Working abroad – what a wonder it is. In this blog I hope to bring you ideas and general tips to help the process, along with nuggets of knowledge, experiences and tales from individuals around the world who have found jobs out there or are offering jobs themselves. These are the best sources of information and inspiration. I am looking for people to interview so please let me know if you are happy to take a bit of time to share your stories and I will send some questions your way. You can get in touch via the blog. Thanks folks.
Looking back, travelling has always been in my bones but the joy of setting up camp somewhere by working, with fun little adventures flowing from here, are in my eyes, the best. This love for combining work and travel came when I was 18: fresh out of school, in the Autumn of 2005, I headed for the beautiful and intriguing New Zealand. Planning was at a minimum, partly as that is the way I seem to do things, but also due to the fact that the 3 months prior to flying, were filled with 3 jobs, leaving spare seconds in short supply. I left with £600 in my bank and in my mind, many ideas but no set plans.
The following 12 months in New Zealand and Australia were filled with an assortment of jobs and many wonderful adventures in between. In NZ I found myself: pruning apple trees at the foothills of the Abel Tasman mountains; working in a bustling little bar by the Marlborough Sands; working at a couple of events on the beautiful Waiheke Island; pruning more apple trees in the hills of Hawkes Bay; and calling Queenstown home for 5 months, helping to run a cafe, waitress in a local restaurant and help out at a couple of outdoor adventure festivals there. Australia brought me an amazing month of working and living on a boat in the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands and a few weeks making coffees and baking cakes in return for a bed in the trendy town of Byron Bay.
None of the jobs above were organised before hand, some I had experience in, but some I didn’t. Examples like this can hopefully show you how if your ears, eyes and mind are open to new adventures and opportunities, you will learn to believe in yourself and your skills, landing on your feet anywhere you choose to go.
Taking a gap year before university was one of the best things I have done and I would recommend it to anyone. This is for a few main reasons, one being that you soak up truck loads of invaluable advice from all those you meet, helping you make the most of whatever is to come next in life. Many people head off post-university and so the piece of advice I picked up on the most was to make the most of your summers whilst studying (in the UK we seem to spend more time on holiday than in lectures, and so this is simply asking for adventures).
So, considering I had caught the travel bug, the following Spring of 2007 I decided my next venture would be to a place I had always longed to go – Kenya. Through a company this end, I got a place teaching in a school and orphanage there that summer, and fundraised for the trip (which is an adventure in itself). It was incredible and I learnt more skills and grew in confidence in that few weeks, more than ever before in such a short space of time. Upon finishing my post there, I also helped in a school I found along my travels. I will talk about this in more detail but there are many ways in which you can organise wonderful opportunities in developing countries, to work and be involved in, without paying a small fortune to a Western based company.
Before returning back for a second year of university, and after working back home for a month, I flew over to Copenhagen to volunteer at The Homeless World Cup (http://www.homelessworldcup.org/). It is an incredible event, which in those days was smaller and you received food and a bed in return for working with the team. I would recommend volunteering at events such as this to anyone, be it big or small and involving charities or not, as you will return home inspired to the brim. You do not need bundles of money or contacts, it is simply a case of finding the right kind of thing on offer. I saw the organisation advertised in The Big Issue one day, and got in touch to scout out about volunteering. We are blessed with cheap travel these days, and so by utilising this, whilst preferably being aware environmentally, will enable you to get involved in various exciting things around the world.
Upon arriving home after Kenya and Copenhagen, I realised I had fallen in love with the Sunshine Continent of Africa. The next two years at university, I was incredibly lucky to have three opportunities to go and work in East Africa, expenses paid. One of these was representing the university at the African Athletic Championships in Ethiopia, with my main task being to interview the medal holders post-race. The other two trips were taking young people from the UK to Kenya and Uganda for 2 weeks of travelling in a bus, working on small projects there. It is a trip very close to my heart, and something I am still involved in from an organisational perspective. You can see more about it and watch a snippet of the documentary made one year, here – http://www.robwalkertv.com/index.php/youth-work.
These three opportunities I have mentioned above simply came from showing enthusiasm and following my heart, which at that point was with Africa, talking to people and offering to help out. So, next time you hear someone interesting speak, see a cool project, or watch an interesting documentary: get in touch or wander up to the front for a chat. Almost always, people love to be spoken to about their work and will offer opportunities or contacts if they can. Whether you are at university, working in the bustling city, or living in the hills, there is a wealth of potential and inspiring things going on everywhere, it is just a case of finding them. That is something I hope to help with, be it by posting links to documentaries and blog posts online, or by sharing sites or inspiration on how to find things in person wherever you are. If all an experience does is inspire you, and not initially lead to anything directly as such, that is priceless in itself.
In my final summer of university (2008) I lived in the crazy and full of character town of Lagos, Portugal, with a couple of friends from home. I was cooking in a cafe and the community there is one of a kind – folks from all over, working hard and soaking up the beach life for the summer. I came home bronzed, smiling, and inspired for my final year of library bound days.
The world literally is your oyster when you are looking to work abroad, and anywhere in fact. There is no one else out there with your bag of skills and unique qualities, so trust in them as they are the best thing to take with you. I took to just walking into places and asking for jobs whilst away but some friends did the same from home beforehand through the wonder of the worldwide web. So, whichever works for you, that is the best way to do it and do not worry. A bit of fear is natural and exciting, but the best advice I could ever give is to simply give it a go.
From then you will realise how easy it is and that any ‘worst-case scenario’ is not really that bad. There are always back-up plans you can have up your sleeve to reassure a worrying mind. Plus, home is only a flight away. In terms of worrying about finding work, take a rather hilarious example from my gap year: in Hawkes Bay, NZ, I was fired after one day of picking peas (may I add, this was due to a couple of team mates that took a liking to the pub more than the fields, so our group count of peas was down by rather a lot). But, never fear, the following day the team had one of the best jobs in the orchards, filling our wallets with a lot of cents and soaking up the Kiwi sunshine whilst we went.
I hope this blog will be something you can refer to when planning adventures abroad, and somewhere you can gather valuable information and inspiration. If there are any places, job types or other topics of particular interest please give me a shout too as I will do my best to get information on these for you folk.