Celebrating May Day: Images Of Workers Around The World

Today is May Day, when the world celebrates the struggles and sacrifices of the common worker. Like this cheese seller in Tupiza, Bolivia, photographed by Gadling’s resident cheese expert Laurel Miller. After some hard hours making her product, this woman comes to the market hoping to sell it all before the day is through. She uses a plastic bag on a stick to keep the flies away.

A range of unions and workers’ parties declared May Day a workers’ holiday in 1898. The date commemorated a three-day general strike in the U.S. that started on May 1, 1886, during which workers demanded an eight-hour day. Police fired into a protest by employees at the McCormick-International Harvester Company and killed three. On May 4, workers staged a protest against the killings at Haymarket Square, Chicago. A bomb went off and the police charged into the demonstrators. At least a dozen people died that day, including seven officers. Eight activists were sentenced to hang for the bombing, although there was widespread criticism about the lack of evidence.

American workers eventually got an eight-hour day, but it took several more major demonstrations and lots more people getting hurt. Many countries still don’t offer the benefits we now take for granted. Traveling around the world we come across people in lots of different lines of work. Some jobs are good, some are bad, and some are downright grueling. I’ll never forget a man I saw on a construction site in Damascus, Syria, back in 1994.

A crew was digging a deep trench into the sidewalk near our hotel, and every day my travel companions and I would pass by. Most of the men were down in the trench digging, but one guy had the job of sitting on an upturned bucket at street level manning a pump to take away water from the trench. He pulled on a rope attached to a pulley overhead, which yanked a crude pump at the bottom of the excavation. He’d set up a rhythm and sat there pulling all day. We saw him, every morning, noon, and evening, for days on end. We dubbed him, “The Man With the Most Boring Job in the World.”

I regret I never talked to him. While I’ve had my share of soul-destroying jobs, I bet he could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to work for a living. So Happy May Day, Man With the Most Boring Job in the World, and Happy May Day to all the other workers photographed in this gallery of shots by Gadling bloggers and members of the Gadling Flickr pool!


Cockpit Chronicles: It’s official. I’m moving to Germany

Apparently I’ve run out of things to complain about, aside from the occasional gripe about the glossiness of the paint on the office walls which was supposed to be flat. There is little in my life that I can truly complain about, especially in light of the current events unfolding after the earthquake in Japan this week.

Let’s live a little, shall we?

Both my wife and I have discussed changing things up a bit lately-doing something more radical than switching to LED light bulbs in the living room, for example.

I even agonized publicly about a few new flying options on my personal blog last month.

Fortunately for airline pilots, there’s an easy way to thoroughly turn your life upside down-at my company, all it takes is a simple keystroke on the computer: 3P/LGA/767/FO/I.

For those of you who aren’t fluent in SABRE codes, that means that I have officially transferred to NY. I’ll be flying the same airplane, thus saving myself six weeks of simulator and ground school training. Nevertheless, it’ll add some commuting time to my day.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to fly from an airport in Boston that’s just an easy hour drive from my home in New Hampshire. I heeded the advice of my brother, a former commuter from Seattle to Chicago.

“Commuting turns a good deal into an or-deal.” He’d say.

But my wife and I aren’t stopping there. Since New York is rather nearby to our home in New England, we decided to do something really extreme (for our family at least), and move to Germany.

For a year.
Paying back a debt

When I asked Linda to marry me, she was more than half way through a degree at Swansea University in Wales. She gave up her degree aspiration temporarily to join me in Alaska. And then Queens. Then Long Island. Followed by three places in Dallas. And on to Denver, then New Jersey before finally landing in New Hampshire which we’ve enjoyed for the past twelve years.

But now it’s payback time. Linda has been attending a nearby university part time, but she wants to study full-time to get her German and English teaching degree sooner.

Studying in Germany, where her mom could watch the kids while I was away at work and she was attending classes, seemed like a surprisingly logical idea when she mentioned it. Not only that, the kids, ages 9 and 5, could really hone their German language skills (i.e. be able to say more than “guten tag.”)

As a pilot, it’s possible to live pretty much anywhere in the world. We have crew members based in New York who live in Anchorage, and a few who live in Europe and fly out of the northeastern United States.

“I can do anything for a year.” I told Linda. And deep down, I know I owe her. She never complained about our moves while I was chasing flying jobs for cargo and passenger operators around the country.

How about the rest of the family?

The kids are surprisingly excited about the temporary relocation. Every night at dinner we’ve been practicing our German vocabulary and they’re able to retain what they’ve learned far better than I can.

To be honest, my German language skills are limited to about ten words. But this experience can only help me get serious about learning more, I’m sure.

So the plan is to rent our furnished house for a year, pack up the pets and just a few ‘comfort’ items and move to the village where Linda herself grew up, near Cologne.

The 3,700 mile commute

My plan is to back up my trips, so that I’ll fly two, three or four three-day Europe flights in a row, with 26-hour breaks after each Atlantic crossing. Instead of a crashpad or hotel near the airport, I’ll be staying with a friend in Manhattan, where I can keep some clothes and do laundry.

If I align my schedule right, I may be able to fly nine or twelve days in a row, followed by nine or twelve days off. This will limit the time spent in the back of an airplane and train riding to and from Brussels or Frankfurt and New York.

It sounds tiring, but commuting responsibly, with 26 hours off before starting my trips should make it easier.

The logistics

Of course there are so many questions about being an ‘expatriate.’ Do I have to pay taxes in the U.S. and Germany? Will my health insurance cover the family overseas? Will the pets have to be quarantined? How do we even transport two cats to Europe? What kind of car should we buy? (Linda has vetoed my choice of a used Alfa Romeo, unfortunately).

As I searched online, one website, How To Germany continued to pop up that answered almost all of my questions.

We’re still looking into those questions, and Linda is currently in Germany signing up the kids for school. I still expect someone to throw a wrench into the whole process at any point.

“You can’t do that. It is verboten!” I imagine someone saying as we apply for a residency permit. But so far, we haven’t run into any roadblocks.

Alas, the perfect writing cubicle

So you should see more posts now that I’ll be spending more time in the back of an airplane, a place where I’m the most productive when writing, since there’s no internet available and few distractions.

And I suspect I’ll have some things to talk about, especially since the two European destinations I’ve been flying to from Boston, London and Paris, will expand to so many more out of New York such as Rome, Barcelona, Budapest, Milan, Madrid, Manchester, Brussels, Zurich and even Rio.

Since today’s Gadling theme is focused around Europe, I’m looking forward to reading about the other parts of the continent I’ll need to visit according to the rest of the Gadling team. In exchange, I’ll be sure to let them know where they can score some LED light bulbs.

All photos by the author.

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Boston. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the Cockpit Chronicles Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Illinois man works 50 jobs in 50 states

Looking to spice up your work routine? Want to travel the country but don’t have the cash to go without a job for an extended period of time? Take a page from Daniel Seddiqui’s playbook. Quit your job and contract yourself out to 50 different employers in 50 states over the course of 50 weeks. You’ll get variety, the chance to travel for a year, and a somewhat steady income. It’s genius.

Bored with his job at an office in Skokie, Illinois, Daniel decided to try something new. Actually, he decided to try something new every week. He resolved to work his way across the US, doing odd jobs in each state. Along the way, he held some jobs he loved (working as a dietitian in Mississippi) and some he loathed (taking abuse from film company execs in LA). He also worked as a border patrol officer in Arizona, helped out a cellar master in Napa Valley, made cheese in Wisconsin, and toiled in an oil refinery in Oklahoma.

Some jobs paid well, like the medical device manufacturer that gave him $2000 for getting the company coverage on CNN, while others, like the gig making furniture with the Amish in Pennsylvania, well…not so much. For that, Daniel earned just $100 for the week.

Daniel says some jobs were more difficult than others, but it seems like one of the hardest aspects of undertaking this project was probably setting it up. Daniel says he estimates that 100 companies rejected his offer per state. But he continued making cold calls and networking and eventually landed all 50 gigs.

So what’s the next job for Daniel? Writing a book about the adventure, of course.

Talking Travel with Susan Griffith

Susan Griffith is a freelance writer and editor whose specialty lies in working and volunteering your way around the globe. Her most well known book, Work Your Way Around the World, was first published in 1983, and she personally updates the long-running series every two years. This month will see the brand new 13th edition hit stores, and it’s packed full of the most definitive information on working and volunteering abroad.

Through her shoestring travels in and around Europe in the early 1980s, she happened upon a few short-term jobs before realizing that people can travel indefinitely, working a string of odd jobs they find during their travels, and make enough money to survive — and then some. The idea for Work your Way Around the World was born, and today it is the go-to “guide for the modern working traveler.”

We’ve got a few copies of the brand new edition of the book to give away to three lucky Gadling readers, so stick around after the interview to find out how you can score one.

How did you get started traveling?

As a child, family holidays seemed to consist almost exclusively of driving somewhere a long way away. I grew up in southern Ontario, right in the middle of North America, so it was a very very long drive to the east coast and to the west coast. But that didn’t deter my parents on our fortnight-long summer holidays. Once I was independent, I was desperate to fly somewhere completely different so flew to London and spent ten weeks InterRailing round Europe and a month hitch-hiking round the UK. I seem to remember we used Europe on $10 a Day and concluded that that was unnecessarily extravagant. I was hooked from then on, both on travel and on Europe as a place to live.

What events led up to first writing this book?

After finishing university in Toronto, I schemed to get back to Britain, and did a graduate degree at Oxford. After that, I wanted to stay on, so got a job with a publisher in Oxford. This little press published some boring but useful directories of summer jobs and one or two travel titles, and I started as an editorial assistant. While updating these job directories, I thought it would be much better to bring the hard information alive by including the stories of the people who had worked abroad. To find these stories, the publisher and I placed small ads in the Guardian newspaper and the local student newspaper, asking for work-abroad stories of all descriptions. Scores of people replied, many of whom I invited to the Nag’s Head pub around the corner from the publisher where I heard the most unlikely tales from people who had earned a fortune gutting fish in Iceland or who had delivered trucks to west Africa or who had worked for gold prospecting companies in the Australian outback.

Meanwhile I was doing a lot of shoestring traveling myself since my employer was generous with time off but not with pay. I managed to avoid doing slave-labor jobs like fish-gutting, but opportunities kept presenting themselves unbidden, mostly in the nature of work-for-keep exchanges that meant you didn’t have to spend your travel fund. While roaming around the Ionian islands (before Captain Corelli made them famous), my companion and I were befriended by a local farmer who offered us the chance to work in his fields. I got the easy job of wandering around pouring wine out of a plastic jug into the workers’ cups while my less fortunate companion did some strenuous digging. Later on the same trip (on Crete), a hostel owner asked us to clean out her dogs’ kennel in lieu of paying for our beds, not one of the most appealing jobs. On a solo trip round the Indian subcontinent, I met a round-the-world yachtsman in the wonderful south Indian port of Cochin who was looking for crew to join him on a trip to Dar es Salaam. It sounded romantic, but I had commitments at home which didn’t really allow me to entertain that one seriously. Then in the Swat Valley of northern Pakistan I stumbled across a film being shot with the Himalayas as a backdrop. They asked me if I would like a bit part as the Colonel’s daughter, but their faces fell when I had to confess I was no horsewoman. I began to see that if you were a free and unfettered traveler, you could take advantage of all these things and stay on the road, maybe indefinitely, which got me excited about writing a book to guide and encourage people.

What sort of information can people expect to find in Work Your Way Around the World?

I include anything that will help travelers who are willing to offer their labor to extend their stay or to get from A to B. Of course all the usual seasonal jobs are covered, like working in a ski resort or working for farmers at harvest time, or longer jobs abroad like teaching English abroad which is covered in some detail and becoming an au pair and doing volunteer work in developing countries. A classic example of the kind of topic covered is crewing on yachts. Inexperienced sailors might not be able to cross the ocean for free, but the daily cost will be much reduced if they pitch in and share chores. My aim has been to make the information as concrete as possible, to cut the vague generalities and waffle. So that in the sections about crewing, specific yacht basins, chandlery stores, crew list agencies, etc. are named and contact details given. The book is of course strewn with first-hand accounts by travelers who have found these and a thousand other opportunities on their travels.

Who is the book written for?

Any individual with guts and gusto, from students to grandmothers. Everyone has the potential for funding him or herself to various corners of the globe. In fact, the majority of readers are 18-28, and the type who loathe the prospect of settling down prematurely with a nice safe job and mortgage.

What benefits does the updated edition have against older versions?

I have personally updated the book every other year since the first edition was published in 1983. I read every word, check every fact as far as is possible and add lots of new accounts of people met on my travels or that readers of the last edition have sent in. Google has changed everything and the new 2007 edition has nearly 2,000 web addresses, all of which have been checked in the past few months. The internet has become not just an asset but a necessity for the job-seeking traveler. But unless you know precisely what you are looking for on the internet, you can quickly (in fact within 0.19 seconds) become overwhelmed. You will feel as though you have been hit by a tsunami of undifferentiated information. Books are better at cutting through the clamor and rubbish, and I like to think that WYWATW creates order out of chaos.

What makes the book live are the first-person stories which I am always collecting. Since the last edition was published in 2005, I have either chatted to or corresponded with many recent working travelers, including a Canadian who got a job on a dude ranch in the American Rockies after cold-calling them out of the Yellow Pages, a lively Flemish woman who volunteered at the Botanical Gardens in Berlin and interned with a consultancy company near Frankfurt, an American adventurer who at the time of writing had decided to stay a while in Mauritania where he had t
alked an English language centre into giving him some hours of teaching, a serial volunteer in national parks in North America who especially enjoyed her stint at a school in the remote Canadian arctic, a young woman who spent 2006/7 between high school and university picking grapes in France, joining a three-month conservation programme in South Africa and traveling in India, a long-time resident of Crete who reported on the temporary job opportunities on the island, an American photographer who fixes up short English teaching jobs – most recently in Poland and Taiwan – in order to extend her portfolio, a newly graduated Canadian who spent a year teaching English in Korea, a 19 year old Australian who worked for a floatplane company in Vancouver before backpacking across Canada, and a round-the-world TEFLer who has picked up teaching jobs on arrival in Brazil, Ecuador, Thailand, Australia and this year Seville, Spain.

What laws/regulations are in place for foreigners working in other countries? I assume it varies by country?

Every country in the world has immigration policies that are job-protection schemes for its own nationals. Full and realistic account is taken of these restrictions in the book. The European Union has largely done away with the need for work permits for people lucky enough to have access to European nationality. Outside the EU, work authorizations become more tricky though there are lots of ways round these, for example government-sponsored schemes such as the Japan Exchange & Teaching/JET programme, farm placements made by a Norwegian youth exchange organization or the recently expanded New Zealand one-year working holiday visa for travelers aged 18 to 30 (www.bunac.org or www.ccusa.com).

Apart from these specific programmes, the job-seeker from overseas must find an employer willing to apply to the immigration authorities on his or her behalf well in advance of the job’s starting date, while they are still in their home country. This is easier for high-ranking nuclear physicists and pop stars than for mere mortals, though there are exceptions, especially in the field of English teaching.

What countries are the friendliest when it comes to U.S./Canadians looking for work abroad?

A huge number of North Americans are looking to the Pacific Rim countries (Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan) for job opportunities, primarily but not exclusively as English teachers. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia are equally welcoming. Closer to home, American and Canadian job-seekers have an advantage in South and Central America because the whole continent is culturally and economically oriented towards Il Norte. There is a decided preference among language learners for the American accent and for American teaching materials and course books, which explains why so many language institutes are called Lincoln and Jefferson.

There are ways round the work permit restrictions. To give just one example, an organization called Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) operates in many countries around the world. National WWOOF co-ordinators (including in most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Japan, etc) compile lists of their member farmers willing to provide free room and board to volunteers who help out. No wage is paid and no work permit is required.

What’s your opinion/experience on finding and working under-the-table jobs while traveling?

Some travelers are prepared to throw caution to the winds after concluding that by the time the system discovers they are ‘aliens’ they will be long gone. This is more serious in some countries and in certain circumstances than in others, and the book tries to give some idea of the degree of risk, again based on first-hand accounts. It seems that the authorities will usually turn a blind eye in areas where there is a labor shortage and enforce the letter of the law when there is a glut. It is always important to be as sensitive as possible to local customs and expectations, but many informal arrangements work perfectly smoothly.

How realistic is it for someone to fund their travels while they travel? Is it possible to forgo the traditional save-money-then-go practice of traveling in favor of leaving with the intention of making money as you go?

By its nature, any trip like this is unpredictable, so there are no guarantees that a given individual will be able to fund him/herself abroad for a fixed period. How much you decide to set aside before leaving will depend on whether or not you have a gambling streak. But even gamblers should take only sensible risks. If you don’t have much cash, it’s probably advisable to have an open return ticket so that you have an escape route if things don’t work out. Sometimes pennilessness acts as a spur to action as it did in the case of one of my informants of longstanding whose travel fund ran out in Australia but who stayed away traveling for a full 18 months after that. On numerous occasions, he got down to just $50 but somehow something always turned up. He says, “When your funds are REALLY low you WILL find a job, believe me.”

What type of traveler is best suited to work on the road?

The kind of traveler who feels most at home looking for ways to work their way has an optimistic and resilient personality and does not give up at the first hurdle. Usually it is a self-selecting group who happily contemplates this “seat-of-your-pants” kind of travel. An affluent, tour-package kind of person is unlikely to choose to travel this way. On the other hand plenty of well-off people accustomed to a luxurious standard of travel relish the prospect of a spell of simpler living. They might be tempted for example to do some conservation volunteer work in Africa or to live on an organic farm for a while.

While I’m sure it will make it easier, do you need a college degree to find work abroad?

Most of the casual jobs discussed in the book like fruit picking, working on summer camps, au pairing, etc. need no degree. The notable exception is English teaching. Having a university degree is a visa requirement in some countries (e.g. Japan, Taiwan, Turkey) but not all (e.g. Latin America, Africa).

What options are available for degree-less travelers looking to work in another country?

Many other qualifications and skill sets can prove more useful to the round-the-world working traveler than a university degree. Among the most useful qualifications you can acquire are a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (for which a degree is not a prerequisite), sailing, diving or other sports qualification, catering experience, knowledge of a foreign language and so on. But WYW is aimed at people of all backgrounds, as long as they feel the call of the road and the spirit of adventure flicker.

Thanks so much, Susan!

Susan Griffith’s Work Your Way Around the World, 13th Edition (Crimson, $21.95) will be in bookstores in June, 2007.

As promised, we have copies of the book to give away to three lucky Gadling readers! Just leave a comment below and our magical system will automatically select three random winners — but make sure you use a valid email address, as we’ll have to contact you to get your mailing address. For official rules, please click here. Comments and contest will close one week from today, May 16 at 8:00 PM.