Got brains? Get a job.
Jobs Abroad for the Intellectual Traveler
‘I am going insane, I have been going insane and I will go insane if I have to teach these fucking verbs for one more day.’
Teaching English is the obvious career choice for many travelers overseas where English is in big demand now that it’s the international language of business. Some places like South Korea are so desperate for teachers that they’ll even pay your flight ticket – without a white face in their promotional literature they have a hard time getting students.
Your chances are vastly improved if you pay out $1500 for a TEFL teaching certificate before you go but in many places it’s enough that English is your first language and that you have a degree of confidence. And for private lessons all you need to be is a native speaker and good with people.
Find out more with the Roadjunky English Teaching Guide
With the advent of the internet the need for translation is greater than ever. There exist translation tools like babylon.com but these are only really any good for one word at a time and are no use in translating articles, songs or dishwasher instructions.
If you speak 2 or more languages fluently then there are a million opportunities out there to be a freelance translator on the road. You only need to be word perfect in the target language and understand well in the source language – for example, you might be able to translate from Italian to English quite okay but maybe lack the subtle feel of the language to make the reverse process.
There’s plenty of translation work available in freelance sites like guru.com or “freelanceworkexchange.com“http://www.freelanceworkexchange.com and, failing that, why not get in touch with established websites and ask them if they’d like to get a head start on the competition by having their content in more than one language?
Interpreters are like translators but live. They don’t have time to check a word or a verb tense in a dictionary and must provide instant interpretation so that conversations can flow along. You might be accompanying tourists on a day trip, helping a visiting foreign teacher give a class or assisting a businessman to make local transactions.
To get work again you can go through freelance websites like those mentioned for translating but it’s also worthwhile hitting up local businesses, conference centres and any business related to tourism – if they know they can call on you then it might save them from losing a customer.
Across the world there are lecture circuits in colleges, social clubs, festivals and conventions where interesting, experienced or knowledgeable speakers can come and get paid for giving the audience a piece of their mind.
You need to actually have something to say, of course and it helps if you actually are an expert in your field. It could be something as simple as having lived in Afghanistan for a few months though, lecturing on your experiences with the people and pontificating on the effects of US military intervention. It helps if you can back it all up with some photos or video, too.
Squeezing your way onto the lecture circuit takes some ingenuity. One cheap way to give yourself a platform is to create a web page that makes you seem far more of an authority than you actually are – that’s the beauty of the internet, no one’s to know that you’re really just a scruffy backpacker with a second hand suit in your rucksack.
Send letters or emails to likely establishments (including colleges who often have a slush fund just for visiting speakers) and then follow up with phone calls. Even better get a friend to do it for you and get him or her to say they’re your personal booking agent. Gigs can pay between $100-500 a time + accommodation.
On newspapers, magazines and in advertising departments around the world there are people who think they can speak English. Or to be fair, they can but they make many understandable mistakes when trying to write the language – hence signs in Swiss hotels inviting you to ‘take advantage of the maid’.
Companies have got wise to this over the years and, particularly in the case of newspapers and magazines, native English copy editors are hired to rewrite the articles of the staff writers. So basically, you’ll be working for a newspaper in Thailand, correcting the terrible style and grammar mistakes of a cocky Thai journalist who goes on to take all the credit for your hard work.
Some jaded copy editors in Asia have described the job as being like a ‘human waste sanitisation machine’, ingesting the shit and turning out something readable at the other end.
At least you get to experience all the thrills of working in a newspaper or magazine. Yippee. To find work just ring up the editor of any English publication in the country (or any other language in which you’re fluent) and offer your services. They may expect to see a degree so you’d be as well to pick up a fake one in Bangkok before you go for the interview.
Take our word for it, it doesn’t matter how many times your check through a book or a article – there are always going to be typos that you just didn’t catch. There were two in the last sentence – did you see them?
If you didn’t then you might as well skip proof reading as you need the eye of an eagle and the pedantic dedication to punctuation and grammar of a librarian. You need to understand the insides of the language perfectly and have the patience to read large volumes of text and not get so carried away with the plot that you miss the mistakes.
Work can be found through publishing houses, newspapers, magazines and in fact anywhere that you see mistakes made in print. Carry a laptop with you and you can check for typos on the beach.
We were tempted to slot journalism under the ‘creative’ section but that would have been too kind in the majority of cases. Whilst there does exist a powerful, hard hitting kind of journalistic writing exemplified by the likes of Michael Herr, Hunter Thompson and Blaine Harden, a large part of journalism is as heartless and parasitic a profession as you could find.
Journalists are famous for using people for their own career advancement and for many the people and places they report about have no more importance than as platforms for getting their own names in print. They take one step up by putting others down and follow the policies laid down by their media mogul bosses.
There do exist very cool strains of journalism though and there’s no reason you can’t be part of that, reporting back through channels such as http://www.indymedia.org or working for any number of alternative news and culture sites. Hell, even Road Junky talks to journalists once in a while.
If you go to journalism school first you’ll understand better how this nepotistic and corrupt business works and therefore how to fit into it. There’s no reason why you can’t just talk your way into a job on newspapers and magazines in smaller countries though just by the force of your personality. It helps if you can provide the copy to follow it through…
“And on the left side you have the tomb of the baby Jesus..”
Wherever you find tourists you’ll find guides taking them around, answering all their questions with infinite patience and cracking the same stale jokes 200 times a week. The guide may only know more than the average tourist because he visited Wikipedia that morning but as long as he looks knowledgeable, he’ll be believed.
Almost every major city in the world will give guided tours and whilst in some places you’re supposed to have guide qualifications, most of the time all you need is a good voice for public speaking and a bit of charm. The actual history can be learnt in the space of an afternoon and thereafter you just learn to dodge the difficult questions like a politician – when asked the exact age of a building you’ll reply:
“I don’t think it’s the age that’s relevant here but rather the cultural impact it had upon the people of the time. Why, when you consider…” Until the original question gets lost in the haze.
If you can’t get any guide agency to give you a job you can always try going freelance, approaching tourists in the street and offering your services (dress for the occasion) or set up your own website and get customers booking before they arrive.
You might not imagine it now but if you’ve got a diploma and a nice accent, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t apply for work in one of your country’s embassies or consulates around the world.
Your chances will be improved greatly if you speak the local language and your previous travel experience will count in your favour – they don’t want someone who gets homesick after a fortnight, after all.
You might only end up working in the mail room or handling visitors in reception but they pay is likely to be pretty healthy and there are all kinds of perks that come with the job.
Then again, in the days when your own government (if you come from the West) is causing so much terror around the world, you’re effectively allying yourself with those forces. Still, providing helpful advice to your fellow nationals abroad isn’t quite the same as bombing the locals.
This is a job where you almost certainly need to apply from home and go through background checks though – your chances of just turning up at your local consulate and getting work are slim.
NGO stands for Non-Governmental Organisation and the term encompasses every charity, human rights group and philanthropic society that you can imagine. The majority of NGO’s are in the aid field but there are also those who campaign against the use of torture abroad or those that promote fair trade in developing countries.
The thing with NGO’s is that for most of them there’s no truth quite so popular as ‘charity starts at home’. NGO workers often drive comfy 4 wheel drive vehicles around cities, stay at nice, big villas and rarely venture out into the sticks where the need is actually greatest – the NGO workers need to hit the nice restaurants and bars in town after a hard day’s work, after all.
There are, of course, some very worthy NGO’s such as Doctors Without Borders who take on logistics people with language skills as well as medical staff. Either way, to get into NGO work you won’t be too picky at first and will probably start off as a volunteer until you prove yourself and work your way up to a paid position.
Check out volunteering opportunities anywhere in the world and see if they lead to paid positions. Alternatively, you could set up your own NGO that does honest, helpful work and lobby for funds yourself back home or through the internet. Imagine if you could get 100 people to donate $100 a year – you’d have a budget of 10 grand to get those schoolbooks to the kids in the slums.