A CAREER IN GLOBAL AFFAIRS HAS IT’S PERKS, ONE OF WHICH IS TRAVELING
One of my favorite things about having a career in global affairs is how much I’ve gotten to travel – so many new countries, cities, and communities. I didn’t get my first passport until I was 18 and in the past 20 years, I’ve travelled to over 30 countries. Most of those countries I’ve either visited for work or thanks to my work. If you’re thinking about a career with travel, the Foreign Service is definitely a good option. Here’s a list of some other career ideas to consider if you’re interested in travelling.
GLOBAL: LIVING ABROAD
I find that I travel so much more when living abroad. I think one of the reasons is that, while living in the US, we’re so far away from other countries. Depending on where you live, you may be close to Canada or to Latin American countries, which does create opportunity for international travel. But living on the other side of the world, often means I’m a lot closer to a lot more countries. And, because I only live in these countries for a few years at a time (most of my tours are 2 to 4 years long), I think there’s a greater sense of urgency to explore the countries nearby.
WORKING FOR THE STATE DEPARTMENT
I used to cover Sub-Saharan Africa when I worked at the State Department. While working for the State Department, I travelled to 8 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, DRC, Mali, and Niger. Now that I’m in Armenia, serving in the Europe and Eurasia region, I’ve been travelling in this region a lot more. I realized recently that I’ve now been to more countries in Europe (most of them multiple times) than I’ve been to in Sub-Saharan Africa: Spain, Italy (I have a crush on Italy!!), France, the UK, Germany, Hungary, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Georgia, and Macedonia with day trips to Monaco, Vatican City, and Luxemborg.
I landed in Skopje, Macedonia yesterday for a conference that I’ll be attending this week. I love visiting a new country for the first time. Besides Canada, Japan was the first foreign country that I visited and I remember how intensely I felt impacted by seeing new sites and sounds. It felt so immense and interesting and exciting! Visiting a new country isn’t quite as intense these days as it once was, but I still love it and always appreciate the opportunity.
TAXI DRIVERS ARE LIKE TOUR GUIDES
When visiting a country for the first time, I always take advantage of the ride in from the airport to ask the taxi driver about the country. The first two things that I usually ask about are: 1. the country’s recent history and 2. the country’s economy. Taxi drivers are often a good representation of the country’s general population and I’ve found that they can have real insight about the country’s context. They’re often willing to be totally honest because they don’t have to worry about ever seeing you again.
A HISTORY LESSON
I ask about the recent history (20 – 30 years back) because usually I know just a bit – like what I learned in school or from the news. But by asking the taxi driver you get a more nuanced understanding of what actually happened. And you get a better understanding of how the major recent events are currently manifesting themselves.
I always ask about the economy because it tells so much about the country, the citizens, and the government. It reflects how the people feel about their country – the hope that people feel for their country and their future. It says how people feel about their government – do they feel that their government is taking good care of them or about how corrupt their government is. It also often exposes who the country’s main trading partners are, so what countries they’re closest with. In a way, it’s like taking the pulse of the country.
WHAT THE NEWS DOESN’T TELL YOU
The taxi driver yesterday shared that many Macedonians miss Yugoslavia because the government took better care of its people and the economy was stronger. He said that he didn’t care about living in a democracy as long as he could take care of his family and give his children hope for the future. He told me that tourism was a growing part of the economy and that agriculture and light manufacturing were important parts. He informed me that, a few years ago, there had been big protests against the government and that the government had changed, but that the new government was just as corrupt. He talked about how many Macedonians were migrating to other countries to try to find jobs and that he was considering moving to Germany. He mentioned that Macedonia and Greece currently have a dispute over the name “Macedonia” and it’ll be interesting to see how that issue is resolved. I’m looking forward to learning more about Macedonia in the coming days and following it in the future. I find that actually visiting a country – talking to its people, eating its food, seeing its sites – helps get it on your radar and you’re more likely to follow it in the future.
And here I am now enjoying some Macedonian wine with my colleagues listening to the rain fall on the windows. So for now, I will say cheers to more travel and more adventure and more opportunities to help make the world a better place! Check out Workaway for another good resource for traveling for work.
Check out my blog post on the Five Reasons to Pursue a Career in Global Affairs to hear about some of the other things I love about having a career in global affairs.