Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Travel the World

           This is not a comprehensive guide on how to travel the world, I'm not experienced or motivated enough to write that. Plus it wouldn't fit in one blog post. But it is how I've travelled the world. I've been to 5 continents and 22 countries (adding two more in the next couple of months) since leaving home for the first time eight years ago. Here’s how I've done it, and how you can too:

1) Get university credits for travelling

            Are you in university or college? Thinking of going? Depending on your school and program of choice, you may be able to get university credits overseas. At my university they offer programs called Study Tours, which give students the opportunity to travel to such varying places as New York, India, Mexico, Ecuador, and many more. These study tours are available for students studying a range of topics, from geography to biology to art to fashion design. They allow groups of students (anywhere from 10-25 at a time) to travel to other parts of the world and actually see what it is they are studying, with an instructor or two there to explain everything (which is clearly better than reading about it in a textbook).

            In university I majored in Geography and International Issues, with an extended minor in Latin American Studies. This allowed for a lot of studying overseas. The first time I got on a plane I was headed to Spain for a month on one of these study tours. It was that trip that ignited my passion for travel, and for the rest of my university career I took every opportunity I had to get my credits while travelling  I studied volcanoes, geomorphology, religion and city planning across three Hawaiian islands. I learned about glaciation, super volcanoes, forest fires, and the history of national parks in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. I saw firsthand the effect of rising sea levels and wave action all down the Washington coast. I spent a month in Mexico experiencing the vibrant culture, drinking tequila that’s actually good (and learning why), exploring countless Aztec ruins, and discovering religions I didn't even know existed. All in the name of education. I probably got about 30% of my university credits this way. And I learned a million times more than I would have sitting in a classroom.

Yes, this is school

           So don’t think you have to wait until you’re done school to start travelling  Do your research and find out of your school offers similar programs. I promise you won’t regret it.

2) Do an Internship

          Again, something you can do as part of your education. An overseas internship may be offered through your university for credits or you can find your own and just use it to pad your resume and experience. Many internships are either partly or fully funded, it’s just a matter of finding them.
This depends on your area of interest, but if you want to avoid doing an internship in an office building down the street it’s a good idea to look at your country’s international development agency. Canadians can find many international internship opportunities through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), 
while Americans should be able to find them through the US Agency for InternationalDevelopment (USAID). Another good option is AISEC, a global student-run organization that can help you find funded internships in the areas of development, management, education and engineering/technical.

A couple years ago I had the opportunity to do an internship in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, organized by my alma mater. I’d already graduated at this time, but it was easier to do an internship through the university and having that support system rather than trying to find my own and going in alone and blind. I spent three months interning at a non-profit organization called Women Fund Tanzania, and learned so much more about the country and its people than I would have just travelling there on my own. I also volunteered at KidzCare Tanzania, a children's home and nursery school which I wouldn't have known about it were not for the connection made by my university. After my internship I spent a month travelling around Kenya and Zambia on my own, something I would have been terrified of doing alone had I not already been living in Africa for the last three months. Scared to travel alone? Do an internship or volunteer in the area first, you’ll soon get over your fear!

With some of the KidzCare boys

PS: Because of the internship I did in Tanzania I am going back to Africa for another internship this year, this time in Kenya. Make those connections and opportunity will abound!

3) Work on a Cruise Ship

In late 2011 I decided I needed a paying job that allowed me to travel, so I applied to work on a cruise ship. I had applied to work at the shore excursions desk on board, thinking that since I've done all these things I would be the perfect person to sell them! Well I didn't get hired to sell shore excursions but I did get hired as a youth counsellor (kind of like a camp counsellor at sea). The only experience I had working with kids was some high school work experience at an elementary school, a little bit of coaching and my time spent volunteering at KidzCare Tanzania, but that was enough. The great thing about being hired as a youth counsellor is that it’s a seasonal position: I’m only needed when kids are on breaks from school, so I don’t need to spend nine months at a time at sea. My first time at sea was one week in the Caribbean for spring break. My second contract was three months cruising between Seattle and Alaska in the summer. And I’ll be returning to the Caribbean for a month this spring. Winter contracts are available too, but I chose to skip out this year and spend Christmas at home.
            Don’t enjoy working with children? There are plenty of other options at sea. Cruise ships need people with retail experience to work in the shops, servers, cooks, and busboys to work in the restaurants, bartenders in the nightclubs and bars, dancers, singers, musicians, and other entertainers in the shows. They need security guards, maintenance workers, lighting and sound technicians, DJs  fitness instructors, hotel employees. Engineers and sailors. You name it; you can do it on a cruise ship (almost).
            Pay varies between cruise lines (some great, some not so great) and also varies depending on the country you reside in based on cost of living, e.g. North Americans are paid more than someone from the Philippines. Flights to and from the port are paid for by the cruise line, as is a hotel room if required before you board the ship. On board you’ll be given a (very small) cabin which you’ll usually share with a roommate and all meals will be free. Alcoholic drinks aren't free but they are damn cheap in the crew bar! Shore excursions are also free, you just need to request them ahead of time and hope you get something good. On my last contract in Alaska I did over US$2000 worth of free excursions, including things like snorkelling, zip-lining  whale watching, wildlife parks, rafting, etc. And with all these things being free, I was able to save basically all the money I made! To spend on more travel of course.

Clearly excited about free food on board

4) Teach English

Did you know that you don’t need to commit to a yearlong contract to teach English overseas? Neither did I until recently. I had always been interested in teaching English, I even studied for my TEFL certificate, but I didn't want to sign a yearlong contract then go to the other side of the world and absolutely hate it. Every English teaching position I looked into seemed to have a yearlong contract attached to it, which is all well and good if you know you enjoy teaching. But I didn't have a clue if I would even like it, so I hadn't pursued any positions seriously until I came across a company that hires teachers for English camps. I discovered English Beyond Borders (EBB) through a friend that had worked with them, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. In South Korea students have a month break in summer and a month break in winter. During these breaks some of the universities put on English Camps, where the students come for two to four weeks and learn the English language from a native speaker. The university that EBB works with will fly English teachers to South Korea, put them up in a dorm on campus, and pay for all meals (in the cafeteria) while they’re teaching, plus provide an acceptable pay cheque  They even allow teachers to fly home up to a month after their contract is finished, to allow time to explore the country.

            I just did this for the first time this January and, besides the bitter cold, I absolutely loved it. I taught for about two weeks and then hung out in Seoul for another five days or so, although I could have stayed longer. Flights paid for only two weeks of work? Yes please! I am definitely applying next winter if something else doesn't come up.

My Korean students and I
            You don’t need any teaching experience for this job (I didn't have any), but you do need be a native English speaker from an English speaking country and have at least a bachelor’s degree.

5) Strap on a backpack and get out there!

            No excuses, if you want to travel just do it. I did two big backpacking trips, one around South East Asia and one around South America, all on the money I saved selling TVs and video games at Wal-Mart. If an underpaid Wal-Mart associate can do it, so can you.

You too could pretend to march into a giant Pringles can in the Salar de Uyuni


  1. Travelling is a passion for many people and there are plenty of travelling destinations around the world where they can go and enjoy at there.

  2. I didn't know about #1 and #2, didn't know you could get college credit or overseas internship. Those are great ideas for students, since we know they're already low on cash.


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