With inauguration day quickly approaching, I know a lot of Americans are panicking about what a Trump presidency will mean for them and their families. I’ve seen dozens of my Facebook friends rush to renew their passports as a precaution, and on election night Americans actually caused the Canadian immigration website to crash.
Early last year I started doing my own research into how to live outside of the U.S. without being independently wealthy, having an international job offer, or being a student. Surprisingly there are several options for young adults to travel abroad long term regardless of your skillset, meaning if you are determined and resourceful, you can actually get out of the U.S. for the entirety of Donald Trump’s presidency without applying for citizenship in another country or having a sponsored work visa.
A quick Google search will turn up dozens of programs that facilitate volunteer opportunities in other countries. The programs have different focuses such as education, environmental conservation, animals, sports, archaeology, community development, building, farming, and creative arts. You can choose the opportunity that suits you based on your interests, skills, and the amount of time you want to be gone. If you’re reading this, I’d imagine many of you would be interested in yearlong contracts.
The downside of volunteering abroad is that in most cases you have to pay to participate in these programs, but the fees ultimately cover your room and board. However, you definitely have to be wary of travel companies that charge ridiculous amounts for short trips. For many of the options, prices are upwards of $1,000 a week, not including plane tickets and any visas you might need. When you’re looking into different volunteer opportunities, ask yourself if the goal of the program seems to be to make a difference, or just to make money.
A few of the more affordable programs with long-term options I’ve found are Volunteers Without Borders, The United Planet, and Global Vision International. Volunteer Forever is also a great resource for looking into long term programs specific to what you want to do.
2.Take up farming!
No, I don’t mean you have to purchase a plot of land and a couple hundred cows in the Swiss countryside (although that’d be nice too). It’s actually much easier than that. WWOOF, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a global network of national organizations that facilitate people volunteering on organic farms. In exchange for your work, you’ll live on a farm, be provided room and board, and learn about organic farming. Start by checking out WWOOF International or the Federation of WWOOF Organizations where you can browse by the countries you’re interested in visiting, and see if there’s a program that fits you.
3.Take a Working Holiday…or several!
Five different countries offer the opportunity for Americans to travel for up to one year (sometimes more) and still allow them to work as they go to fund their travels. I don’t think I have to explain why this is an ideal compromise between vacationing and living in another country. The best part is that these visas don’t require sponsorship from a company, so you don’t have to choose a job before you go, and you’re not obligated to stay at one job for the whole year. Each country has its own restrictions and guidelines, some more strict than others, but with five to choose from you should be able to find an option that works for you!
Ireland offers a 12 month Working Holiday Authorization for U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are currently enrolled full-time in a post-secondary education program or who have graduated from an applicable program within 12 months prior to submitting their application. The visa application will cost you between $350 and $360 depending on where you’re applying from. You also have to show that you have access to at least $4,000, provide a resume with references, and a copy of your U.S. passport. The application process can’t be completed online, but you can find all of the requirements here, as well as the printable application and the correct Irish consulate/embassy to send it to based on what state you live in.
Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 can get a Working Holiday Pass if you are enrolled at or have graduated from a qualifying university, which allows you to live and work in the country for up to six months. You can submit the application and required documents online through the government website, but they do warn that it takes about three weeks to process, and then you will receive an approval letter, which you have to use to get your pass issued at an Employment Pass Services center in Singapore within three months. However, the letter also allows you to travel in and out of Singapore prior to getting your pass. The best news is if you love Singapore, you can apply for a second WHP 12 months after your first one ends.
Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible for a 12 month visa to live and work in New Zealand, and can also choose to study for six months. You’re required to have at least $4,200 NZD, which is just under $3,000 USD right now, sufficient funds for a ticket out of New Zealand at the end of your stay or a ticket already booked, and medical insurance, and you can work any job you want as long as it’s not permanent and doesn’t involve sexual services. You can apply for a visa online for $208 NZD/ $148 USD, but you might be asked for extra materials to prove you meet the requirements. Once your application has been approved, you have to arrive in New Zealand within 12 months. If you want to stay longer, you can apply for a one time, three month extension to do seasonal work in horticulture or viticulture.
Australia’s Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462) is for Americans who are at least 18 and not yet 31. It allows you to live and work in Australia for up to 12 months, but you can’t spend more than six months at one job. In November of 2016 they also added the second year extension option, which you’re eligible for if you spend at least three months working in hospitality and tourism, or agriculture, forestry and fishing in the northern part of the country. The initial visa application will run you about $355 USD, and they also require you to have $5000 AUD, which is $3750 USD right now, and enough money for your departure flight, but I was never asked for documentation of either of these things. You can read more about the requirements and complete the application here, but make sure you apply for Work and Holiday Visa, not the Working Holiday Visa. They’re basically the same, but the Working Holiday Visa isn’t for Americans.
South Korea also offers a 12 month Working Holiday Visa that allows Americans to work almost any job in the country. To apply, you simply must be between 18 and 30, have 3,000,000 KRW, which is just over $2,500 USD, have health insurance, and have a return ticket or sufficient funds to purchase one. A big difference to keep in mind between Korea’s visa requirements and the other countries’ is that you must actually be in the U.S. when you apply. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website is kind of difficult to navigate, and mostly in Korean, but if you go directly to the English PDF about the Working Holiday Visa you’ll find everything you need to know.
I’m currently on a Work and Holiday visa in Australia, and plan to follow it up with a second year here and a year in New Zealand. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to go to Ireland unless I decide to go back to school, but I might also spend a year in Korea and six months in Singapore. One recommendation I have for anyone looking into a working holiday is to do your research and application directly through the government websites I’ve provided links to. There are dozens of programs offering to “help” you get your working holiday visas and get settled into the country you visit, but they don’t represent the governments of these countries, and they don’t actually have any special channels to help you get your visa. While I was doing my research, I looked into a program in Brisbane, but they wanted $1,500 to do my visa application, put me up for a week (not including meals), and “help me look for jobs.” I still would have had to pay for a flight to Sydney and a second flight to Brisbane. Instead, I spent less on my flight, my visa (which took all of 15 minutes to get instead of the weeks they told me it would take) and my first 11 nights at a hostel in Sydney. They also made it seem like an introductory program was the only way I’d make friends or find travel companions, which hasn’t been the case at all. Moral of the story, don’t let a travel company trick you into thinking you can’t do this on your own. YOU DEFINITELY CAN!
4.Teach English Abroad
There is a worldwide demand for English teachers, and not just for children! English is the global language of business, so there are teaching opportunities ranging from basic English for young kids to industry specific English for adults. There are several different options for certifications you can get to become an English teacher abroad, without having any prior teaching experience, and some programs don’t even require a bachelor’s degree. You can choose to do an online certification from home and then apply for a position, or you can take an onsite course in the country you want to teach in. The two main internationally recognized certificates for teaching English are TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Another option is CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). Wading through the options for learning to becoming an overseas English teacher is daunting to say the least, but here are a few good resources to get you started.
5.Become an Au Pair
If you really like kids and have experience caring for them, you might want to look into being an au pair. You can find and apply for au pair positions with families all over the world online. If you find one, you’ll live with the family for the period of time you agree on, have your room and board covered, and still get paid a weekly stipend. Sites like Au Pair World and Care.com connect aspiring au pairs with families, or if you know which country you’re interested in, you can go directly to their local job posting websites. Just make sure that when you do choose a family to work for, you take the time to get to know them and their specific expectations before you move into their home. Even though you’ll be employed by them, you’re basically signing up to be part of someone’s family, meaning if anyone is going to have to adjust culturally it’s going to be you.
Of course there are several more ways to sustainably travel abroad (especially if you have a marketable skill and can obtain a work visa), but inauguration day is just around the corner and these are all options that you can turn into a reality pretty quickly. If you find yourself wanting to get away from Trump, and have few enough commitments to make it possible, take a look and see if living abroad might be for you! As Americans, we’re not encouraged nearly enough to travel or live overseas, but what better time to expand our horizons than now, when so many of us feel unsure about our futures in our home country. Who knows…maybe the grass on the other side of the ocean really is greener.