Today I met Anna. She is from Michigan, a state that some may say does not share a travelers spirit, yet this Michigan native is the epitome of what a true traveler is. Ana is fearless and curious to see as much as she can, any way she can.
Traveling has many faces, but the one I refer to is the young, carefree, and independent one. A recent graduate of Michigan State, Anna described her life prior to travel as boring. She played soccer for her university, but did little aside from this. For her last semester in college, she knew she wanted to make a change in her routine and see somewhere new; she decided to study in New Zealand. “ I was like a guinea pig for my school, a pioneer in the study abroad program. No one had ever gone to New Zealand and people were nervous about my trip. My dad especially wasn’t too crazy about me going.”
About eight months into her journey, I meet here her, at the Traveler’s Lounge, and she has revamped herself as a regular student into a world traveler.“ I arrived to New Zealand and I thought everything would be arranged. Apartment, home stay, transportation. Quickly I discovered no one would do any of this for me and I was thrown into a big mess where I had to fend for myself.”
Yet Anna was relentless and preservered. Since her program ended, she has worked in London through Bunac, a company that helps Americans and Canadians acquire temporary work permits in Europe, Australia, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. Furthermore, she told me about her decision to get free accommodations through couchsurfing.com.
Intrigued, I asked her to tell me about both of her experiences with these agencies.
She explained to me that Bunac is company that helps people, students in particular, who want to see the world and work in other countries to get a work permit. There are a variety of countries you can choose to visit, but some give you the chance to work while others are volunteer based.
Anna chose to go to London. While Bunac helps the participants of the program by giving them websites and information to find housing and a job when they arrive to their destination, Anna advised me that anyone interested should do like she did: research both factors before arriving. It makes for a less stressful experience.
Anna used www.Gumtree.com find both housing and a job. She worked in retail making only 5.50 pounds an hour, but survived by being one of the top sellers and making commission. In July, she is continuing working in Europe, but this time in Naples, Italy. Through the same website she found a job as an English teacher for a little boy whose parents own a small hotel. “ The family is going to give me a car”, she said, “and we will do fun things so the boy can learn English.”
As for the Bunac program, it is nice program to try out if you want to work abroad. However, keep in mind there is a fee to pay and the program is geared for the independent, self-reliant, and optimistic traveler. Sometimes getting a job can take weeks and the same is true of accommodations, so come with back up funds. Also, BUNAC has an age limit for those it accepts. The program requires you to have student status and be under 26 years old.
Finally, Anna told me more about the free accommodations she would get her last days in Lisbon. www.CouchSurfing.Com is a website that has travelers with profiles from all over the world, and many offer travelers a free room. The key to making this work is to get online, create a profile, and look up the area you care to visit. There will be a list of people who are offering a free bed/couch and it is important to check out the profile and references of each. While Anna could of stayed for free all of her nights in Lisbon, she had the common sense to rent a hostel bed, and to meet her host first. She advises this is the safest way to make sure you don’t get stood up or taken advantage of. Still, there is some risk involved, so make sure to use your best judgment.
There are so many things to learn about cheap, safe, and fun travel and I am excited to share these findings with you over the course of the next few weeks.