Work Abroad Make HayWe get it—a cubicle and a time card just aren’t doing it for you any more.

If you’re tempted by the idea of working abroad, but aren’t interested in slinging beers in a grimy pub or playing Mary Poppins, take a look at some more unusual ways that you can embark on a travel adventure … and get paid for it.


Many tour companies and youth adventure programs need guides and leaders on the field, which is where you can fit right in. This can get a little tricky with some of the major tour companies, as they often prefer to hire local guides, both to support the local economy and to ensure that the guide is very familiar with the host country.

According to Simon Edgar from volunteer vacation organization I-to-I, they strongly support hiring local guides, but occasionally will send U.S. employees to prep and train those locals. He recommends that the ideal candidate for this job is someone who has volunteered with the organization in the past, and has built relationships with local community on previous visits.

Contiki Tours is a company that can help you become a tour manager/guide even if you don’t speak the local language—mainly because their tours cater to an English-speaking clientele. Contiki has a relatively extensive hiring process, and expects you to commit to at least two summers as a tour manager. The process begins with a standard application and interview.

If you’re chosen after that, however, you’re sent on an eight-week training trip in which you visit every major destination that Contiki visits. They use this time to train you on how to become an effective tour manager. This training prepares you to be responsible for the day-to-day operation of a tour, and to solve any problems that may arise. When you decide to pursue this particular position, make sure you are either eligible for or hold an EU Work Permit, a UK work permit, or a “Residency” or “Right of Abode” for the United Kingdom.

Wondering if you are eligible for these permits? If you have ever lived in the UK for a period of five years or more, or if you are married to someone who has the Right of Abode for the UK, or if you were born to parents who have a “Right of Abode,” you are eligible. To obtain an EU Work Permit, you must be married to an EU Citizen, or you must be able to claim EU nationality because of European ancestors. Web sites like and, have a wealth of information on how to navigate the work-permit maze.

If you’re like most of us, there may not be enough hours in the day to add in the task of obtaining one of these permits.

Thankfully, there are still plenty of options.


Pueblo Ingles InteractionTeaching English is an age-old work abroad option, but here’s how you can do it with a twist. A program called Pueblo Ingles operates immersion programs where you’ll hear and speak nothing but English for a week, while hanging out in a peaceful, remote European village.

Oh, and it’s free.

That’s right. Pueblo Ingles, a Madrid-based organization, operates “English villages” throughout Europe where locals come to practice conversational English; volunteers only have to show up and speak English, and your meals and accommodations are all taken care of. There are villages in Valdelavilla, a town in the highlands of north-central Spain; La Alberca in the Castile and Leon regions of Spain; Cazorla, one of Spain’s largest protected natural areas, and a new program in Umbria, Italy.

If your best traits are your boundless energy and people-skills, you may fit the bill for a Master of Ceremonies (emcee) positions. Emcees are in charge of providing leadership and group management to the program participants, arranging their social and recreational activities, and attending to their special needs. Emcees with this program spend most of their time in one of the rural resorts in Spain or Italy that Pueblo Ingles uses for their programs.


If a trip around the world is beckoning you, try sailing on a floating university. The Scholar Ship set sail for the first time in September 2007 and offers semester-long positions (about four months), so they constantly require new staff. There are two distinct types of positions aboard this floating university: teaching/support staff, and onboard life/ port program staff.

Empty ClassroomThe former is comprised of the obvious positions: professors, ESL specialists, librarians and academic directors. However, the onboard life/port program staff is ideal for travelers who have not necessarily made a career out of education. Onboard this cruise ship, these positions run the gamut from residence counselors who support the adjustment of students to onboard life and lead excursions in-port to mental health professionals, information technology specialists, and logistics managers. The voyages begin or end in either Hong Kong or Amsterdam, and visit 10 countries per voyage. India, the Seychelles Islands, South Africa, Panama, and Ecuador are just a sampling of some of the stops on the Scholar Ship itinerary. 401-962-7344,

Have a month to spare and some experience in countries like Spain or Italy? You may want to look into a company called Academic Study Associates. This program doesn’t require any such residency permits, and could be your ticket to living in Florence, Barcelona, or Nice for a while. ASA provides month-long cultural immersion programs for high school students. There are multiple positions with this organization that would require you to live in one of the three European cities mentioned above.

As a Resident Advisor you would live in the student residence area and are responsible for the conduct and safety of the students, as well as planning activities and leading extracurricular trips. This position pays $1,400 for the month, plus room, board and a partial travel stipend. Recreation Directors paid double, and are responsible for planning and implementing a full activities program for the students and managing the staff. Academic Directors, Residence Life Directors, and Student Services Coordinators are just a few of the other positions available.


If you’re not sold on the teaching idea, but enjoy working with young adults, consider opportunities that take young adults on summer adventure programs. For example, a program called Sail Caribbean requires individuals with marine biology backgrounds, those qualified as US Sailing or ASA Basic Keelboat Instructors, lifeguards, office managers, or those with experience leading groups. Possessing these skills could land you on the beaches of the Caribbean. Not too shabby. 800-321-0994,

Cruise ships such as Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises also frequently list open positions on their sites, with three- to six-month opportunities in food and beverage, medical support, and entertainment, among others. You can also apply through cruise employment specialists such as

Just keep in mind, working on a cruise ship isn’t necessarily as glamorous as it sounds—you’ll be a long way from the Love Boat, with cramped accommodations and grueling working hours.

But for the right person, being paid to see the world is certainly worth the effort!

By Michelle Fields for

Want to study instead of work? Try a Semester at Sea.

Also by Michelle Fields:

Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Florence, Italy

Rite of Passage: Jewish Heritage Travel