Last year I wrote a post titled “Why You Don’t Have to Quit Your Job to Travel“. It went mini-viral, generating a lot of feedback from readers who were inspired by advice on how to travel more while working full-time. I still believe in that post and continue to travel a LOT while working 9-5. But the truth is, I don’t really love my job anymore. I spend my days day dreaming about a life of travel and hope to one day trade my cubicle for a backpack and a nomadic lifestyle. And I know I’m not alone.
There are many of you out there, dreaming of traveling the world, crippled by the big scary question, “How could I ever afford it?” No matter how much you save, no matter how cheap you travel, eventually the funds will run out and you’ll find yourself on the plane back home. But what if we didn’t have to take that flight back home?
Today, I’m excited to introduce you to a New Series on Drink Tea and Travel that I’m calling “Work and Travel Abroad“. Over the next 2-3 months, I’ll be featuring weekly stories of travelers who have managed to find ways to earn money while traveling by working jobs that are nothing like your typical 9-5 routine. They’ll be sharing their experiences, giving their advice, and hopefully inspiring many of you to believe that paying your bills and saving for the future while traveling the world IS POSSIBLE!
Today, I’m talking to Ashley Fleckenstein from www.AshleyAbroad.com and we will be learning about her experience working as an Au Pair in France!
Q: Who is Ashley? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: Hey! I’m a 24-year old travel blogger currently living in Denver, Colorado. Previously I lived in Paris, studied in Argentina and Spain and traveled Europe, Asia and India. I’m a huge language nerd (Spanish and French) and I love basically every kind of ethnic food.
Q: You left your home town when you were just 21 years old. What motivated you to call it quits on normal life and move to Paris at such an early age?
A: Actually moving to Paris happened pretty organically. I took care of a French family in high school and all through college, and after my last summer with them they recommended me to their friends. So a few months after graduation I left to live in Paris for almost a year.
Q: How did you score your first Au Pair job? Have you ever been an Au Pair anywhere else?
A: I’ve been an au pair four times, but always in the suburbs of Paris. I worked for two families, one for 3 summers (found through friends in Michigan) and one for a year.
Q: What does it really mean to be an Au Pair? What was your day to day job in Paris?
A: Au pairing essentially means you take care of the family’s children, whether that involves tutoring them, taking them to activities, cooking or babysitting. My day to day job was pretty easy – the girl I took care of came home around 4p.m and I worked until around 9 p.m. or so.
Q: What did you get up to when you weren’t looking after the kids?
A: For the rest of the day I explored Paris, took French classes, blogged and sometimes cooked/cleaned. My schedule was different with my 3 other jobs as those were all during the summer, so I took care of the kids all day.
Q: Can you share some of the highs and lows of the job?
A: The advantages are that you have a lot of free time, live in a foreign country and can learn a foreign language. The downsides are the low wage and not having a ton of privacy if you live with the family.
Q: Was the pay enough to cover your living expenses? Were you able to save anything and continue traveling?
A: I earned around 125 euros a week and in nine months I saved around $1,200 USD. While that wage sounds low, it’s a little above average and my host family paid for almost everything: my cell phone, French schooling, room and board, food and airfare.
Q: Did you have any previous experience looking after children?
A: I had done a lot of babysitting in high school as it was my main source of income, but I had never had any formal education. I don’t think early childhood education or certificates are necessary- in fact I didn’t know anyone who had them.
Q: What countries would one be able to travel to while being an au pair?
A: You can au pair anywhere in the developed world; the U.S., Europe and Australia seem popular.
Q: Would you recommend a job as an Au Pair to someone who wants to wants to quit their 9-5 routine and explore the world? What advice would you give them?
A: I would recommend au pairing to women 18-25 who want to live abroad. I would advise that they speak to many families before choosing one, keep their living quarters neat, come with at least $2,500 saved, try to learn the language and most importantly enjoy their time abroad!
Q: Where would one start if they want to look for a job as an au pair?
A: I would first check aupairworld.net, as it’s the site with the most postings. Monster can also be a good option.
Q: What’s next for you, Ashley? Where in the world are you now?
A: I’m currently working at a digital advertising start-up in Boulder, Colorado, and I spend most of my free time skiing and blogging. I’m planning on staying out here for a while and then perhaps moving abroad- but we shall see!
Huge thanks to Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and share her experience with us. Check out Ashley’s new website, Become An Au Pair, for more information about becoming an Au Pair and her Travel Blog Ashley Abroad for more stories of her life in Paris and her travels around the world.
Does being an Au Pair sound like something you might want to do to help you travel the world? If not, come back next week to check our the second installment of the Work and Travel Abroad Series
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Have any other questions for Ashley or want to share your own experience being an Au Pair?
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