Working Abroad: Want Job, Will Travel

So you want to see the world, but can’t afford a gap year spent backpacking or volunteering? Three readers tell us their tales of travelling abroad while earning their keep

Article | 14 Sep 2015

Teaching English

I never took a gap year or a year abroad, and consequently started to feel claustrophobic in Glasgow, my home city of six years.

I thought about teaching. There's always demand for people willing to teach English, so I applied to an agency for jobs teaching in China. Things took off quickly. Within a month of Skype interviews and demo lessons I was offered a contract to teach at a private school for a year in Beijing.

Before deciding whether to move away, everyone I spoke to explained how lucky I was; how jealous they were. It frustrated me – they weren’t the ones who would have to uproot and live in China for a year.

I adapted to life in Beijing very quickly. It’s strange how quickly we accept things after dreading them for so long. The main problem is the language barrier, but you can get by with a minimal understanding of Chinese.

The next concern? Actually teaching the children. I had no experience, but figured I'd catch up. And I did. We were given no training, but when classes went well it was enjoyable. Sometimes I had to check myself because my three hour day had consisted of singing songs and colouring with kids.

One year was enough for me. There were times where I felt silly for giving up a good deal so soon, but I knew China wasn’t for me long term.

I thought that living in a different culture would make me a bit less particular and fussy, but I was surprised to find that I was more stubborn and confident in my own opinions and preferences than ever before. To quote Confucius: “no matter where you go – there you are.” I went half way round the world to find out that I’m the same person I’ve always been.

For more information on teaching English, check out the teaching abroad section on

[Gemma Burke]

Chalet host

There's something about places like Méribel, where the 18-25s gather to 'work' a ski season. They're in the middle of quintessential France whilst having roughly enough French residents to fill a Fiat Punto. Mostly you'll be surrounded by Brits and Aussies who are either on a gap year, adventuring post-study, or who started that way and have decided to live Winter season in France and Summer season in Bali.

With the ski area arguably the biggest and one of the best in the world, it's a top destination if you want to ski/board your winter away. Conditions are always right somewhere, and it's just as exciting for the novice seasonaire as it is for the veterans. It you want the best deal, head for a job at one of the high end chalet companies where you'll get the likes of accommodation, ski passes, insurance, flights, and ski hire included, as well as the use of the hot tub and sauna when the guests are out. And sometimes when they're in, too.

Highlights could include having James Morrison ('member him?) stay in your chalet, complete with a gang of his tipping-shy pals. You also might wind up with a food and drink budget for your staff accom', meaning you'll earn c500/month plus tips – and live off the latter alone.

The other option is to go for the likes of bar work, where things are as laid back as they can be. However, you'll likely end up with fewer freebies, accommodation that boasts no windows and bedrooms shared with up to six other staff members. Plus evening guests.

Oh, and top tip – if hosting, don't piss off your chalet chef. 

For info,

[Kyla Hall]


I am one half of Wonderful Exile – a professional music duo from Glasgow. We've been funding our travels around Europe for the past year entirely through busking. This invites a mixed response – non-musicians question street music as a viable profession, and musicians doubt their ability to earn enough on the street. But there really is potential for busking to be a professional occupation.

I graduated in 2014 and my partner was considering a year out of university. We'd joked about setting off for mainland Europe with the guitar, and one day thought – why not? It would be an adventure, if nothing else.

In September, we travelled to Amsterdam where our small store of saved money swiftly disappeared and we had to begin busking. Luckily, we had the natural appeal of being a couple, and a Scottish one at that.

We wanted to stand out from other street performers – remain professional musicians, but still appear personable and approachable enough to appeal to passers-by. To hold their attention we looked at where our strengths lay and fit our songs accordingly. We turned dance pop into jazz, ballads into rock, indie into country. We also engaged with everyone who wanted to speak to us and listened to their stories.

We're sticking to Europe for now – it's rooted within the culture to have street music, and therefore most profitable. We thought bigger cities would guarantee an audience but realised that these cities could drown us out. Instead, we looked for smaller places with less of an established music scene. I'd recommend Delft (The Netherlands), Lugano (Switzerland), Bruges (Belgium) and Aachen (Germany).

A surprising number of places strictly regulate busking, require licenses, or even forbid it altogether. But we've found that these rules, and the police who enforce them, are to be respected but not feared.

Wonderful Exile haven't finished our travels just yet. To see where we are and what we're doing, visit:

[Imogen Stirling]

Trying to find a way to make a dollar on your travels? Teaching and busking aren't your only options...

Tour Guiding – English as a native language can come in extremely useful. Cities like Rome and Barcelona are full of UK folk showing tourists around, and there are loads of tour companies offering positions travelling from country to country leading excursions. Sound exciting? Well, head to for more information.

Club Reppin' – where clubbing is essentially your job, all day (and night), seven days a week. Think you can handle that? Sure you can. Failing that, you could just be the responsible one who ferries the hungover populace to and from the airport and makes sure that all the party people are having a great time. Find out more at

Party Hosting and Escorting – These options suffer a bit of a bad rep, but did Billie Piper teach you nothing? If the strings to your bow happen to ones of charm and chat, this one is a genuine earner. Just make sure you're in a country where it's legal and that you're supported by a reputable agency who'll support and protect you if necessary.

Head to the States – Anyone enrolled in a university or accredited post-secondary institutions can apply to work for a short time in the USA with a J1 visa. From there, there’s no restriction on the type of work available – from internships at blue chip corporations or experiencing the infamous USA service industry. Head to to find out more.