Welcome to another edition of the “Work and Travel Abroad“ Series! In this series, we feature stories from those who have managed to find ways to earn money while traveling by working jobs that don’t resemble a typical 9-5 routine. They share their experiences, give their advice, hopefully inspiring many of you to believe that paying your bills and saving for the future while traveling the world IS POSSIBLE!
Planning a Trip in the time of COVID?Keep in mind that information found in this article may have been impacted by travel restrictions and other closures. Double check opening hours, tour providers and hotel status before you go. And don't leave your home without travel insurance! If you are looking for an insurance provider that covers COVID-19, we recommend SafetyWing. Get Medical and Travel Insurance starting at just $40/month and you can sign up even if your trip has already started!
Today, we are excited to share our Q&A with James from World Travel Chef who shares his experience working as a traveling chef.
Q: Who is James? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: My name is James, I’m nearly 40 years old and I’m from Australia. I have a wife and two children and I’ve been travelling more or less full time with them since 2013.
Q: What was your life like before you started traveling? Where did you work? What did you do?
A: I was a chef. Most recently an executive chef at a 5-star resort in Queensland Australia. Before that, I’d spent most of my career working in top-end hotels in London.
Q: What inspired you to start traveling? How long have you been traveling for?
A: I’ve always loved to travel, as had my wife, we met through travel, on a trip to Egypt, she is Welsh. We travelled extensively when we first got together before settling into children and houses in London and Australia. We got to the point where we felt we wanted to travel again, I felt I’d done all I could in the hotel kitchens and the kids needed to see more of the world to broaden their minds and enhance their education. It seemed like a logical next step. We’ve now been travelling for 3 and a half years without ever returning to Queensland.
Q: How do you afford to keep traveling?
A: Our first year was funded through savings, we spent around $30,000. After that lump sum ran out I started taking occasional casual work as a chef in London and we’ve also worked hard at increasing our income through the blogs we created.
Q: How did your traveling chef career begin? Did you have any formal training/education?
A: I trained as a chef in Sydney Australia gaining my City and Guilds qualification and my Australian Trade Certificate before moving to London to further my career.
Q: How do you find jobs on the road?
A: That question requires a complex answer, there are many ways to find work and experience and contacts help a lot. I posted about finding chef work in London on my website.
Q: What are some highs and lows of being a traveling chef?
A: Working in kitchens is hard work. It takes a toll both physically and emotionally. Being a traveling chef allows you to break up the work year. Giving your all for a 3-month stint and then being able to recharge the batteries for a few months, for me, the perfect balance. Experiencing different cuisines around the world is a great way to increase your knowledge during the down time.
Q: Is the pay enough to cover your living expenses? Are you able to save anything to continue traveling?
A: No because while working in London pays well the costs associated with living there are astronomical. The recent crashing of the pound to 35-year lows has all but stopped London being a place to work and save, unfortunately. Up until Brexit, yes, I could work hard and save money for our travels. By hard I mean a lot of hours, usually 6 days a week, in short bursts. Brexit will be catastrophic for hospitality in London, there aren’t enough chefs, at a high enough standard, to do the work. That’s why London’s best hotels always need people like me.
Q: Have you visited any countries where demand for chefs wasn’t high? Or maybe where your skills just weren’t applicable? What about countries where being a chef brought you the most success?
A: No, because of visa restrictions I can only work in the UK ( and Europe until Brexit kicks in) and Australia. If I wanted to take a full-time job, I’d be looking at a 2 year commitment. It’s easy for Chefs to work their way around the world like this but it doesn’t fit with family nor with our style of travel. We want to keep our freedom, not be tied to a contract.
Q: Would you recommend a job as a traveling chef to someone who wants to quit their 9-5 routine and explore the world? What advice would you give them?
A: Unless they were a chef already then it isn’t possible. Like any career, you get paid according to your skill level. As such it would be hard to make ends meet while overseas if you’d just started out. Bar work and front of house would be much better suited for this. The loss of a steady income stream is also a factor as hospitality can be very seasonal around the world.
Q: Where would one start if they wanted to follow your path of becoming a traveling chef?
A: Get qualified to cook and practise those skills. Like the above answer, it comes down to experience. If you’ve only got a few years under your belt it will be hard to get top dollar. Across Asia, most positions are for exec Chefs which require at the very least a decade of work before they would consider your application. Europe will hire at all levels if you have the right visa but pay according to skill level. If you’re single it can work but with a family in tow, it won’t.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2017?
Not being tired down to the kitchen. With the pound’s crash, it isn’t worth working in London. So I am looking at making a go of the website and online revenue sources to support us on the road.
About: James blogs about food, travel and Ironman triathlon at World Travel Chef. He is married to a professional travel blogger and has two amazing, homeschooled, sons. He still travels full-time with his family and has no plans to quit any time soon.