Don’t have the money to travel? No worries, you can work and travel your way around the world, experiencing a deeper insight into the countries you visit and getting paid at the same time!
Mel Elderfield, a British, twenty-something mango lover, is an expert at doing this. Mel has been travelling and working abroad continuously since 2011, through 40+ countries and over 6 continents, she is living proof that you can fund an alternative life of travel with overseas work and she shows you how to do it too on her awesome blog, If You Wanna Go Just Go. So, I interviewed her to see just how she does it!
How to travel and work your way around the world
Your work and travel lifestyle sounds amazing Mel! So what made you decide to work abroad and how did you make it happen?
Like a lot of great things in life, it sort of came about by accident! This was never intended as a lifestyle, rather it was a way to put off joining the ‘real world’ after university. I wanted to escape London for a while, so I went and worked a summer season in Croatia… and then things just spiralled. Four years later I’m still making it work.
The biggest catalyst was meeting people who inspired me, who told me about other season jobs around the world. I was curious, and I wanted some more of the action! I quickly learnt that I could work in intense batches (and have a great time doing so!) and then take a bulk amount of time to travel. I also realised that having all your accommodation, food, transport, insurance and paperwork sorted for you is a HUGE financial win. Countries suddenly becomes so much more accessible, and I was hooked.
You’ve worked so many jobs abroad? Can you tell us a bit more about them and do you have a favourite one?
I’ve done everything from temping in high-rise corporate offices and catering glitzy weddings, to mustering 20,000 cattle in the outback, castrating bulls and milking goats. I’ve worked in a titty bar in the desert, I’ve volunteered on a remote tropical island, I’ve sold posters out of a truck in the pouring rain and I’ve taught kids how to Kayak.
I’ve worked as a climbing / high ropes / mountain bike instructor, I’ve been a stewardess on a super-yacht, I’ve managed festival bars for a messy summer season, and I’ve single-handedly catered and hosted ski chalets in the French Alps. Twice.
This isnt a brag list- it’s to show that the work out there is so incredibly varied! And this is barely the tip of the iceberg. Once you start looking there are so many weird and wonderful jobs. My all time favourite was working as a cow-girl in the outback
Cool, what amazing experiences! So what was the best thing about working as a cow girl in the Outback?
You will never know how tough and brutal and BLOODY HOT a job this is until you have been there. 6 of us worked an area the size of Mauritius (2,000 sq km) for 14 hours every day, mustering and processing cattle which were completely feral and dangerous, all under a blanket of red dust and suffocating outback temperatures. I was broken, then challenged, and then grew stronger and more resilient than I ever dreamed possible. I will never forget leaning out of a door-less helicopter above the outback, watching in awe as thousands of cattle trickled into a dusty, blood red sunset on the horizon.
Sounds incredible! But life is not always perfect right? Where there any downsides?
There are always downsides. Sometimes it gets lonely, always saying goodbye. Romance is hard, and there has been heartbreak galore. No one wants to love the girl that leaves.
Season work is very intense- long hours, no time to yourself, and limited freedom during your five months or so. The payoff at the end is huge, but there have been times when I could have screamed for a little bit of personal space, or the simple joy of choosing and cooking my own food, or not having to pander to ridiculous guests in the Alps when I’m exhausted and their kid has wet the bed AGAIN.
Do you have a stand out highlight or achievement from all your jobs abroad?
Recently I branched into freelance writing from the cheap base of Thailand- and after two months I’m earning enough now to support myself in Australia. This is a huge deal for me and I couldn’t be more pleased at the lifestyle I have managed to create so quickly. I’m moving back there next week, this time with an online income- yet another way to work abroad.
And what has been the most challenging thing about working abroad?
The thing is that money really comes and goes in big waves- waiting for bulk wages or tax refunds or returned housing deposits all the time can be a difficult balancing act.
I also feel a little bit homeless at times, caught between places that feel like home but in reality are only mine if visa situations work out. Leaving – especially when you don’t want to- gets exhausting. But after many years of doing this I have slowed my pace down a lot- Australia, for example, is now the place I consider ‘home’.
What do you wish you had known before leaving to work and travel around the world?
Nothing. I wouldn’t change a thing. My shortcomings and mistakes were (and still are) glaring. But that’s the point- it was uncovering and dealing with them that forced me to grow. So just go as you are. No worries. Learn on the road- that’s the journey.
Do you think that working abroad makes you grow as a person more than just sticking to one regular job back home?
I don’t want to shit on 9-5’s, because I am of the opinion that people should do what makes them happy. All I know is, that lifestyle didn’t work for me.
I know that by putting myself in all manner of weird and wonderful situations the last few years, I am virtually unrecognisable from the person I used to be. Travel and living abroad has been something of a spiritual awakening for me, and it is a journey that is utterly spellbinding and intoxicating. I would not be who I am without this life I lead.
But as always, what works for me doesn’t work for someone else. So just do what makes you happy- staying in one spot also brings benefits and personal growth, after all.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Mate. I honestly don’t even know where I’ll be next week!
But I can promise it won’t be a 9-5 in the UK. Now I have tasted this lifestyle, I can never go back. And why would I? I think I will always live abroad. I’m too curious, and the world is a big place offering so many alternatives.
So true! So finally, and most importantly, what tips would you give to people who want to follow in your footsteps to travel and work around the world?
Thanks Mel for an awesome interview! It’s so inspiring to see how one girl can experience so many jobs working abroad! Good luck with the next stage of your journey.