5 Work and Travel Opportunities To Do Before/Instead of College

High school tends to push people to go straight to college after finishing high school. This is great advice for some, but pretty terrible advice for others. There is a lot of pressure in college to figure out what you are interested in and willing to put all the blood sweat and tears into to earn your degree. Then after that awesome graduation party, walk away with lifelong loans to pay off.

Let’s keep it fair, college offers us a lot.

There are several great things about going to college. Personally, I am eternally grateful for my education. It enabled me to teach English in Taiwan, which was a pinnacle experience in my professional and personal development. Not to mention the incredible time many of us have in college. We are navigating our life outside of our home for the first time in a great environment. Plus, there is a huge array of statistics on how much more money you can make in your lifetime with a college degree.

But then there are all those opportunities your high school teachers didn’t tell you about…

Now, I think I went to a pretty great high school for a public one, but clearly, the staff there could use reading this post. I learned all about these possibilities through my own research after already getting my bachelor’s degree. They pretty much just told us we’re best off going to college. Well, this great staff clearly did not know about a whole world (literally) of options that provides incredible experiences. These experiences will

  • build your character
  • educate you more about the world
  • increase your confidence
  • provide great additions to your resumes
  • give you a sense of accomplishment
  • give you a feeling that your life matters

But these opportunities are not always easy or glamorous…

Now, a lot of the things on this list are things that a lot of people, quite frankly, don’t have the fortitude to do, especially by themselves. This is something to consider when making these plans. You may want a buddy to agree to do one of these with you. Keep in mind, many of these options have a great group of people doing the same thing nearby you, which can provide a huge support that you need when you venture off on these grand adventures by yourself. Also, keep in mind that this life is YOUR life, and it’s up to you to fill it with amazing experiences. People regret NOT doing so many things. You would NEVER regret any of these amazing experiences! You’re stronger than you think you are, so don’t be afraid to fill your story with all the things our world has to offer!

1. Au Pair

  1. Au Pair in New Zealand
    My Kiwi Babies and I during my year as an Au Pair in New Zealand.

    I personally had the experience of Au Pairing in New Zealand. Being an Au Pair is a well-set-up system. You have basic accommodation and food. The weekly pay averages to about $200 NZD per week. Most families give you weekends off. According to the government (in New Zealand) you are entitled to 1 week paid holiday for every three months of work. But, it can be a stressful situation to live with a family who you are working for. Every great opportunity comes with some level of sacrifice. You would still be living an experience you will never forget, despite its challenges. There are agencies you can go through, which help you deal with problems you may be having.

Using an Agency, or Not Using an Agency

Agencies provide extensive in-country support. They charge an initial startup fee, usually $1,000-$3,000 USD. If you have the confidence to go without an agency, there are websites you can use to find host families directly. Without the agency, you don’t have much for in-country support besides your host family, but you also don’t have the hefty start-up costs. I would say, if you don’t have a lot of experience in traveling by yourself, an agency may be the way to go. If you have traveled alone before, have some money saved in case things don’t work out, and you have the confidence to figure things out if the arrangement doesn’t work out, you would be fine going without an agency.

  • The agency I worked with was Au Pair Link. I met other Au Pairs through other agencies, and they usually didn’t get paid as much as those going through Au Pair Link. I found this opportunity on their US partner’s website GeoVisions.
  • If you are not interested in going through an agency you can check out Au Pair World.

    2. Working Holiday in New Zealand or Australia

    The places in which you can easily get a Working Holiday Visa vary depending on your citizenship. New Zealand and Australia working holiday visas are very accessible to most of the world. They require that you are 18-30 years old, and pay the Working Holiday Visa Fee, ranging in $165-$400 USD. For more information on the details or to apply for a working holiday in New Zealand click here, Australia, click here.

    Accommodation for Working Holiday Visas

    The most affordable accommodations would be hostels that are looking for help. You make an arrangement to live in a hostel and for free accommodation for some housekeeping. To find any of these hostels, simply google some in the area you wish to live in and email them. They are used to this situation. Hostels are a great place to get a lot of information on job opportunities in the area, as well as TradeMe for New Zealand, and GumTree for Australia. A lot of people think it would be impossible to just get up and move to Australia or New Zealand, but they just aren’t willing to live in a hostel (which aren’t that bad) and work crappy jobs for the chance to see the world. There is also the possibility of house-sitting. House-sitting websites usually charge a small membership fee, which is probably well-worth it in the long run. It’s a more extensive process than just finding a hostel to work for, but it should also provide more luxury. Here are some websites that help you find house-sitting opportunities – Aussiehousesitters, MindMyHouse, TrustedhouseSitters, HouseSitWorld, HouseCarers.


    3. Work, Save, and Travel/Backpack or Volunteer Abroad

    Work, save, and travel/Backpack

    Backpacking in Bali
    Backpacking in Bali

    Upon completing high school you can work for a year, save as much money as possible, then go and spend it all on however much backpacking you can afford. Yes, I know I am suggesting something so irresponsible – blow all your savings, but you’re still young and have plenty of time to earn your money back. The character and confidence you’ll gain from having this incredible experience will change your life, and you can go back and make that money again anyway. The basic things to consider while living out of a backpack to stretch your money as far as it can go are the following

    • Search on several airfare sites for the best flight deals.
    • Stay in cheap hostels, or campgrounds if the weather is manageable.
    • If you’re staying somewhere for an extended period of time, try finding a hostel that needs some help in exchange for free accommodations.
    • Cook your own meals in the hostels for cheap food. Pasta, sauce, and a few fresh fruit and vegetables will be a great way to eat on the cheap. It’s a small price to pay for seeing the world.

      Work, Save, and Volunteer

      Most of us don’t have moms and dads who will pay for our volunteer opportunities, so earn that money over the course of a few months by earning that money yourself! Talk about a way to milk all your appreciation for this opportunity yourself! There are countless opportunities to volunteer abroad. Most of the programs will have you paying a fee. The kind of work that comes with volunteering abroad is very diverse, but the common thread is the nature of getting a chance experience diversity, and the unmatched experience of knowing you helped people. Below is a list of websites you can browse to get started on volunteering abroad.

4. Social Media Manager


Many companies are offering jobs as a Social Media Manager these days, which you can do from anywhere in the world. Most of us already have the basic skills of many social media platforms, and a course in Social Media Management could be an incredible alternative to going to a University. There are many online courses on social media management, I haven’t taken any, but I have read some work by Nicole, founder of Freedom Junkies, and you can find her online course here. The price of the course is about $700-$800 USD, compare that to college tuition, and perhaps it would be the best $700-$800 you ever spend!

5. Military

Obviously, this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the military. To be honest, I am the LAST person who can give any advice on how to get started on this one! For references, you can start with any family member, friend, or anyone you know to get more information. The only other thing I would suggest is checking out http://www.usmilitary.com/. Have fun!

And a few more notes…

*While you are abroad on many of these journeys listed, there are other ways to potentially make an income. Here are some more things you can do.

  • Photography: If you have a great camera and decent photography skills, you can seek clients for photography sessions. You could even offer a special, competitive “immigrant price.” 😉
  • Blog/Vlog your experience. This can take some time to build an audience to make it marketable, but you are having a unique experience that most people do not have. Other people might like to know more about it as you go. You also DEFINITELY won’t regret documenting these experiences as they happen. You’ll be happy to go back to these memories long after they pass you by.

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