It was the other month while I was helping deliver leaflets to help find my friend’s cat that I had a flashback to 9 years ago: I was 18 (please don’t do the maths), on my gap year, and handing out leaflets in Southend high street to earn £6 an hour. It was a pittance, but I didn’t care. Each and every penny I earned was put into savings, ready for all the travels I was going to have.
A lot has changed in those 9 years – I’ve finished uni, I’m living in London with my boyfriend, and I’ve got a few more air miles under my belt. But all of those travels wouldn’t have been possible were it not for all the weird and wonderful jobs I’ve had throughout my teens and my 20s! Inspired by this post from the lovely Jodie, here are all the things I’ve done to earn enough money to travel…
I worked at a local newsagent
This was my first ever job, and probably my worst. I was often the only person working on the shop floor, and I would be bored to tears waiting for my shift to end. And usually the person after me would call in sick and I’d have to work an extra few hours. And I also got the early morning Saturday and Sunday shifts which was never ever fun. Fun fact: I still go into this newsagents and they keep trying to get me to go back and work for them. Lol, no.
Laminating Argos Catalogues
Yep. You know when you go into Argos stores and there are laminated catalogues for you to thumb your way through? People are actually employed to laminate them. And for two summers, that was me. It was actually a huge operation at a warehouse down the road from me (no idea if it’s still based there), with various shifts running from sunrise to sunset. I often worked the 2-10pm shift 5 days a week, which was alright because at least I got a bit of a lie in. Also, this would often only run for 4-6 weeks, so I made sure to get all the shifts I could.
So what did I do? Well, there were various jobs in the warehouse: one lot of people had to sit by the laminating machine making sure it didn’t mess up (this was either mega boring or mega stressful depending on which machine you got and how well it worked). And then there was the other type of work which I preferred: thumbing through small batches of the catalogues making sure every page was there, and then tying them up and packing them away in a cardboard box. This would often mean you were on the go in a noisy warehouse (talking was impossible) for up to 8 hours, but I loved the monotonous, satisfying work. Also, I would spend the time daydreaming about all the travels I was going to do, and all the things I was going to see.
I think this was the job that made me realise I didn’t really hate kids? Which was definitely a nice bonus. Also, it made me realise just how terrible I am at explaining simple things in simple ways, which is why I’d make the worst teacher ever.
Bookseller at Waterstones
This was actually one of the best jobs I’ve ever done. I only worked here on the weekends during my gap year, but the people were great, the work was fun, and I even met my best mate there. Some days I’m actually tempted to pack it all in and go work as a bookseller again, because it was such a fun, chilled job to have. Spent all my money on books though, so wasn’t great for saving… I did manage to save up enough to go to Barcelona for a week with my boyfriend though, which was my first time abroad in years!
Delivering leaflets for a gym
At the weekends I was a bookseller, by weekday I was…one of those annoying people who pushed leaflets through your door. I’M SO SORRY, people of Southend.
Back in the summers of 2009 and 2010 (yes, I willingly did this job for two summer seasons), I would deliver leaflets every 10am-2pm, Monday to Friday. I didn’t actually mind it; it was quite relaxing to just zone out, listen to music, and walk in the sunshine. (And cuddle all the cats we encountered.) Side note: I got insanely sunburnt doing this job. I don’t think my skin has ever seen so much sunshine in one go.
Answering survey questions
Damn, I almost forgot this happened. It was at university and I can’t even remember what the questions were about – I think it was something about coping with your mental health while at uni? Anyhoo, I seem to remember this nabbed me around £40 or so. Which, tbh, should have gone on important uni stuff like beans and milk, but more than likely just went straight into my holiday fund. It definitely helped, anyway, as I went to Rome in 2011 for a girl’s holiday with my bestie.
Fast food worker in Southend
What a fail. I definitely was not cut out to work on the front line of a fast food restaurant where everything’s whirling round at 400mph and everyone’s shouting all over each other. I’m pretty proud of the fact I lasted 2 whole shifts to be quite honest. Luckily I had another job to walk straight into…
Oh god, scrap whatever I said before. This was the worst job ever. Not because I hated cleaning – it’s more the exact opposite, I get such a kick out of microfibre cloths – but because the boss was a little crazy and expected you to clean a whole house singlehandedly in like 10 minutes, and then she sent me abusive text messages and yeah… I quit as soon as I got this next job.
Customer service at Groupon
Genuinely one of the best university jobs. At the weekend I’d just spend 10-6pm on my laptop, answering emails. It got even better when, in 2012, we were given permission to work from home meaning I could save even more money for travel. But this also had its downsides because then I couldn’t see my besb Sophie every weekend.
But without this job, I would not have been able to afford my epic 2012 summer where I visited Hong Kong, Germany, New York and Paris in just a few short weeks… It definitely was the summer that kickstarted my love of travel!
Copywriter at various companies
After I graduated, I was lucky enough to secure a job in the editorial department at Groupon. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but I got to do my journalism diploma on the side, get used to churning out words day after day, and also got to meet some of the most creative, inspirational people ever. It also gave me the freedom to get working on this blog in the evenings! The generous annual leave allowance meant I could squeeze in press trips on a semi-regular basis (everything from Austria to Cyprus), while also saving up money for my awesome 2-week trip around America’s West Coast!
When I left Groupon, I worked for 10 months at a viral news website start up which was demanding but fun. That folded pretty quickly though, and I ended up writing about casinos for the same company. Not my dream job in the slightest. When they announced they were shifting their offices to the other side of London, it was a no brainer: I quit.
I’m still in the writing biz, with my main (9am-6pm) job involving writing about food and travel for a video network company. I’ve been there since 2016 and have been involved with various roles – from social media to writing to programming – and it’s a LOT of fun. It also involves a lot of eating, which I’m not too angry about. I also travelled to the LA HQ last October which was such an amazing opportunity! This job still gives me the freedom to take on press trips as and when they come up (like my amazing few days in Ghent), but I save the majority of my time off for travelling with friends or my boyfriend as they’re the kind of trips I love the best.
In any spare time I get, I work on travel campaigns for various companies, and I’ll also take on work from this blog. It’s nowhere near enough to sustain as a full-time job, but I like the variety of work it gives me. I’m luckily in a position where I don’t really NEED to take on this extra work, so I’ll often choose not to if it doesn’t excite me. In fact, the older I get, the more I’m valuing my evenings and weekdays to myself in order to leave me fully charged up for the week ahead! Then again, if I have a big trip on the horizon, at least I know I have the capacity to step my work up a notch.
So there we go – all the jobs I’ve ever had in order to be able to afford to travel! I’ve definitely had to slog away at some right old questionable jobs but they’ve all been 100% worth it.