Kory French, a 33 year-old Canadian-turned-New Yorker, spent five years working his way around the world. We asked him how he did it; his response is below. Visit him at http://koryfrench.blogspot.com.
“Raise High the Canopy, Travelers”
By Kory French
When people find out that I spent the first half of my twenties traveling, one of the most often asked question is: “How did you afford that?”
The answer I like to give is: “I didn’t. But once you are out there, you find a way to survive.”
I left home in 2000 with $2000, one very limited credit card (I was only 23) and a one-way ticket to Honolulu. I didn’t have a plan. What I did have was a determination that I was going to do this on my own, refusing monetary handouts from my parents. By 2005, I had traveled across six of the seven continents (damn Antarctica) and visited over 50 countries, and although my ‘golden nest egg’ was as impossible to find as Easter morning at Chris Angel’s house, I wasn’t too badly in debt either.
Sitting now at a computer in a comfortable home, it may seem impossible to imagine being hungry in Istanbul, bust and jobless, with nothing more than a sack of clothes and a copy of Lonely Planet Turkey. But it’s against the laws of our existence to just roll over and die hungry. Travel only teaches you the kind of attitude with which you will embrace such predicaments.
So how did I find work? Of the countless odd jobs I did, I can only think of one that I scored out of a straight-up “apply-hired” routine. Even that instance was a stretch: I got a bartending job in the Whitsundays of Australia, but only because I applied with a girl who had golden locks that would blind a man and breasts that would make Monica Bellucci blush. We made a ‘take us both or nothing’ offer to a resort manager, who needed bartenders that night and couldn’t refuse the chance to perv at her for the next two months. Bam! We were hired.
Usually, finding a job is about whom you know. I found my first job in New Zealand, cleaning crop-dusters in an airport hangar. Planes would return from dumping fertilizer over farmland and I had to get all the bugs and dead birds out of their prop plate and windscreen before they went on another run. It was extremely hard work, not to mention that I was doing it inside an aluminum hangar at the high point of a New Zealand summer. This garage operated like an arena-sized oven in which I was but one small strip of Canadian bacon sizzling away. Sometimes the planes would get too hot to touch. I had no complaints when the head pilot moved the operating hours from 5am – 2pm to avoid the hottest parts of the day. I had never been so happy to get up at 4:30 for work in my whole life. I landed this gig by drinking with one of the junior pilots at the local pub. After a few pints of Tui’s, I told him I was looking for work. Two days later I was scrubbing wheatgrass and cockatoo shit off propellers for him and his crew.
When I got to Sydney I was in need of some money again. In my hostel I met a German kid who had been there for about a month and he told me he was going out the next morning to help a group of contractors raise tents at the horse races. They were those football-field size tents you see at elaborate weddings and he’d been doing it for about two weeks, getting paid in cash at the end of each day. So I joined him, and the next morning there I was trying to maneuver this forty yard white tarp into the sky like a rookie Bedouin soldier who didn’t know a canopy from an awning. Stipend earned; hostel paid for. That night, me and the German split a roasted half chicken from the market and even had some left over for a couple of beers. We were back at it the next day. By the end of the week I was pitching tents out there like a fifteen-year-old boy in his bedroom with the Internet.
What I am trying to get at is that there is a way to get out there in the world and survive without committing yourself to a one-year contract at an ESL school somewhere in Japan, should you decide to do it. If necessity is the mother of all invention, then a hungry and homeless quandary is a sure way to light a fire under your ass to find some sort of work quickly.
Before you know it, you’ll be giving tours of the Cappadocia region while living in a cave with local Turks; or delivering photographs of Heidi Klum to Conde Nast imaging studios on a bicycle in London; or serving rum cocktails at a swim-up bar in one of the most beautiful islands in the Great Barrier Reef; or crushing grapes at sunrise in the middle of the serene Yarra Valley in New South Wales. These are all jobs that I have had.
Isn’t this what the experience of travel is all about anyhow? Did you really leave the comfort of your parent’s home to go and get shitfaced at a hostel in Bangkok with a bunch of other twenty-somethings from your homeland? Did you actually set off to Brazil to get stuck on a tour bus with other English-speaking hooligans who have become more like cattle than vagabonds?
Stay out of the major cities and tourist towns. Go to the local cafés and pubs. Speak to the townspeople. Be willing to do anything. Next thing you know you will be hanging with the locals, getting to know the country from the inside, earning enough money to bank the next leg of your adventure, and feel as if you have somehow escaped the tourist commodity-façade backpacking has become.
Then wait until the bus full of backpackers from the nearest hostel shows up for a tour of your town. You’ll cringe and smile to yourself at the same time.
Check out Kory’s “music experience” site, http://koryfrench.blogspot.com/
The blog aims to expand your appreciation for song and written word together. Many of the posts have been designed to match the time of a specific song in reading length. The words of the post, together with the song you hear, aim to open your mind to a new way of reading and listening to music.