Looking to settle somewhere in the developing world; need career ideas
Replies: 24 - Last Post: Oct 16, 2012 12:31 AM Last Post By: hot_lz
Sep 14, 2012 12:20 AM
Looking to settle somewhere in the developing world; need career ideasI am 30 years old and a single mother of a wonderful 5-year-old boy. I have long been a travel junkie, and have travelled extensively in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. I am from the US and have a bachelor's degree in Latin American Studies and also "American Studies". Unfortunately, I have pretty much no useful job skills, as I have financed my travel habit over the last 12 years by working as a waitress, since it allowed me to come and go so much more easily than a "real" career. So now I find myself at 30, feeling very done with waitressing and wanting to move to another country and eventually develop an actual career, most likely something along the "social entrepreneurship" lines.
But starting up some sort of business that helps people and also gives me enough money to live on is going to take some time, and I want to try to move to another country and find a source of income to live on in the meantime. My son is due to start Kindergarten a year from now, so I would ideally like to get settled and established in another country sometime before then, and not have to worry about moving him around once he's started school. He is a pro traveler (his passport was almost completely full by the time he turned 2), but now that we're hitting the school-age years I want to be able to give him more of a sense of consistency so he can really settle in to school without worrying about getting uprooted in a year or two.
I am definitely much more interested in living in a developing country than in the traditional "Western" world. And I want to live somewhere where I can have really deep connections with locals, not just expats. I also want to find a place where my son feels comfortable growing up; where being an "outsider" won't be so tough. In all my travels, the two countries in which I've been most able to imagine myself living long-term are Mexico and Cambodia. But I know it is challenging to find jobs and get visas in both of these places. Although Cambodia calls to my heart more than anywhere else I've ever been, Mexico does have some extra points going for it in that my son's dad is from there and we are close to his family; I studied abroad there in college; and plus my son has dual citizenship and we are both fluent in Spanish.
In addition to Spanish, I speak solid conversational French (West African style), and rusty German. I write decently and am a native English speaker, but have no teaching experience or TEFL certification. I would ideally love to work in a field that helps people, but I understand that paid NGO positions are pretty much impossible to get without experience, and I need to make enough money to pay for childcare and schooling for my son in addition to regular living expenses.
Does anyone out there have any ideas for decent expat jobs that can be gotten (or created) by someone with a BA but no relevant work experience? And for countries where it's possible to get a visa to live long-term? I have scoured the forums and the search engines, but I find more information about what can't be done than what can. I wonder if I just don't know where to look, so I'm hoping some of you will have suggestions. Any obvious solutions in places I just don't know about, or creative solutions that haven't occurred to me? Maybe I'm dreaming, but I really hope that it's possible to come up with something, somewhere, sometime in the next year.
I am willing to consider settling anywhere in the developing world, so I am very open to suggestions as to places that might work better than the two I mentioned above. Notably, despite the Spanish skills and Latin American Studies degree, I haven't actually had the opportunity to travel that much in South America, so I am especially curious to hear if anyone has any suggestions for places to live and ways to work down there. And though I have been to several countries in Asia, it seems I haven't been to the ones that are easiest to live in long-term, so I am also very interested in hearing about more possibilities there. Any advice or suggestions, for any kind of feasible work (and visa possibilities), anywhere in the developing world, would be much appreciated. Thank you so much in advance!!
Sep 14, 2012 5:45 PM
1As you mentioned, ESL/EFL is an option.
Have a look on eslcafe.com and tefl.com for appealing jobs that you might qualify for with no TEFL cert (or do one), and email them to see if you could bring a so along; I've known several teachers in Asia (an heard of in Latin America) with hero children in local school - ir if they are teaching in at a primary school, then the children for free in that school.
Sep 14, 2012 11:15 PM
Sep 15, 2012 12:05 PM
3I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I don't think your ideal destination exists. Here are some hard facts.
It seems to be the opinion of experienced people here that unskilled TEFL with a child in tow is not advised. Wages will likely be too low to support a family.
TEFL wages in Latin America across the board are very low. So low that most people will advise you to eliminate it as a possibility, especially for those without experience.
And we're not even delving into the issue of longer stay visas which are virtually impossible without a job.
The only remaining possibility then is to stay put. The US is a developed country and one of the defining characteristics of a developed country is its high wages. Make use of that. Work, save and pick up a skill or start a business. Then a few years from now you can return to the issue of moving somewhere else.
Sep 16, 2012 6:57 PM
Sep 17, 2012 9:10 AM
5Setting up a hostel sounds like it needs a substantial amount of capital to purchase a property, outfit it, pay some salaries, plus familiarity with the local language, business availability, need for payoffs or bribes, etc.
This doesn't sound like the best choice for someone who describes themselves as having no job skills, so we would also assume no savings or business experience.
Sep 17, 2012 9:12 AM
Sep 17, 2012 11:03 AM
7I am in Mexico. EFL is a possibility if you want to be poor and frantic. These are lousy jobs unless you have a masters level English or language degree and can get a U position. Your problem is really having a dependent. The entry level jobs in EFL are taken by young indy grads or retirees who do not need the money. Here in MX single mothers have their network of caregivers - their moms, aunts, grandmas etc - and your money would be eaten by childcare. But if you had a savings of say 10K you could plan a year of working to try to get a better situation and understand how things function. Foreigners do not get free schooling here for their kids. I think you need a career that pays enough and then try to work for companies, who may have opportunities for travel when you are more independent.
Few indy hostels are profitable, it takes an enormous amount of money and work to get it going, legal, etc, although if you could swing that it would be a way to work with your son taken care of.
Marry a rich guy? hey, us f types have been doing that for centuries as a fallback...
Sep 18, 2012 7:58 AM
8"I have scoured the forums and the search engines, but I find more information about what can't be done than what can. I wonder if I just don't know where to look, so I'm hoping some of you will have suggestions. Any obvious solutions in places I just don't know about, or creative solutions that haven't occurred to me? Maybe I'm dreaming, but I really hope that it's possible to come up with something, somewhere, sometime in the next year."
I'm in agreement with alexander_vi on this one. Here's the thing sevarin. You have no skills and no money (presumably). You have done a search and found a lot of information (presumably) you don't like. But the reality is that should be telling you something. That you don't like what it is telling you doesn't make it any less real.
A single mom with waittress experience and no savings is not in a good position for anything. Your BA is next to worthless and you have no experience so far that is transferable to a decent job elsewhere. YOU have to deal with that reality.
However, it does not mean you cannot move somewhere someday. Just not today. Rather than looking for something that does not exist, start gettting yourself equipped for something that does exist. Get an education and experience in something that interests you and that is tranferable to another country. For example, being a nurse is a universally transferable skill set. So is being a plumber. There are countless jobs that can allow you to move but none of them are jobs for which you are currently qualified.
It's like you want to skip the step between dream and reality. To make it work you have to have a plan of how to get there, not just look for 'how can I get there now with no qualifications that will get me there?'
Sep 18, 2012 1:40 PM
Sep 22, 2012 2:25 AM
10By social entrepreneur, do you mean non profit type career? If so, it is not as glamourous as it sounds. I started my own non profit. It takes a lot of work. Many times, things don't go as planned, lack of funding, etc.
Can you speak Spanish? If so, that is a very useful tool to have. Look for work in the US. If you want to work with NGOs, look for an entry level job with one. You would get a lot from it. In a few years, when your son is older, and you have enough money, then consider it.
I know a few families that homeschooled their young children and sent the older ones to a high school in Malaysia. They had a decent income though. The only jobs in this area (Central Vietnam) for foreigners are high level hospitality staff, NGO, teaching and a few others. I know a few people in hospitality. Few jobs are available, though. Companies are only permitted to hire a small percentage of foreigners. If you can get more hospitality training, you might eventually find work abroad.
Also, some countries can be tough to live in with a young child. Finding reliable medical treatment can be a challenge. As someone also mentioned, schools aren't free and fees can be substantial.
Sep 22, 2012 7:15 PM
11Spanish is useful, and it's natural you'd want to be based in Latin America. Probably Mexico, if members of your child's family are there. It's a natural place to start. So, look at what the options are for Mexico/Latin America.
However, there's the question of how to start. No matter what you do, consider you'll need a year or two - or more - to get qualifications. Travelinstyle's right about looking for transferable skills. Nursing? Sure. There may well be local certifications to consider. Teaching at an international school is one good choice, because your child's tuition would likely be all/partially covered, and s/he'd get a (relatively) top-quality education to boot. To do this, you'll have to get teaching qualifications for the state where you currently live.
I dunno. Lots of options if you consider flying by the seat of your pants. But after having done it for years (child-free) and having seen friends with children do it internationally, stability for the child is paramount. It's hard enough being the new kid in town, let alone a new kid in the country. As is often said here, living in a place is a completely different experience than traveling through it.
Sep 23, 2012 6:49 AM
12I'm going to attempt to add a little positivity here!
I teach at a university in south west China (where my job and jobs like mine require only a degree), my children (aged 4 and 2) are happy and settled here. My eldest son's kindergarten is Y1000 for half a year (can't do dollars, but about £100 UK), my youngest has a nanny who we pay £60 a month for working half days. We work 16 hours a week and I earn about £500 a month. Very little in world terms but we've managed to save a lot despite childcare.
We embarked on this life with very little savings and have had no problems. Our kids are thriving and speaking Chinese. We probably won't stay here long term but could stay for up to 5 years if we wanted (in this province (Sichuan) only, other provinces have no such restrictions).
I don't have a practical solution for you but it will be out there, it is possible!
You are clearly a confident and well travelled person undaunted by challenges. Good luck to you!
Sep 23, 2012 9:45 AM
Sep 23, 2012 9:49 AM
14@Alisa you're right, I hadn't considered suggesting Asia (though I live in China, and we're looking at Chengdu in a few years if we have a child) because her child's father is in Mexico.
In China you can teach at a uni with a Bachelor's degree in many subjects, your visa's covered, and living expenses are very low, particularly outside the big east coast cities. With a TEFL cert and some tutoring experiences/references in the US you're very employable here - again, outside of Beijing & Shanghai. Cities like Chengdu are also much more liveable and laid-back than the first-tier cities...
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