Don’t wait until you are too old to scale the steps of Chichen Itza to travel. The best time to see the world is when you are young. But if travel seems beyond your means or beyond your budget, you’re going to have to get creative before you get going. Are you in a rut because your current job doesn’t take advantage of your skills? Identify those skills and they can be your passport to a world of adventure.
Techie? Wire a village.
If you have a computer or technology skill set, there may be a non-profit organization that needs you to set up a network for a school system or provide farmers with an internet hook-up, allowing them to search the Wikipedia for farming techniques or shop for better grain prices-in the Amazon jungle or the African plains. Consider getting involved with One Laptop Per Child, a non-profit whose mission is to develop a $100 laptop that could revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. Organizations like Oxfam and Care, plus countless smaller non-profits, are empowering local communities with technology, an effort that can help bridge the digital divide while opening your eyes to the way other cultures work and play. Think of it as the 21st century version of volunteering for the Peace Corps. Check out sites like idealist.org for ideas.
Into Politics or Communications? Staff an embassy.
Our State Department zips sharp-witted Foreign Service Officers and Foreign Service Specialists all over the globe to staff our embassies. These seldom-heralded positions have wonderful perks-diplomatic immunity, anyone?—if you can stand the wait. (The notorious red tape of the State Department and up to one year of training makes this more of a long-term commitment.) The posts, usually two years long, could be in literally any part the world and span a range of fields, from public relations to diplomacy to economics. Speaking a foreign language, particularly an obscure or difficult one, gives you a leg up.
Foodie? Work it on a farm.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) can bring you closer to mother earth by placing you at an organic farm where you can learn about organic lifestyles and share more sustainable ways of living. In exchange for a few educational weeks or months living a simple, natural, and-read this–physically challenging life, your host farm will give you room and board. WWOOF is a worldwide network of global farms. Perhaps you’ll find yourself on a rare tropical flora garden that opens to the ocean in Central America or in the tangled olive vines of the Turkish countryside or picking berries in Sweden. There’s a fee to join WWOOF but the terms of the contract are largely left up to the farm and individual, so shop around.
Finance or accounting? Go multinational.
Rather than fear our impending globalization, why not embrace it? Big Brother has a plane ticket for you. Many multinationals know that savvy young things like you want an international career, so they are starting to use their worldliness as an asset. For example, behemoth Price Waterhouse Coopers’ has the EPIC “International Challenge,” which lets you set up an international assignment in your early years with the company-while you’re young and adventurous.
Writer or language junkie? Teaching is a great gig.
As a teacher in rural Japan, I never got over the fact that people were awestruck with me for simply speaking my mother tongue. If you think linguistically, teaching the world’s second language is an enormously lucrative way to travel. But first you will be battered with acronyms; TOEFL, CELTA or TESL teaching certificates are smart ways to give yourself street cred. The foreign teaching community relies on forums and chat rooms to stay connected while on far-flung assignments, which means you can tap into their network easily. Dave’s ESL café will get you started.
Working in another country is a fantastic way to see how your skills can translate into real world opportunities. Follow your bliss and the rest will follow.