Work Your Way Around the World

It's many a graduate's dream -- pay your way as you travel around the world. I lived the dream myself when I was younger, so I know it is possible. Since then I've been tracking this subject faithfully, and have read through scores of books and websites offering how-to advice on the dream. They won't hurt, but this fantastic book -- now in its 14th edition! -- is really the only one that will give you much help before you leave.

Most of these kind of books are a bunch of hand-waving generalities, or out of date particulars; this one is very specific and very current. It is massively researched, with tons of incoming gossip on where the easily-gotten jobs are this year, and what to do about paperwork and visas in that particular place, and how to land the job, and what you should expect, and letters from those who just did it. It's all very helpful, practical and inspiring. But don't get your hopes too high. There are really only two kinds of dependable quick jobs to be found "around the world": 1) In the service industry in Europe -- working at hotels, resorts, bars, camps for other tourists; and 2) teaching English in Asia. For most kids, that'll be enough. There are hundreds of exceptions to these two, and this book will do its best to point you to them, but they are far fewer, and more dependent on chance. But even that skill -- cultivating chance -- is tackled with great intelligence in this meaty book, which I can't recommend too much.

The author Susan Griffith is very prolific and at the center of a number of other related ongoing books, also recommended. Teaching English AbroadYour Gap Year, and Summer Jobs Worldwide.

-- KK

Work Your Way Around The World
15th Edition
Susan Griffith
2012, 416 pages

Sample Excerpts:

It is extremely difficult for anyone whose mother tongue is English to starve in an inhabited place, since there are always people who will pay good money to watch you display a talent as basic as talking.


According to many travelers like Emma-Louise Parkes, the Albuferia area is the place to head:

I arrived at Faro Airport in June, and went straight to Albuferia. A job-hunter here will be like a kid in a sweet shop. By 12.15pm I was in the resort, by 12.30pm I had found somewhere to stay and had been offered at least four jobs by the evening, one of which I started at 6pm. All the English workers were really friendly individuals and were a goldmine of information. Jobs-wise, I was offered bar work, touting, waitressing, cleaning, packing ice cubes into bags, karaoke singing, nannying for an English bar owner, timeshare tout, nightclub dancer… I'm sure there were more. Touts can earn £16 a night with all the drink they can stomach while waitresses can expect a little less for working 10am-1pm and 6pm-10pm. Attractive females (like myself!) will be head-hunted by lively bars, whereas British men are seen by the locals as trouble and are usually kept behind bars (serving bars that is) and in cellars.


The hiring policy is virtually universal in Taiwan: almost anyone with a BA can land a job. The country remains a magnet for English teachers of all backgrounds. Hundreds of private language institutes or buhsibans continue to teach young children, cram high school students for university entrance examinations and generally service the seemingly insatiable demand for English conversation and English tuition.

Many well-established language schools are prepared to sponsor foreign teachers for a resident visa, provided the teacher is willing to work for at least a year. Only teachers with a university degree are eligible. Many people arrive on spec to look for work. It is usually easy to find a buhsiban willing to hire you but not so easy to find a good one. If possible, try to sit in on one or two classes before signing a contact. (If a school is unwilling to permit this, it doesn't bode well.) The majority of schools pay NT$500-$600 (roughly $19-$21.50) per hour.



  1. I could be wrong about this, but I think “can’t recommend too much” implies, well, that you can’t recommend it very much. You might have been going for “can’t recommend enough.”  

    1. Um, no. “Can’t recommend too much” means that no matter how much you recommend it, it’s not too much.

  2. Is all this really legal?  I’m pretty sure you can’t come to the US as a tourist, and just find work somewhere until you make enough to move along to your next destination.  We tend to call those folks illegals and treat them pretty rough (as Rick Perry would say). I’d be surprised if it was legal in most countries. Except, maybe, within the EU, for citizens of any country that’s an EU member.

    1. If you’re trying to see the world on a trickle of walking-around money earned from odd jobs, and you’re overly worried about staying fully within the bounds of local immigration, labor, and tax law….I’d have to guess that you joined the wrong queue somewhere along the line.

    2. In my younger years I worked in many countries around the world. Always it was legal. I came across people doing “under the table” work but they were the exception. Most first-world countries offer “gap year” style work visas for people from other first-world countries. They tend to be limited to a year or two and many limit what sort of work you can take. Australia where I’m from takes thousands of backpackers every year on temporary work visas. Australian kids in their thousands travel to the UK to work for a year or two. Not sure if the U.S. offers but there are ads in the papers here encouraging young people to travel to the U.S. to work as camp counsellors.  

  3. I got a job teaching not English but high-school science in an English immersion school in Bangkok. I interviewed over Skype beforehand and sent e-mails back and forth. I got my final e-mail from them while in the airport in Seoul during my layover there saying that the guy in charge of hiring decided to hire his friend instead who had just called that morning looking for a job.

    Having paid for the flight myself, I stayed in Bangkok for about a month looking for another job. I had a couple of interviews – it really is quite easy to get interviews actually. But there were quite a lot of people waiting outside at the interviews. I think the number of people who go home without a job (including myself) is higher than anyone thinks – it’s not a guaranteed thing by any means, despite what you hear about how easy it is.

    It’s really only an option for people who are outgoing with a lot of charisma. Which explains, I suppose, why most foreigners you meet while traveling in places like that are outgoing but shallow (if not outright douchey). Never mind that I had two years teaching experience, knew some Thai and was familiar with the culture etc. – the guy with the loudest voice is basically who will alway get the job (to be fair I’d be a terrible English teacher, that’s why I was excited about the unusual science teacher position).

    My point is that I’m bitter and jealous about people who manage to actually live this lifestyle. Er… I mean that it really isn’t going to work for everyone and it’s not a matter of starting capital or any other form of privilege. I really wish there were other sorts of opportunities for this kind of travel, for different kinds of people.

  4. I would add to this list a book called Vagabonding;The Art of Long Term Travel, by Ralf Potts I got this book from a friend and it totally helped prepare me to travel abroad, as much as a book can. The best advice I personally could give, is “Just go, already!” I spent 2 months in S. America and 2 in SE Asia. I had no plans, only bought 1 way tickets, and made my itinerary as I went. If you are craving adventure (which I was), over-planning is your biggest enemy.

    1. Did you have jobs in those locations, and if so, what did you do?  Just curious to hear about your experiences.

      This is one of those things that I was always interested in, but due to various commitments at home was always too impractical for me.  Now I have a 2-year-old to contend with, so it’s a bit harder, but I still fantasize about picking up the family and just staying abroad for extended periods of time. 

      We’ll see…

  5. Teaching English overseas is also a potential solution for young, unemployed graduates. A friend of mine with an MA in English lit was stuck living with his parents and searching fruitlessly for a job until he got the idea of applying to teach English in South Korea. It turns out a master’s degree in English is super-marketable in South Korea. The master’s degree qualified him to teach English at the university level — and it turns out his summer program studying Shakespeare, and his part-time job teaching English as a second language, made him very desirable and hireable. He had no trouble getting a full-time university teaching job with decent salary and benefits, including subsidized housing (and they helped him deal with all visas and work permits). He loves teaching and is really good at it.

    In the U.S., at best, he might have been able to patch together some part-time adjunct gigs at community colleges, making little more than minimum wage with no benefits. Going overseas was a much better career and financial move. And he’s gotten to have some amazing experiences and see some awesome parts of the world.

  6. I used this book successfully in 1992. Left for Europe with $500 dollars, returned to the states 3 years later with about $5,000. Picked lots of grapes, worked at ski resorts in the Alps, taught English in Prague, worked on US military bases.

    If you are in your early 20’s and not afraid of living a little  rough, it works. I don’t think older people would have as much fun or success with it… people are more accepting of young travelling backpackers than they are of older transients.

    I was invited into so many homes, and shown around by so many locals.  Time of my life.

    Being part of the economy is really different than being a tourist.

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