So You Want to Travel?

This is always a work in progress...please please please feel more than welcome to send me random e-mails with other good resources you've heard of or found!

Where will you stay?

Have you ever traveled somewhere and got stuck walking around the same old boring tourist areas, littered with the same printed t-shirts and shot glasses, over and over again? Did you ever think, man, I wish someone would tell me where all the cool places are, if I see one more person wearing a fanny pack, I might just kill someone?!? This is where couchsurfing comes in. Consider it like scheduling your own homestay, with each individual offering up photos, descriptions of themselves, some bits of their personal philosophy and a built in reference system from others who they've surfed with or who've crashed their couches. Often there's even a picture of their couch/futon and a description of the room available and how private it is. Don't just consider it a free place to sleep though, this option is for you if you're legitimately interested in learning about the country/city/person you're staying with/in! Even if you're not interested in actually sleeping at someone's house, most cities/regions have their own group, where people post cool events going on, organize potlucks, coffee dates language exchanges and more! Check out Rural Couchsurfing and Home Swap! One similar website is Hospitality Club.

From the HelpX webite, "HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation." Each host generally has pictures, a description of their place and what to expect (how many hours/day and days off, are they large or will you be the only volunteer, etc.) and there's a section for references from people who've worked with them. My HelpX experiences ranged from being more of a homestay on a farm in Germany where we never counted hours worked, to working with 7+ other volunteers where we worked specific hours every day and all had certain days off to explore. I personally preferred my experience on the small farm the best, but working with other volunteers does make it easier for you to make friends your own age, who you'll maybe even travel with later! This is a great way to travel when you don't have much cash and pick up some new skills (like making jam or brewing beer!) along the way! You can browse HelpX for free,  but must become a Premier member to contact hosts. HelpX costs 20 euro (about $29) for 2 years of access, which is fully worth it in my opinion! They do not help with visas, so you need to make sure your tourist visa lasts long enough or arrange some sort of working-holiday visa.

WWOOF is similar to HelpX, but only includes farms that grow organically, are in conversion or use ecologically sound methods on their lands. WWOOF has the benefit of being older and more established, but HelpX has a better online presence, with more information about potential hosts available at the click of a button. I chose HelpX because I was traveling to many countries, but I have heard good things about both organizations and met lots of people who even subscribed to both, if they were particularly interested in a specific country. The major difference is how the organization is structured. You pay a small fee to join a specific WWOOF organization by country. Thus, if you're planning on traveling to more than one location, you'll have to pay more than once. 

Air Bnb is for travelers who want something a bit nicer than a hostel. It's like Couchsurfing for people who want more privacy and don't mind spending a little bit of money. Situations range from a room in somebody's flat where you share their bathroom, living spaces, etc. to renting out an entire studio/2/3+ bedroom apartment. Generally you're renting from someone who is renting the place and has an extra room or so to spare. Sometimes your host will be very up for showing you around and inviting you out, sometimes not, it all depends what you're looking for. This is a great option for people who want their privacy, but can't fork out the high prices for a hotel and want to get a little bit more of an insiders' perspective on the city. If you're moving to a new city, it's also a good starting point where you cant rent a room for a month or so while you get settled. Some similar sites are iStopOver, Crashpadder, and Roomorama.

MindMyHouse is a global house sitting matching service. House sitters provide their pet and house sitting services for free in exchange for the privilege of living in the owner's home. For a small annual fee (US$20/£11/E16/AU$27), house sitters can create an advert for themselves for homeowners to search, or cans seek out homeowners directly. This is for people who would like to travel more than just a week or two and don't mind living alone. It's a great opportunity for someone who is more flexible in location, wants free accommodation and a change of scenery, or maybe some peace and quiet for awhile (or somewhere to return to after a night of drinking with the locals?). Obviously you must be responsible and not planning on leaving the area for while you're housesitting, lest the animals and plants die a hungry death! I personally have not done this, but it's on my list! Currently the website has the most postings in the US, UK, Spain and France, with a few other countries scattered here and there. One similar website I found is HouseCarers.

How Will You Get There?


Plane, train and bus tickets can get expensive! Consider ridesharing a safer, more organized form of hitchhiking. Plus, carpooling is better for the environment, right? To an American like me it first sounded crazy, but during my travels this was a completely normal option everyone I met considered without batting an eyelash. You will pay your share of gas, but this is still usually much cheaper than airfare. Some websites even offer up facts like whether or not the driver wants to play the radio during the ride! You search by from and to city and will find information about price, time and date leaving. Be prepared with a few words in the host countries' language, as you are liking calling a local who will of course not answer in English. Most people speak at least a little English, in my experience, but understandably you may call someone who is not interested in deciphering your language. Different countries have different sites. Of course, it's entirely possible to travel outside of a country with your ride, but you'll probably want to find the site for the country you're beginning in. Try Googling! Some examples are Germany's Mitfahrgelegenheit, France's Covoiturage and the UK's new Blablacar. Know of another rideshare website? Let me know!

Rail Cards

Though traveling by train takes longer, I cannot recommend it enough over flying. Think about it this way, when you fly you need to get to the airport, which is often a ways out of the major city, and you generally need to check in at least 2 hours before your flight. You need to pay for transit to and from the airport, worry about the luggage allowance, bad airplane food, cramped seats and then when you get there you have to wait for your luggage and find out how to get from the airport to your destination. Even if your flight is only an hour, you probably will spend at least two hours getting to and from the airport, plus 2-3 hours waiting in the terminal before your flight. See? Traveling by train is really not that much longer, and you'll arrive having seen some beautiful views, free of that horrible inside-of-your-nose-I-need-a-shower-immediately smell that sticks to you on the plane.

If you're going to be traveling a lot within a region (see: not across an ocean between locations, duh), I highly suggest investing in a railcard. Depending on what you chose, you either pay a certain about for a number of consecutive days of travel, or you can get a pass for a certain number of days of travel within a certain time period. I got a Euro Flexi-pass where I could travel as much as I wanted for 10 travel days, as long as they were within a 2 month period. You get the card validated before you begin in the train station and then you must write the date of travel on the pass before you begin each day. Once done, you can be on the train for 24 hours and you're set. You need to pay a little extra for overnight trains with a bed and to make reservations for seats if you so desire (usually only a couple Euro, but some railways like the TGV in France require reservations), but the price is worth it. If you are under 26 you get a Youth rate, so I paid 399 euro and sometimes 12 hours in a day, basically paying for the pass with 2 days of travel. I didn't have to worry about my luggage being weighed on the train, as long as I could carry it myself, I could pack my own lunches, stare out the window, make friends with others in my compartment. Best advantage? It's flexible. If you go to a city and decide you absolutely love it, you can just stay there longer. If you can't wait to get the hell out of somewhere, take the next train. You can't do that with a plane ticket.

For Americans, I used Euro Railways for travel in Europe. For residents of Europe, there is InterRail. For traveling within the US, Amtrak has a USA Rail Pass good for 8 trips in 15 days, 12 trips in 30 days, or 18 trips in 45 days. If you're up for taking a bus, there is also the Greyhound Discovery Pass for unlimited travel and stopovers within various time periods in the USA and Canada.

What Will You Do?


If you don't cringe at the sight of children and can handle living with your boss for a year, this might be for you. This is a nice option because your host family will basically sort everything out for you in terms of visa and you don't have to worry about paying rent, etc. The requirements depend on what country you're looking at, but generally you have to be between 18-30 years old and speak at least a tiny amount of the host country language. Some families only want women, some are fine with men, some don't want you if you smoke, etc. In most countries the families are required to pay for you to take one language class. It's generally required that you get one day off a week, though some families give two and if the children are in school, you usually have the whole mid-day off. Sometimes you help with housework and cookies, helping the kids pick up toys, etc. The most important factor in choosing a family is that you pay attention and ask the right questions to ensure it's a good fit. If you're very liberal and refuse to eat anything that's not organic, make sure to choose a family that's okay with that. For example, I'm vegan, so I said in my profile I have no problem cooking meat for the kids, but will not eat meat or dairy myself. Take into account how the family goes about contacting you, because it could mean a lot about their communication style. Think about why you really want to au-pair and be honest. Mostly, what vibe do you get from the family? Make a list of questions and ask them. Don't rush things and browse enough profiles to get an idea of the different options. There are a TON of au-pair websites, but two of the best I've found are Aupair World and Great Aupair. Both of these let you browse and e-mail the families for free, though there are some extra features available if you pay.

Teaching English

This could be a page in itself, but I will try to summarize as best as I can. If you've considering teaching English abroad, the first thing to think about is how much initiative you have, how dedicated to the actual teaching part you are, and how far out of your comfort zone you're willing to go. You are not going to be able to just move to Paris and teach English without any qualifications, so get that out of your mind now. In fact, it's pretty impossible to teach English in most Western European countries, especially if you're not an EU citizen. To my knowledge, there are several hot spots for teaching English that are currently South Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, the United Arab Emirates, etc. If you want everything set up for you, plane tickets, paid flat, etc. South Korea is the place to go right now. Thailand is another popular place for teaching English and there are some great programs to apply for in Japan, such as the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. There is also this forum, in English, for apartments, job classifieds, etc. in Japan: GaijinPot. My understanding for most of the Asian countries is that you often go through a recruiter. When talking to potential schools/bosses, I'd make sure you get a good vibe from them, as they'll likely be your main contact and source of info until you get settled, unless you speak the language.

Speaking of Western Europe, there is a teaching program through CIEE in Spain: CIEE Teach Abroad. CIEE also has programs for Chile, China, Dominican Republic, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, so check out their website if any of those places interest you. They have three levels based on your knowledge of the language and you have to pay the program to get started, but you do get paid monthly for your work, which is nice. Another country it's possible to teach in is Germany, though you will also need teaching experience, if not a degree, unless you don't mind living in a smaller town which has more demand. If you're planning to live in a city where competition is high, you will also need to have a working knowledge of German. In most places you get a freelance visa where you pay your own taxes, health insurance, etc. Some links about the details of this are: Getting a Visa In Germany (4dayvisa) and Teaching English in German-speaking Europe. Some forums for expats in Germany with job postings and further information are the Toy Town Forum and Exberliner and good places to look for flats besides these are Studenten-WG and WG-Gesucht. There is also Craigslist in Berlin, but as always, beware of scams and don't pay anyone over the internet before you get there. Once there I'd also recommend joining the local chapter of the English Language Teachers' Association for networking, training courses, job postings, etc (40 EUR/year).

My main experience in Europe, however, is in Prague. In Prague you need your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate or a degree in Education or experience teaching adults/kids to get a job in most cases. A great resource for expats in Prague is, which has apartment postings, job ads, etc. Your best bet for getting a job, however, is looking up the language schools and e-mailing them with your resume/CV and a short written cover letter in the e-mail explaining your experience. Put on nice clothes and show up at companies with your CV. If you're looking at smaller towns outside Prague, you have an even better chance getting a job. In most cases, you need to take the leap of faith and move there first to find a job, which is how it is most places in Europe. I structured this leap of faith by enrolling in a TEFL course with TEFL Worldwide Prague and I recommend them wholeheartedly. My teachers were fabulous, they had job databases for all over the world and in fact, two years later, I still contact them for information and job postings and they help me out. My classmates not only went to Prague, but Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Slovakia and more. If you don't want to go to Prague, I'd also suggest a CELTA, which is the Cambridge ESOL Certificate. They have centers around the world and are widely recognized.

There is a lot to say about teaching English and mostly it depends on the region/country. If you have more questions about how to get out there and teach English abroad, feel free to contact me and I can try to help you out as best as I can!

USA Jobs Abroad (Americans only)

If you're an American and don't mind working for the government, it's possible to work civilian jobs on American military bases abroad. These jobs range from more higher up positions to working in a  cafe or daycare. The goal is basically to create a "Little America" on the bases for the people living there and it appears the setup is pretty good with a contract and everything. Of course this is limited to where the US has bases and I'm sure there are very lengthy and detailed background checks. I have no personal experience doing this so I can't really give my two cents, but if you have done this or know someone who has, I'd love to hear your story! Click here for the USA Jobs international position search engine.

Know of something else? I'm always up for hearing about useful resources people have used during their travels. Feel free to drop me an e-mail at nabramow (at) gmail (dot) com to let me know I've missed something or add some more information to what I already have!

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