How to Make Working Abroad Work for You

Earning money = indefinite travel

Written by: Lizzie Frainier

As much as we’d all love to roam endlessly from one place to the next, at some point your savings will dry up.

By working abroad you can make a bit extra to get by on, or live for practically nothing with free board and sometimes food too. Plus you get immersed in local culture, make heaps of friends, and have something productive for your CV when you get back home.

Here are a few backpacker jobs to consider.

1. Spend a summer au pairing

Au pair little boy

The most important thing when it comes to au pairing is to spend time finding a family that’s right for you. This isn’t a job where you can ever really switch off, so you want to make sure you enjoy hanging out with the kids and living in their house.

AuPairWorld is an excellent place to start. Think of it like online dating for au pairs – you search for families based on where you want to live and then message those whose profiles seem a good match. Be clear from the start what tasks you’ll be responsible for (think childcare, laundry, cooking, cleaning) so that both you and your new family are happy with the situation.

I chose a family with older kids because that was what I felt most comfortable with, and who lived in Spain so I’d get to practice Spanish. I also went for a family who lived near the seaside! I had a great summer in the sunshine, and felt like I had a whole new Spanish family by the end of it. Working as an au pair, you’ll learn a lot about the local culture, routines, and food. Several years later I still love pan con tomate (bread topped with grated tomato) for breakfast.

2. Do a Workaway placement

Do a Workaway placement

If you haven’t heard of Workaway then you’re missing a trick. It’s dedicated to helping you travel on the cheap, listing places where you can work in exchange for a place to stay, often with decent home cooked meals thrown in too.

One look at what’s on offer and you may find yourself booking flights – do you want to run craft workshops on a Japanese farm? Or help with the upkeep of a river barge as it floats around France? The world really is your oyster here.

The real bonus is that you’ll probably pick up new skills you didn’t even know you were capable of. I suggested it to a friend when he found himself with a few weeks left of his summer holiday and no plans, and within a week he was teaching English to kids in a small French village.

3. Work in a hostel

Work in a hostel

One of the best summers of my life was spent living on the French Riviera while working in a hostel. I’d spend my mornings on the beach, work for a few hours in the afternoon, then explore the old town and party with the hostel guests at night. Eat, sleep, repeat.

The benefits of working at a hostel are twofold ­- you’ll meet plenty of people from around the world, and have somewhere to sleep each night for minimal work. Most will have you working on reception, which is a lot of sitting around chatting to people and the occasional check-in. No hard labour here.

Choose your hostel based on whatever experience you’re looking for. A small one with just ten beds in a tiny village lends itself to reading your book by the pool and long walks in the countryside, while a big hostel in Nice means late nights and a younger crowd. I went for the latter, to have a really sociable experience.

The best way to secure the job? Decide where you want to go and  google hostels in the area. Then email out your CV to as many places as you can.

4. House sit for someone while they’re on holiday

House sitting

This one is for all the animal lovers out there. You won’t get food or get paid, but chances are your accommodation will end up being a lot better than any of the other options on this list. Plus, you’re more than likely to have some snuggly creature to hang out with.

Basically you take care of someone’s pet while they’re on holiday, and in exchange get free rein of their house. That could be anything from an arty flat in downtown New York to a farmhouse in Italy with a pool. The more times you house sit, the more experience you get and the more likely you’ll end up staying somewhere really swanky.

There are plenty of sites to try out like Trusted House Sitters, House Sitters UK, and Mind My House. The only downside? You might not want to leave your new furry friend behind when it’s time to say goodbye.

5. Try out WWOOFing

Organic farmer WWOOF

If you’ve got a green thumb, you’ll be right at home with the ideas behind WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). You’ll spend your days working outdoors on the farm, either with animals or out in the fields. Just like au pairing, it’s a good idea to find out exactly what you’ll be doing on a day to day basis so you don’t end up working more than you expected.

You can find the volunteer opportunity that’s right for you on their online database. Spending time outdoors is obviously one of the main benefits here; it’s great to say goodbye to desk life.You’ll also get to support a greener lifestyle, make friends with your fellow WWOOFers, and add valuable volunteer experience to your CV.

So there you have it. Stop saying you haven’t saved enough money and book your flights today. I’m tempted to do it myself. What’s more, these experiences will all give you something deeper than just travelling; you’ll get to live somewhere new and call it home.


Lizzie Frainier settled in London by way of California, Wiltshire, Nice, Paris, Barcelona and more. She firmly believes that home is where the heart is and so couldn’t pick just one place to call home now. Her work has been published in LUXOS, Amante magazine, IMPACT magazine, 101 Holidays, E1Life magazine, and Food and Travel magazine. Follow her on twitter @lizziefrainier.

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