs too: bartending, site managers, campsite supervisors, 4×4 drivers, stage set up… you name it, festival organizers need it. As for the background music? Anything from A-list lineups at Lollapalooza to a spontaneous Harry Potter improv in the oldest pub in Scotland at Fringe Festival.
Qualifications: Experience with customer service and a passion for the performing arts are two basic requirements for entry-level jobs. Senior roles typically require a bachelor’s degree or several years of experience.
Average Salary: Permanent jobs in niche roles pay an average of $30,000/year. Temporary seasonal staff wages are generally on par with minimum wage.
Benefits: Um… seeing your favorite artist perform for free!
Won’t suit you if: If you’re an introvert who can’t deal with a thunderous bass piercing your tent at 7am.
Once, I shared a hostel dorm with a girl who was a hardcore diver. Instead of the usual backpack full of clothes and trinkets from her travels, she was traveling around Central America with heaps of scuba gear, study books, and even an oxygen tank!
When I asked her what possessed her to lug such an excessive amount of gear with her, she looked at me with such pity, as if she knew that I was yet to discover the secrets of the serene, slow-motion world of the sea.
Qualifications: To become a PADI certified instructor, you’ll have to be certified up to Dive Master level, have at least 100 dives logged, and pass the instructor examination. Utila, Honduras is by far one of the cheapest places on the planet to get certified.
Benefits: Well, having the ocean as your playground and office!
Won’t suit you if: You’re scared of the deep dark unknown or if you hate having pruney fingers.
Locations: Mexico, Belize, Caribbean Islands, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia – 70% of the world is covered by water, so the options are pretty much endless!
If you’re a snow chaser, dreaming of Alpine slopes or buzzy mountain town resorts, then you should seriously consider training as a ski/snowboard instructor. Usually teaching 4-8hrs per day, you’ll have tons of ride-time to clock up after work.
Qualifications: To become a ski/snowboard instructor, you will need at least a Level 1 ski instructor qualification that’s recognized by the International Ski Instructor's Association (ISIA). You can find more info about training steps here.
Average Salary: It’s tricky to find an average for instructors since factors like training and experience, location, season, and size of the resort all tend to influence the hourly rate, but you can expect between $12-$50/hour.
Benefits: Free ski pass and other freebies, generous tips, daily training, accommodation, food, and sometimes flights to the resort are covered—not to mention the après parties.
Won’t suit you if: You aren’t willing to perpetually look for the “right” size boot and missing mittens. You also need to be able to spot a Jerry a mile away…
Typical Locations: Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and China.
Seasonal Work in Lapland
Keeping with the winter theme, but swapping skis for sleigh rides, Finnish Lapland has endless adventures. Think reindeer farms, northern lights, saunas, ice hotels… you get the drift. Jobs range from reception work in an igloo and dog-sledding/snowmobiling guides to being a Christmas elf!
Qualifications: Varies by position – usually transferable skills and experience in the customer service industry is a minimum requirement.
Average Salary: Also depends on the role, but anywhere between $10-$20 per hour is average.
Benefits: You get to explore Lapland and typically get discounts on tours and excursions, like cruising on an Icebreaker. Not to mention, working a full winter season gives you plenty of chances to chase the Northern Lights.
Won’t suit you if: You can’t deal with the fact that the one single bar in the village is only open on Fridays, or your favorite thing about winter is being inside.
Hiking the glaciers of Patagonia, soaking your tired muscles in the Blue Lagoon, and drinking your weight in steins at Oktoberfest. Yep, you can literally get paid to tick the world’s coolest adventures off your bucket list while working as a trip leader/tour guide.
Qualifications: Experience in traveling and strong leadership are the obvious ones here, but qualifications vary by role. Some companies require you to have a wilderness first aid certification, but others provide on-the-job training.
Average Salary: It depends entirely on the company you work for, some offer minimum wage, while others pay an average of $120-$250 per day. Plus tips!
Benefits: Besides nature being your office?! You’ll get free food/accommodation, generous discounts on trips, medical/dental insurance, and holiday pay.
Won’t suit you if: You make a big fuss when there’s a spider in your tent, or if you can’t adapt quickly to culture shock.
Working for the Rich and Famous
Traditional nanny and au-pair jobs don’t exactly scream high salary. I once did a stint in Germany looking after four kids and my monthly salary was a measly $350. If only I had known about the lucrative world of high-end nannies!
Qualifications: Bachelor's degree, tons of experience corralling toddlers, and relentless patience when dealing with insufferable demands.
Average Salary: $5,955/month
Benefits: A separate live-in apartment, not to mention accompanying the family on swanky holidays in the French Riviera.
Won’t suit you if: You’re not willing to race around a foreign city to track down a rare alligator toy.
Typical Locations: London, Paris, Monaco, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Moscow, Geneva, Milan, Los Angeles, and New York.
Super Yacht Crew
Nothing screams high society like the lifestyle on board a lavish yacht. The freedom of the open sea (in more ways than one) is synonymous with perma-tanned tycoons who party till dawn.
The smooth sailing of these mammoth vessels comes down to a dedicated crew, and the diversity of roles available means there's something for everyone. Deckhands, engineers, stewards, chefs, entertainers, masseuses, and yoga instructors, to name just a few.
Qualifications: These vary widely depending on the position, but all crew members must have STCW Basic Safety Training, along with a recognized seafarer medical certificate.
Average Salary: Pay grades can range from anything to $3,000-$25,000/month, not including some pretty hefty tips!
Benefits: Room and board, plus all meals included. Insurance, performance-based bonuses, flight expenses, paid vacation, and training costs are standard perks. Not to mention sailing to the world’s most beautiful islands and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.
Won’t suit you if: You value personal space or get seasick easily.
Typical Locations: Florida, France, Spain, Italy, Caribbean, Dubai, Australia.
Estate managers supervise the day-to-day operations of private estates and mansions (think Downton Abbey). Your role can be anything from managing staff and budgets to whispering words of affirmation to a houseplant worth more than your annual wage. It’s kind of like running a company, but that company happens to be an ultrarich family with more money than sense. Sadly, no stock options, though.
Qualifications: Being a pro at the Sims 4 isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need at least a bachelor's degree, unwavering discretion, and a level of multitasking that makes Barry Allen look like your average Joe.
Average Salary: $99,942/year—yeah, that’s not a typo.
Benefits: Separate live-in accommodation and the chance to live in some of the world’s most beautiful places.
Won’t suit you if: You have healthy boundaries or if you cry easily.
Typical Locations: Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Oman, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, New York, Los Angeles, China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
From overseas contractors to executive protection and anti-piracy professionals, you can pretty much guarantee that “security” probably doesn’t mean a mall cop on a Segway.
Thanks to the vague job descriptions, mysterious jargon, and overall secrecy, I’m not entirely sure how to describe these roles in depth. So instead, I’m just going to leave this here. Do what thou wilt…
Qualifications: These types of jobs usually require a military/security-related background.
Average Salary: Pay grades vary from $5,000 to $43,000/month, depending on the job.
Benefits: Free accommodation, reimbursement for flights, additional training, and insurance.
Won’t suit you if: You hate wearing camouflage, or if your only experience in combat is Call of Duty.
Typical Locations: Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Poland, California, Nicaragua, Iraq, Israel, Texas, and other undisclosed locations.
Probably a rite of passage for any broke backpacker. Cannabis trimming is the golden ticket for couples looking to fund a year's worth of travels in one harvest season—just remember, though, it’s a joint decision.
Jokes aside, it can be physically and mentally grueling with super long hours. Before legalization in some states, jobs were usually found by word of mouth. Nowadays, a quick search on Indeed will point you in the right direction.
Qualifications: Must be 21 years or older and be able to pass a criminal background check. A driver's license, necessary permits, and industry knowledge are a bonus.
Average Salary: Cannabis trimmers make anywhere from $30,000-$40,000/year on average.
I’ve heard of some trimmers making up to $300 per/day, it all depends on experience, location, skills, and other factors.
Benefits: Accommodation and food are provided. Some companies even offer health/dental insurance and some other freebies.
Won’t suit you if: You can’t do long, monotonous hours of work, or if you think April 20th is just another day.
Locations: Across the USA and Canada.
Trading in alarm clocks for roosters, city lights and honking horns during rush hour for the creak of a saddle and a crackling campfire. Living on a ranch might just change your outlook on life.
It’s definitely hard work, and no two days are the same. Some ranches hire couples for housekeeping duties, others seek physically fit cowboys and wranglers, and some just want you to cuddle Alpacas all day.
Qualifications: Experience with animals and farm equipment, a background in hospitality, and a certain level of physical stamina, are just some basic requirements for entry-level jobs.
Average Salary: $27,000/year with performance bonuses.
Benefits: Accommodation is usually provided and can be pretty nice! There's also a good chance you’ll get some free horse riding lessons thrown in.
Won’t suit you if: You cringe at the thought of mucking out, or you need to be within a 5-mile radius of a Starbucks.
Locations: Wyoming, Tennessee, Texas, Montana, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and western Canada.
Ever fancied running a cozy little B&B somewhere in the Alps? Come winter, tons of ski resorts (big and small) call out for chalet couples to do just that. Duties are normally split up and include check-in, budgeting, shopping, cooking meals for guests, and other managerial roles.
These jobs work in tandem, so you’ll constantly be pitching in and helping out with your partner's job.
Qualifications: Customer service experience, driving license, cook/chef qualifications are a bonus.
Average Salary: Ranges from about $600-$750/month. You might not rake in the big bucks with this job, but it’s all about the experience of living in a cozy chalet for the winter.
Benefits: Accommodation and food are usually provided, as well as ski passes and equipment.
Won’t suit you if: Sarcasm is your go-to coping mechanism, or you hate the cold, the mountains…and people.
Locations: Bulgaria, France, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Colorado, New Zealand, Germany.
So there you have it, my dear intrepid travelers, hopefully by now you’ve discovered that it’s entirely plausible and practical to build a life you don’t need a vacation from!
Are you fixing your resume yet?