I have always been afraid of entering the system and being sucked into mindless daily routines of office jobs. I wanted to be adventurous and creative in my own way. And this inability and unwillingness to conform led me to discovering quite a few interesting alternatives. When I told my friends I am going to live in a Zen Buddhist temple and learn kung-fu and meditation for free for 3 months, they could not believe it’s possible. When a year before, I said I am going to live in Italy trying out my business ideas while being funded by local province?—?it was also something beyond their understanding of how the world works. But it works. And there are plenty of unconventional opportunities out there which are fun and free. I call them alternative lifestyles. Of course, one can’t do it for years, but it’s a good way to take a break from anything that you’d call “a normal life”. What's an alternative lifestyle? That can be pretty much anything different from what you are normally doing. But let’s assume that normal lifestyle is study and then ”work–occasional vacation” in a continuos cycle. I should warn you though, it’s not for everyone. You should be comfortable with being on the road, facing challenges and ambiguity. You should enjoy meeting people and seek out new experiences instead of chasing status in the society and career ladder. You should be adventurous and ready to take risks. All these programs are potentially life-changing and a great opportunity to define a new way of life for yourself. 1. Startup Accelerators Examples: Techpeaks Italy, StartUp Chile, SEED Brazil. It’s a safe playground where you can test your business ideas and an excellent runaway for your startup. Some programs like TechPeaks provide you with accommodation, co-working space, monthly allowance and if your idea is good enough?—?with non-equity funding so you can kickstart your company faster. Other provide only grant which you can spend on your company and to cover living expenses. And these programs are all over the world in amazing places. Techpeaks is in Trento, a city in the Italian Alps. Startup Chile is in Santiago, one of the coolest cities in South America. Think about it?—?you get to work on your own idea and you’re paid to do that. You meet ambitious creative people from all over the world and build your dream projects together. And you get to travel to exotic places and live in a new country for 4–6 months. All that if you’re chosen of course, so make sure your application stands out and your idea is worth pursuing. 2. Artist-in-Residence programs (AiR) Examples: TransArtists, the most complete database of available AiR programs all over the world. If you are an artist of any kind, joining an artist-in-residence program can be a valuable experience and an alternative way to pursue your creative avenue of choice. I came across AiR programs everywhere. There’s one in Medelin, Columbia, in Finland, in Japan, in Thailand. Whether you’re a painter, a musician or a clay potter?—?there’s always something for you. And often in an exotic location. Many of them are fully sponsored so you can focus on pursuing your art and not thinking of paying the bills. Set up is normally a guest house with a personal or shared studio where you work on your art?—?music, painting, glassblowing or whatever your creative urge forces you to do. Most programs require a plan for your project and what you’re trying to create in the process, so make sure you know what you are actually working on and set clear milestones. 3. Workaway and HelpX Examples: Workaway, HelpX. Now, this is a truly inspiring source of all kinds of alternative lifestyles. Every time I surf through new opportunities there I get an adrenaline rush and a feeling that I will never settle in one place. Idea is simple?—?people and communities around the world offer a place to stay and cover living expenses in exchange for help with local project. And it can be anything! Educational potential here is enormous. You can help developing surf camp on Bali, assist kayaking resort in Canada or be assistant at Yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. Build houses in eco-village in the Philippines, grow organic mangoes in Brazil and whatnot. You can even help shamans at Ayahuasca retreat in Peru (would love to post about that). Whichever weird interests you have and wild experiences you’re looking for?—?often you can find it there. 4. WOOFing Examples: WOOF, WOOF Australia and many others. In some ways a lot like projects at Workaway and HelpX. But WOOFing is mostly about staying with a family on a farm and helping them with whatever they need. You’ll learn a great deal about organic farming, sustainable living and local culture. That’s a good fit when you want to learn languages and see authentic side of the country you travel to. Normally, you work 3–5 hours a day helping farmers and the rest you’re free to explore and wander around. Why not go to Argentina to learn Spanish while living with a family in the suburbs of Buenos Aires? Or explore wild life in Australia? WOOFing is probably the most well-known option on this list. And that’s because it’s one of the simplest and cheapest ways to learn about the country from the inside. 5. Zen and meditation retreats Examples: Humanistic Academy of Life and Arts in Manila, Vipassana Retreat in Thailand’s landmark temple Wat Prathat Dot Suthep, Mindfulness Project (permaculture meditation community) and many more. As cliched as it is, but understanding yourself is a key to living a fulfilling life. Cliches are cliches because they speak truth. If you’re still soul searching and not sure which way to go, why not meditate on that, look into yourself and learn some Eastern wisdom? There are various programs ranging from simple meditation retreats in Thailand or South Korea to more complex programs on Eastern philosophy and culture, like HALA in Manila. I once lived alongside Buddhist monks in Taiwanese mountains and I can say it’s an experience that re-shaped my world view in a very positive way. Next I guess that would be fair to say that those who go through all these programs have a serious case of ADD combined with acute wanderlust. But I believe it’s not a bad thing. You can always go back to wherever you started and settle. So why not explore things while you can? This was just an attempt to show you that there’re plenty of unconventional ways to live your life when you’re young and free. There are many other similar programs all around the world. Everything starts with your decision to do something differently and follow your heart. And once you decide?—?opportunities will arise. P.S. I am often asked how do I finance such projects. While obviously you need at least some money saved upfront (at least for tickets) or some passive income?—?all those programs are free.
Yes, flight attendants travel the world but short haul staff rarely leave their destination airport. If you're hoping for long layovers in exotic locations apply to a major airline serving long haul destinations. Several days on a Thai beach or exploringis a bonus but cabin crew also get generous travel benefits so you, and often family members, can fly at greatly reduced rates on your days off. Customer service experience, fluent English and the ability to swim 25m are essential. Jobs are generally advertised directly by the airlines who also provide about six weeks of training. Try or for more information.
More a lifestyle choice than a fortune maker, work as a tour leader offers unparalleled opportunities to see the world. Whether you're dreaming of a seniors' coach trip throughor an epic overland voyage across , you'll need oodles of enthusiasm and patience, strong leadership skills and plenty of travel experience. Mechanical skills, first aid, a foreign language, a geography or history of art degree, and possibly a PCV (passenger carrying vehicle) driving licence are also useful. Above all though, you'll need a positive, can-do attitude; your boss and support team will be thousands of miles away and you'll be on call 24/7. Most companies such as Explore ( ) advertise vacancies on their own websites and it's a distinct advantage to have taken a trip with the company you intend to apply to.
Sometimes billed as the last hope for the directionless, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) lets you work practically anywhere in the world. The pay is good, jobs often come with flights and accommodation provided, you'll meet plenty of locals and have time to soak up the culture. Contracts can be for as little as a few months or up to a year or more. For the best jobs you'll need a degree plus a TEFL qualification. CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) qualifications are often preferred and typically take about four weeks to complete. For more information see.
Know your genitive from your subjunctive? Your imperative from your vocative? If you've got true fluency in at least two languages then work as an interpreter can take you all over the world. Interpreters are needed at political and business meetings, international conventions and conferences, in court rooms and hospitals, refugee camps and multinational companies. Although you'll generally be based in one location you can easily see the world on a series of short contracts. You'll need a language degree, a qualification in interpreting and specialist knowledge of science, politics, law or economics. More information from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (), the American Translators Association ( ) or the Australian Institute of Translation and Interpretation ( ).
Cruise ship crew
Like to spend your winter cruising aroundand your summer exploring the Norwegian fjords? Luxury cruisers have jobs for everyone from cooks and cleaners to nursery staff, musicians, fitness instructors and beauty therapists. If you've got a recognised qualification and experience in customer services or hospitality you're well placed to start earning as you cruise. Many companies advertise vacancies on their own sites or try or .
Roadie or techie
Although it's not all screaming groupies and wild orgies, working as a sound or lighting technician on tour is still pretty darn cool. If you can land a job with a big name artist you'll get to visit major cities across several continents, but there's a lot of time on the road and not so much time to explore. Courses for lighting and sound technicians take one to three years but you'll need plenty of experience and a lot of luck or good contacts to clinch a plum job. Find more information on courses ator in the UK, NYU Steinhardt ( ) in New York, or at the Australian Institute of Music ( ).
It's not the easiest way to earn a living and income is never guaranteed, but photojournalists, landscape and travel photographers see some of the most beautiful and harrowing parts of the world while at work. Options for travel are endless and many photographers direct their own projects as well as working on commission. A photography degree will take three years to complete but formal qualifications are less important than a good eye and demonstrable talent. For some great hints and tips check out.
A classic way to travel, learn a language and experience a new culture, working as an au pair won't earn you big bucks but will provide you with a roof over your head, food and plenty of time to explore. Au pairs are needed all over the world and work is often part time. Some experience in childcare is beneficial but a personality match and positive attitude will be far more of a deal maker when searching for a family. Sites such asand advertise jobs in numerous countries making it easy to string contracts together to work your way around the globe.
Virtual assistants work from home on a freelance basis doing admin work for small businesses, but who's to say where home is? With a reliable phone and internet connection you could work from almost anywhere. To set yourself up as a virtual assistant you'll need at least five years experience working in a senior administration role in an office environment. Companies such asin the UK, US-based Zirtual ( ) and the Australian Virtual Assistant Association ( ) may be a good place to get some initial experience. But if you're planning to travel you'll need to research the market at your target destination or set up your business at home first, build a client base and when you're sure of a steady work flow, hit the road.
The quest for beauty is universal and women, particularly in expat communities, like to be treated by someone who speaks their own language, shares their sense of style and understands their requests. Although you'll have to travel on spec in most cases, there are job opportunities fromto , as well as on luxury liners and in holiday villages worldwide. You'll need a recognised qualification and salon experience before you travel. Take a look at for an idea of what's available.
Ski or scuba instructor
Fancy half a year inand the other half in ? Winters on the and summers in the Red Sea? Ski and scuba buffs can live the dream by qualifying as an instructor. You'll need a Level 2 qualification (15 days of coursework and 70 hours practical experience) from the British Association of Snowsport Instructors ( ) to teach snowsports internationally, or a PADI ( ) Divemaster qualification followed by an Instructor Development Course and a minimum of 100 dives to teach scuba diving.
Winters in the, summers in the Med, what's not to like about crewing on a yacht? Everyone from cooks and nannies to engineers and captains are needed by those lucky enough to sail their way around the world. Although you'll get to see new ports every few days, casual crew on recreational vessels often don't get paid so it's worth having some recognised qualifications if you want to earn as you travel. Courses run by the Royal Yachting Association ( ) range from basic skills up to Yachtmaster but time on the water and experience in a variety of conditions are essential. You'll find jobs advertised on or .
If you're interested in organic farming and willing to volunteer your time for approximately 4-6 hours a day, you'll get food, board and an insight into local life on a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) exchange. There are WWOOF hosts right across the globe from banana plantations into rice farms in , even in Swedish Lapland close to Arvidsjauran artists' eco village (learn more on ). You can work for a few days or a few months and can search opportunities on .
Traditionally, higher professionals find it difficult to transfer their skills abroad but international aid agencies are always looking for suitably qualified staff to run operations in developing or disaster-hit countries. Placements are often in rural areas and conditions can be basic. Médecins Sans Frontières () places logicians, nutritionists, pharmacists, biomedical scientists, financial controllers and HR professionals as well as a broad range of medical staff.
Know a Kremlin colonel from a Moscow mule? Practically every student has done some bar work and it's a good way to travel despite low pay and unsocial hours, but if you want to get your foot in the door at the very best establishments worldwide it's well worth having some professional training. City & Guilds () offers a 60-hour professional bartending course in the UK, the New York Bartending School ( ) has similar 40-hour courses, while BarMax ( ) runs training around Sydney. Along with some experience, a course can mean the difference between pulling pints in a phony Irish bar and serving cocktails at five-star hotels.
It was the highlight of my to-do-list. Interact with lot of strangers. And listen them non-judgmentally.
If we sat next to each other, or if our paths crossed, I always initiated the conversation.
And if you were a pretty girl, then it took me a minute more to say “Hi”.
But I ALWAYS initiated the conversation.
Grab a seat. I will take you on a ride with people I met in 30 days of solo backpacking.
1. First day. French girl. She was smoking…..hot. Was travelling India with her two guy friends. I struck the conversation. But it got stuck. She wasn’t proficient in English.
2. A Netherlands guy who had lofty plans to see all the 7 wonders of the world.
3. Two college girls who boarded the train from Uttar Pradesh. One of them was wiping tears for leaving her parents.
Next station the same girl got the exquisite food from her grandparents which she proudly called “Grandparents Love”.
4. Delhi guy in Guwahati. I met him on the Cruise. I convinced him that jobs are modern life slavery.
5. Another Delhi guy. Looked 30 but was 44. I met him in Tezpur. He was moving to Tawang.
We made ambitious trekking plans in Tawang. Nothing materialised.
6. Jambey from Dirang. I met him in a restaurant in Bomdila. We clicked.
He showed me around in his car. He invited me to his home to meet his family. I wanted to go with him. But I was done with stupid hotel and cab reservation.
7. A social worker. I met him in the cab to Tawang. He was helpful. He asked me to teach Maths in Tawang. But he never called.
8. Six engineers from North India. I went with them to Bum La Pass and Shangaster Lake. They were not fun to speak.
9. Nine Bikers from Nagaland. They were affable and showed me their bikes. They invited me to visit their bike club in Nagaland. We try to stay in contact.
10. Mr Tirth Singh. An army subedar in Tawang. He used to live 3 kms away from my house in village. He took me to his room in the restricted army area.
I had the best dal of my life and best food of my entire trip. He calls sometimes.
11. Gautam Sarma. A 31 year old guy stuck in his job for 8 YEARS. He was sweet enough to drop me to the hotel. He made me try exotic food. We try to stay in contact.
12. Another Delhi guy. We shared a dormitory in Shillong. He was there to meet his girlfriend. And played lot of ‘Kiss kiss’ song in the dormitory.
13. A cool Doctor. He gave me ride to Shillong. His first words were “Get in. Tell me where you are from and where have you been?” He told me of cool places to travel in north-east India.
14. A 26 year old Bolero-pickup driver who gave me a ride to Cheerapunji. I loved his vehicle. They used to party in it.
15. 8 guys from IIT Guwahati. I went with them to the Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek in Cheerapunji. They made me feel like an old man by calling me “Bhaiya Bhaiya”.
16. 5 pretty girls in a cab to Shillong. They were part time social workers. One of them dropped me to a hotel so I could refresh myself. They were affable.
17. A recently engaged guy who drinks a lot and calls his room “Ganja”. I met him on a train. He liked my traveling plans.
18. A drummer of a band in Gantok. Waist length hair and a tattoo who lives in a secret live-in-relationship with his girlfriend (I like this). He says he might marry early because his girlfriend is too pretty for him.
I went to a bar with him where his band plays. And yes I have a Nepalese song in my phone.
19. 6 guys in late twenties. I met them on a trek. They mocked me that I am a kid. They all spoke local language. I wanted to hit my head on the wall. But there was no wall.
20. A helper in the hotel. Apparently we both had nothing to do. He prayed that next time he will see me with my girlfriend.
21. A hot girl and 2 guys from France. It was their first day in India. They were surprised and scared.
I showed them around and spent the entire day with them. I gave them taste of India.
The girl wore mini shorts. She got lot of stares. One guy even threatened me to introduce him to her. She was lucky to have me on her first day in India.
It was also my birthday. I bought beers.
22. A 19 year old college drop out. He was earning while traveling India. He has 3 INCOME SOURCES. I envy him. I want to be 19 and drop out of college.
23. A 28 year recently married girl. I was bored in train. I stood up from my seat and sat next to her. She is the daughter of a famous psychiatrist in my city. So I ate her head for 4 hours. It was fun.
Guys from Bangladesh, a super-camera-woman from Hyderabad, a couple from Israel, girls from Bangalore in Gantok, cab drivers…..I didn’t spare anyone.
Sometimes I miss the exciting days.
But don’t worry. Even if we never see each other again….we saw each other once
The idea of traveling solo has always come and go in my mind for many years. The idea excites me but soon after thinking about it, I had never been able to pick it up and go forward with it. The fear of the unknown and risks involved had taken over me in a form of procrastination. “I don’t have the time” and “I’ll wait for my friend to get on board” are some of the things I told myself to calm my excitement down, and move on with my “life”.
Last week, the idea came back to me again. I wanted to see the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Planning the trip doesn’t seem like a hassle so I decided to let my excitement took over the fear this time and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I started booking a flight to Cambodia and committed myself to the plan preventing me from backing out like I used to. On Saturday that week, I went to Cambodia for 3 days, see the mind blowing Angkor Wat, talked to a few locals and some travelers traveling alone. The experience was so fulfilling that If I can choose, I’ll travel solo again on my next trip and here’re a few reasons why:
When you are traveling with companions, each one of them are fulfilling their own goals individually and it requires you to compromise and sacrifice in order to come up with an itinerary that everyone approve. In some cases, the trip would be canceled before it began because the itinerary can’t be agreed upon. This is not the case for traveling alone. Traveling alone is all about you fulfilling your goals so you can do whatever you want. If you feel like sitting and chilling out for an hour at the top of Angkor Wat, you can. Want to be adventurous and travel to places not many would go? Again, you can. Traveling alone, you are the star of your own movie.
Meeting New People
When you are traveling alone, you are more likely to meet new people than traveling in groups. Many people will approach you and strike a conversation with you more. In Cambodia, I have met with a few locals, and one is a waitress at a restaurant at the night market. She was around my age and we exchanged experiences on what it was like to live in Cambodia and Thailand. I have also met another experienced solo traveler on the plane. He told me about his experiences around South East Asia and how he prepared for each trip.
As a solo traveler, you seek small connections such as these to keep you company and these small connections are what made the experience so unique. You will not get such a personalized small connection if you come in groups.
Living in the moment
In Cambodia, I was walking around at a very remote temple called Banteay Srei. It was early in the morning and there weren’t many tourists around. It was so quiet that I started observing the surrounding more. The birds chirping away, the sounds of leaves being blown by the wind. I have never enjoyed a single moment as much as I did on that small walk around the temple. Without any distraction, I started to be aware of what I am doing, where I am at, and the purpose of why I am there. This is me living in the moment at its finest.
Best environment to get creative with your life
I am now back in Bangkok, and I can tell you that I’m more motivated to work than ever before. Traveling alone allowed me to came up with so many business ideas for BucketListly.com that I can’t wait to work on it. Traveling offers not only a time for me to be alone with my thoughts, but it also exposed me to new information and allows my mind to wander trying to find a connection between the differences of my home country and the country I am currently in. These are the kinda things that can only be experienced if you are in an unfamiliar places and you are left alone with your thoughts.
You will become a better version of yourself
You may not realized it but once you are able to make yourself travel alone, challenging yourself, and go against your fears and negativity, you have become a better version of yourself. You will make decision faster and better. You will learn to rely on yourself and not others. You will learn the value of trusting a stranger. You will learn how to entertain yourself, to be alone but yet connected. You will learn to observe the world around you, seeing the value in little things. And in the end, you will learn that the fear of the unknown and the risk involved that you’d experienced being taking the leap are all lies. You are no longer bound by your fear. You are now truly free.
Everyone should travel alone at least once
After my solo trip in Cambodia, I can confidently say that everyone should travel alone at least once in their lifetimes. There’s just nothing like it. All you need is 90% courage and 10% money. The experiences you will gained from traveling alone is worth way more than the money you are paying for it. Next time when you are spending thousands of dollars on clothes and gadgets, ask yourself this: “Would I rather invest in this which I’ll likely throw it away in a few years or invest in an experience that will last forever?”
Tip: The trick to ease the process is to start by traveling somewhere near, where you can communicate in your own language. That way, you will be less intimidated by the risk involved and planning required.