Jobs For the Skilled and Qualified Traveler
Scuba Instructing Ski Instructing Computer Programming Fortune Telling Cooking Tattooing/Piercing Hairdressing Massage Alternative Medicine Teaching Yoga/Tai Chi Medical Body Guard Handyman Driver/Mechanic Adventure Travel Trekking Guide Hunting Collecting Snake Venom Work Abroad Instructor
Scuba diving is one of those jobs where qualifications are absolutely necessary but also very easy to obtain. If you train up with PADI then you can cheaply get your diver instructor certificate within a couple of months and then you can earn whilst you dive.
Of course, you are working with the general public in a life or death situation and there’s no real way you can be trained to do that. Knowing all your pressure levels is great but if one of your groups panics and tries to swim up to the surface, you might have to pull them back down so that they don’t get the bends – they’ll probably think you’re trying to drown them!
Pay for diving instructors is also notoriously low, partly because it’s so easy to get qualified and there’s such a high turnover of scuba professionals coming through major dive spots. On the other hand, you’ll be making money doing what you love to do, swimming with the fishes and meeting loads of people each day.
The cheapest places to learn are in places like Honduras and Thailand – prices vary but you could complete all the courses necessary to become a dive master for between $1000-$2000.
There exist all kinds of other professional gigs for divers who take additional qualifications – underwater photography, x-rays of pipes and scientific explorations are just a few possibilities.
Is there anyone quite so suave as the ski instructor? Whilst everyone else is paying thousands for a couple of weeks at a ski resort, this smug bastard is getting paid to fool around on the slopes, hitting on attractive novices and spraying snow in everyone’s faces.
And it could be you. All you need to do is take a ski instructor’s course and then there are hundreds and hundreds of ski resorts around the world with a very high turnover of instructors who will give you work.
Just hope that global warming doesn’t melt all the snow.
If you know your Java from your Linux and you’re looking for a way out of corporate IT hell back home, then jump on a place to the developing world and share your skills. Whilst places like India turn out programmers by the thousand, there’s still room for foreign professionals to come and bring their know-how to start-ups that are making the most of cheap professional skills to mark out a space in the global IT marketplace.
If you’re writing software or maintaining websites, what need is there for you to stay home? Pack your laptop and catch a plane to somewhere where your salary will let you live like a king AND save.
“I predict that you’ll soon be conned of a small amount of money by a complete stranger – that will be $20.”
For as long as humans developed the capacity to think about the future, there have been people making a living out of claiming to predict it. Soothsayers, wise women, shamans and a whole array of charlatans have made it their business for millennia. You, too, can join this noble tradition of fortune telling.
To be fair, many techniques like Tarot cards, the I Ching or astrology are more ways to understand the present than anything else – they employ a random device such as choosing cards from a deck to take a holographic snapshot of the present moment and induce everything from there.
So if you can ply any kind of divination or occult consultations, then you’ll never go hungry. Walk up to people and offer to read their palms, draw birth charts or give Tarot readings from a table in a café and you’ll get business from travelers and locals alike.
Get the wiki view of fortune telling
People have always got to eat so cooks will always find work somewhere. There are kitchens in restaurants, bars, conferences and festivals and they all need professionals to cook up something worth paying for.
The broader range of cuisine you can master the wider your employment opportunities will be but the main thing is to be able to work quickly, to run your kitchen efficiently and turn out great food.
To get cooking jobs leave your visiting card at every restaurant in town and they’ll know who to contact when their head chef walks out in a huff.
You need to know what you’re doing to make a living as a tattoo artist or body piercer and the chances are that your own face and body will be advertisement enough for your art.
It can be a great trade to take on the road to backpacker scenes though as travelers going through transformative experiences often like to mark the occasion – on themselves. A tattoo or a piercing is a way for them to remember a moment in their travels forever.
Great care needs to be taken with hygiene in places where bacteria flourish and you should also make sure that your customers aren’t too stoned to know what’s good for them when they decide to go for the ‘fuck you!’ facial tattoo…
Read all about tattoo training and jobs
Wherever you go hair grows. Someone’s gotta cut it.
And whilst you find barbers and hairdressers wherever you go, styles in many parts of the world haven’t quite caught up with the West and many travelers will prefer to trust someone from their own culture when it comes to shaping their locks. All you need to set up shop is a chair, a comb and a pair of scissors.
Alternately, you might specialise in hair wraps, plaits or dreadlocks – for many travelers, being on the road is all about looking a bit alternative on the outside. Sorting out their hair for them is a great way to meet people and you remain an independent professional.
A masseur can always make a living with his or her bare hands. Anywhere people are working hard, like fruit picking or tree planting areas, they’ll be in need of massage to ease those aching shoulder joints. Or maybe those rucksack straps have been digging in too much and only your magic hands can get the blood flowing again.
There are various ways to ply your trade: putting up ads around cafes and notice boards is one option, another is to take your massage to the beaches, touting sun bathers for a bit of extra relaxation, or you could even go around offices where people are working on the computer all day and offer ten minute massage intensives – and they’ll pay for it.
Just make sure at all times that you look clean and well-presented – you might have the most healing hands in the world but if you’ve got head lice or uncut nails no one will let you come near them.
You can always train up on the road, too, notably with Ayurvedic massage in India and Thai Massage in Thailand.
If you’re an acupuncturist, herbalist or crystal healer (ho, ho) then there’s never much shortage of travelers feeling ill to treat. Many backpackers would rather consult someone alternative rather than turn to conventional antibiotics to resolve their diarrhea or skin complaint.
The number of weird, worrying health complaints that afflict travelers in the tropics is bewildering, so if you know your stuff and can cure some basic conditions then you’ve got a living wage.
In many parts of the developing world you can also just set up your mat in villages and towns and offer your services – the locals will come along to try just out of curiousity, if nothing else.
If you’re a qualified and capable teacher in yoga, tai chi or even something obscure like glassblowing, then you can always start to give classes on the road. Other travelers are always looking for ways to make their journey a little more meaningful by learning something as they go.
Setting up your classes involves finding a good location. There might be local centres where you can rent space, or your class might suit a local park or beach. Let people know about your classes by posting plenty of notices everywhere and making use of word of mouth. You can use the perennial backpacker introductions of ‘so, where are you from?’ to your advantage by jumping straight in with a pitch for your class.
Nurses and doctors are required all around the world in disaster zones, refugee camps and developing countries where most people just can’t afford treatment. In a lot of cases the work may be unpaid, or only cover your costs but a wage is available with outfits like Doctors Without Borders and your help might be applied where it’s most needed this way.
Could there be any greater way to serve the world?
If you’re big, tough or just plain dangerous with your bare hands or a pistol, then there’s always work in security and body guarding. Gigs can range from agency work providing personal protection to the famous, rich or paranoid, to working on cruise ships, festivals or concerts, to keep things calm and safe.
A striking appearance helps in getting security jobs but when it comes down to anything more serious, like ensuring the safety of a convention or a ship, employers will be more interested in your understanding of modern communications and security strategy.
If you have any background in the army or martial arts, this could be for you.
You’d be amazed how many households have appliances or items that are poorly set up, not working properly or just plain broke. From blocked sinks to creaky floorboards, there’s always a job for someone practical – with the modern man often being far too effeminate to fulfill the traditional ‘man about the house’ role, there’s room for you to come along and fix stuff.
Get work by posting ads in supermarkets or notice boards, or even put fliers through people’s doors and follow them up with a personal visit a few days afterwards. Some people might get totally paranoid and hostile, but others will see you as a blessed angel come to fix their leaking tap.
Adventure overland outfits like Exodus load up to a dozen whining would-be travelers into a mini bus and then drive them across continents, giving them the illusion of having done so under their own steam.
We’ve already mentioned tour leading but these companies also require competent drivers with mechanical aptitude as no matter how robust the Range Rover, they’re still apt to break down in the middle of deserts. Then 12 nervous passengers with their I-pods on will look on anxiously as you dive into the engine with a spanner between your teeth.
The driving can also be pretty edgy when passing through bandit country in Africa and you’ll need to know how to deal with dodgy situations too, all in the name of rather expensive adventure travel.
To get work you’ll need to show you have driving and mechanical experience – some languages and first aid would also help you pass the interview.
If you know how to manage a raft on white water, rock climb, abseil, mountain bike, paraglide or bungee jump, then you’ve got a living in any number of spectacular places around the world. Backpackers keen to actually have something to write about in their mass emails sign up to take these adrenalin trips and you can be the one who holds their hands throughout.
The pay varies with the location and if you’re working in somewhere like South East Asia then they’re unlikely to worry too much about papers and qualifications, just as long as you know what you’re doing. The best way to learn, of course, is by doing and so you could always apprentice yourself to a team that’s already running death-defying trips.
But don’t forget that people’s lives are in your hands in this job and that means you can’t go out on the piss the day before the trip – your hangover could mean a slip of judgment that you’d never forget.
If you know how to make a fire, find drinking water in nature, dig a toilet and know which berries boost your immune system and which send you on a 16 hours raving psychedelic rampage, then you could make money taking travelers out into the wilderness.
Wide expanses of nature are still to be found all over the planet but most would hardly dare to go trekking in the Sahara or hack their way through the Costa Rica rainforest alone. You can either set up your own trips and market them yourself, or else work through a tourist agency and even hire porters to make everyone’s life easier.
Again, people’s lives are in your hands and you need to know your way around quite thoroughly. Relying on your GPS reader is no good if the batteries run out.
Also, you should be able to look after yourself. Out in nature the wilder elements of humanity often come to the surface and if you meet a drunken bunch of hunters then your group could be in trouble – research your area well first and always carry a cell phone and some form of protection.
Whilst heading out on horseback after a beleaguered fox belongs to the days of aristocratic cruelty, in a world of carnivores there’s still room for a good hunter or fisher to make a living by the dead creatures he or she can bring back for sale.
Whether you learn how to snorkel and spear fish, gather wild eggs or trap rabbits, there are any number of delis and restaurants who will take your gains off your hands.
It’s tough, unreliable work but then, if you know how to live off the land anyway then there’s no big hurry in waiting until the next big tuna or wild boar comes your way.
No, really, there are people who do this. With the spirit of the late, great Steve Irwin, these nutters go out into the bush and jungles and actually look for some of the most dangerous creatures on earth to milk their fangs. They extract the poison and then sell it to hospitals who need it to make anti-venom.
Ok, perhaps we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here in our quest to list 101 working jobs but if you have a fascination with the outback and want to take your life into your own hands, you really could do this.
And lastly, once you’ve read and memorised this guide, get out there on the road and pass it off as your own hard won experience and knowledge. Set up workshops for other travelers on how to make a living on the road and keep a print out of this guide in your drawer for reference.
You can charge a good deal for your expertise and your only worry is that one day there’ll be a knock at the door and you’ll find a Road Junky editor with an axe…