Cornelia Original

7 Tips To Make A Career Out Of Travel

Living abroad since she was 16-years-old, Cornelia Schlott's made it work with a combination of odd jobs that include teaching surfing and second languages.


What, you’ve never done this? Photo: Clarissa Wei

Thirty-one-year-old Cornelia Schlott (pictured above) has done a lot in life. The German native has traveled to 40 countries, gotten dengue fever twice and is fluent in six languages.

Living abroad since she was 16-years-old, she’s made it work with a combination of odd jobs that include teaching surfing and second languages. She usually doesn’t stay anywhere more than nine months and today, she’s working as a German language teacher in Nicaragua, fresh from a stint at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Schlott has been to every continent except Antarctica but has pending plans to change that very soon.

“Just do it,” Schlott says. “Don’t think about it too much.”

She has made a career out of travel, with a pocketbook of languages and an impressive resume to help her. Here are her tips on how to have a career on the go.

1. You Can Always Find A Job


They’re out there! Photo: Kate Hiscock / Flickr

“All you need are your two hands,” she says. Her first job was working at a call center for commercials because she was too young to bartend. She eventually landed that bartending job before taking up surfing and teaching. Her weirdest job? “I was a logger for a while in France. I was transporting wood out of the forest. They wanted men, but no one else had signed up,” she says. Schlott has worked in corn fields in Thailand, done projects in India, guided people up volcanoes in Nicaragua and babysat in Paris.

2. Pursue The Hobbies That You Love


… And love the hobbies you pursue just like Schlott. Photo: Clarissa Wei

Schlott knew from a very young age that she wanted to learn how to surf. The day after she broke up with her boyfriend (who had followed her to Germany from Spain) at the age of 19, she hitchhiked to the south of France to a town 30 minutes from the beach. “I camped alone with two guys and enrolled in surfing camp,” she says. “It was cold.” Today, Schlott is an experienced surfer and occasional teacher.

3. Being Low Maintenance Will Save You Money


Being high maintenance in a low-maintenance environment is a skill all its own. Photo: Heaton Johnson / Flickr

When Schlott was 18, she went to Spain with the intention of learning Spanish. On the way there, she met a group of hitchhikers who offered her a place to stay. The group of six crammed into a small flat and set up a tent on the roof for anyone who couldn’t afford to pay rent. “The one with the most difficult situation slept in the tent,” Schlott says. “We spent our days playing Risk and eating chicken.”

4. Budget Well


When budgeting gets stressful … Photo: Donna Tomlinson / Flickr

“You have to structure how you make money and structure what you need to spend,” she says. “You can cut down living expenses by finding alternative options. Live in a basement or on top of a roof. Have foresight. Don’t go to that party so you can save money for that upcoming trip. If you’re feeling sad, spend time researching the next country you want to travel to. It’ll make you feel better.”

5. Languages Will Help You


It’s universal for a reason! Photo: Valerie Everett / Flickr

Schlott is a polyglot and has achieved fluency in six languages – German, Dutch, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French – just from her travels. She recommends taking intensive language courses. Her skills have come to great use: she’s been a translator, tour guide, and a language teacher.

6. People Will Always Be Discouraging You


Get used to this look of disapproval—and then ignore it. Photo: Cometstarmoon / Flickr

“In France I was told that they don’t hire non-French people, but they still hired me. If I over thought it, I would have never gotten the job,” she says. “Don’t listen to people who say it won’t work. They’re either jealous, or they’re worried. They may not necessarily have bad intentions, but it’s a bit mean. When people tell me not to do something, I work especially hard to make it happen. You should always listen to what you want to do. The worst case is that you get a no.”

7. The People Who Love You Will Go To Great Lengths To See You


Because you’re worth it! Photo: Moyan Brenn / Flickr

Schlott met her French boyfriend while traveling in Vietnam. They spent an evening on a boat and the morning after, she told him that she was leaving for a trek and asked, “Do you want my email address?”

“He didn’t really respond, so I just left,” she says. She recalls standing on land, waving goodbye to the boat and turning a bright shade of red when she saw him jump out the boat. “Turns out, he just didn’t understand what I was saying,” she says. He got her number, and the rest is history. They’ve been together for seven years and counting.

For more adventures from Clarissa Wei, check out 10 Things I Learned Hiking Volcanoes, as well as The 10 Excursion Essentials I Always Pack.