Employment Basics

Work and travel: unpacking your career

If you’re living abroad because your partner is, continuing your career isn’t always easy. Here are some tips that will help you work and travel.

Work and travel

By Expatica

Updated 19-1-2024

It’s fine for the expatriate employees when moving abroad, right? They just show up at their new office in their new country, spot a few familiar faces, are shown to their new desk, and start work. But for the rest of the family, particularly the accompanying partner, the pairing of work and travel might not be so simple. It’s likely that an accompanying partner sacrifices or downshifts a career in order to support the employed partner. Oftentimes, these couples don’t properly prepare for this reality until they’ve started to settle in.

Dual-career couples don’t really have a place in the fast-moving expatriate world. While the academic world has taken some steps to address their needs, the reality continues to be that few companies choose to employ both partners. Thus, the accompanying partner is sometimes forced to create and maintain a different kind of career, if he or she is to continue with a mobile lifestyle.

How can accompanying partners maintain a career abroad?


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Find your passion

If a portable career is to withstand the tests of time and frequent upheavals, then you must love your work. Your work should inspire you and fill you with energy. It takes at least two years to establish a new business in the non-expatriate world. It is vital that work and travel can mutually benefit one another through your own motivation and excitement.

Working on the beach
Do you have a portable career?

If you love what you do, you’ll be enthusiastic. If you are excited about your work others will become excited too; they will want to know more and this, in turn, breeds success. Reconnect with natural talents that may have become buried in the mire of the rat race and the pursuit of income. Explore growing interests and new possibilities inspired by your new experiences.

Manage your expectations

It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to move smoothly from place to place without needing to rethink what you will do professionally. Uninformed and unrealistic expectations about work and travel are one of our greatest sources of discontent. Managing your expectations appropriately can help you counteract this. Don’t assume that transitioning to another culture will be easy. Anticipate cultural differences and temporary setbacks. If you know what to expect, you won’t be setting yourself up for disappointment in trying to uproot your career to a new context.

The better you prepare beforehand, the more easily you’ll make the move into your new environment. Find out what opportunities may be available to somebody with your talents, skills, and training. Through a mentor, discover what kind of work, paid or volunteer, other people in your situation are doing. Also, check on whether there are places to study, and check the availability of affordable childcare, good Internet connections, and reliable transportation. You may need to recycle some skills, return some to your proverbial suitcase, or learn a few more before you are truly set for your new location.

Any time you spend on research and planning will not be wasted. Find out in advance whether your brilliant idea is viable in your new location, if at all. Plan it out; imagine that you have the career of your dreams and live with it for a few days. See if you still consider it to be ideal after a few days. It is always wise to look at your idea from all angles and do a thorough investigation before spending any money.

Learn to improvise

At the same time, develop your improvisational skills and ability to respond to changes and unexpected developments. In this world of fast-paced change and information overload, it is hard to plan and predict everything, especially when you are in a new environment and culture. Learn the skills to deal with the unexpected, recognize unplanned opportunities, and engage fully in your current reality. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and work remotely.

Listen to people

Sadly, few jobs come completely naturally to us, especially when we’re new in town. We have to go out and find them. It is likely that you may have to carve your own path when it comes to work and travel. One of the best ways of finding out what goods and services people in a given area need and want is to go out among the local community. Chat with people who have been around for a while to find out what they are complaining about.

Man working outdoors
Learning to listen can help kickstart your portable career

In Jo’s village, people were always wishing they could find reliable babysitters, gardeners, cleaners, and window cleaners. While you may have no desire to babysit, garden, or clean, you could manage a team of people that does. Problems are opportunities in disguise, so find out what gaps exist in the local market and see if you might be able to fill them in a way that uses your skills, experience, and talent or allows you to grow new ones.

Of course, a newcomer may not be immediately privy to such information. Think about kickstarting the process by attending networking meetings, social events, and civic gatherings. More than three-quarters of all positions are found not through agencies or advertisements but through networking. You can also read the local paper to see what people are doing, what advertisements are posted, and what people are asking for in the wanted sections.

Get out there and start listening and looking with eyes and ears wide open for opportunities abroad. Creative application of your skills, talents, experience, and vision for your future will create a whole new world of possibilities for you as you begin to work and travel more. It will most likely come in very unique packaging!