Digital Nomad Lifestyle – Can you work & travel?

It’s 7:30am and the town of Boquete, Panama is just starting to wake up. But there I am, first up in the hostel, sitting with my MacBook Pro on my lap in the open-air dining area. I’m enjoying the refreshing breeze coming through the walkway, but more importantly I’m writing a client back in the states who has no idea I’m in Central America on a what I call a semi-holiday.

I had been wanting to visit Panama for a while but this trip was designed to be equal parts enjoyment and work. A test, of sorts.

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What Will Prevent You From Traveling This Year?

I‘m not really the most festive person. I enjoy the holiday season because I get to spend time with my family but rarely put up a Christmas tree or any decorations.  When New Years rolls around I joke about resolutions but I don’t really feel any different or do anything to change the upcoming year.

That said, I find myself doing something during this first week of 2010 that feels like a big contradiction to the above statement: I’m planning my travel goals for the year.

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Working in a Hostel While Traveling

OK, you’ve handed in your notice, packed your bags, said bye to mum, paid off the credit card (well, most of it) and you’re off on your yearlong adventure. Problem is if you are anything like me you’ve spent a little too long in Europe, enjoyed a couple extra flights in lieu of excruciating overnight chicken buses, sampled a few too many brews in Mexico and before you realize it you are not quite half way through your trip and over three quarters through your budget.

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Teaching English Abroad

This is the third in a series of posts about how to spend your time during extended travels.  Be sure to check out Taking a Year Off After School to Travel and Volunteering Abroad During Your Travels.

Traveling is wonderful but unless you have a big bank account before you set out, you probably won’t manage to travel forever.

A great way to make ends meet abroad is by teaching English.  It doesn’t matter where you are going, chances are there are schools teaching English to people who want to learn it.  You don’t even need a college degree.  What you will need is a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

Let me warn you first: there are an abundance of online TEFL programs that may or may not be recognized by many institutions.  The general consensus is that the best way to get your TEFL certificate is to enroll in a program where you will receive hands-on teaching experience.  Many of these programs are arranged in foreign countries so you have classes for you to begin working with immediately.

Also, these schools can often help with job placement but be careful of any guaranteeing you a job after you finish.  Not many reputable programs will guarantee you job placement and if they do, they’re probably getting a kickback of some sort or even charging you for the service.

The money isn’t great but is typically enough to get by on and put a little bit away for furthering your travels if that is your plan.

The places you can teach are endless, but chances are employment will be difficult to find in most areas of Europe.  Asia, Latin America, and many Middle Eastern countries are probably your best bets.  The classes you can teach can range from adults learning English for business to children who might not even have their own native language skills down yet.  The great thing about this style of teaching English is that you don’t need to know the local language to teach it.  It’s all done with signs, gestures, and other techniques that mean you could teach in China one semester, and Peru the next.  I was pretty impressed the first time I was given a demonstration by a teacher working in Costa Rica.

If you are interested in more information about choosing a TEFL program, I recommend checking out BootsnAll‘s article, How to Choose Your TEFL Certification Program (if at all).

Have you taught English abroad or are you looking into it? We’d appreciate hearing about it in the comments below!

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creative commons photo by rudenoon on Flickr

Why Working a Regular Job is NOT an Excuse to not Travel

19 02 07 - Office Ninja
Creative Commons License photo credit: Cliph

Americans generally have the shortest amount of vacation time per year (2 weeks on average) and this is the reason I hear from people all the time as to why they do not travel often. Yes, this is a limitation, but is it a reason to not travel abroad?

I vehemently disagree.

Just because you only have two weeks free every year it doesn’t mean you must stay home or spend your vacation in an American tourist trap like Las Vegas. OK, maybe that’s what you truly enjoy, but if you’re here, you’re likely interested in traveling abroad to slightly more engaging destinations.

I’d like to consider myself a vagabond, going all over without much of a destination. But unfortunately I am like you. I have two weeks of vacation every year, and I also must take them separately. This gives me a guaranteed two trips per year, but they are quite short. Many people can take their vacation at the same time and have much more time to enjoy their trip. I definitely recommend doing so if it is an option for you.

When meeting other travelers around the world I constantly hear the same remarks about my trip.

“You’re only here for a week?”

“That hardly seems worth the plane ride!”

“What a waste of money to only get a handful of days here.”

I certainly understand where they are coming from, but the truth is that most people (especially Americans) do not have the luxury of extended travel time.

Again, this doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t do it though. Just adjust your travel plans to enjoy a smaller area and don’t try to cover too much ground. Stay rooted in one or two cities and plan day trips to the surrounding areas. Doing this will keep your travel time on buses and trains to a minimum and you can maximize your time wherever you may go.

As far as expenses are concerned your largest will likely be plane travel. There are plenty of ways to seek out the best price for airfare so shop around and check sites like Kayak and Expedia to find the best fares.

When booking airfare, look for red-eyes that allow you to depart Friday night after you are finished with work.  Depending on the time zone, this can also allow you to land in the morning instead getting in late at night.  Pop in some earplugs and take a long nap.  Wake up halfway across the world.

When you arrive at your destination find a good hostel, bed or breakfast, or guest house and you’ll save some more money.

Is it ideal? No.

Is it worth it? Yes!

Don’t let your job get in the way. Find a way to balance the two. A nice week-long excursion every six months isn’t a bad way to see the world.