14 Unique Ways to Work and Travel the World (by someone who has actually done them)

Turner Blog

And after we save Santa, we can save this exhausted Volunteer

And after we save Santa, we can save this exhausted Volunteer

Well – that magical time of year is here – the glorious and magnificently overrated New Years. Some take in the New Year speaking of resolutions for the year to come (being less fat, call their mother more etc.), while others reminisce over the highlights of their yesteryear (look at my cute baby photos blah etc.).

Normally, I cringe when people write about their awesome trips and experiences they have taken in the past year, smothering it all over the web in a glorious ‘look at me’ (mainly because it makes me wildly jealous), but since my meanderings tend to fall on the complete failure side, or equally amusing (or so I think) unique ways to work and travel the world side, I thought I would pontificate about my unique jobs I have undertaken as I have traveled the world this year, and maybe with a little bit of luck, inspire someone else to do a better job than I of doing some good in this world.

14 Ways to Work and Travel the World ideas


My year began job searching like most people begin a new job search: running from tuk-tuks and lady boys in the seedy underbelly of Bangkok’s redlight district.  Sick of non-stop nomadic travel, I had moved to Bangkok Thailand for 6 months to begin my holy quests for new, unique jobs and travel, while trying to avoid the backpacker hostel bed bug scene.

1) BANGKOK, THAILAND – the Street Tout:  I tried my hand at hustling to sell street goods on the legendary backpacker Khao San Road as a street tout.

bangkok khao san road

One night of dealing with drunken backpackers was more than a enough to realize this occupation did not have long-term career potential for me.

2) BANGKOK, THAILAND – the Reality TV Production Assistant: Two weeks of living in Bangkok made me ever so sick of running from Tuk-Tuks, I decided to do what that sage old advice dictates: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So I found myself working as Production Assistant for a reality TV production company, Nomadic Nation, who makes reality tv shows involving backpacking racing iconic forms of transport across country.

tuk tuk reality tv show

I crawled 13 flights of stairs in an defunct building filled with God only knows what kind of weird diseases in it,  carrying equipment more times up and down than I am willing to admit in the process. But it was fun.

3) BANGKOK, THAILAND – the Video Production Assistant: Despite my complete lack of manual labor skills, I somehow managed to impress my new favorite production company, and got kicked up the ladder to the ever so impressive of Video Production assistant.

video assistant job

I neglected to tell them I did not know how to operate a camera.

5) BANGKOK, THAILAND – Documentary EXTRA: Feeling that my future lied in being front of the camera instead of behind it, I took a job for National Geographic as an Extra in a documentary series on paranormal encounters in Southeast Asia.  I played the glorious role of American Soldier from World War II who encounters a Filipino security guard.

extra jobs bangkok

I masterfully practiced and delivered my lines “I am US solider…hey buddy, got a smoke?’  Did I mention that I was playing the role of a ghost? A chain smoking ghost at that.

the American WWII Solider Ghost

the American WWII Solider Ghost

6) CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – the Elephant Volunteer: Perhaps stardom wasn’t in the cards, so I decided to do something a little bit different for a change: help someone else. Or perhaps, more aptly, I should say something else – a big something else. So I went to up north to Chiang Mai Thailand and volunteered with sick and rescued elephants from the horrible tourism/labor industry.

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

Volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand

It was love at first sight. The big elephants’ exude the most human and emotional connection I have ever sensed from animal.

elephant bath time

7) CHAINAT, THAILAND – the Rice Harvester: Despite loving working with elephants, the whole process made me a bit hungry, so I decided to eat and learn at the same time about one of the most important aspects of living in Asia: Rice Harvesting.

rice harvesting in thailand

However, like my days of being an Agave Harvester in Tequila Mexico, the heat was a bit too much for this gringo.

Yes - I can do one pina in 20 minutes

Yes – I can do one pina in 20 minutes

8) LUANG PRABANG, LAOS – the Fisherman: Wanting to get back to the old ways, I went to Luang Prabang Laos, a beautiful remnant of French colonialism and architecture. I never fancied myself as a gamesman, but quickly fell in love with and attempted to learn the art traditional fishing in Laos.

fishing net

9) NEW YORK CITY, USA – the Small Business Advocate: Unfortunately, my fishing career was cut drastically short, when I received an email in the middle of the night from a friend. Apparently, a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation decided my brand/job/myself… was actually a pretty good idea to appeal to millennials who wanted to work abroad. So this big corporation attempted to wholesale swipe everything that I built (post: How I got Fired from the Job I Invented).  They attempted to trademark my brand name, made a global marketing campaign with it, and hired a guy that looked like, sounded liked and did jobs just like me in the promotional video. Creep—y. They even had some Swiss lawyers threatened me if I didn’t play nice. Needless to say, I no longer can eat fondue.

stressed blogger

My Video:

Their Creepy-look alike:

So I took the next red-eye flight to New York, met up with my friend for life Steve, who understands this whole online thing better than I due to his tours and activities in Italy online booking company, and we composed the #makeitright campaign.  In five days, the #makeitight campaign went viral, with good citizens of the Internet, travel bloggers, and an army of Redditors agreeing that ideas and entrepreneurship are important.

around the world elephant blog

An apology, fair compensation for the intellectual property theft, and a $50,000 to my elephant friends ensued.

David 1, Asshole corporations 0

After a 6-week whirlwind tour du America, I headed back to my favorite continent: Europe.  Courtesy of my friends at Emilia-Romanga and #blogville, I was put up for a week in Bologna Italy and I got two unexpected jobs that I have not revealed yet, nor could have ever predicted unfolded.

10) APENNINES of EMILIA ROMAGNA, the Piadina Pan Maker: the one of the oldest jobs in Italy (and it is only done in one place)

piadina pan maker


11) MODENA, ITALY – the Artisan Balsamic Marker: Making the delicacy of the gods: Balsamic.

breaking balsamic

Videos and blogs posts to come in the next month – they will be worth the wait.

12) KANCHANABURI, THAILAND – the Tiger Temple Volunteer: Although my heart was and is still in Europe, after my first stint of working with animals in Asia (elephants), I knew I wanted to do more to help endangered species. So I hopped on a plane and headed to Tiger Temple, one of the most controversial places in Southeast Asia to discover my own truth about what was really going on.

The volunteer is to lead a line of 15 tourists who do not like to listen to instructions

The volunteer is to lead a line of 15 tourists who do not like to listen to instructions

Alas, my volunteering experiment didn’t last long as I discovered somethings about Tiger Temple after 21 days that I just couldn’t make peace with.

I can't move and there is a giant Tiger head in my lap....

I can’t move and there is a giant Tiger head in my lap….

13) NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE USA – the KEEN Public Speaker: Feeling a mixed of saddened, angry and at a loss, I jumped on the opportunity to head back to the USA to speak at the digital summit KEEN in Nashville Tennessee. Although some other conferences didn’t think discussing intellectual property theft and how to protect yourself as an entrepreneur, one of my favorite bloggers and distinguished journalist friends thought else wise.

Yup...as silent as Christmas night this one is

Yup…as silent as Christmas night this one is

turner barr and stephen oddo radio interview copy

Little did she know I am ‘big hat, no cattle’ when it comes to public speaking.

14) PANAY ISLAND, PHILIPPINES – the Fundraising Execute Elf: And last, but certainly not least, I decided to do something a little bit different this holiday season, so I left my loving family for Christmas and headed to the Philippines – a country I have never been to and knew no one.

SAVE SANTA Philippines

In three short weeks, I hooked up with local NGOs, Expats and the Red Cross and launched – Operation Save Santa: a Filipino Christmas Story. This was a toy drive fundraiser to help raise money for gifts for children who were victims of Typhoon Yolanda and were not going to be having a very Merry Christmas this year.

Philippines Christmas

Luckily, the good citizens of the Internet rallied once more, and despite Facebook being a Grinch and constant power outages, we raised about $5,000 , #savesanta, and got some kids in need gifts this holiday season.

Well – there you have 2013. I may have only achieved taking on 14 different jobs this year, many of which in Thailand, but if you are looking for a truly unique way to work and travel the world, this may give you an idea of what kind of magic can happen when you decide to say “F*ck the Rules!”

Just kidding, only soulless multi-national corporations say that. Just be kind and do good to others and the universe will take care of the rest.

Peace, Love, Whiskey, & have a Happy New Year

If you have any truly unique, awesome job ideas for 2014, drop them in the comments below.