With the dumpster fire that the US is right now, it might be nice to dream about moving somewhere with fewer social problems, more reasonable leaders, and at least better health care. But moving is expensive and, even worse, it’s often a long term commitment. Here are a couple of relatively cost-effective ways to leave the US for a little while if you don’t have a degree or a lot of money, provided other countries open their visa process to US citizens.
(Disclaimer: Moving and traveling during a pandemic can be dangerous. Please follow all health and safety regulations during this time. Also, this is not legal advice. Please do your own research if you end up deciding to take a long trip and need a visa!)
1. Au Pair
As an au pair, you should basically be an older sibling, or an extended relation who’s around to help out with the kids. You get your living expenses paid for and also receive a small “allowance” each month. I think this option is the most accessible, especially to young people with childcare experience.
You don’t really need anything but your passport, some documents for a visa (can include a background check), and a flight (although your host family may agree to pay for some of the travel cost), although the requirements vary by country. This is a pretty chill way in general to get out of the country and have some new experiences. Many people au pair during a gap year, but in some countries you can be an au pair until the age of 30! Unfortunately, this job is generally not available to married people or people with children, although I’m sure you could look.
Some helpful websites for more information include:
Another great resource to learn more is Au Pair, Oh Paris, which is an au pair community created by au pairs for au pairs!
2. Study Internationally (Full Time)
This one has a relatively high initial cost. You need some kind of financial guarantee, whether signed by a guarantor or by way of blocked account to prove you have enough money to not starve while you’re studying in a foreign country. You also need to have a job or enough money saved up to actually live while you’re studying, and you need to be able to pay tuition. However, tuition outside of the US is relatively inexpensive, and can be as little as $4,000 per academic year! Plus, you can even au pair while studying (which is what I’m currently doing) and have your living expenses paid for while you save a bit each month.
Here is a more in depth guide by the NY Times to getting an international degree!
3. Study Internationally (Part Time)
Another great way to study internationally is to enroll in a language course abroad! Many countries have language schools specifically to teach foreigners, expats, or international students the country’s native language. Costs of courses vary wildly depending on the country and the type of course you want to take, and, of course, you’ll also have to account for living expenses!
You can find more information about language schools in different countries at GoOverseas!
4. Volunteer Abroad
While untrained people voluntouring abroad in the global south simply to feed a savior complex or for likes on Instagram is definitely not it, volunteering in a way you can help is always a good way to spend your time! Volunteering abroad might not be possible for a bit due to current travel restrictions and obvious current health risks either, but it’s always nice to dream! You might be able to volunteer with a tourist visa, since you won’t be getting paid. Tourist visas for US citizens are generally up to 3 months (if you’re in Europe, that means 3 months within the Schengen Area, not within 1 country), so it’s a good way to take a very short break. If anyone knows any ways to get a visa for volunteering for a longer period of time, please leave some info in the comments!
You can volunteer at a farm, to help someone with renovations, volunteer in a cafe, or to be a housemate who pays rent by helping with kids or doing chores. This is normally a way to travel for cheap, since you don’t “work” very often and you generally don’t need to pay for most living expenses as a volunteer (although it varies depending on the volunteer work), but it works to take a break from your home country as well.
Some resources about volunteering abroad can be found at:
5. Teach English Abroad
I saved this one for last because this one usually requires a bachelor’s degree and/or a TEFL certificate. Teaching English abroad is a relatively simple job to get, which results in a lot of underqualified English teachers. I wouldn’t recommend this path unless you are actually interested in teaching and have experience teaching English, just because kids in foreign countries deserve quality education like everyone else. However, aside from that, teaching English can be a very rewarding job!
The most popular English teaching jobs are in Asia (especially East Asia) and Latin America. Asia is popular because English teaching jobs in countries like South Korea, Vietnam, and China pay relatively well and will allow you to put away some money each month for savings. People often go to Latin America to teach because of the rich culture and travel opportunities!
Teaching English abroad is definitely an option that requires a much more research and preparation in terms of time and money, but it can be rewarding to get out of your country to learn, teach, and experience a completely new culture and ways of life.
You can find more information about how to teach English abroad at: