The amount of people who would like travel, but are too discouraged by any number of reasons compared to those who do manage to uproot themselves and go somewhere else must be staggering. Some have kids, something I have no experience with. But others are too afraid to leave their jobs, financial uncertainty manifesting itself as a scary enough spectre that will keep a person stuck in a job that they detest.
Another sample of the population might even be willing to leave their job, if only they didn’t have a house and all the stuff inside of it to worry about leaving behind. All of these things are solvable. First of all, there are plenty of long-term opportunities abroad that are either affordable or will even pay you. Don’t let a paycheck tether you to a situation and a place you don’t want to be in.
Last month I talked about decluttering, deobligating, and desocializing in order to more easily cut ties and become mobile. So for those of us who feel rooted to the spot by stuff, I suggest starting there to learn about a future with less shackles and more freedom of movement.
For those of you with a foot rooted in your current life and the other kicking the door down, here’s a few options for sustainable, long-term travel that you can allow to ferment for a while:
You may not get paid, but several organizations will cover costs for food and accommodation. Oh, and you have that nice warm and fuzzy feeling that you get from helping people. I would advise you to avoid the hell out of programs that charge a huge fee for you to travel and work for free. How very altruistic. Search long and hard, and you’ll find a program that will appreciate your free work. I highly recommend the Iceland Conservation Volunteers. You will travel all over Iceland, working in some of the most beautiful and remote locations, all on the government’s dime. They provide accommodation, food, and transportation around the country. The only thing you need to worry about is a flight to Reykjavík and your holiday week in the middle of the program, so it’s a sweet deal indeed. Matador Network is always a wealth of info on volunteering abroad and all things travel.
Almost all universities offer those all-inclusive travel packages for spring break or summer, but they’re expensive as hell and only last a couple of weeks. I’m talking about becoming an exchange student. Most public universities, as well as a few private schools, often have student exchange agreements with partner universities in different countries. This effectively means that, if you qualify, you can pay your normal tuition and study abroad. You don’t have to find someone from that university abroad to take your place, as the name might suggest. There are so many allotments for a given university depending on demand, so once you go to a partner university, you fill one of the open slots for that year while one becomes available at your home university.
Money can sometimes be an issue when it comes to study abroad, but it doesn’t necessarily have to end your adventure before it starts. Million Mile Secrets have written a comprehensive guide on funding student travel programs like study abroad, internships, volunteering or research. The guide breaks down different funding options, such as grants, scholarships, and personal funding tactics that make study abroad a more attainable experience for all students.
The Peace Corps
Yes, you too can be that lone, fluorescent-white face in the photos you send back home to mom. For the more independent types out there, the Peace Corps will place you in a community of a developing nation, all by your lonesome more often than not. For two years, you will work toward developing that community in whichever specialization the Peace Corps deems you best at, based on your application. It could be teaching, business, infrastructure, health, what have you. Your accommodation is usually provided, although you could be living with a host family, which would surely result in some amazing cultural experiences. The Corps gives you a stipend equivalent to the average middle class wage of your area that will allow you to live comfortably while also giving you more appreciation for the things you may have previously taken for granted. They will also do other cool things, like defer your student loans!
Teaching English abroad
Want to live in a different country making decent money while saving most of it? Then teach English in Southeast Asia. The requirements are surprisingly minimal. In an increasingly globalized world, English is at a premium, and native speakers are in high demand for the classroom. So much so that they may ignore the fact that you have no relevant skills or experience to teaching provided you have a degree in…well, anything really. The low standard of living in these countries will allow you to make a decent salary while spending very little. But don’t let words like “squat toilet” scare you away. Many schools provide teachers with surprisingly modern apartments for free (the norm in China). Primp your CV and start the job search on eChinaCities for China and ajarn for Thailand.
For those that are absolutely dying to get their hands dirty after working in a cubicle (work coffin), there are an unbelievable amount of opportunities on farms all over the world. Just a few minutes of browsing helpx will convince you that the world is out there for the taking. In exchange for helping out on a farm, the owner(s) will put you up with food and lodging. The work varies. Taking care of animals, working in organic gardens, pruning vineyards, helping out in lodges or B&B’s, and blazing trails on acres of land are just a few job descriptions. Living and working with your host will be a great opportunity for an exchange of culture and friendships.
Lower the standard
If you can afford it, why not knock about and do nothing while you travel? You can wander around India for six months on 2 grand. Sounds like money well spent to me. Want little responsibility and a lot of freedom? Simply travel around the developing world. Obviously there’s a price for these low prices, and that is a lower standard of living that you will have to adapt to. Living in these conditions and meeting the people that live in them will open your eyes to the greater population of the world. You never know; the rapid beat of humid heat, poor infrastructure, and street food roulette may be right up your alley! Vagabond Journey and Matador Network are full of tales of bumming it in the third, second, and even first worlds, and provide some insightful guides on how to bum.
Leaving everything behind to travel long term is hard work, but it’s work towards achieving some semblance of self-actualization rather than the meek acceptance of a paycheck that enables a march to the beat of mundane life. Not that that’s a bad thing. If you enjoy your life, then that’s great. But for those who feel trapped, whether by job or by country, there is an escape. The world is full of places to escape to. I’ve listed a few possibilities just to get you thinking.