Sunday, August 28, 2011

Travel and work

A close look at finances and long term goals reveals a large disconnect. How to go round the world, slowly, sensuously, living comfortably, and still have enough money upon return to live to the end of a ripe old age?

Pond reflections
Without getting into tedious monetary detail, suffice it to say that spending large amounts of cash on hotels, restaurants and trinkets cannot be the way I get around the globe in a 2 year period. What other options are there? If I were a great writer, I might be able to write travel articles and sell them to magazines and e-zines on the web. If I were a great photographer, right up there with the best from National Geographic, I could perhaps venture into the wilds and snap action shots of tigers or polar bears.

With the right skills I might get together a clientele of companies needing web design and maintenance, something I could do from where ever I can find fast WiFi or Internet connections. Unfortunately, I don't have those skills....

Since my career was working for a National Laboratory, holed up in secure facilities, working on projects that required a Q-clearance, even with the right software, I doubt anyone there would be willing to allow me to work on designs outside the cloister. So electro-mechanical design work is out.

What to do? I looked over my skillset. I can use computers, as can most everyone under the age of 40 around the world. I speak English, but I am not a teacher although I could probably learn to be by taking an ESL training class.

I can cook. I can paint. I can clean. I have all the skills of a third world maid but probably not all the skills of a third world handyman. Hmmmm. This is not looking good.

But I also pay attention and I've run across Facebook sites like MarriedWithLuggage. They are a couple who sold everything they owned with the idea of taking a 5 year trip around the world, and coming home when they run out of money. However, after almost a year, they discovered they truly love the lifestyle and are now focused on finding ways to extend their money and make a living while living at large in the world. Through them I learned about TrustedHouseSitters.com. And from a friend in Australia, I learned about WOOF, Workers on Organic Farms. I'm afraid my black thumb would disqualify me from life as a farmer, however, on the WOOF website, there was a link to WorkAway.com.

So I joined WorkAway and set up a profile describing my skills. The way it works is that people who are willing to put up a traveler and feed them for a period of time, can take their pick of dozens of applicants who'd like to have that opportunity. The traveler puts in about 20 hours of work a week, and the host assists him/her with sightseeing and the local culture. It's as much a cultural exchange as it is a work situation. In fact the site says that this activity should not be viewed as a way to get free labor. Since no money is exchanged, neither party has to worry about work visas or taxes.

The hosts can put up a profile on WorkAway for free, the people wanting to work are the ones who pay a fee to join the site. As luck would have it, I found a WorkAway gig in Cambridge, MA for the month of November. A woman who lives near Harvard wants a little painting done, and would love for me to cook a few meals, maybe teach her something about Thai and Mexican cuisines.  That will be my first foray into the WorkAway world. And there are many more possibilities in all the countries I'd like to visit. My rough plan is to go to Mexico again and live in San Cristobal, Chiapas for a few months, to study Spanish and finish the explorations I'd started in April. After that, I'll start around the world.

Other interesting places on the web are the "Round The World Ticket" sites:  JustFares.com, Airtreks.com and Around-the-world.com. Star Alliance also has round the world fares. I have yet to buy the ticket, but as I understand it you can buy a ticket to go one way around the globe, choosing the places where you want to stop over. The price depends on the number of stops you chose. A fellow I met on a rafting trip recommended I stop over only at the big world hubs like Singapore, London, Mumbai. That way, I can take round trips on local airlines to places like Australia and New Zealand, Thailand, all over Europe, maybe even Africa. The local airlines are usually cheaper and more frequent than major carriers.

Sammy and Sophie
I also joined TrustedHouseSitters. Although I've not gotten any gigs from them, I have my own experiences house-sitting for friends. Those friends have written recommendations that should help me to secure places to house-sit around the world too. The couple from MarriedWithLuggage has done this quite often and found several great places to stay and take care of pets in Europe. WorkAway seems to be much more global in its scope as is WOOF. And of course, the more people you know, and the more they know about you and your availability, the more of these kinds of opportunities arise.

For the last couple of weeks, I took care of a house in Taos (see the previous several blogs) and got my "Dog-Fix" with Sammie and Sophie. I'd always wanted to live in Taos. It was a great chance to spend real time there, see how people actually live, experience all the wonderful art. If I were to spend more than a month or two, I'd have to take some art classes, get involved with a ceramics studio or find a part time job in a gallery. Skimming the "tourist surface" wouldn't cut it for the long haul.

The Taos House


My friend's place is gorgeous but required a lot of time watering and maintaining. The dogs were well behaved after they learned the boundaries that I set, and we got along just fine. It was a wonderful two weeks, but now it's time to move on to the next thing, which is to find a renter for my furnished condo in Los Alamos, and head off to Massachusetts and beyond.

Sophie's yard, just gorgeous.