There have been many articles circulating around the internet about traveling while working, being location-independent while earning a living. I follow a lot of travel blogs and travel pages on Facebook so I see a lot of these articles everyday. Sometimes, they inspire me to do the same and follow my dreams of traveling the world. But most of the time, these stories just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I curse the high heavens for having been born on the wrong side of the planet! It sucks to be issued a powerless maroon passport instead of the almighty blue one.
An article from The Guardian lists people who work wherever they want and somehow make enough money to sustain this kind of lifestyle. But what the article does not mention are these people’s citizenship. Judging from their pictures and stories they are all First World Passport citizens. It’s full of statements like “we moved to the UK,” “we lived in Paris,” “I was working in New York,” etc. These people CAN work anywhere they want because their passports allow them to. They don’t need visas when they decide to pack up and move to Costa Rica or Berlin or wherever else they want. They just need to book a ticket and that’s it. No questions asked. If they happen to need a working visa, it’s just some kind of formality.
Being Filipinos, we are sometimes even asked to show immigration officers at NAIA our return flight tickets to the Philippines before they let us pass through. We always need to show proof that we won’t overstay in the country we will be traveling to. And the time-consuming, nerve-wracking process of getting a tourist visa can really be stressful. Most visa requirements are documents that prove we have every right to go traveling and that we won’t “jump ship” and seek greener pastures. We are guilty until we prove ourselves innocent.
I have personally applied for a UK Visa back in 2012 for a 10-day holiday. It was a lengthy application form (105 items!) and had questions like:
They granted my UK Visa after two weeks of stressful waiting. After having been to London (my favorite city, so far) all that trouble was worth it. But why must they ask such silly/scary (depends on your sense of humor, I guess) questions?
Most articles about working while traveling are stories about writers/bloggers who, with the help of the Internet, can earn money while on the road. Again, most of them are First World Passport holders. There are a few Asians in the mix but their travels are not as far and wide as their American/European counterparts.
I don’t know how these bloggers do it. I don’t think Google Adsense earnings are enough to fund your next trip to the Galápagos. I want to know what the big secret is, dammit!
Oh wait, I already know. Their passports.
If these people used to live in the US or Europe and they’ve decided to go gallivanting in the streets of Bangkok or New Delhi to “blog about their travels”, the worth of their dollars and Euros could stretch for months, maybe even years. But if you are a Filipino blogger (your blog being your only means of income and not just a hobby) and you want to spend 3-6 months in the US or Europe, what kind of Certificate of Employment would you even show the Embassy when you apply for a Visa? Do PayPal payouts count as “payslips”?
Some articles enumerate the different ways you can earn money while traveling, like teaching English, working odd jobs, and being an au pair. These are not applicable to us Third Worlders. If we get granted a tourist visa, it is specifically stated that we are not allowed to work and earn money in the country we will be traveling to. To quote from the UK Visa, “no work or recourse to public funds.” If you happen to be offered a part-time job at a hostel or pub while traveling, it would have to be on the sly (“under the table” so to speak). And if you get caught, you will surely be deported. Bye bye, holiday. Who would want to risk that?
As for teaching English, the schools do not say this explicitly, but they prefer their English teachers to be white, preferably American. It doesn’t matter if English is our second language and we’ve been speaking it fluently since we were kids. It won’t even matter if you have a Masters degree in English Literature. If you are not blonde-haired or blue-eyed, you will still be overlooked.
WHERE DO YOU GET ALL THAT MONEY?!
This article from The Daily Mail tells of a 24-year-old British traveler who was able to travel ALL the countries in the world, including places that you won’t normally consider for a vacation: Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Korea. He did this in five years for a total of £125,000 (about Php 9 million). He must have been 19 when he started traveling, and he “funded his travels through part-time jobs he’s had since the age of 16. He also picked up work along the way in bars and hostels.”
I want to know what kind of part-time jobs help you save £125,000 in five years. And as a teenager/student, what the hell kind of school allows you to take time off from your studies to travel for 3-6 months at a time? I am inclined to think that his money (at least part of it) came from the Bank of Mum and Dad.
PASSPORT > HARD WORK
No matter how much discipline and hard work you put into working while traveling, as what this article suggests, it won’t be an easy task. Sure, we Filipinos can come and go as we please to most countries in South East Asia, but there is still a limit to the number of days we are allowed to stay in those countries. I know a Filipina who has been traveling for more than a year already and it seems like she has no plans of returning to the Philippines just yet, but her travel options are limited to Asia only. The easiest way I can see this “working while traveling indefinitely” setup happening is if you will be traveling across your own country only, something like three months in Cebu, two months in Davao, one month in Baguio, etc.
I know that life is not meant to be fair and that there will always be things like visa processing that we cannot avoid, but it just irks me to read all these smug, idealistic travel advice that make everything seem as easy as pie. Not everyone has the luxury to just pack their bags, leave and earn money in the process. We do not have the same privileges as they do.
Obtaining a tourist or any other kind of visa can be daunting. Some people don’t even bother trying because of all the horror stories that come with it. And don’t you think this entire visa approval/denial process is just a mild form of racism? I know that Filipinos don’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to these things. We even coined the term “TNT” (Tago Nang Tago – in hiding) because of people looking for jobs abroad without the proper visa. But why must all Filipino travelers suffer the consequences? WHY?!
If you are a Third World Passport holder and you have managed to travel indefinitely, how do you do it? It doesn’t count if you are already a permanent resident of a country other than the one you were born into, Filipino permanent residents in Singapore/Denmark/Australia, for example. Of course you guys will have it easier. If you are a true blue, Philippine Passport holding citizen and you are able to manage the kind of lifestyle stated in the articles I showed here, please let me know how because I’d like to be enlightened.