Taking Sabbatical Leave From Work? Here’s How to Earn Money as You Travel

sabbatical work travel earn money

If you find yourself sinking getting crushed by a paralysing depression each time you return to Singapore from a wonderful trip abroad, you’re not alone.

If you’ve ever considered taking a longer holiday in between jobs or on sabbatical but are worried about running out of money or using up a big chunk of your savings, working and travelling can be a great option. If you keep your spending levels low, you might even end up returning to Singapore with more money than you had when you left. Here are some ways Singaporeans can get off the little island and make a few bucks along the way.


Work on a cruise ship

Didn’t manage to get a job as an air steward? If you’re taking a break of 6 months or more, getting employed on a cruise ship might be even better. Cruise ships employ all sorts of people from guest relations officers and casino dealers to doctors and IT guys. Contracts can be as short as 3 months or as long as a year.

More importantly, you basically live on the ship, so all your food and accommodation will be paid for, and you get to save every cent you earn. The cruise ship will let you off at every stop, and you’ll be free to explore until it leaves again. If you ever find yourself on the streets with no money to survive in Singapore, getting a cruise ship job can be a fantastic option (I’m being serious here).


Teach English at a language school

If you’re Singaporean, it is assumed that you speak at least a bit of English. If you’re proficient, you’re in luck, because teaching English abroad is one of the most tried and tested jobs of backpackers all over the world. In fact, hit up any expat bar in Bangkok, Mexico City or Madrid and there’s a 99.99% chance you’ll find a bunch of English teachers.

In certain locations like Thailand and Indonesia, it’s fairly easy to get an English teaching job even without qualifications. You can expect to earn about SGD $1,000 to 1,500  a month teaching English in Thailand. On the other hand, in Western Europe, Japan and Korea, a teaching qualification like CELTA or TEFL will make it much easier to get employed, and you’ll also get paid more. Contracts tend to be from 5 months to a year, and in some cases the school might even provide you with accommodation free of charge.


Go on a working holiday in New Zealand

Unlike Australians and New Zealanders, who can get working holiday visas almost anywhere in the world, Singaporeans get to go, well, nowhere… except New Zealand, if you qualify for the 6 month-long Singapore Work Exchange Programme, that is. You have to be between 18 and 30 years old and an undergraduate, or have graduated from a Singapore university or polytechnic not more than three years ago.

Technically, you need to first find a job with a New Zealand employer before you can apply for this visa. However, because you are allowed to apply for it when you’re already in New Zealand, you can fly there first, look for a job and then apply for the visa. Just make sure you prepare all your documents beforehand.

The minimum wage in New Zealand is a very decent 14.25 NZD (14.73 SGD) an hour, so go ahead and get that job as a scuba diving instructor or bartender—you won’t have to worry about being paid the “immigrant wage”.


Become a freelancer online

If you’re a freelancer right now and build websites, write stories or program apps from home, there’s no reason why you can’t just pack your laptop into a backpack and hit the road. Other than making sure you always stay in accommodation with a stable wifi connection, your biggest challenge is going to be finding the discipline to sit down and work while you’re technically on holiday.

Every freelancer knows how a job that would ordinarily take just a few hours can balloon to fill an entire day if you’re not careful. When you’re on the road, you need to schedule your tasks mercilessly, lest you end up imprisoned in your hotel room.

Will travelling on your sabbatical hurt your finances and career?

Before you take a sabbatical, you need to know that your lifestyle has to be streamlined. As you won’t be receiving a paycheck every month on sabbatical, being frugal can help you stretch every dollar. Consider eating in more or cutting down on premium subscriptions like Spotify or Netflix to save money. Of course, think twice about travelling on sabbatical leave when you have not established an emergency fund for yourself. It’s important to established a margin of safety in terms of savings and investments before you go on a sabbatical.

As for picking up your career after your sabbatical, this depends on your company. If you can prove that you have learned useful skills on your sabbatical such as a foreign language or customer service skills, these could even help to boost your employability.

Have you ever worked as you travelled? Tell us how you did it in the comments!