I’ve been living and working abroad since 2013 and I can confirm there are MULTIPLE WAYS to travel while working full-time. No, you don’t need to give up your career. Yes, people will actually pay you!
The pandemic truly made us re-evaluate our priorities and I’m 100% here to help. If you’re dreaming of a more flexible work environment that will allow you to travel while working full-time, I have 5 creative ways to make that happen for you.
In this article, I’m going to discuss:
- Choosing the right travel/work balance for you
- 6 ways to travel while working full-time
- My favorite apps to make working while traveling easier
- Important tax considerations when you’re on the road
- Ways to get sh*t done at work while away from your normal set-up
If you think this path is right for you and you want to pick my brain about your specific circumstances, book a one-time 45-minute private coaching session with me.
Is Travel while Working Full-Time Right for You?
Not everyone is meant to be on the road 24/7 so you’ll want to figure out what’s the right path for you and your work style. There are a few important questions to consider
- Will I be traveling alone? Or do I have a partner or family members to consider?
- What countries can I currently work in easily? Do I need a work visa?
- What’s my budget for traveling while working full-time? Can I make less in exchange for greater flexibility?
- What are my career goals? Is there a specific timeline I need to be conscious of?
After evaluating these questions, your strategy should become clearer about what sort of circumstances are right for you when it comes to blending your career-travel ambitions.
For example, when it comes to traveling while working full-time, I have a partner I need to consider – but no children – so it’s easy to take off whenever I want to for up to a month without feeling guilty.
Anything longer than a month, I would need to have a conversation with my partners to ensure we’re on the same page.
However, backpacking for a year while being a digital nomad is not really conducive to my professional or personal aspirations.
I don’t want to be apart from my family that long and this becomes a tax nightmare for me.
You’ll need to decide what type of travel you want to do while working full-time (long-term backpacking vs shorter trips) before moving on to my 5 recommended ways.
6 Creative Ways to Travel while Working Full-Time
If you want to work full-time and travel easily in your spare time, here are your best options! I’ve done nearly every single method so you can trust me when I say – it’s totally doable.
1. Transition Your 9-5 Abroad (Indefinite)
No one ever tells us this in America, but if you’re a skilled person, you can take your career overseas!
Whether you’re a teacher or Product Manager (like me!), there are international companies who are eager to bring you to their offices abroad!
Currently, I work for a global travel tech company as a product manager. I started working for them in London (in 2017) and I was able to negotiate a transfer to their Germany offices in 2020. I’ve been in Germany ever since.
You don’t need to abandon your career ambitions to move abroad if you’re a competitive person. Visa, Facebook, and all the other international companies have global locations that you can transfer to with enough effort.
Once you’re outside of America, travel becomes naturally easier. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m currently waiting in the Berlin Brandenburg business lounge on my way to Rome.
I’m taking my laptop and I’ll be remotely working from Italy for the next week!
When I was living and working in Beijing, I was able to take off to Hong Kong and the Philippines without much money or planning.
Frequent travel while working full-time is much easier once you get out of the United States; trust me.
As Americans, we have an additional tax reporting responsibility when we work abroad, but don’t let that deter you.
You need to understand that it’s really just a reporting responsibility and only under extreme circumstances will you be double taxed.
2. Negotiate a Remote Contract (1+ year)
If you’re lucky enough to negotiate a remote contract, congratulations! You’ve truly secured a golden ticket that most people would kill for!! I was able to negotiate a German remote contract in Aug 2021 and that’s how I have so much flexibility.
So what is a remote contract?
Essentially, a remote contract specifically removes any location-dependent clauses from your work contract. However, remote contracts will likely include a country-specific reference because they need to abide by some sort of legal framework.
With a remote contract, you can easily travel while working full-time because there’s no expectation for you to come into a specific office. You only need to get the work done wherever you are in the world.
For example, my remote contract is specifically a German contract. This means I pay tax to the German government and I get to enjoy the social security and healthcare benefits of living in the European Union.
If you’re able to negotiate a remote contract and want to move outside of the country that your contract specifically references, you’ll need to consider how that will affect your tax liability and immigration status.
A good rule of thumb is: if you’ve been in a country longer than 3 months, you should start exploring if that country expects you to pay tax locally and if you’re in violation of your tourist visa.
Some countries and regions (like the UK) have super generous tourist visa allowances, but tourist visas are not work visas so tread carefully.
Furthermore, if you’re paying taxes in the United States, but haven’t been in the country for more than 35 days, you might be entitled to a massive tax refund since you’re not technically a full-time resident.
Set up a consultation with my trusted tax partner – My Expat Taxes – to find out more about tax and reporting responsibilities as a remote US worker.
3. Volunteer Abroad (2-6 months)
If you’re just starting your career or are less concerned about bringing your 9-5 abroad, you should seriously consider volunteering abroad.
There are a variety of websites that match volunteers with hosts in different countries to do a ‘work-exchange.’ In a ‘work-exchange,’ you’d exchange your labor and skills for food, room, and board.
A few things that you can do when volunteering abroad include:
- Organic Farming (WOOFing)
- Working at the front desk of a hostel
- Becoming an Au Pair (in the EU or America)
- Work as a camp counselor (I did this in Morocco!)
- and so much more!
There are endless opportunities if you want to volunteer abroad, but you’ll need to bring some savings with you as you won’t be paid for this work.
My favorite websites are:
It’s also important to know that since this is a volunteer opportunity, you’ll need to be extra careful with your tourist visa allowance because there are always time limitations. You cannot get a work visa through a volunteer opportunity.
I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!
4. Become a digital nomad (1 month-2 years)
Becoming a digital nomad can be super exciting!…. but it can be tiring towards the end lol. Moving from place to place every 30 days to make sure you’re not in violation of your tourist visa gets to you after the 2nd year, but I would still encourage everyone to do this if they have the opportunity.
So what’s the difference between being a digital nomad and having a remote contract?
Not much actually. I think the real difference between the two classifications is probably how stable the income is. A remote worker still has a traditional 9-5 whereas a digital nomad is often an entrepreneur or freelancer.
As a digital nomad, you have two options when it comes to creating a home base.
First, you can choose to bounce across countries every 1-2 months to ensure you can take advantage of all the financial benefits that come with not being tied down to a single location.
Your second option is to take advantage of a digital nomad visa in a foreign country, which will allow you to establish your tax residency there for 1 to 2 years.
There are benefits with both options; it just depends on how comfortable you are with uncertainty and constant movement.
If you choose option 1, not only are you going to need to find clients and establish a consistent cash flow, but you’ll also need to change countries every few months. This might feel overwhelming to some people; I know it was overwhelming for me.
Read this article about easy countries to move to for Americans to start your digital nomad research.
5. Short-Term Contract (2-6 months)
Contract work is often a great way to gain international experience and travel while maintaining a 9 to 5. Essentially this means that your company sends you to a different country for a brief amount of time to complete a specific project.
These temporary contracts will likely send you abroad for 2-6 months and your company will provide you with an ‘Expat Package.’ This means that they will pay for everything; which includes housing, flights, a food stipend, and more!
I was sent on a short-term contract to Turkey for less than 2 months and it was a wild experience! I was able to work as an emergency aid worker and was given a company apartment with a spending stipend. I saved every penny of my paycheck!
If you’re interested in doing a short-term contract, it’s important that you focus on getting the best package possible because you are uprooting your entire life to pursue this opportunity.
For example, these are the things that I would absolutely require if I was going to a new country on a short-term contract.
- My accommodation to be found and paid for in full
- Private health insurance and international medical facilities
- A food and living stipend for everyday costs
- My flights to and from paid for
- Visa help
Obviously, if you are volunteering to work on a short-term contract these things are not going to be guaranteed. However, any company that is reputable will likely provide all if not the majority of the following things in addition to your normal salary.
6. Travel Scholarship (3 months -2 years)
Did you know that there are travel scholarships that will pay for you to study and volunteer abroad for a certain amount of time? These are often called paid travel opportunities.
My favorite way of discovering paid travel opportunities is through my friend’s website packslight.com. Gabby is an absolute master when it comes to applying and finding paid travel opportunities that will get you across the world at no additional cost to you.
What you’ll need to do is send in an application for the various opportunities. Then, someone will contact you as a finalist or if you are successful in the application you can expect the company to organize and pay for your travel abroad.
My Favorite Digital Nomad Apps for Employees on the Go!
When you’re traveling and working abroad, there are certain apps that will make your life more bearable as you jet-set across the world! Here are my favorite apps and websites for digital nomads.
If you’re ever wondering how you’re going to watch your favorite American Netflix shows while you’re abroad, then look no further than Express VPN!
They will help you keep in contact with all of your country’s pop culture references no matter where you are in the world.
Because I have multiple clients that are international and outstanding student loans to pay, I need to send money in different currencies back and forth across the world.
The most affordable way to do that is via TransferWise. You can load all sorts of currencies into your account and then exchange them into different currencies for a fraction of the cost that your bank will charge you.
If you’re interested in setting up a coaching business, look no further than Teachable.
Teachable is an online platform that helps me keep in contact with my customers all over the world and they make taking payments easy with the Stripe integration.
Whenever I’m looking for freelancers, I always start on Upwork.
Upwork allows me to hire people from all over the world and their payment protection plan gives me the confidence I need about the quality of work my freelancers will perform.
I believe in Upwork so much, that I’ve been using it for the last eight years.
When I first moved abroad, I don’t think I truly understood how much emotional stress the move was going to cause me.
That’s why I really enjoy using online therapy services, like BetterHelp, because no matter where I am in the world I can always stay with the therapist I trust and I can do my sessions in my native language.
Opening a bank account as a foreigner abroad is incredibly difficult. I’m so grateful that N26 allows me to spend local money in Europe despite having an American passport.
The flexibility of N26 made it possible for me to sign an apartment lease and to start my life in Germany properly.
Important Tax Considerations for Traveling while Working
Something I wish someone would’ve told me before I moved abroad was the fact that there is no way to avoid taxes, no matter where you are in the world.
Even if you have a company registered outside of the country you’re living in currently.
If you are American or a green card holder, you are expected to report and file taxes every single year no matter where you are in the world.
But reporting and Filene doesn’t necessarily mean paying additional taxes to the United States if you don’t currently live there.
If you stay out of the US for at least 330 days in a full calendar year, you will potentially not need to pay taxes to the United States government.
However, it is likely that you are a tax resident in another country and will owe taxes there instead.
If you are a digital nomad from the United States, and you don’t take up residency in any one country then you could potentially receive a large tax refund from the US government come tax season.
Use Form 2555 to claim the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.
For more specific information on what forms to file and how to file correctly, head on over to my trusted partner My Expat Taxes.
My Expat Taxes are a wonderful resource and software to ensure you get the maximum refund possible while still remaining budget-friendly.
Ways to Get Sh*t Done while Working and Traveling
It’s definitely not easy to stay focused while traveling and working full-time. Somehow corporate meetings just aren’t as interesting as cenote dives and adventures across the ocean. [LOL]
Here are a few ways I stay focused while working full-time and traveling.
First, be sure you have a good set-up in your new home to do your work. There’s nothing worse than trying to get work done in an awkward sitting position or just on your bed.
Next, some countries are not known for their strong Wi-Fi signal, be sure to inquire before you arrive with your Airbnb host that the Wi-Fi is suitable to conduct meetings and streaming.
Third, check to see if there are any low-cost co-working stations in the city that you’re traveling in.
They often have day passes or short-term agreements so people just like you can come in and work in a normal environment every so often.
Finally, make sure to adjust your work calendar based on the different time zones that you’ll be traveling through. This is an automatic feature but you have to enable it in order for your meetings to be expressed correctly.
Now You’re Ready to Start Traveling while Working Full-Time
I hope you found this article to be helpful in giving you ideas regarding how to balance a full work schedule with your ambitions to travel.
There are so many opportunities to travel and work full-time, you just need to find the right option for you.
If you want my direct support and feedback on your specific circumstances, schedule a private coaching session with me here.
If you’re interested in learning more about working while traveling abroad, read these additional articles that might be of some help:
- This is how you can find a job in another country
- Here I go into more detail about how to find affordable travel opportunities
- Consider doing a master’s abroad, because you can also work while you study
- Here’s information about how I was able to put it into the tech industry in London
If you want additional support in your move abroad, consider taking my Move Abroad Master Class for everything you might need to know regarding your international relocation.
Thanks so much for reading this post and I hope to see you on Instagram!