Hello everyone. I have been taking a lax approach to this blog, but I’d rather post nothing than post crap, so I hope you forgive me.
This list is something I have thought a lot about to myself, but didn’t realize how useful it would be to let people know how some every day skills and hobbies could seriously aid you with your travels.
First thing is first, a lot of these are from an economic point of view because let’s face it, if you gotz da cheese, you ain’t need no skillz :).
Anyways, here they go!
7) Vehicle Mechanics
When I was little, my dad always wanted me to help him in his attempts to fix the car. He wasn’t particularly good, I think we were just too poor to afford a proper mechanic for basic service. I am also aware that the previous sentence was a comma splice. These days, I wish I hadn’t been to whiny and paid attention. While I can change a tire, jump start a car, and check fluids, my skills kind of tapper off beyond that. If you are good at fixing cars and motorcycles, epic trips like the “Mongol Rally” become far less scary.
This last summer on my South East Asian Trip, I met this old guy named Richard in Thailand. Together with his wife, he drove to where we currently were (Khao Yai National Park) from England. His story about driving off road in Kazakhstan for 300 km just blew my mind.
6) Hospitality Experience
That internship or part time job at a hotel during your high school years can come back and pay off big time. As some of you may know, I am currently on a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand. I cannot tell you how many job opportunities exist in this field, most requiring experience.
In addition, people skills could also land you a bar job in a tropical SE Asian country as you live the easy life for a while to get your thoughts together, or just have a good time. Bonus if you already know how to mix some drinks!
5) Speaking English or a Second Language
I am bunching these two up because, I really don’t want to make it seem like this is the end all be all.
First, with English, traveling most of the world is far easier as most people know at least some basic words. While of course, I would encourage anyone to learn a few phrases in the local language, it is important to note that English is by far the dominant world language and will be in the foreseeable future.
Second, if you plan on working abroad, English goes a long way. I met two French guys my first week in New Zealand that despite being registered nurses and being qualified for professional work, they were aiming for farming jobs simply based on their English level.
Oddly enough, having basic knowledge of Korean has given me an edge out here in NZ, too. My current job is entirely staffed by Koreans and the manager gives me most of my instructions in that language. If I didn’t speak at least a little, I might be breaking my back trying to haul watermelons right about now.
Finally, one cannot forget how teaching English for a native speaker is one of the coolest gigs out there. My four years teaching English in Korea were the best of my life.
4) Accounting / Basic Budgeting
This really should be a class in every grade from middle to high school. Being able to calculate exchange rates (and profit margins), budget for costs, and knowing what is or isn’t a good deal overall has probably been my most indispensable skill.
For the most adventurous of travelers out there, being able to sail is one of the best skills you can have. When I was in college, my grad advisor had just finished one of the most epic journeys of any lifetime. He got a job on board a Brazilian ship which sailed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans stopping in beautiful islands along the way. He was even able to replenish his funds and save up by teaching people to sail in the Seychelles for a few months. He encouraged me to learn through my university which offered the course for around $70, but I got lazy. Huge regret.
Fast forward to a few months ago in Koh Tao, Thailand, and someone was offering an amazing job sailing and cooking for 14 months around 30 countries. It sounded amazing, but the only catch was that you already knew how to sail. It is never to late, but this is one skill that you can’t underestimate. My grad advisor ended up burning out the auto-nav in the middle of the Atlantic, leading to yet another incredible story, but we can stop here.
2) Writing / IT skills
Of course, everyone knows how to write, but as you might have noticed after browsing this blog for a while, not everyone knows how to write well :(. Being an excellent writer such as Morris M, a frequent contributor to one of my favorite websites called Listverse, opens up the opportunity to work remotely as most of those jobs can be done over the internet. Many websites rely on good content and are willing to pay you for it. While a writer’s salary might feel like crap in the US, it could be a fortune in a cheaper country and really, would you rather work in the concrete slabs of LA or in the pristine beaches of Okinawa?
Similarly, being good with website design or IT could pay off in an even bigger way given the higher salaries. Many people who are always abroad have these kinds of jobs where their physical location doesn’t matter (known as ‘location-independent’). Imagine working on a website 9-5, then spending your evenings on a nice Thai beach. Yeah, that’s how good they have it.
Cooking is easily the number one skill that can help you go anywhere you want for a fraction of the cost. Want to travel longer but can’t afford the cost of living? Cook some of your own meals! The more you know how to make, the less trouble you will have with new ingredients. But wait! It gets better.
Want to work abroad? While teaching English, or working as a scuba instructor are options in some countries, nothing beats being a cook. I met a guy in Tokyo last January that really beat this point home. Andres was Mexican (like me), but had a much more adventurous route to Tokyo than I. I took a 1 hour flight from Seoul and asked him if he had a long journey here (assuming he came from Mexico). “I took the Trans-Siberian rail road” was probably the most bad ass answer someone has ever given me.
Andres works in Oslo, Norway as a chef in a Mexican restaurant. Every winter, he quits and travels ranging from 3 to 5 months. Working in a rich country, he makes a ton which he saves up and spends at the end of the year, still having plenty left over. I asked him about job security and he didn’t seem worried at all. “If you know how to cook, you’ll always get a job” is not at all what he said, but it would have been a great way to end this paragraph. I think he just excused himself and told me to get the hell out of his way and stop bugging him.
Even in New Zealand, experienced cooks always top the list of jobs available. If you know how to cook, you are so set to be abroad forever if you’d like.
Disclaimer: Andres was actually not an asshole. Please don’t hate me Andres!
I know I must have missed some, so let me know if you know of other skills that are incredibly useful abroad.