Get Paid to Travel the World – And Save It

Interview With a Conflict Resolution & Peacebuilding Specialist

Two men hiking on Mt Fuji - photo from peacebuilding expert

Get Paid to Travel the World – And Save It

No, I’m not talking about the life of James Bond (or at least, not as far as I know.)

I’m talking about life as a conflict resolution and peacebuilding specialist, a real life job with plenty of travel and overwhelming responsibility. For today’s Unusual Journeys Interview, I caught up with Todd Wassel and asked him to tell us a little more about what he does – and why he does it.

Over to Todd.

Todd Wassel Profile Picture - Writer, Conflict Resolution Specialist & Peacebuilder

Todd Wassel

“I’m a conflict resolution and peacebuilding specialist who jumps from country to country ever few years. But that sounds too much like the “what do you do for a living?” answer! The truth is that I love exploring the world and trying to help people along the way. I can’t get enough of disorganized, out of the way places. I combine my work travels with my creative passion of writing so that at the end of the day my job is to live my life and then write about it.

“I’ve lived in Japan for 5 years working as an English Teacher and a pretend American celebrity; in Timor Leste working on governance and conflict issues; in Sri Lanka helping Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the civil war fight for their human rights; and in Kosovo helping to bring communities together. All this has been over the past 11 years living abroad.”

-Would you recommend conflict resolution to someone starting out now?

Yes, absolutely, but with a caution and a request. It can be a tough life living away from friends and family, in some very dangerous places. You need to remember to take care of yourself as much as you care about others. Please don’t get into this line of work if you can’t treat the person next to you with kindness and understanding. I meet so many people that are “helping the world” but can’t seem to muster common courtesy for the people immediately around them.

-Any tips for beginners?

Take every opportunity even if you don’t get paid for it. Just get yourself abroad and on the ground, work hard and everything else will follow.

-What are the downsides of travelling with work?

You miss everything that is going on back home. You miss family, friends, and you can feel out of touch. You have to make new friends every few years, and you get used to saying goodbye.

Please don’t get into this line of work if you can’t treat the person next to you with kindness and understanding. I meet so many people that are “helping the world” but can’t seem to muster common courtesy for the people immediately around them.

 

The upsides?

You can get a job anywhere in the world. You feel empowered to do anything, and you develop great stories to tell over beer.

-What’s the most dangerous place you’ve ever visited?

East Timor during the 2006 civil conflict, Sri Lanka during the heart of the civil war, Vietnam during a hurricane, and my parent’s house in Jamestown, RI (free food an accommodation can make you want to stay forever!)

Take every opportunity even if you don’t get paid for it. Just get yourself abroad and on the ground, work hard and everything else will follow.

-The most over-rated?

Singapore. Sorry, but there are more dynamic places in Asia to get lost in. Plus it’s expensive. But I like gritty so more power to you if you like the city.

-What makes you shudder about travelling?

Visa lines. Somehow I always think they are going to find a way to deny me entry into a country. I think it goes with the job of fighting against corrupt governments. They inherently don’t want you to enter.

-How has travel changed you?

I have become more confident and sure of myself. I know what makes me happy, what I want to do with my life, and am comfortable dumping it all for something else when I am no longer happy.

>What makes you shudder about travelling? Visa lines. Somehow I always think they are going to find a way to deny me entry into a country. I think it goes with the job of fighting against corrupt governments. They inherently don’t want you to enter.

-What has been your most poignant moment on your travels?
Hiking the 900 mile Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. I came to understand exactly what I wanted out of life and what I wanted to be when I grew up. You’ll have to wait for the book to find out more.

Todd Wassel is a writer and conflict resolution specialist. He’s working on his first book about walking the 900 mile Japanese Shikoku Pilgrimage, twice, and has a new project on Things to Do in Tokyo. No, he doesn’t sleep much. A bit like James Bond…

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20 Responses to Get Paid to Travel the World – And Save It

  1. Claudine @ The Kathmanduo April 12, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks, Abi, for sharing this great interview with such an inspiring person. We, too, are trying to find a more meaningful professional path with our recent move to Kathmandu, and it is affirming (and reassuring) to read that with persistence, the rest will follow. We really enjoy your blog and sent some blog love your way today. Check it out here: http://bit.ly/gkm1zn

  2. Roxanne April 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I share your fear of visa lines, Todd – especially in the Middle East, where “human rights worker” or “activist” can be enough to deny you entry.

    I really enjoyed your insights about how this line of work requires compassion and kindness. Thank you for this interview!

  3. Todd Wassel April 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks for having me on Abi!

    @Claudine, I’m glad you enjoyed the interview and congratulations on Nepal. Just keep doing what you are passionate about and opportunities will present themselves. Nepal is on my list of “next” places to live and work so maybe I’ll see you soon.

    @Roxanne, thanks. I always feel like such a newbie when I get nervous at visa lines, even after 11 years on the road! It is also amazing how many a*sholes there are in this line of work. Luckily there are a lot of dedicated people as well.

  4. ayngelina April 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Very cool interview Abi, I follow Todd’s blog yet didn’t really know much about his job.

  5. Cam April 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Great interview from one of our fav travel bloggers!

  6. Carrie - PipeDreamJunkie April 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Thank you for such an inspiring interview! This is the sort of thing I’ve been talking about doing forever… just living my life out of a backpack, forever. Everyone tells me it’s unrealistic, yet I keep seeing lives being lived the way I want to live them!

    Gotta wonder…

    Fantastic post! Wish I’d run across your site earlier.. I’m on your mailing list now!

  7. Roy | cruisesurfingz April 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Really interesting interview. Nice to hear stories about people traveling and doing great work too.

  8. Angela April 19, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    This is so inspiring, I’ve always thought I wanted to have this kind of life, but to be honest I sometimes felt scared. I have no problem living as an expat, I’ve been doing it for six years, but I really don’t know how to get into this kind of activity. I follow Todd’s blog already, I feel this interview has given me more food for thoughts on how to start.

  9. Todd Wassel April 19, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Thanks for all the nice words everyone! It’s great to connect with all of you and it makes me wonder if I’m putting enough personal details on my site or not :)

  10. Abi April 19, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Glad you all got so much from the interview. I love talking to inspirational people and was honoured that Todd took time out of his incredibly hectic schedule to talk to me!

  11. Tom May 1, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    A conflict resolution and peacebuilding specialist. That is utter nonsense! Sure lots of jobs out there doing that!

  12. Abi May 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Tom. Not sure what you mean…that the job doesn’t exist? or that most jobs require some basic conflict resolution?

  13. Todd | Todd's Wanderings May 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I just pinched myself to check…and it turns out that I am a real person :)

  14. Abi May 2, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Phew! Let’s hope you don’t need to go checking on a daily basis ;)

  15. Surender Sharma May 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this great interview of Todd.
    “Take every opportunity even if you don’t get paid for it. Just get yourself abroad and on the ground, work hard and everything else will follow.”
    Appreciable words…

    • Abi May 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      I’m glad you found them useful. Good luck.

  16. Audrey July 26, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    Haha I’m Singaporean and I agree with Todd. Everything IS expensive and there’s nothing to do here except eat!
    I want to get out and travel too! One crucial thing, how do you get started doing this kind of thing?

    • Abi July 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      Hey Audrey – do you mean how do you get started travelling? Or working as a conflict resolution specialist in particular?

      PS – Can’t join in and comment on Singapore I’m afraid. I’ve only been to the airport which doesn’t quite count! (Great airport, though. ;) )

  17. Raj January 4, 2013 at 5:42 am #

    Thanks for sharing , enjoy your work !

    • Abi January 14, 2013 at 4:08 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it.

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