Travelling is something most people do on occasion, saving up to spend a week, a few weeks, or even a month or more somewhere they hope will provide them with memories lasting a lifetime. Sadly, most people who have not yet retired and want to travel can only do so when their employment permits, and even then only if they can afford the expense. Ironically, students and retirees, who have the time to travel usually don't have the money to take advantage of their abundance of free time. From the very beginning of what has become a lifelong journey, I rejected any curtailment of my travels... especially money!
As a young man I ventured forth upon my globe-trotting adventure without stopping to think about how I'd fund my travels. In fact, before setting out on what ended up being the longest journey I've ever heard of anyone taking, I had no plan at all. One of my non-stop treks was double that of Homer's, Ulysses, and equal only to the Crusaders, who's memoirs I've read. I was a young man, and like all young men I believed I was invincible and thus any obstacles I ran into I'd overcome.
Once I was thousands of miles from home and determined to continue my travels, I was drawn to opportunities that enabled me to do so. I firmly believe that if anyone wants something badly enough, all that they do, and every decision they make, will ultimately favour the realization of whatever it is they passionately desire. As I wandered the globe there were both times of plenty and times of want, and some of the later were very desperate times. But I always managed to continue my trek, and each time I resolved a pressing monetary crisis I learned another skill to overcome shortages and eventually avoid them completely.
Hardcore wanderlust addicts tend to find each other, crossing paths on beaches, in cafes, hostels, campgrounds or market squares. Wherever lifestyle travellers meet, a grapevine I've never been able to comprehend would spread word of welcoming havens of one kind or another. There were always farms, vineyards and orchards needing workers. Resorts would often need seasonal help and be willing to provide accommodations, meals, and some monetary compensation in exchange. Restaurants were hiring casual labour, while tour operators were always looking for multilingual tour guides familiar with the local points of interest. House sitting opportunities were rare, but when available provided accommodations for a week, month or longer stay. Volunteers were always needed to assist with logistics challenges faced by some worthy cause, somewhere in the world. Buskers, such as musicians, magicians, mimes, and even portable puppet shows were permitted in most tourist destination, as well street merchants of every persuasion. In short, an enterprising person can always make an honest buck no matter where they were, and often be provided free or subsidized accommodation as well.
Initially I tried different things to make a buck, dabbling in whatever appeared to hold some promise that I felt capable of doing. However, my preference lay more in structured business ventures, rather than trying to out mime another mime, if such a thing is even possible. Twice I took employment within the travel industry, once as a travel consultant for a company specializing in corporate travel, and once as sales manager for a tour wholesaler. Both jobs were interesting, but being in the travel industry and not traveling myself was not for me.
I quickly found I had a knack for finding and securing contract work. Being well traveled, flexible, somewhat multilingual, and having a BBA, qualified me to act as a liaison, facilitator, or representative for companies needing eyes and ear on the ground somewhere in the world for one reason or another. I'd be retained to research markets and/or applicable import regulations, and then prepare a report. I was often asked to be a facilitator, a business I actually thought of and developed on my own. A facilitator is someone that works on behalf of a foreign corporation with a contract in another country to organize, in advance, everything the company and it's incoming personnel require to operate. As a facilitator I'd secure accommodations, rental vehicles and/or equipment, office or factory facilities, business licenses, work visas, and so on. My job as facilitator was done ahead of the arrival of marketing, legal, or financial negotiating teams, engineers, skilled tradesmen, or whomever else was necessary to be on site. I either worked alone, reporting daily to someone at head office, or worked in conjunction with one or more members of an advance team sent over by the company I was contracted by. Such contracts were few and far between, but when I landed one I was usually able to fund my trekking the planet for months, even years for what I was paid. More common were contract in which I was asked to analyze potential property or business acquisitions, organizing trade shows, function as a liaison or company representative, etc. I preferred any of this type of work because it requires my feet to be on the ground, and my feet will usually be placed there at someone else's expense.
Whenever possible I take on these contracts. My last being to investigate the reason an incredibly beautiful, 4 bedroom home in the ancient part of Fes, Morocco, was being offered to a buy for what appeared to be too cheap a price. Justifiably so, the purchaser was of the mind that if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably was.
I accepted the opportunity to visit Fes in a heartbeat. The local realtor's photos were completely accurate, as was his assessment of the renovation cost (mostly replacing the traditional hole in the floor toilets with modern plumbing fixtures) and his suggested time table to have the work completed. However, what pictures and videos can not show is that the old city of Fes, as ancient and interesting to look at as it is, has a serious drawback. The city is and always has been a leather tanning centre and in Fes, as with all of Morocco, the tanning process is done using the centuries old, traditional method.
Leather tanning, Fes, Morocco. Photo by Bernard Gagnon
Since ancient times, Fez has been a leather tanning and dying centre, with ancient tanneries in the middle of the old city still tanning leather using the same process that was used for over 1000 years. In fact, it's the law in Morocco that leather can only be made using traditional methods, which means using only natural materials derived from plants, minerals, and animals.
It's hard to describe in words the stench that hides being cleaned, tanned, and dyed in large, open air vats emits. Traditional Moroccan tanning methods use a mixture of pigeon droppings and cattle urine to treat hides, which almost masked the smell of piles of raw wool drying in the sun. Only being there and smelling it first hand can someone appreciated why a beautiful 4 bedroom, three story, historical Moroccan home with tile work so beautiful it's beyond imagination, can be purchased for under US$50,000.
Needless to say, my report nixed the deal since the home was to have been converted into a bed and breakfast type of operation. Personally I love old Fez, but I do my best to remain up wind of the tannery district. If I have to be downwind, it's for the briefest period possible. This property was simply too close to the tannery to escape the odor.
If you think you would want to try your hand at being a roving liaison for global corporations, a facilitator or another type of overseas representative, I will be posting a link here to a complete "How To" eBook. It's not a difficult job at all, and sourcing potential clients is easy once you know how. If you'd like to be notified once the eBook is available subscribe to the Vagabond Traveller Newsletter.