Live the dream: How you can travel the world for a living

You can make it happen. If the idea of travelling the world for a living sounds good to you, if the thought of being the person leading other tourists through amazing destinations, or helping potential travellers live their dreams, or even just having a small hand in the industry that facilitates the pursuit we all love - you can make it happen.

Working in the tourism industry isn't some untouchable dream. It's a reality for many people, and there's no reason why you can't make the leap as well.

All it takes is a decision - and a passion. If you're going to take a job in travel, you have to prepare for the fact that you're probably not going to be rich. You are, however, going to be able to pursue your favourite hobby and call it a living, and there's plenty to love about that.

For those hoping to crack the travel industry, however, it can all seem a little intimidating. Is it even possible? How do you make the first move? How do you find something you're qualified for, and that someone will actually hire you to do?

The secret is to identify the right job, and to do that you may have to think outside the box. Fortunately though, there are plenty of careers to choose from, and most will fall into one of two basic and very broad categories.

The first of those categories is the practical one: these are the boots-on-the-ground jobs that are often client-facing, hospitality-based careers that will have you seeing the world and being paid as you do it. These are jobs such as tour guides, airline crew, service industry jobs, and travel writers, photographers and bloggers.

The second category is the more corporate side of the travel industry - the people who work for companies such as Intrepid, or Qantas, or Flight Centre, or any other travel-based entity in a role that is office-based, and that doesn't involve as much actual travel in your day-to-day. Travel companies need everything from accountants to marketing strategists, public relations experts to CEOs. You may not actually be travelling that often, but you'll still be involved in the industry, and a pick up a few discounts and other perks as you go along.

And then finally, falling somewhere in the middle of these two categories, you also have travel agents, who do get to travel frequently, but who also spend a fair bit of time behind a desk in a client-facing role.

Your idea of which of these categories sounds better will probably have a lot to do with your age and your preferred lifestyle. Not everyone can spend their entire lives travelling, being away from home constantly. On the flipside, however, not everyone is going to see working as an accountant as their ideal way to be involved in the travel industry.

For younger people, or those without any formal qualifications, the practical category is probably your best way in. Tour companies such as Contiki and Topdeck (and many others) are always on the lookout for tour managers or guides, or even cooks based permanently in certain locations in Europe, and all it will take is some study and the right personality - plus, if you're really lucky, a European passport - and you should be able to find work fairly easily.

To dip your toe in the water of tour guiding and managing, apply to host "Experiences" in your home city through Airbnb - these are short tours of niche attractions in your home town that you're familiar with. Or, try applying to host day tours through a company such as Urban Adventures for a similar experience.

Other practical jobs are similarly straightforward to crack without too much experience: to become a hostie for an airline, simply go through the normal application process (you'll find it online) and hope you have the right temperament; to become a travel writer or photographer, start a blog - it's free - and begin self-publishing. To take things further in media, sign up for a course such as the Travel Boot Camp.

Travel agents, too, don't require a huge amount of professional experience - what you'll mostly need is an ability to relate to people, plus a drive for sales (you're working for commissions, don't forget), and some practical experience as a traveller.

For all of the other myriad overseas-based jobs that there are out there - cooks, hostel staff, bar staff, farm hands, etcetera etcetera - the main criteria is just being there and being available. Get a working visa, take off overseas, and apply in person. Something will come up.

But not everyone wants to be a hostie or a farmhand. For those who are a little older, and want the benefits of working in the travel industry without having to constantly travel, corporate is the answer. This is your chance to take the skills you already have and apply them to the travel industry.

Almost any corporate, office-based profession can be applied to a travel company. It's mostly just a case of identifying the company, and checking into the benefits that are offered to staff. Done right, you'll continue in steady employment without having to reskill too drastically, and you'll now be surrounded by passionate travellers working in a field with plenty of professional satisfaction.

There are downsides, of course, to working in the travel industry. As mentioned, the pay usually isn't great, and there's a danger when you turn your passion into a job of your passion beginning to feel like a job. Client-facing roles are tough; people can be difficult. An office job is sometimes just an office job.

However, the fact remains that if you love to travel and you've always fancied it as a career, there are opportunities out there. You can make it happen.

Have you worked in the travel industry? What did (or do) you do? How did you break in? Are you living the dream?

See also: What it's like to be a full-time hotel reviewer for a travel guide

LISTEN: Podcast - how to live the dream and travel for a living

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