Travel, study or work? How to do it all at once

As a teenager, the decision about what you’re going to do with yourself after school is always presented as an either/or situation – especially if you happen to be well and truly inflicted with the infamous travel bug.

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Discussions go like this:

You can either go to university, get a degree and land yourself a ‘good’ job afterwards – that’s option one. Your guidance teacher will sell it to you using the old cliché, “You’ll always have time to travel later in life.”

Or you can leave high school and immediately jump into the world of work with an apprenticeship or an entry-level job. You’ll get a foot on the career ladder and can spend your annual leave and hard-earned cash going on ‘nice’ holidays.

Finally, and this is probably your parents’ least favourite option, you can head straight off for a year abroad. Hopefully, you won’t get totally caught up at the end of it, and will still want to come home to join ‘real life’ again.

Rarely, if ever, will anyone let you in on the big secret – you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

With clever and thorough planning it’s possible to spend time traveling whilst also building up qualifications and work experience.

Here are our top tips for balancing it all and making the most of your adventures around the world.

Volunteer programs

Whether you’re staying home or not, internships are the perfect way of exploring different career options. Do them abroad and you’ll also get to experience different places and cultures at the same time.

You’re sure to find a suitable volunteer placement whatever your interests. If you love the outdoors, there are plenty of wildlife and conservation projects – from marine life to rainforest cultures – that are always keen for helpers.

Some, such as volunteer teaching programs, are also accredited. In exchange for working in a school, you’ll earn a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification to add to your CV.

Distance learning options

Distance learning courses can be completed from anywhere in the world – Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and online course submissions mean there’s no limit on where you log in.

Even whilst hopping from one exotic destination to the other, so long as you’ve got an internet connection and a VPN to spoof your location you can study towards degrees in subjects like business or applied linguistics. 

By the time you get home you’ll be able to turn up to interviews boasting about your qualification and the many life skills you acquired throughout your travels.

Part-time jobs

Every once in a while, a dream job does the rounds on Facebook – like the £70,000 a year island caretaker opening that set imaginations running wild back in 2009 – that actually pays you to live in paradise.

Unfortunately, with a slim-to-none chance of winning such a coveted position, it’s much better to be realistic about the kinds of vacancies that’ll likely be available to travellers.

Part-time bar or waiting jobs may not be glamourous or particularly high-paying, but they will let you fine-tune your language and communication skills – a massive selling point to pretty much every future employer you’ll face back at home.

Start by exploring these three options, but don’t be afraid of carving out your own opportunities to try out different experiences as you travel. So long as you’re willing to work hard there’s no reason you have to choose between seeing the world or getting an education and a job.