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A Little Thought… On Why I Left to Travel, How I Pay for It, and How to Work as an Expat

Mythology and story, new cultures and finding just the right way to describe what it feels like to watch a new day begin as the the sun warms the streets of an unknown city…these are the things I usually think about when writing new posts. How can I transport other people into a new place? Since many people won’t make it on a rickety bus rocketing through the dry deserts of India, I share that with words and photos. It’s those travel moments that compelled me to keep up travel blogging–the want to share the experiences and the stories along the way.

What I rarely talk about, though, is a bit less glamorous and a lot more personal. More pointedly my work. I’ve mentioned my work a handful of times, but not in much detail. And I don’t do this for the mysterious factor (seriously, I am not that interesting) but because the topic rarely crops up outside of the emails I receive a few times a month from questioning travelers wondering how the heck I afford nearly four years of travel (and how they can do the same).

Now, I finally decided I have something to say to the countless travelers and dreamers asking me how to go digital, how to work online and build their dream lifestyle.

Watching Titanic in 3D in Phnom Penh

The three of us found a theatre playing Titanic in 3D and yes, oh yes, we went to see it!

Try on life as a true expatriate.

I drafted this post in back in April, when my niece and I stayed with Anna Jura, a traveling expat friend living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia who works in the public health sector and navigates the ins and outs of finding expat work abroad. As an aside, having Anna (my friend) and Ana (my niece) share names made for a fun week of confusion and I often elicited raised eyebrows pointed in my direction since the dynamics of talking to an 11-year-old are a far-cry different from talking to another adult! :)

Anyways, Anna opened her door to us with a spare bedroom, opened her evenings to us with wandering rants about local Cambodian politics and culture, and with enthusiasm she showed us the tastier eats around her city.

More than that though, she showed me what it is like to truly work abroad an expat in a city you’re in because you like both the city and your work.

cambodian foodA simple veggie fare for lunch...not really Cambodian, but delicious!

Chalk it up to lack of critical thought on the subject, but in my narrow world, it hadn’t fully occurred to me to encourage people to find work in their field of study. To actually take their University degrees and apply for work abroad. Over the years, I have given a lot of advice in emails encouraging people to embrace digital work. I wrote to one questioning traveler: “Think about all of your unique skills and leverage those into remote-based consulting.”  And to another I emailed that she could “build up freelance gigs in one of her skill-sets or consider teaching English abroad.”

breakfast

My niece and I cooked a thank you breakfast on our last day for Anna and her neighbor!

All of this is good advice if you want to work from a computer;  and that is my primary frame of reference. I have said it before in places on this website, what differentiates me from many round the world and gap-year travelers is that I worked the entire time. In the past six years I have only truly taken two long breaks from my SEO consulting work, my freelance online work, and the weekly upkeep on this blog. One break was in 2009 on my RTW trip for a ten-day Vipassana Meditation course in Nepal; I spent ten days in complete silence and they locked all our gadgets and notepads in the center’s storage areas for the entire ten days. The other break was in Burma earlier this year; I knew the internet was intermittent in the country and welcomed three weeks offline, only checking in once or twice to make sure there were no fires to squash.

My “office” is usually a wifi cafe much like this one…and the best cafes have fellow blogging friends gracing their tables like Jodi of Legal Nomads and James from Nomadic Notes!

It’s worth noting that I left back in 2008 to travel knowing this was my reality, knowing I wouldn’t have the same freedoms of other 20-something backpackers who had spent years saving up, then quit their jobs and traveled unhindered and free to indulge in each travel moment. It’s a great story, the quit my job and traveled story, but it’s not my story. I have no regrets, and the fact that I can work remotely regularly makes it on my daily gratitude list.

My Backstory, or Rather, How I Pay my Bills

For a season of my life, I worked at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. I do believe those three and a half month qualify as my only “real job” after college. Well, the only 9 to 5 I’ve ever worked I should say. I took the NYFA job to help myself transition between Florida and California. I moved to LA just after graduating college in 2006, and, like so many other young actors, ambition, naïvety, and likely a hint of narcissism fueled me through the move. But, even back then, I had lucked into fully online based work through a series of happenstance connections shaped by the people, professors, and friends I met while studying at University. So, I took a location-based job. And I did it simply to meet new friends and find an instant community in a town where finding a community is the only way to survive the crushing anonymity of living in a city with nearly four million inhabitants.

Graduating college in 2006

Graduating university and just a month before I decided to pack up and spontaneously move to Los Angeles, California to pursue acting and continue my online work.

I had worked with NYFA on their annual summer program in Orlando, Florida, so they were a logical choice when I wanted part-time work. It was a three-day-a-week job that necessitated a blouse, skirt, and super cute heels. The outfits were the best part of that job. That’s not to say anything about the company, my colleagues welcomed me, the NYFA students were bright and passionate, and the work was challenging.

But I hated the lack of power, the oversight of a boss when I’d only previously justified my time-management on projects to myself. And lest you think I simply didn’t like work and skated through University on a trust fund, I got a full merit-based scholarship to the University of Central Florida, and I waited tables, bartended, and nannied to pay for the other costs; each of these was a job I loved aspects of, though the former two were jobs I swore I’d never return to again once I graduated.

Back to Los Angeles. I found myself in the routine, packing my lunch each day, the same smiles, the same jokes with friends, and after-work exhaustion, or happy hour on a good day. And it didn’t feel like me. There was a restlessness stirring inside of me, fighting the constraints in the daily routine.

So I quit. Okay, not quite like that, I finished the project … my fancy title was the Assistant Director of New Programs, and what it boiled down to was me co-writing an application to grant MFA degrees from one of the NYFA programs. With the project finished, rather than stay on, I gave a cheery goodbye ( still on good terms). Then I went back to my online work, nannied for two families in LA, and spent another year and a half toiling through life as an actor in Los Angeles.

I had an epiphany of sorts, in a conversation with my dad … I told him how I was itching to move again, and since I had enough SEO consulting work I was thinking of moving to Boston for a change of scenery. He said “Well, you can pretty much work from anywhere, so I say do it.”

And to this day my dad maintains that he never imagined the sorts ideas that conversation would spark. Within two weeks I had embraced the concept: I bought a one-way ticket to Australia, gave notice to my landlord, and decided to leave acting behind for a while and instead travel and work.

hollywood sign, los angeles

My last day in the US back in 2008, just before leaving Los Angeles to Australia for my RTW trip. I hiked Runyon Canyon with my friend Lisandra to say goodbye to the Hollywood Sign (in the far background)..

I left just five months later, in November of 2008, with a conservative sum of money I gained from: selling my belongings, my modest savings, and extra work I crammed in the last couple months. To fund the full year of travel I had planned, I knew I needed to bill about 25 hours a week on average for most of the trip, and slightly more than that once I arrived in Europe, where the cost of living is higher than in Asia.

Since that time, I have continued many of the same jobs (still doing SEO, online marketing/SEO consulting, freelance writing, and this blog), while also diversifying my work and income (I have a volunteer site in the works and a book publishing later this fall … more on that soon!). Through it all though, I have always and will continue to work remotely, from my laptop, for the foreseeable future.

Back to the Present: Living Abroad as a Working Expat

From my background and experience, I have given career advice in countless emails to steer people into working remotely. And in some responses I noted that you could find work abroad, but I never really understood all that it can mean to live as an integrated expat until I lived with Anna Jura for a week.

I am disposed against “real” jobs, ie. office jobs with bosses and clocking in, but that’s just me.

Some people thrive under the structure and work 9-5 on projects they love. This is not a novel concept to most of my friends, who love their homes, love having evenings off, and love a structure giving them weekends free of work concerns…

But maybe I finally get it. Anna and her roommate both clock into “real” jobs each day.

By choice.

Given the option to switch jobs with me, they’d choose their job.

Sunset phnom penh palace

Sunset over the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from one of the walks Anna took us on around the city

Every expat I met through Anna while in Phnom Penh was highly educated, most were specializing in development work of some sort, though some in marketing, or business, and all were content with their work and life as an expat in Cambodia.  In the past, I’ve met disgruntled expats, those frustrated or with their jobs and ready to take the money they earned working abroad, do a last hoo-rah of travel until it ran out, and then move home. But the community I met in Phnom Penh changed my perception; these people found a place for their specializations, for their college degrees. Beyond that, the prospect of living and working in this particular foreign city excited them. Their work is not a means to an end as it often is for those teaching English abroad or some such (the end usually being traveling). These are jobs for the love of working in a subject field, and, ultimately, professional work satisfaction.

So much of the travel community is “rah, rah travel, rah, rah save up and take a massive trip…or work remotely and travel perpetually.”  That’s just one option. There are also opportunities abroad for those with wanderlust and a wish to have a home-base, set-up shop, live, raise a family, and truly enjoy life as an expat abroad.

Small Thatched Cottage, Ireland

The thought of living in this thatched cottage, cozying up with a daily up of tea, finding new friends and settling into a new rhythm makes Ireland’s rural Western coast appeals to me if I ever want to go off the grid as an expat :)

That’s my new advice. Try on your University degree and see if it fits abroad. Or try consulting and build an online business. Or save up a chunk of money, travel, and return to home-base. My point is, I heartily support travel and think anyone with the opportunity and inclination should take it…and think outside the advice anyone might give you and follow your own path to that end.  :)

Resources for Finding Work Abroad

I’ve never worked for a traditional company abroad, but I have many friends who have. This page on A Little Adrift does a very deep, thorough dive into how to find specialized expat work from people who have done it. If you’re looking to work online, I recommend that you start here with your research as it covers every step from deciding what work is good for your skills, to finding work, to how to travel as a digital nomad if you choose remote-based work.

How to Work and Travel as a Freelancer or Digital Nomad

If you are interested in moving overseas, that job hunt is a different process. These resources will give you a better idea of where to find overseas jobs, as well as how others have done it before you.

International Organizations/Databases

  • Going Global: Though part of the site has paid services, the country profiles are wonderfully detailed, list out organizations, business profiles and a huge range of useful information.
  • ReliefWeb: Start here for many development jobs all over the world — it’s easy to search and full of opportunities in many fields.
  • InterNations: A huge global community. I haven’t participated, but I know they host events and have active forums.
  • Cool Works: The site’s tagline is “Jobs in Great Places” and there are a lot of sorting options — seems like a good place to peruse.
  • Go Workabout: Seasonal jobs for foreigners in Australia; it’s a great database.

Information Sites

  • Expat Focus: A good starting point, you will find yourself lost in this site for hours as you start plotting and planning a move. Though there is a free membership part to some of it, you can search through country information without logging in.
  • Expat Finder: A full service site that has information on every part of the move.
  • Expat Exchange: A robust site with information on a wide range of countries.
  • Expatica: Nice all-around resource for every side of the process, it has job boards, community forums, tips articles, and is a well-trafficked site and it looks like there is pretty dynamic content!
  • Four Ways to Become an Expat: A few paths you can look at for finding jobs and a type of work that will take you overseas.
  • Transitions Abroad: Dense with information; I didn’t like that they don’t link out to other job boards and that such, but has a range of possible topics covered.

Additional Resources for How to Work as an Expat

  • The End of Jobs: An essential book for anyone who wants to work as an expat or digital nomad; speaking to why MBAs and JDs can’t get jobs, research on integrated living, and more.
  • Big Magic: You don’t have to be a fan of Eat Pray Love to enjoy this book. An inspiring read about creativity that is helpful to expats, digital nomads, and bloggers.
  • Four Hour Work Week: No doubt you’ve seen it for years, but if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Some of Tim Ferris’ viewpoints are very counter to how I live my life, but I will give him this: his book changed my perception about what is possible in building an online business. It’s still a primer read for a reason, it’s worth having that knowledge and perspective in your head as you move forward.
  • The 80/20 Principle: A good companion to the Four Hour Work Week, this book talks about how 20% of your efforts will generate 80% of your results. As an expat or digital nomad working smarter, not harder, is key and this book provides a good base.

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  • Jeff

    Thanks Shannon for the mention!  This is a great post from you – revealing and upfront and, as always, from the heart.  best, -jeff

    • ShannonOD

      You’re welcome Jeff! You have some great tips and stories that could convince just about anyone that it’s a good idea to work abroad :)  

  • camorose

    Really interesting to learn a bit more about your background, Shannon. I fall into that category of preferring a 9-5: I simply don’t have the discipline to freelance full-time, and I really love creating a routine in a new city. I like the chance to wake up early, get dressed nicely, become a local in a cafe, make friends with my coworkers, go to the gym or out to drinks–explore a new place on Saturday, go out on Saturday night, markets on Sunday morning. I’ve loved living in both Nice and Melbourne, and I’m looking forward to figuring out where I’m going next–thanks so much for posting those expat resources, certainly going to give them a look :) 

    • ShannonOD

      Ooo, intrigued to see where you head next; you’ve done the drill a couple times now of looking for work and that sort of thing…any thoughts on if your next adventure is US or abroad once you’re back from Nice? :)

      • camorose

        If I can find a job in NYC, I’d love to have a base to explore the East Coast for a year–if not, I’m awfully tempted by 4 weeks vacation and a third summer-in-a-row in Australia! We’ll see what transpires–another one of those times where I have absolutely NO idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing in a month!

        • ShannonOD

          Ooo, if you make it to NYC, our paths will definitely cross again soon. I love the up in the air plans — and really Oz or elsewhere, you can’t go wrong :)

  • Great post and resources! I’m like Anna; I don’t see working abroad as a means to an end, but a way to combine travel and chase my career at the same time. I became an expat because I knew I wanted to leave the US permanently after graduation, but I didn’t want to travel full-time — I like having a base to travel from, and I actually really enjoy expat life. I’ve so far been able to avoid teaching English and have found jobs in my field; I worked in social media in Singapore and journalism/media in China and Australia. And now, only two years after graduating, I’m heading to London next month for my dream job! It’s definitely possible to do (I’ve written a post on it, I don’t want to spam your comments but let me know if you’d like the link) — so thanks for emphasizing that there are options out there besides teaching English or saving up for a RTW, and that you can find work in your field abroad!

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks for weighing in Edna — and for showing that you really don’t have to teach English if you’d prefer to work in another field. If you want to reply back with the link, I will definitely add it to this post :)  Good luck on the job in London; it’s always wonderful when you land a position that just feels right (and I have friends in London who just love life in that city, so hopefully you do too!). 

      • This is the post: http://expatedna.com/2012/05/18/my-story-how-ive-been-traveling-since-graduation/

        Thanks, I’ve heard from friends who love London as well; I’ve never been so I can’t wait to visit! I’ll only be there for three weeks with the Olympics and then I’m back to Paris, but hopefully it’ll lead to more Games in the future! 

        • ShannonOD

          I’ll add it to the post now, and good luck with working the Games this summer (and network like crazy because it would be awesome to be a regularly used on the Games in the future! :)

          • Thanks! That’s the plan :)

  • Great post, and thanks for the links. It’s refreshing to see that there are so many different ways to travel and/or live abroad. I’m in University in a Professional Writing program right now. As much as I like travel writing I also really enjoy technical communications, so I’ve often thought about working abroad as technical writer after I graduate. I’ve also discovered that working independently is much, much harder than I expected, and I probably wouldn’t mind a 9-5 job after I graduate (and having a stable income to help pay off student loans doesn’t hurt either).

    • ShannonOD

      It can be really difficult to be your own boss, whew, I had a tough time with it for the first couple of years…and even now sometimes there are things that slip through the cracks, but it gets easier to self-manage if you decide to go that route. Otherwise, technical writing sounds like a good route to since it’s a broader field than just the travel writing! :) 

  • Gillian Duffy

    Thanks for the resources Shannon. We are looking to move abroad – I want to ditch the 9-5 and try something different on but Jason is interested in continuing to work ‘professionally’ – to put his education, experience and interest to work in a new way. We’ll be checking out those sites – there are a few I haven’t visited yet!

    • ShannonOD

      I didn’t realize you guys were looking to settle in somewhere a bit — good luck to Jason on finding some work he loves, that will be a whole new type of adventure for you guys, and to you with the independent work as well. :)

  • Barbylucedistelle

    This is such a great post. I’ve been an expat for almost 7 years now but never considered myself as such. I come from Italy, specifically Sicily, been in Ireland since 2005 and took holidays around the world as soon as I could. When I moved to Dublin, language was a big barrier. I spoke little English and became very frustrated when everyone around me perfectly understood what was going on apart from me. Still, I did it so unconsciously and as the Italian community is so big here in Dublin, I did not consider the Irish culture so different from the Italian one as such to give my system a big shock. Both catholic countries, both in Europe, I’m 4 hours away from Siracusa (my home town in Sicily), main differences are the weather (are you sure you would like to move to Ireland Shannon? It rains most of the summer time!!!) and of course the food. We are too spoiled in Italy. My partner and I went to Sicily for a week at the beginning of June and when back home (as home is Ireland for me now), I so missed the sun and the Italian food I suffered of withdrawal symptoms.

    We are looking into long-term travelling, hopefully leaving everything behind a year from now. I know I will miss my job routine, waking up at 8, be at work at 9, counting the minutes to go back home from behind my desk, go home at 5 and I will probably feel guilty of not doing that anymore. I itch travelling too much though to let this dream go.

    I am looking into teaching Italian or English abroad, but it seems more as a short term experience rather than a permanent one. Thinking of developing a travel blog/website otherwise, but I don’t want to have the hassle of working even when I am sightseeing so to speak. I don’t think my partner will have any problem in finding a job abroad. He’s a native English speaker and worked as a chef for the last 10 years – he’s been called to work as a chef at the Olympics in London now, I’m so excited for him!!!

    We’ll see what happens. I’ll keep you posted :)

    • ShannonOD

      I would definitely consider you an expat! Particularly since you jumped cultures when you left and had to learn a new language. I imagine though, that it has been so nice to have your family and childhood home so close. 

      The potential for this new adventure sounds really fantastic! And congrats to your partner on the work in London — that is a big deal that he will be a chef there and right in the midst of all the action. If you guys are going for a year or more on your travels I have no doubt you can find temporary work, or even volunteering projects that could likely use English and/or Italian help. Once I left on the road I discovered that there were too many intriguing and “perfect” opportunities than I could have possible taken. 

      I’m intrigued to see how it goes from here for you, keep me posted if you get a blog (or even a Tumblr, Facebook page, or something like that) to share your adventure.  :)  Cheers and happy planning! 

      • Barbylucedistelle

         I certainly will!!! Happy travelling to you too dear :)

  • Jason

    It’s always great to get a little more insight into people’s travel beginnings and where their headed in life. Your particular scenario is vastly different than mine Shannon, but I do think you have achieved balance in your life.

    As the others come and go on their gap year escapades. You will still be living your dream in a far away land, at your own pace. Safe travels…..

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks for that Jason — balance is a hard thing to strike, and one I am constantly striving toward. Hope your own journey and pace in life are going well  :)

    • The nomadic traveling life isn’t all fun, all the time. But balance is the key. In my case — the pros far, far, far outweigh the negatives in my opinion. Particularly if you can find a way to get back once or twice a year to see your close friends and family.

      • ShannonOD

        I agree most of the time Drew, but there were times this summer that I thought I was a little crazy for working on the road all of the time.

  • Rachel Gardner

    Thanks for sharing your experience and those links Shannon, I think I’ll be checking those out soon…

    My expat experience is slightly different, as I moved to the UK when I got married and have lived there for about eight years.  We eventually got tired of our 9-5 jobs and took a break to travel in Australia and New Zealand for a few months.  My husband’s now looking at jobs in several different countries and there’s a definite possibility of us moving somewhere where we’ll both be expats.  I’m considering new ways of putting my skills to use–I’ve just started freelancing and am planning to do a TEFL qualification to take with me wherever we end up.  Definitely need to work on the discipline side of being self-employed!

    All the best to you in your journey.

    • ShannonOD

      Glad you found them useful Rachel! The new direction sounds exciting for the both of you since you have experience with both sides — the freedom of travel and the 9-5s.The TEFL certification will certainly come in handy, several friends of mine work in Thailand right now and it was fairly easy for them to find work. I wish you both so much good luck with this next phase of your journey, and let me know if there is ever anything I can do to help.  :)

  • Lauren_pottinger

    I WANNA!!

    • ShannonOD

      Do it Lauren! You could no doubt find theatre based work overseas too if you looked hard enough…or if you went the teaching route I know a lot of international schools love specialized teachers  :)  Hope you are well lady!

      • Sorry to ‘eavesdrop’ — I had a friend who studied theatre and ended up teaching drama at an international school in Hong Kong; another worked at a theatre camp in Italy. Definitely positions out there :)

        • ShannonOD

          That’s great Edna, thanks for sharing…I hadn’t even thought of theatre camps and that sort of thing  :)

  • thanks for this Shannon. I’d like to share some thoughts about this as me and my wife live very similar lives. “Making money” on the road was never an issue for me and it is getting easier everyday. I think 25 hours a week is waaay more than you need. I work that much to save up for buying property in Latin America (where property comes with a residency permit in some countries!) Anyway I love to share experiences there and am also interested in the volunteering website. Because I did it myself: http://www.kindmankind.net boasts the largest independent collection. I’ve asked dozens of people to co-operate with me but you know, our mind doesn’t work that way: people want their own brainchildren. The reason for the site was fairly simple: give small bona fide charities a fair chance of being found by skilled volunteers. All the “initiatives” we share are open source and you can present them on “your” site if you want.

    best,

    Kamielp.s. do you know Korea? It’s where I live now with my wife and a nice place. You’re welcome here once we have our place. 

  • Thanks for this post. As an expat in France, I can identify with wanting to work digitally so you’re not tied down to any one location and are free to go wherever you please. Glad I found your blog. Best of luck to you!

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks for stopping in and commenting, France is a country I have yet to really explore well, hope you’re enjoying it and your work!   :)

  • Guest

    Could you define what you mean by expat ? in the UK it is becoming part of a group of (usually retiring) who live in another country in a community, living in a bubble of UK’ness

    Is it just used for American people who work for NGO’s ?

    How do you create new work or get new clients when you can not even have an initial meeting in person ?

    • ShannonOD

      Sure thing, expat as I have most often heard it used actually refers to professionals who are transferred outside of their home country by their company. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriate ) This can mean a mid-thirties professional and his family picking up and moving, or a 20-something finding a job in finance in China post college — it really varies as widely as your imagination, but at the core is anyone working outside their home country, and in any type of position.

      As for my work, I would say that I have only met about 30 percent of the people I work with. I get hired through word of mouth recommendations, and I often Skype with clients so that we have a face-to-face through the internet meeting. I find most people and small businesses have no qualms with the arrangement :)

    • Katie Feel Good

      My partner and I were having this conversation the other day funnily enough. We’re from the UK too and the term ‘ex-pat’ does tend to bring up somewhat negative images of those not wanting to integrate in the country they are in. It’s probably a media thing. We’ll have to switch our way of using the word.

      • ShannonOD

        It’s so interesting because I had no idea there were any sort of negative connotations around it, but now I know to be a bit more careful about how and around whom I use it :)

  • thetravelchica

    Thanks for sharing more of your personal story.  I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year but didn’t realize how you were earning an income and how long you’ve been traveling.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks for the support Stephanie–it’s been several years and I’ll admit that at times I wish I had also done a sabbatical, but it’s quite the journey to work and travel  :)

  • ShannonOD

    Hi Kamiel, thanks for weighing in on this, I haven’t yet been to Korea, but I have heard wonderful things from some friends who lived and taught there for a couple years and sold me on visiting there soon. And good to know that you can live comfortably there without working full time, I love the ability to deliberately live my life and choose not to work full time. Your database is great, I have definitely seen it and pointed people in that direction. My site is similar in nature but has actually been in the works since 2009, so I just kept the process going since there can really never be too much good-spreading out there and the more we can do to raise awareness about independent volunteering opportunities the better. Looking forward to the opportunity to meet one day soon! :-)

  • Awesome post, Shannon. It’s so true. Not everybody wants the stress of being an entrepreneur or the uncertainty of freelance work. There are always other ways to go about traveling and experiencing different cultures. 

    • ShannonOD

      And stress there is, it’s true! Sometimes I really do wonder what it would have been like to truly take a year off. That being said, you guys have shown that you can have a homebase, launch a business, and still travel a lot!  :)

      • Taking a year off sure sounds nice, doesn’t it?! :) I think I’m too much of a workaholic for that to happen. haha

  • Having lived a bit of both lives – expat & digital nomad – and possibly settling into something in between, this post definitely hit home. There is great opportunity in both options, so I’d highly recommend trying to do both. 

    When we did our research and networking in 2001 (yes, that sounds like the stone ages!) before we moved to Prague, we reached out to headhunters/recruitment agencies in the European cities we wanted to visit. We even interviewed with a few of them when we did our “research trip” – even if they didn’t have jobs that were a great match for us (although Dan did find his first job in Prague that way), they were a good resource for finding out about the ease of foreigners getting visas, types of jobs available, etc. 

    Another organization that I’ve also heard good things about, but haven’t been still long enough to really take advantage of their events, is InterNations. I know some friends in Prague who have gotten great freelance jobs through networking at their events. And, they also have job boards and Q&A boards for visas, cost of living, etc. 

    • ShannonOD

      Headhunters is an interesting concept…and you and Dan have definitely straddled both worlds over the past decade. I know you both are quite fond of Eastern Europe as a result of your work there over the years, so even after going digital…it seems as though you had found a comfortability that only comes from living somewhere.

      I have also heard of InterNations but not used them, so I will add them to the list as a rec! :) Thanks Audrey!

  • Anna Jura

    Shannon! So happy that you and Ana were able to come and stay with me, and that you got a glimpse into a different kind of ‘working/travel’ lifestyle. I’m in such an insanely fortunate position here, to have carved out a little niche where I can work in a field that I love in a country that continuously challenges and amazes me, it’s pretty rad. AND I still get to hang out with my friends and watch Titanic 3D with them and sing really loud at the end and then they cook me French toast in the morning. What more could you possibly want in life?!

    I already knew your story but I’m really happy you shared it with everyone. It’s so important to hear the stories of the hard work that goes into creating the lifestyle that you want. It also took me a lot of time and financial investment to get the skills and funds I needed to set up my expat life – and I’m still working out all the creases and seeing if it fits well, but that’s half the fun!

    If any of your readers are interested, a great website for finding development jobs abroad is
    http://reliefweb.int/jobs – you can filter by country, years of experience
    etc.

    Can’t wait till the next time our paths cross. I have no doubt we’ll make that happen soon.

  • Rebelfone

     Very well written!
    It has been a great traveling experience for you I am sure. Its been a pleasure reading!
    Keep up your good work!
    Good luck.

  • ShannonOD

    Our epic singing will forever now be linked to that movie in my memory whenever I see the Titanic. Your life in PP rocks, and I hope you can continue to find work there and elsewhere now that you’ve got the studying and all of that. Reliefweb is great, and I will definitely add it to the post. Have a good visit back home this summer and I can’t wait until our paths cross again soon! :)

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)

    Loved the post, was an expat for 5 years and now trying the nomad lifestyle, trying to find our place in this world. Thans for sharing.

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat)

    Loved the post, was an expat for 5 years and now trying the nomad lifestyle, trying to find our place in this world. Thans for sharing.

    • ShannonOD

      Five years is a good go of it Nat, so much good luck with the Nomading…like you I’m looking for my place. Thanks for stopping in :)

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  • Hi Shannon, I already mentioned on Twitter that I loved this post. it’s always great to hear how people go about sustaining a lifestyle abroad.

    • ShannonOD

      Hi Victoria! Thanks for including it in your round-up, I really appreciate that and like you said, there are so many ways to do this travel and work! Cheers and thanks :)

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  • mikerwinna

    Shannon,  It’s wonderful to find your blog today and read several articles.  This recent one here really helped me.  I didn’t start traveling until I turned 30, fifteen years ago, but it’s been a passion ever since.  I’ll travel for 6 months, then come home and work for a few years, leave and travel again.  I am now once again facing an opportunity to travel, perhaps for a year or more.  The trouble is that finding work, here and abroad, becomes more difficult as we age.  It’s not us, so much as it is the way others, and especially employers, perceive us.  At 30 or younger, it’s easy to take a big chance.  At 45, there’s a voice in your head saying, “are you kidding me?”  Regardless, I’m not going to let fear of the unknown stop me.  As a matter of fact, it’s much better than my fear of the known back home. I’ll take your advice, and Joseph Campbell’s, and follow my bliss.  :)  Thanks for being on the same planet!  Michael

    • ShannonOD

      Hi Mike! Thanks for weighing in on this…you and I are definitely on the same page, I like to spend six month chunks more actively traveling, and then take a bit of a break. I know it can seem daunting to start fresh in a new country, but there are skills and jobs abroad where ageism is less of an issue. So much good luck and enjoy following your bliss!! :)

  • Frank

    …and I did it. Yes, last night after months of talk and planing, I purchased my first one way ticket to Colombia. I briefly met you Shannon at the ‘Meet, Plan, Go’ meetup , in Orlando last year, before your travels with your niece. I think one of my big questions I had was just that — how do I legitimately work and travel? Being a web designer, it seemed like a no brainer to support my travels with freelance work; however, my hesitation was I’d worked so hard to find an agency position and leaving during such an economic downturn felt so unappreciative. Come November of last year, I decide it was time to think about a solution. With your advice and some ideas of my own, I found a real good permanent freelance client. I also managed to get my current employer to realize that I could be just as effective as a telecommuter. The goal was to have a Plan A and Plan B when it came time to leave. The freelance client as of this writing has given me their blessing and are willing to work with me as I move around South America. If the 9-5 agrees to the same, I’ll have a decision to make come December when I leave. I’m almost positive they’ll hate the idea, but I will definitely make a strong pitch come late November.

    At the beginning of this year, I moved back to my parents home after tens years of having moved out. I started working both jobs, saving, and planning for my RTW. My timeframe from planning to starting is longer than most, but I want to take care of all my debts. I want to set out on my travels without owing anything.

    I have a ways to go, but I plan to take a small trip to the North East this summer to take the edge off meet with old friends. I’m excited to take a look at your reference above because one never knows what will happen and having opportunities in Latin American would be perfect. I’m fluent in both languages so I would hope that gives me an edge— even if it’s just volunteering for a while. I’m in search of a good balance of all things — can’t all be work. Thank you again for listening to me that one day in October. :D

    • ShannonOD

      I am so happy to hear that you have made the type of decision that are taking you in the direction of your dreams — congrats! I remember our conversation, and your reservations about properly finding work and all of that. There is so much opportunity out there, for freelance work and for taking your design skills remotely–I’m glad some of your clients see it that way too :) Clearing your debts is smart, you will likely enjoy the trip more if you are clear from those types of stressors. So much good luck, keep me posted on what you are up to and how your saving is going. I would love to know once you leave on your RTW!

  • LifePart2

    Nice piece. The biggest trick for me is having no bills back home. I have met so many people able to make it on minimal money abroad because they have no bills back home.

    • ShannonOD

      That’s a really good point. Student debt is something I left with — not much mind you, but having that payment throughout my first year abroad caused more stresses and at many times made me wish I had paid off everything first! Thanks for weighing in :)

  • Tom

    Excellent post! My girlfriend and I currently live abroad in The Netherlands (a sort of spontaneous move we made), we found work here after a few months so it’s all good. The weather is not as fun as I had hoped though haha, so I’m looking forward to backpacking Asia again!

    My dream, as so many others, is to develop a independent location income that doesn’t require me to pop into the office and ask for 3 weeks leave…but simply take it when I want it and spend half the year living one place and the other half another all whilst backpacking in between!

    The only real annoyance for us is that we have a mortgage back home in Australia, so we are trying to juggle that along with everything else. How we’re going to manage that is something to think about over the next year or so.

    • ShannonOD

      The mortgage is a tough one, but congrats on making it to the Netherlands and finding work, that’s one of the big hurdles. Good luck building online income and a client-base to get you back to SEA :)

  • Dear Lady Expatriate

    Really appreciate this post. I’m currently trying to figure out what kind of expat I want to be in the future. So many possibilities out there, and I love that you gave an overview of a bunch of different expat options!

    • ShannonOD

      Glad you found it helpful, and so much good luck as you try out some different expat options :)

  • What an honest and inspiring post Shannon. I live as an expat and have done for about 8 years now, but the entirely location-independent income still evades me. Having said that I have lived many lives and worked on yachts, as a dive instructor, shark photographer, journalist, in shops, advertising, all sorts really, and those experiences, as well as the people I have met along the way, make me what I am today, so no complaints really.

    • ShannonOD

      Wow, sounds like you have had a really varied background — I love seeing the jobs others have found to enable them to travel and explore. The shark photographer is neat! And dive instructor is on my short list of things I’d like to do if I need a break from constant computer time working. Best of luck with your continued living and travels :)

  • Katie Feel Good

    My partner Mark and I are on our first backpacking round the world type trip with an intent to possibly digital nomad or at least change our way of life. We are happy to stop and work and actually are kind of missing an income and a purpose so would probably quite enjoy it for a bit. One of the things we find that is a hindrance with getting ‘proper’ work is age. I’m mid 30s Mark is over 40 so all those opportunities for the usual year long work visas aren’t open to us which is a shame. With the dollar being so strong in Australia it was super expensive to us and so we had to leave much quicker than we would have liked despite loving it there – the annoying thing was that there were contract jobs available in our field but without the work visas it was too complicated. It’s not impossible, of course, just not easy and I think we’ll need to be clearer of a destination we want to be in for a while before we try and find a way of staying there. Thinking maybe Singapore or Hong Kong as they are hubs to Asia and our work is quite specific and only likely to be found in big cities. The funny thing is, when we left we were keen to leave our previous jobs but now the idea of doing it again is kind of appealing and would definitely be worth while to extend travelling!

    • ShannonOD

      The Aussie age requirements are really strict about the ages, but I think you’ll find more success in the Asian market for your skills in the bigger cities — there it’s more about degrees and skills than
      specifically qualifying for a work visa…I think the big cities are more accustomed to organizing the work visas for the right candidate than Australia, where the student work-visa culture is so prominent. Anyhow, the idea to work for a time sounds like a great way to extend/deepen your travels, and I wish you a lot of luck! :)

  • Dillon

    I truly enjoyed reading this:)

  • worldwideadven1

    Hi Shannon, that was read that makes me think again, and read again – a fresh perspective on ” How to travel for wanderlusters”

    • ShannonOD

      Glad to hear it resonated with you! Let me know if you have any questions or if there is any way I can help :)

  • When are we meeting up again somewhere in the world for wifi work session at amazing cafes? for realz..

    • ShannonOD

      Sooon Drew, we really need to make it happen sometime this fall or early in the new year :)

      • I am so there. I’m free after Sept 1. Will be in Bali, willing to fly just about anywhere…

  • Sonia

    I don’t have a bachelor and never really put much use to my AS degree in computer networking administration (after becoming a mom on survival mode), but I would like to try to find a way to do online work related on doing account receivable, OR sell some of my photos as art, I already have one photo that was part of a exhibit in a public library for a month, I got several interest/inquires with a full moon shot (I still have a look away to go before I build up a portfolio of some sort). Thanks for the post.

    • ShannonOD

      Congratulations on having your work exhibited Sonia, it’s a thrilling achievement to have others begin to acknowledge your art. I don’t know much about selling artwork online, but have you tried some of the crafty communities like Etsy? (http://www.etsy.com/category/art). So much good luck on your venture, and if there is ever anything I can do to help as you go down this online path, let me know :)

  • Lots of great info here Shannon! Hopefully I can join you in an internet cafe soon with Audrey as we plan to hit the road indefinitely next year :)

    • ShannonOD

      Congrats on your upcoming trip — and keep me posted on if we cross paths, I would love to grab a coffee, conversation, and wifi somewhere in the world :)

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