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The Barefoot Investor: How to live abroad on a budget

The next few years promise to deliver the toughest employment conditions we’ve seen in decades. Many companies have put a freeze on hiring, which will cause a backlog of graduates applying for the same positions next year. Then you have the mass influx of young Aussie professionals returning home from a recession-ravaged London to raid the boomer bank and, hopefully, score a job.

So it’s not surprising that over the past year or so I’ve received emails from uni students who are worried about graduating with a huge HECS debt and few immediate job prospects that don’t involve wearing a paper hat – it’s almost like being an arts student.

Addressing the issue
If I were graduating into this situation here’s what I’d do: I wouldn’t go out and get another alphabet after my name. Unless you’re a doctor, an aspiring academic or an exotic dancer, getting more qualifications will tend to hamper rather than help your job prospects. In order to set yourself apart you have to go out and do something extraordinary.

I’d scrounge together $6000. For those of you without the corporate connections, start flipping burgers. It will be worth it.

With the world economy in the toilet, it should come as no surprise that it’s going to be tough getting a job in your chosen profession on your travels. Yet an overseas working holiday shouldn’t be all about the bucks. It should be thought of as an investment, both in your career and yourself.

Trust me. The morning commute can wait. There are few times in your life that you can enjoy the freedom, adventure and excitement of living in a foreign land (unless you move to Canberra). You may be thinking that $6000 won’t get you very far. But sometimes the best things in life are (almost) free.

Around the world there are untold tragedies happening right now and thankfully there are organisations that you can register with to donate your time, in exchange for food and lodging.

Hands On Disaster Response (HODR) is one such organisation. This international non-profit relief organisation co-ordinates volunteers to help countries that are suffering disasters. This includes Hurricane Katrina in the US, to landslides in the Philippines, to helping the people of Peru rebuild after their earthquakes.

HODR’s motto is “maximum impact, minimum bureaucracy”. Unlike other organisations, there are no application fees and no interviews - just show up and go to work. If you can afford the travel costs to an HODR project, then all your costs are covered bar your beer money. Payment is made by allowing you to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and forge new friendships, and in the cosmic karma of helping people in their darkest hour.

Whatever you decide, an extended work-slash-volunteering holiday will provide you with a handy response the next time you find yourself sitting in an interview and they ask the “tell me the last time you faced a difficult situation” question. 

Benefit of experience

 Whether you’re about to graduate, or you’re wanting to graduate to something a little different, the combination of cheap travel, the ability to speak English, and the current economic woes may serve to stimulate the idea of embarking on an opportunity that in 40 years you’ll be proud to bore your grandkids with.

There’s a whole world out there to discover. The cubicle can wait a year or two. While everyone is talking economic doom and gloom, why not think about making the ultimate investment?

Take a look through all our trips to find one that inspires you the most. Then head to Facebook and take a look through our Meet Others app to find out who you'll be travelling with!


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