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I was working at a hotel bar, Bar work abroad Spain
By: Brian Birkenstein (justin) 2012.01.02

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Your bank account might not support your dream of embarking on an extended stay abroad. But don't worry, there's a way to stretch your traveling budget: finance the trip along the way by finding work. Working while you travel certainly has its drawbacks, but you'll also be able to stay longer in places and get to know some local people and local hangouts. Also, think of the story mileage you will get after you've worked the ski slopes in the Alps, picked grapes "Under the Tuscan Sun" or served up cocktails long into the wild Mediterranean night.

I was lucky enough to secure a job before heading over for bar work abroad Spain. But as I later discovered, this is not always necessary. Unless you are a nuclear physicist, the foreign employers who may hire you aren't interested in your resume. They just want a warm body who can serve drinks-tonight!-because the previous person was fired for getting drunk at work and passing out in the bathroom. You could be that lucky warm body if you're in the right place at the right time.

I spent a week in Amsterdam on my way to Italy, and had a few days to kill before starting work in a youth hostel in Rome. Youth hostels normally get a lot of people offering to work, so it's nearly impossible to secure a job anywhere except on the spot. I was only able to hook this deal because a former co-worker named Steve was on his way to Rome with his wife to open a new hostel. The place needed work so Steve, his wife, Linda, and I spent the 10 days cleaning and painting. I wasn't getting paid but I was able to sleep in the hostel for free and cook my meals in the kitchen. A lot of work may only pay room and board, but it does wonders at keeping the bank account from dwindling.

On March 11, 1999 we opened the doors of The Beehive hostel and had five guests. The next night and almost every night afterwards, our 18 beds were filled to capacity. I worked as the night doorman (i.e. letting drunk travelers in at 3 a.m.) until the end of May, a period during which I was getting paid. I met at least 10 other young foreigners, mostly Americans or Aussies working at other hostels in town.

When I left Rome, I traveled for two weeks before I wound up in Lagos, Portugal, a traveler's employment paradise if ever there was one. There are three types of people in Lagos: the local Portuguese, travelers and a fairly large population of pseudo locals who work there temporarily.

I was in town for five or six days before I began looking for work. At first I had no luck in the bars around town because most employers wanted a European Union citizen or a female worker.

Finally after five days of looking, I got wind that a worker at the Old Tavern had quit just an hour before. I hurried over to talk to the owner, an English ex-pat named Marilyn. She already knew me a bit because I had become a regular in her bar over the previous two weeks. But here again, she demanded a woman. I told her I could work until she found a girl to replace me, and then I would leave with no hard feelings. She accepted and, of course, never asked me to leave. In fact, she even tried to convince me to stay longer when I wanted to continue traveling.

A typical day in Lagos for me meant waking up at 10:55 to barely catch the hostel breakfast. This was followed by a lazy day at the beach or a barbecue or a boat trip with other students and part-time locals. Next came an afternoon nap, a quick dinner and off to work at 8 p.m. I would stay until 2:30 a.m. in a packed madhouse with inebriated people dancing on the tables almost nightly, then we would head off to other bars that opened until 4 a.m. Next we went to the only disco in town, which didn't close until 6 a.m. Finally, it was time for bed to rest up for another night of work. You can get burned out on this kind of life, but it's great for a while. I departed after two months in town, thinking that I had enough money to last the remainder of my six-month stay in Europe. I left town in a car with an English guy named Pete and a Canadian named Steve. We eventually split up in Stuttgart, Germany, at which point I realized I didn't have enough money to last the next month. I decided that I could work for two weeks and headed to Salzburg, Austria, in the hopes of getting a job.

I stayed at the YOHO international youth hotel, where I noticed a large number of foreign workers. So I inquired on my first day if the hostel had any work available. I was told to go speak to someone named Adam.

"You want to work, eh?" Adam asked me. He began the grueling interview process by asking me: "Can you start tonight?" I said I could and he told me I was hired. I became the new barman/night doorman. It was clearly a case of being in the right place at the right time. Again I found a place where dancing on the tables and late nights were the norm, but I was getting paid to party until dawn. I worked for two weeks and left with enough cash to enjoy my remaining two weeks in Europe.

All my jobs were "under the table." But you also can find jobs legally too. In 1996 I obtained a work permit for Australia through the CIEE and headed for an extended stay Down Under. It was a comfort to have the legal employment papers tucked away, but I was offered two jobs on my first weekend in Sydney that didn't require papers.

I'm not suggesting that you'll immediately find work. But if you look around in the right places, the jobs will be there. The easiest jobs require the one skill you've had your entire life: speaking English. And the best places to find work are the tourist areas that cater to English-speaking travelers and locations where you'll find many young, budget-minded travelers.

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Student Travel Europe, Global Travel, Paid Internships, Volunteer Overseas, Youth Hostel