Is it better to save up travel money at home or work overseas?

A reader named Tracy recently wrote with concerns about making a living on the road. “I have become addicted to traveling, meeting new people and all the exciting adventures,” she wrote. “I don’t think I can go back to a ‘regular job.’ I have thought about teaching English overseas, but I’m not sure if that’s the best way to fund more travel. Am I better off getting a ‘real job’ and traveling on my time off, or is it possible to travel and not starve in the meantime? A lot of people have told me to go home, get work experience and then try and travel through the job. But I am an impatient gal. Since my goal right now is to travel, should I even bother pursuing anything else?”

This is what I told her:

I don’t know if there is one correct answer to your question. You seem to want to travel immediately and indefinitely — and I think this is something you can make happen, one way or another. With a little resourcefulness, you should be able to make ends meet and have quite an adventure in the process.

That said, I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s the best way to go. You’re young, and there’s no hurry to rush off (I didn’t have a passport until I was 25). A little bit of work and real-life home experience can’t hurt — especially if you are going to do long-haul travel in the future. Not only will the home-based work ground you and let you look forward to your travels, it will also earn you money in a way that is often more efficient than working overseas (where wages can be measly by comparison). Just save up those wages for your future travels, and that travel “nest egg” will eliminate the pressure to work so much on the road (though you might occasionally want to work abroad for experience).

Teaching English overseas is a great way to combine work with cultural experience. The downside is that not all countries pay well, and other countries are difficult for landing work visas. But I managed to earn a lot and learn a lot for two years teaching English in Korea (my last non-writing job before I went freelance full time). If you choose your country/job carefully when going into a teaching job, there’s no reason why the experience shouldn’t expand and improve your overseas travel experience in any number of ways (not just financial).

Posted by | Comments (6)  | August 24, 2009
Category: Vagabonding Advice

6 Responses to “Is it better to save up travel money at home or work overseas?”

  1. Paul Says:

    Like you wrote in your last article , now days ,it’s possible to travel ATW for $15-20k (minimum). You can always save up this money and try to work part time while travelling. It’s even more possible if you are young. I majored in foreign languages (Enl, Ger, French), so it was easier for me to travel around Europe and North America.Besides, when you are young, you can pretty much do any work ( I tried to “backpack through Europe when I was 30. Waiting table and doing general labour around hostels didn’t really appeal to me at that age).

  2. Thursday Bram Says:

    I think it really comes down to what Tracy’s area of expertise is — and if she has any career goals beyond funding her travels. I’ve done a lot of traveling, taking my work with me. I picked a career where that’s perfectly possible: I’m a freelance writer. Depending on Tracy’s goals, there may be a freelance or telecommuting option in her career path, or a change of careers might provide a few options as well.

  3. Says:

    Great advice. Living and working at home can be a great way to learn valuable skills such as another language, how to manage money and create a budget, learn to travel by yourself (even if it’s just a weekend jaunt), and many other valuable lessons. Tracy can also find a career that will allow her to travel the world at the company’s expense. Why spend your own money if you can spend the company’s?

  4. Renato Says:

    What about a mix of both?

  5. Lindsey Says:

    I’d be the bad influence and say TRAVEL NOW! Yet again, not sure I noticed that I traveled so much. For the last four years I’ve been a seasonal worker… giving me a new place to live every five months, plus two months off in between seasons to relax and wander.
    Seasonal tour guide work is great for travel! Be it all over the United States or the world!

  6. David Says:

    Saving money for future trip in advance is not a bad idea.