How to disappear for a year from CNN Travel

How to disappear for a year

Bored with the job? Take 12 months off to become a scuba instructor, ranch wrangler or even a Bollywood extra

Losing the rat race? Addicted to travel? Simply dying for a life change, adventure or even just a few new places to eat?

Whatever the motivation, you’ll proably need cash to fund your year out.

Here’s how to earn it while on the road.


1. Scuba instructor in Malaysia

Few things take you out of the “real world” like a swim 10 or 15 meters below the ocean's surface. If you’re a confident swimmer, training to be an accredited scuba dive instructor isn't as tough as you might think.

The most widely recognized accreditations comes from PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), renowned in the underwater industry.

There are basic qualifications to get to instructor level training: be over 18 and in good physical condition, but the benefit is a working year (or however long you want) spent in tropical waters eyeballing colorful marine life.  

Salaries start from around US$500 a month (with room and board). The more remote and stunning the location, the lower the pay.

Jobs can be found in holiday resorts and dive centers but also aquariums, superyachts and cruise liners.  

Malaysia's Celebes Sea is home to one of the most diverse bio-marine environments in the world, so why not train there?

A four-week Divemaster course at Scuba Junkie, in Semporna, costs from around US$1,300 with accommodation and board included, and there's a possibility of being offered a job on completion, though you may need a work permit -- Malaysia has stringent laws.

“Being a PADI instructor is not just about having fun in the sun, you’re responsible for guests’ safety and enjoyment and logistics," says owner Ric Owen. "All these new skills will help you in whatever line of life you decide to take in future.”

Alternatively, you can look at the PADI website for job openings.

2. English teacher in Thailand

Teaching English is one of the most popular gigs going among aspiring travelers.

There are scores of organizations offering placement for teachers who hold a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate.

Expect pay of around US$1,000 a month plus accommodation.

Organizations such as Projects Abroad, however, offer placements around the globe in countries where conversational English is sought and no qualification is required, just the right to work in the host country.

You’ll teach around 18 hours a week in a school, orphanage or human rights center. Accommodation is provided with local host families, as are meals, travel and medical insurance and extensive support by local and British staff, as well as help with visas.

It’s not cheap. You'll contribute from around US$2,300 for a teaching post in Krabi, Thailand, which goes toward paying the host family.

“Teaching abroad is a great way to combine seeing another country and really helping out," says program advisor Craig Ferriman. "In many of the countries where Projects Abroad work the local schools really struggle to get people who speak English to work with them as they can be paid more to work as a tour guide or in a local hotel.”

3. Cruise ship worker in the Caribbean

Fancy a life on the high seas? 
How about a job on a cruise ship?

Banish thoughts of romance and sunset cocktails though -- as crew you’ll work seven days a week, at all hours. You’ll need a valid passport and be eligible to work in the country in which the ship is registered. 

All major cruise lines require hundreds of crew and the range of jobs is limitless -- ships employ clerks, photographers, receptionists, cashiers, engineers, plumbers, bellboys, cabin stewards, wait staff, child care providers, entertainers, medical staff, shop assistants and beauticians.

The minimum length of contract is three to six months. Pay ranges from US$924 per month for buffet stewardess to around US$1,695 per month for social staff, which involves organizing passenger activities. Wages increase for more skilled staff. 

How to find the gems? Figure out which ships sail in the waters you’re eager to work in -- take a look at brochures in travel agencies -- and then contact cruise lines directly.

P&O Cruises is one of the biggest, sailing to the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent and destinations around the world, including Norway.

Visit their website for job information. Or contact a cruise ship consultancy such as International Cruise Services who’ll do the legwork for you.  

4. Dude ranch wrangler in Colorado, United States

If you’re in possession of good people skills, a sense of humor, are fit, can ride and dream of a life in a Stetson and leather chaps, a spell on a dude ranch might be what you’re looking for.

Wranglers groom and saddle horses, guide guests on trail rides, fix fences, paint, clean toilets, shovel manure and more.

Working hours are long and you’ll be covered from head to toe in dust. Employment tends to be seasonal, running from May to September.

Work permits are required -- most jobs offered are in the United States, Canada or Australia -- and average pay is around US$1,600 per month, with tips on top. Room and board is included. 

Competition is fierce.

“As a wrangler, you get to live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the world and participate in all the guest activities," says Colorado-based dude ranch consultant Ted Harvey. "You’ll learn skills that you’ll take with you for the rest of your life.”

For vacancies in the state and beyond, visit:, for jobs. Also, most ranches have an employment page on their site, with a downloadable application. Apply now -- many ranches are already hiring for summer.

5. Organic farm worker in Sierra Leone

The opportunity to escape the stress of urban life and get your hands dirty on a farm, garden or smallholding can be irresistible.

The Worldwide Opportunities on Farms(WWOOF) scheme matches volunteers with organic farmers who can offer room and board in exchange for up to six hours a day of practical help.

The only prerequisite is a desire to learn about country living or ecologically friendly lifestyles. 

Volunteers can stay from a few days to many months and opportunities are often available at short notice.

“WWOOFing is a wonderful way of learning new skills in food growing and preserving, animal husbandry and many other farm-related activities, getting out in the fresh air, keeping fit, having fun and meeting like-minded people," says Scarlett Penn, who runs the British branch of WWOOF. "But do make sure you have the right to enter the country as a visitor before you travel.”

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