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Visiting the World, as a Geek? 695

Han Onymous asks: "In nine months my contract as a research assistent at my Alma Mater will come to an end. It will not be renewed, I don't want it to be anyway. But outside the economy is too ill to welcome me. I am young. I am healthy. And I want to see the world before I've got the wife and the kids and the double mortgage. I have no money saved, and I don't plan to save some until then. What can a skillful geek (electrical, electronical and software engineer, speaks three languages fluently) like me do to see the world. Volunteer ? Working for a multinational with exchange programs? Something with no connection at all to the tech world? Please share your experience."
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Visiting the World, as a Geek?

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  • Peace Corp (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:14PM (#4473861)
    Join the peace corps [peacecorps.gov].
    • Re:Peace Corp (Score:5, Informative)

      by Otisserie ( 618411 ) <risaac.deadletter@com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:22PM (#4474402) Homepage
      I taught computer science in Africa in 1981 with the Peace Corps. Probably one of the first volunteers to do it. I had a great time, but every Peace Corps situation is completely different; there's a lot of luck involved. Peace Corps does have a number of things going for it: 1) medical care and a good connection to the US Embassy, if things get messy; 2) a readjustment allowance that I believe is about $225 for every month you spend abroad (this is over and above your living stipend); 3) non-competitive eligibility for civil service jobs if you complete your service; 4) an actual reason to be in the country you're in, you're not just a tourist; 5) student loan deferrment; 6) I found that both employers and grad schools respected Peace Corps service; I'm convinced it helped me get into grad school. Your mileage may vary, but all told I'm very glad I did it.
      • Re:Peace Corp (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jonbrewer ( 11894 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @12:07AM (#4476075) Homepage
        Peace Corps does have a number of things going for it:

        The "things going for it" you list don't exactly coincide with the poster's desires, but at least they're accurate.

        I found that the Peace Corps bureaucracy is pretty much the worst nightmare of any free thinking geek. And the tech jobs they talk about just don't exist. While I wouldn't trade my time as a volunteer for anything, I certainly wouldn't sign up again.

        I was accepted in 1997, invited in 1998, delayed, invited, delayed, and finally made it to Poland in 1999. I had planned to teach networking skills, having owned an ISP in the early days. I ended up as an English teacher in a rural school, because that's pretty much what Peace Corps does. The school treated me like a kid, because that's what their previous volunteers were.

        I resigned after a year in-country, (having outlasted almost half of PC Poland 15) resolving never to work for the US Government again.

        I certainly see myself volunteering again, but next time will be with a privately funded NGO. Or maybe just on my own.

        Advice to poster: steer clear of Peace Corps. Do some serious research before committing to any organization. Or if you're not of that mindset, put $4000 in your bank account, grab "Lonely Planet" Eastern Europe, and wander around for a year. Email me if you like - I know your situation well.
    • Peace Corps (Score:5, Informative)

      by jefu ( 53450 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:37PM (#4474499) Homepage Journal

      I did the peace corps thing after college. And I'd recommend it highly. If you have the chance, jump at it. You'll see and do things you'd probably never encounter otherwise and you'll learn a lot. Some employers will discount it as will some grad schools - but others will look on it as a big plus.

    • Re:Peace Corp (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dan_lamb ( 618441 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:35PM (#4474841)
      Forget the Peace Corps.

      Join the Army. I did it, and I loved every minute of it. You should also forget about using your 'tech skills'. Join the Infantry. You'll learn more about life in three years in the infantry than you would in a lifetime in some crappy cubicle or university lab. You might also get a chance to see some beautiful places like Japan, korea, Thailand, or Germany. You might also see some not so beautiful places under less than ideal circumstances. Which story would you rather tell your grand children: '... and our database design was better than everyone elses' or '... and there I was in my fox hole with bombs exploding all around me ...'?

      If it's adventure you're looking for, look no further than www.goarmy.com. Freedom isn't free. Anty up and kick in.
      • Re:Peace Corp (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:52PM (#4474950) Journal
        If I were modding, I'd mod you up, dan.

        But there's one big, nasty assumption you're making when you say Which story would you rather tell your grand children: '... and our database design was better than everyone elses' or '... and there I was in my fox hole with bombs exploding all around me ...'?

        The assumption you're making is that you'll live to have grandchildren if you have bombs going off around you. I would say that now might NOT be the time to join the military, unless you honestly want to see action. Most geeks I know don't "take orders" very well, and aren't very keen on shooting at others, unless they're driving a remote-control joystick-driven bomb with cool graphics and lots of 'splosions.

        • Re:Peace Corp (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dolly_Llama ( 267016 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @09:19PM (#4475086) Homepage
          Most geeks I know don't "take orders" very well

          This is a common excuse for people reticent about joining the military. The obvious response is 1) You take orders regardless of whether they come from a sergeant or your shift manager at the Taco Bell. Live with it. 2) Someone has got to be giving the orders, so if you think you can do better, get yourself some stripes or a commision and try it yourself tough guy. Seriously, the military is only as good as its personnel. It needs smart kids (geeks even) as much as it needs stereotypical grunts. The majority of manpower aren't people shooting, but supporting those who shoot.

          • Re:Peace Corp (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Ian Bicking ( 980 ) <ianb@COBOLcolorstudy.com minus language> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @10:37PM (#4475588) Homepage
            You take orders regardless of whether they come from a sergeant or your shift manager at the Taco Bell. Live with it.
            If your shift manager tells you to do something against your judgement or your ethics, you can always quit. You can't quit the army, and you can't refuse to do what they tell you. The worst things done by humans have always been done under orders.

            Personally, I believe I am responsible for what I do, regardless of who tells me to do it. When you volunteer yourself into a coercive situation, you have handed your soul over to another's judgement. Maybe you think the people you take orders from are going to be good caretakers of your will and your soul, but that's one hell of a risk. Do you really know them that well? Do you even know who the hell they are? It's a long chain of command, and in any situation it's hard to know where it ends... do they even tell you where the command comes from? Do they ever tell you why? Are you willing to live blind?

            When you spend your time playing games and doing busywork this doesn't much matter. I wouldn't bet on irrelevence anymore, though.

      • by Chundra ( 189402 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @09:18PM (#4475079)
        That's the spirit. Hey, I just bought an American flag sticker today, but I didn't put it on my bumper. Nah, that's not appropriate for my country, instead I put it smack dab in the middle of the gas cap on my BMW. God Bless America!
      • by Meefan ( 526525 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @09:33PM (#4475198) Homepage
        Gee, tough choice: tell my grandkids I was boring, or be dead. ;) Dave
      • Re:Peace Corp (Score:4, Insightful)

        by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @10:43PM (#4475638) Journal
        So wait a minute? Given the two options, it's automatically far better for someone to join the army than the peace corps?

        Nah, you're entitled to your opinion - but I think that's completely "apples to oranges". The Peace Corps. seems to thrive on individuals who like to teach or train others. There's a lot of education going on there. The Army, on the other hand, tends to attract those who lack direction in their lives. Perhaps someone who just "needs a change" and hate the routine they're stuck in. But if you want to teach people, the Army isn't the place to be. You're there to pretty much "shut up and learn" and then "do, based on what we told you".

        Freedom sure isn't free, but it's also a fact that if you end up dead, you absolutely lost all of your own freedom.

        Also, I know this is just a generalization - but an awful lot of people I knew who joined the military came out as sort of "empty shells" of the people they once were. True, they might have been washed clean of their bad habits they used to have -- but they also seemed like their brains got re-loaded with a bunch of indoctrination about the way to be a "real man" in the U.S.A.

        There's something eerily "zombie-like" about some of these guys. They're suddenly almost "too polite" and dress a little "too sharp" at any semi-formal occasion. Many times, they suddenly get a strong urge to get married, have kids, and become a cookie-cutter image of the "family man". I know you can't really fault any of this. On the surface, it looks like the guys really "cleaned up their act" -- but it's a little unnatural. I don't think they came to these lifestyle conclusions and changes purely on their own.....
        • Re:Peace Corp (Score:4, Interesting)

          by yellowcat ( 561852 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @04:54AM (#4477007)
          Having been one of those people that went into a military environment quasi-normal and coming out shattered... This depends on you. Entirely on you, and on nobody else. If you thrive in a high-pressure environment, where rigid structure is present, good for you. If you are physically and mentally capable of joining the military, and accepting that when you joing the military you will not only give up substantial rights and freedoms but may be called to risk your own life or take another person's, then you might be a good fit. It is difficult, and anybody who has ever been there will agree, but you could get great things out of it. If you are a free-spirit, and orders that you don't understand don't sit well with you, if you object to use of force, then don't go. If you know in your heart you won't fit in, don't go into the military.
    • Re:Peace Corp (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @09:05PM (#4475025) Homepage
      Well..that sounds good, in theory. But the PC is actually an elitist organization that is vurrry picky about who they take on. Unless you're part of the Establishment, have a sterling academic record from a small univeristy, or have certain other advantages [peacecorps.gov], you're likely wasting your time by beginning the PC application process [peacecorps.gov].

      The entire enrollment of the Peace Corps is around 6,500. By contrast, Harvard has around 18,000. You think you can beat those odds []?

    • Re:Peace Corp (Score:4, Interesting)

      by giminy ( 94188 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @06:06AM (#4477146) Homepage Journal
      Peace corps is good, but just be careful where you go.

      A little story.

      My aunt joined the peace corps and was teaching in Rwanda. Rebels came and took over her school, killed all her students while she was in the room, and took her hostage (they didn't want to kill an American). She was then marched around the country for ~3 months. She managed to escape, but when she returned to the US she disappeared. She ended up committing suicide some months later.

      Obviously this kind of thing is rare. The peace corps is pretty good about paying attention to "hotspots" and avoiding sending people to an area in turmoil, but just pay attention to where you go. Open up some newspapers and see what's going on in the country, read about their government, political parties, any government opposition that exists. Too many people think "Oh, I'm an American so nothing bad will happen to me when I go wandering the world." Of course, my aunt's situation probably would have turned out differently today. Maybe the Rwandans would have killed her? Hard to say. Just be careful.

      As for me, I was in the same situation, so I decided to go to grad school in Germany, studying computer science. So far I'm pretty keen on it. Schools run very differently over here than they do in the US (they're a lot less like high school and a lot more like college should be, imho). It's pretty fun to learn a new language and meet people from a former communist country (yep, my school is in former East Germany). Living over here is hella cheap, too (I spent $1000 to move here, and that's including the plane ticket, train ticket, and hostel for a few nights so I could find my own flat). So don't let money scare you!

  • Peace Corps (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:14PM (#4473866) Journal
    You may do well to check out the Peace Corps - especially with your language skills. *NOW* is the time for you to travel about and see the world; if you put it off you probably won't get around to it until retirement.
    • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:11PM (#4474303)
      if you put it off you probably won't get around to it until retirement.

      WHY? Why does everybody have this mindset that there's no choice after college except to get a boring job in a cubicle, get married, pop out kids, buy a big house, and hopefully, have enough time and money at the end to sit on your ass for a few years? That's so fucking depressing. You've only got one shot at life, and it may not be long. You never know. If you think that the rest of your life will be so bad that you won't get to do what you want to do (or at least, not for another 40 years), then you need to rethink things. Hell, just watch Fight Club a few times and *think* about it.

      - From a person living a very unusual, fun, and rewarding life (ie: not a lemming)
      • by geekd ( 14774 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:20PM (#4474388) Homepage
        Amen, brother!

        So many people get trapped into doing what they are "supposed" to do. Society pressures you into it. RESIST!

        There's nothing wrong with marrige, children and home ownership, if that's what *you* want.

        Think for yourself.

        Hell, I'm married, and I'm in escrow on my first house right now. No kids, though, and we probably won't have any. No patience for 'em.

        I spent almost 10 years trying to be a rock star before I got tired of being poor and got a real job. If I'd never tried I would have regretted it for the rest of my boring ass life.

        Travel the world, dude. Travel for as long as you like. There will always be a job for a man of your skills when your ready (if your ready) to settle down. Jesus, 3 languages and how many tech skills? Write your own ticket.

        Do what you want. But make sure it's what *you* want, and not what you're *supposed* to want. That's all I'm saying.

        • Hell, I did it backwards. Had the good job and marriage right out of college. I was "right on track" for the "good life". After about 6 years of that, I said fuck it. It wasn't worth it. Now I don't have a "traditional" job at all. I'm happily married, but to a great chick who thinks the same way I do. She doesn't have a "traditional" job either. We're doing just fine. No kids, we get to travel plenty, and we're pushing 30. Neither of us will ever do the traditional route ever again, and we couldn't be happier. And a little secret... not doing the traditional job, kids, big house thing doesn't mean that you can't still make money, if that's your thing, either. I'm not saying that to buck the trend you gotta get covered in tattoos, join a band, and paint all day, and go around all day saying "fuck the system". There are thousands of different ways to live. I run a couple of businesses (because that's what I like to do). No cubicle or commute for me! I have a good friend who's going to law school so that the can practice law off of a boat in the Caribbean. I know a guy who does nothing but restore vintage cars for a living. I know people who do nothing but run massive porn sites and work from home in their undies. Jeez, there are so many possibilities, and life is so short, I *hate* to see people wasting time by doing what's expected of 'em. Think about it. Do you wanna wake up one day, 65 years old, and think "what'd I do for the last 45 years? Well, I saved up a nice nest egg"?? That's insane. Hell, so many people don't even make it that long. What if you get hit by a bus when you're 35? What do you have to show for it all? A nice suit and tie that you can be buried in? A bunch of people saying that "he was a nice co-worker"? Or "he had a really nice car"? Fuck it man. Life doesn't end when you graduate from college... Life is just beginning!

          Ok, now I really do think that I gotta go watch Fight Club again.
        • Rock on (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <tim.bolbrockNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:54PM (#4474962)
          Hells yeah...

          Even in high school I see these kids who spend all their fucking time playing an instrument, joining the debate team, being in the school play, playing three varsity sports, etc ad infinitum et ad nauseam... There's no way in hell they can actually *ENJOY* doing all that stuff and having no free time whatsoever, but they want to have a big shitload to put down on their college apps, becuase their worth as a person and future happiness in the world is decided by whether or not they get into one of the Ivies.

          If I ever worked for a college admissions office, I'd take all these applicants who are defined as a person by their impressive list of Extracurricular Activities, and shitlist them.

          Do stuff you *ENJOY* with your life. Fuck all else.

          • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@NoSPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @11:37PM (#4475942) Homepage
            I did pretty much everything in high school except music and drama, and I loved it. I got to do some really cool stuff, event went to DC for a week and met a buncha real politicians. (They look like real people up close!)

            Now, don't get me wrong, I spent my fair share of time in front of the computer too, but if oyu'er not doing sports, or part of student council, or on the debate team - what are you doing with your free time? Drinking?

            Frankly, I had a lot more fun in high school than my friends who spent most of their time high.

            Oh, and there's one other very good reason to get into college:

            I got to go to Europe for a YEAR because I got into college and knew some German.
        • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @09:21PM (#4475098) Homepage
          Well, there's a downside to it, as well. Hedonism is fine, but when you're pushing forty and you still haven't heeded the biological urge to reproduce, you'll feel regret. Besides, if you wait that long to have children, you'll be sixty by the time they get out of school. Hedonism inevitably leads to ennui. Friends move on. Passing yourself on to the next generation is the only way to achieve immortality.

          Of course, YMMV. I was lucky enough to have a generally positive family, who actually gets together on the holidays and vacations together once a year at grandpa's expense. I can understand how those who had crappy families would want to stay as far away from that experience as possible by immersion in pleasure-seeking.

          • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Friday October 18, 2002 @01:10AM (#4476350)
            Passing yourself on to the next generation is the only way to achieve immortality.

            I'd say someone like Einstein, Newton, or Plato is far more 'immortal' than my parents will be just because of my existence. Being remembered for doing something difficult is a hell of a lot more rewarding (not like it matters, as you're dead anyway) than simply doing what 95% of the population can do. Breeding isn't exactly hard (my apologies to the infertile folks out there).

            If passing on your genes is that vital, you can do it a lot more efficiently, and volumnously, by donating to a sperm bank.
      • by Parsec ( 1702 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:30PM (#4474815) Homepage Journal

        Well said, sir!

        To Han Onymous (and everyone else):
        Socrates said "The unexamined life is not worth living." I don't think he meant us to just examine it once and decide. You have to examine every day and ask if this is the path you want to be on. You have to always be open to new ideas. If you're not growing, you're decaying.

  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:14PM (#4473867)
    /server irc.dalnet.net /join #france /join #japan /join #katmandu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:15PM (#4473874)
    Join a terrorist network, they seem to be just about everywhere nowadays, and they pay for everything you need.
  • Have fun! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:15PM (#4473878)
    Here's a good place to start looking: JobsAbroad.com [jobsabroad.com] (No, I don't work for them)
  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <{brento} {at} {brentozar.com}> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:16PM (#4473888) Homepage
    The first obvious answer everybody's going to suggest is GeekCorps [geekcorps.org], but it'll also depend on the languages you speak. I'd suggest looking at job postings for large international charitable organizations like the Red Cross - they always need tech help, and being willing to work as a volunteer for room & board only will help your case quite a bit.

    Another tip: think about teaching English in the Far East. The job offers are plentiful, you don't need a teaching certificate, and the compensation is quite good. You don't have to speak Japanese or Chinese to get those kinds of positions, either. I've had a few friends do it for several summers, and had nothing but great things to say.
    • by That_Dan_Guy ( 589967 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:06PM (#4474270)
      I was in the same boat some years ago. I decided I would travel the world.

      I settled on Taiwan for my base of operations. The list of 3 I considered was Japan, Korea and Taiwan. I chose Taiwan because of the people I had met from these 3 places, Taiwanese were the easiest and most friendly.

      What to do in Taiwan? Teach English to start. During the summer I gauarntee you will have people come up to you on the street and beg you to teach English for $15-20 bucks an hour. This sounds great, and summer is good to start becuase you'll get classes all day long and into the evening. After that it is mostly evenings, unless you can get in at a Kindergarden.

      Kindergardens are the best. You can get 2-4 hours a morning of just playing with 4-9 year olds. Don't knock it until you've tried it. This age group is by far the easiest to teach. Teaching 10-13 year olds is a real pain, and involves lots of yelling becuase the schools usually cram 20-30 into a room that is barely double the size of your standard dorm room (can anyone say "Firehazard?" Oh wait, the fire inspector is coming, quick! take half the desks outside and hide them! (seriously, this happens a lot in Taiwan, along with the passing of red envolopes)).

      If you have your degree, you are set to get yourself settled in Taiwan. Teaching English and finding a place to stay are your first priorities.

      Now, after you are set up and find that you hate kids, or more likely hate the people running the schools, go find a job writing Techinical manuals. ASUS is up in a low rent, but fairly nice, area. Big building, has a swimming pool you can use after hours. The guy running the Documentation department is real cool, and promises to shield his team from company politics. I turned down the job at the time because they weren't paying in anything but promises of stock options (not a year later and the bubble burst, so I do feel vindicated).

      Trend Micro has a good department, and working there could get you back to the 'States into a real job. I turned that one down becuase the offer came after I had bought myself and my wife plane tickets to come back. Would have been fun. Lots of oportunity there.

      There was a Graphics company a friend of mine worked at. He had a lot of fun there, but complained about management stupidity. He quit, came back to the 'states and got hired by the US department. Sorry to say I lost track of him (Dave, if you're around and reading this try my yahoo account, its still my primary acount)

      Overall, Taiwan was a blast. The first 6 months were hell, trying to learn to teach and deal with culture shock. But it was a wonderful experience. Now I'm teaching MCSE and CCNA classes at a Jr. College in the 'States. Guess I learned to like teaching (wasn't easy to learn, let me tell you)
  • Teach English (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:17PM (#4473896)
    Pays fairly well - can be done in lots of different places, etc.

    Not necessarily the best job (a friend of mine had a nasty experience in S. Korea, all that stuff you hear about southeast asian kids having huge amounts of respect for their teacher is absolute CRAP) but its something to do to foot the bill for travelling. Usually they expect someone with a BA, but a BEng/BSC/MSc / whatever you've got should be fine (another friend of mine is teaching English in Japan right now - and I met a Scotsman on a train from Prague to Frankfurt who was teaching english in Germany)...

    Helps to bone up on your grammar though, but for a trilingual like yourself, that shouldn't be a problem.

    Good luck!
    • Re:Teach English (Score:3, Informative)

      I strongly agree. The good thing about teaching English is that it can be much easier to land this kind of work. Some places it pays well, others it doesn't, but it is an industry where there will be a strong preference for native speakers. Also, visa issues are more easily resolved than if you're trying to do tech work.

      I taught English in Taiwan for a year, loved it, and eventually found additional bits of work that drew more on my tech background. By the way, I did find a lot of respect for teachers, but most of my students were adults.

  • by gregwbrooks ( 512319 ) <gregbNO@SPAMwest-third.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:18PM (#4473904)
    The best advice I can give: Choose where you go and what you do based on your values rather than your skills.

    All things being equal, you'll put more into -- and get more out of -- an experience where you're supporting something you really believe in, even if you're not using all of your technical skills. If you can scratch both your geek itch and your volunteer itch at the same time, great -- but if you're only going to scratch one, strike a blow for something you feel passionately about.

  • by JeffGB ( 265543 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:18PM (#4473906)
    The Wired Magazine article Mother Earth, Mother board [wired.com] is an article written by a hacker/tourist.
    I've always liked reading this article, and it lists neat places to visit
  • by surfcow ( 169572 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:18PM (#4473912) Homepage
    ... accept a job where "very little travel is involved".

    That did it for me.

  • Armed Forces (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chunkwhite86 ( 593696 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:19PM (#4473915)
    Try the Army, Navy or Air Force. I have many friends who are part of the US Armed Services and have traveled the World quite extensively in just a few short years.
    • Re:Armed Forces (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bomb_number_20 ( 168641 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:34PM (#4474054)
      I spent three years in the military. I was gone a lot (approximately 5-6 months out of the year) but rarely saw anything more than swamps, mountains, wooded areas and jungles.

      There were some really cool things. My favorite was looking at stuff through night-vision goggles- especially the stars. Animals were cool,too- it was sort of like they knew you weren't really a threat because you can't see in the dark so they come out all around you. Another fun thing that you get to do in the army is board and ride passenger jets with automatic weapons. ;)

      Anyway, if you want to see the world (that is, cities and local people) without having to kill and bomb everything you meet then the army (or any military service for that matter) is the wrong choice. The Air Force might be better, but from friends I've talked to, if you REALLY want to get out and go places the Navy can't be beat.

      Those guys go from one end of the globe to the other and get free time to wander around and explore- something we really didn't.

      I'm guessing, though, that military service isn't what this guy is looking for.
  • Try This: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geminatron ( 616988 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:19PM (#4473919)
    You're looking for "Engineers Without Borders":
    here a few of their addresses:



    EWB France = Ingénieurs sans Frontières (ISF)

    There are lots of other local and national EWB groups, a google search should find em.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:19PM (#4473922) Homepage Journal
    ..you could join the Army and visit the Middle East. Sunny skies, high tech environment, and the lucky winner can play a game of "Whack the Laden"!

    *hopes that joke wasn't in too bad of taste, midly bad taste is acceptable*
  • by kapurp ( 546708 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:19PM (#4473924) Homepage
    Try geek corps [geekcorps.org] or Engineers without borders [ewb-isf.org] or if you're Canadian you can apply to Net Corps [netcorps-cyberjeunes.org].
  • Slack (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:20PM (#4473929)
    Get some credit cards and slack. I'm serious. As a highly educated geek, you can probably get 10-20k in unsecured credit by filling out some forms on a web site.

    Then, choose some country that's cheap to live in and go. Asian countries give you the nice added bonus of being able to generate an income stream readily by illegally teaching English. For example, in Taiwan you can teach English for $25/hr and meals cost about $3 each.

    As an added bonus, you may find in some foreign countries women find you irresistible. Which is not so bad.

    Finally, when the economy recovers you will be making gobs of money and not have enough time to spend it efficiently. The memories will last forever.
  • Options (Score:4, Interesting)

    by geek ( 5680 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:20PM (#4473933)
    Is it traveling you wish to do? Seeing the world is great but I get enjoyment out of seeing the immediate world around me.

    I've had two friends join the peace corps, one loved it the other hated. like most things it's about perspective. I would love to see Ireland, England and many others but it's come to my attention I have neglected to view my own country, my own city even.

    I was going to join the Navy but realized military life wasn't worth it to me. The peace corps are out because I need money. So lately I've been thinking about helping others at youth centers in my area. It seems to be much more rewarding, not just for myself but for the kids.

    With your skills you could be a great asset to the children. Rather than travel the world and look at the pretty sites, perhaps consider sticking close to home and getting more involved with local programs. It almost seems safer now too considering the bomb in Bali.
  • by Teribaen ( 531432 ) <teribaen@NOspAM.planettribes.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:20PM (#4473937)
    There's an ongoing series of articles at kuro5hin on this exact topic.

    first part [kuro5hin.org] second part [kuro5hin.org]

  • Obvious.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:20PM (#4473939)
    What can a skillful geek (electrical, electronical and software engineer, speaks three languages fluently) like me do to see the world

    Teaching English is always good....... ;)

  • Go Back to School (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lokni ( 531043 ) <reali100 AT chapman DOT edu> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:21PM (#4473943)
    I would say go back to school. There are programs at various schools, including but not limited to state and private universities, that offer study abroad. Pick your country. I went to Spain this past summer for 2 months on a program to learn Spanish. That was it. Cost was $3600 including room and board and school. After the program was over I spent the next month hooving it around western Europe. With a month railpass, I was able to visit 12 different countries. Stay at hostels which are safe and offer clean, comfortable nightly accomodations for as little as $10 a night. Overall, the trip cost me about $6000. The best part of it was that I was able to get stafford loans to finance almost the entire trip. Nothing like a government gauranteed 3.4% interest loan that you don't have to pay back until you are not taking any more classes.
  • merchant marine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:22PM (#4473950) Homepage Journal
    One of my Grandpa's buddies did an around the world tour by getting a cabin aboard a merchant marine ship.

    It was super cheap and he got to spend a week or so in all sorts of different port towns. I have no idea whether it would interest you or not, but I contemplated doing it before I met my fiancee.

    BTW, the guy who did this was 83!

    So you don't necessarily have to do it while you are young;-)
  • by Ichoran ( 106539 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:23PM (#4473955)
    Money = flexibility. You have nine months. If flexibility and adventure are important to you, save some now. Whether you end up in the Peace Corps or whatever, it will help give you room to breathe.
  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:23PM (#4473957) Homepage
    An aside:
    You're going to be old and infirm someday. Don't believe the lies that you'll actually be able to live off of your government pension (since it started as a senior-vote-buying measure, and will end when it runs out of money or leads to huge defecits once the boomers all retire), because you will be screwed. The first thing you should do is go and buy this book [bookzone.com], then read it. Follow its advice.

    Once you have a secure financial base, go ahead and explore the world, get married, etc. Do whatever your heart desires, but do not get started without some money saved away for your retirement, or you will be screwed when you're older.

    Back to the question at hand:
    If you really speak a variety of languages, see what it takes to get a work visa there. Often it's a lot of work, but it can be really fun to live somewhere for a year and do whatever it is you're skilled at doing (good non-tech ones are teaching english, cooking, bartending, etc). You can't just go to a country and work there legally unless you have a work visa, so be sure to get that squared away first.

    Another thing to do would be to save up money, and backpack across Europe (or somewhere else that's population dense). It's fairly easy to do, there are plenty of youth hostels, and transportation between locales is cheap if you hitch-it. Heck, if you're feeling daring, you could even try to do it while carting along a small appliance [amazon.com].
  • AIESEC (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:23PM (#4473959)
    The worlds largest student organisation. AIESEC [aiesec.org] is a global network of 50,000 members across more than 83 countries and territories at more than 800 universities world-wide.
    AIESEC facilitates international exchange of thousands of students and recent graduates each year. Whether in a paid traineeship or as a volunteer for a non-profit organisation, their experiences abroad will undoubtedly affect them forever.
    Behind everything we do is our mission: to contribute to the development of our countries and their people with an overriding commitment to international understanding and co-operation.
    Over the years AIESEC has evolved into something that is spirited with endless energy. We, the young people who run this organisation have a hope for something better in the world, and this is a hope that AIESEC tempers with a practical approach.

    http://www.aiesec.org [aiesec.org]
  • by Maskirovka ( 255712 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:23PM (#4473961)
    The choice should be clear...
    1) learn to speak three lanuages fluently
    2) become a tech god
    3) leave school
    4) set up your own international smut business
    5) PROFIT!

  • Teach English (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:23PM (#4473962) Homepage Journal
    If you LOOK american [1], you should be able to teach English in Taiwan. You could make a bit more than enough to live on, and living somewhere is far better than being a tourist there [2]. My inlaws have been trying to get me to do that, but I'm making significantly better money here. I suspect that you could do the same thing in Japan, and most of the Orient.

    If you are looking for technical work which will further your career, things may be a little harder. I know that the big investment banks have operations around the world, and use lots of expensive IT, and lend people between countries at least occasionally. This is a bad time to be looking for that kind of job, though, and if you want to have a life, and see your surroundings, you don't want to work there.

    [1] You don't have to BE a native English speaker, just look like one. If you look Chinese, you will have a hard time convincing the locals that you speak proper English, even if you grew up here and speak no Chinese!

    [2]If you want to learn about the place, rather than simply see the sights and move on.

  • by jheinen ( 82399 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:24PM (#4473969) Homepage
    Join the Army. I'm sure you'll get an opportunity to visit the Middle East.


  • by rholland356 ( 466635 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:24PM (#4473972)
    If you want to see the world, earning your keep as you go, then you'll have to rely on your three fluent languages.

    I hope they aren't too modern, for much of the world has yet to catch up. For instance, you might be fluent in Java 1.4, but that won't help you when you are in Perl territory.

    I suppose you could travel a ways on COBOL--particularly through Europe--but I'd have to say it is C that will take you around the globe in good fashion.

  • by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch@STRAWinorbit.com minus berry> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:26PM (#4473988) Homepage Journal
    - Hey, it's simple. Really. Book a flight overseas. Pick a return date. Figure out what to do once you get there and just DO stuff. There has GOT to be somet things you'd like to see- Eiffel Tower, Louver, Rome, etc- you know what you WANT to do, so go do it!

    I did the same thing, disappeared for a month. Hooked up with total strangers for a couple of days. Drifted apart. Took pictures

    No one can make a trip but you- and if it doesn't work out you'll have only your geeky self to blame rather than that 'stupid slashdot crowd'. Figure out what you want out of life and do it, or do you have absolutely no iniative?
  • by I Am The Owl ( 531076 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:26PM (#4473993) Homepage Journal
    But don't do something tech-related. You have the rest of your life ahead of you to do that. Do something you've never done before and probably won't have another chance to. Several people here have suggested that you go to a foreign country and teach English; I concur with this sentiment. It seems like an excellent way to see the world.

    All in all, it's not unlike college: do it because it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not the beginning of the rest of your life.

  • Go Spooky (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Featureless ( 599963 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:28PM (#4474014) Journal
    I'll be blunt. My friend, you should consider joining the CIA. You fit their profile perfectly. As you can imagine, they are currently hiring with a vengance.


    The experience is literally second to none in the world, and in a variety of private industries, CIA is solid gold on a resume.

  • Oil Business (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lothar ( 9453 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:28PM (#4474015)
    A friend of mine works as a Service Engineer(mostly software) in Kongsberg Offshore. He travels more than 100 days a year to places all over the world. Malaysia, Germany, Britain, etc, etc. You name it.

    Of course you might not have that much time to do any sightseeing. However may places doesn't allow too much overtime abroad and that could be handy.
  • find a job..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rew ( 6140 ) <r.e.wolff@BitWizard.nl> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:33PM (#4474046) Homepage
    Even when the economy is bad, if you're good you're going to find a job. So, spin a globe, pick a place, and send a bunch of resumes in that direction. Make sure you "live cheap" so that you will be able to fall into a "work 6 months, travel 2 months" schedule, or something like that. Travel a bit around the "work" place as well. Then you should have enough saved to be able to say goodbye, and travel for two months straight. Then find a job again, preferably somewhere else. Repeat 2 or 3 times......

  • Just go. (Score:3, Informative)

    by GeoNerd ( 166345 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:36PM (#4474073) Homepage
    Working as a bartender? A merchant marine? A volunteer? The Peace Corps? Bah. Forget it.
    Just go.

    Bartender/ski lift operator/au pair/whatever: Go to a fabulous country, have no time to do anything, and get paid next to nothing doing crap work!

    Merchant Marines: Little known fact - today's modern container ships only take a few hours to offload - this means that ships spend as little time as possible in port. If you like taking weeks to get somehwere, and spending literally a few hours there, this is they way to go!

    Peace Corps: Heh.

    Volunteering: Well, you're VOLUNTEERING!

    Bottom line is that many of these things are over-romanticized.

    IMHO, the best thing to do is to get a backpack, put a change of clothes, a sleeping bag, a tent,
    and a towel in it, buy a plane ticket to somewhere, and go.

    I was in Turkey at a youth hostel once, and encountered a Dutch guy who was in the middle of a backpacking trip. He started of hitching in the netherlands, had gone through russia, mongolia, china, vietnam, thailand, india, pakistan, and iran, and had just gotten off of the train in eastern Turkey. He was washing washing his spare clothes - a change of underwear.

    It doesn't take much money, and you can make a game of trying to find work to supplement your trip. A few thousand will keep you going for months if you're frugal, and you don't have anyone telling you what to do! If you don't like walking, and want to go fast, bring a bike.

    Most of all, just have fun and enjoy the experience.

  • Commendable! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pvera ( 250260 ) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:40PM (#4474097) Homepage Journal
    My hat is off to you sir.

    I was going to say go for something unrelated, but there's plenty of volunteers working on normal average stuff that anyone can do. If you want to do good, volunteer in something that allows you to use your specialty.

    For example, if I were a linux guy, I would find one of the groups that collects old hardware, reconditions it and deploys it with Linux at places (wherever) that cannot afford new computers and/or Windows. If you can do that and train a few locals too you will be making greater impact than volunteering for the Peace corps and handing out leaflets on birth control, vaccines, etc.

    The reason I recommend you to pick something that allows you to use your experience is because you don't want to be left out of touch with your field for over a year (this would literally mean professional suicide for an IT person). If you are in IT and you spend a year making old and tired hardware work, you will hone your skills while you do something good, and it will even make good resume fodder later down the road.

    Me? If I was single and felt like doing so, I would find a Spanish-speaking country and volunteer to teach programming and "Nerd English" to junior high kids (those of you that, like me, are not native English speakers know what I am talking about). To me teaching is the most challenging and rewarding occupation I could think of when salary is not an issue.
  • Right on! (Score:5, Informative)

    by rocjoe71 ( 545053 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:40PM (#4474098) Homepage
    Go for it, you'll have a blast, I know I did... One of the best options going would be work visas-- Alot of European countries are chomping-at-the-bit for skilled people.

    I lived and worked in London for four years, 3 years in various levels of IT for various IT departments all around the city. For those that had the experience, contracting rates could go as high as 1000 Pounds/day (mainframe programmer). Americans can get a 1-year work visa, countries in the Commonwealth get 2 years or more if your parents or grandparents were British citizens.

    For up to date details go to or write to your nearest British consulate or embassy.

    The are lots of other countries that offer work visas as well, look in the travel section of your bookstore for ideas on working overseas, they'll have names and addresses to contact.

  • by adrianbye ( 452416 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:42PM (#4474114)
    AIESEC [aiesec.org] is the world's largest student run organization, setting up work exchanges in 87 countries. They usually have a real demand for people with a background like yours. You won't be paid a lot of money, but you will get an amazing cultural experience.
  • by acacia ( 101223 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:48PM (#4474156)
    Become a consultant. As a consultant I have traveled about 75% of the time over the last five years. Now in my case the travel has been strictly domestic, but my company has had international clients. There are many companies that specialize in technology consulting where the job is 50-100% travel. Data warehousing in particular is very mature in the US, but less so overseas. There may be opportunities for placement overseas, particularly if your language skills are good.

    Admittedly, the job market is kind of sketchy right now, though many companies (including mine) are still hiring. The company I work for has actually still managed to grow our revenues and become profitable throughout the recession.

    As an added bonus, you typically do not have any material living expenses, as your meals, transportation, and hotel are covered by the client. On top of that, consulting salaries are much higher than corporate IT.

    If you make the cut, you will also get to work with very high caliber individuals who are experts in their fields. There are exceptions, but typically this type of exposure is difficult to get in a normal IT shop.

    There is a downside, however. The work is stressful, you don't have the luxury of making as many mistakes, the hours are long, you are living out of a hotel, and it is nearly impossible to sustain meaningful relationships.

    Good Luck!!!
  • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:54PM (#4474188)
    My brother, who is in med school, decided that he wanted to do something completely different for a semester.

    He contacted a freight company and got a simple job onboard a ship. The job was pretty simple (e.g., removing rust) but not that demanding (only 8 hrs a day). Being the only one educated among the sailors, he was often invited to have dinner and discussions with the captain, who had a lot of stories to tell. And of course, it was always plenty of fun when he and the other sailors were 'let loose' in some port for a couple of days.

    Sounds like something for you?

  • India (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17, 2002 @06:59PM (#4474216)
    Visit India. You can even get a job replacing Americans there.

  • by thogard ( 43403 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:01PM (#4474231) Homepage
    Every civilized country in the world has Working Holiday Visas that allow young people to visit their country and work. The "young" bit is a subset of the range between 16 and 35 and the time they allow you to work is somewhere between one and three months with some odd requirements. For example in Australia, you can visit for up to a year, but can only work in any location for up to 3 months and only 6 months out of the year. The idea of these is to allow visitors to earn enough money so they enjoy their travels but to be restrictive enoungh not to displace local workers. The work that people on these visas get tends to be the kinds of jobs no one else wants but with computer skills, you should be able to find something.

    The US of course only has these visas if your a Saudi even though they would be a major help to the depressed travel business. If your in this age group, maybe its something you should write your congresscritter about because they are making lots of changes to the immigration rules.

    Most places also have Youth Hostels. These are cheap places to stay and they can range from small private rooms to a more typical dorm with several bunk beds in a room. In a big city downunder, it will cost you about US$10 a night. Other places can be three times more (London) or $2 nite (Bali last month). Its a great way to meet people. Some of my geek friends even meet their girlfriends while staying at yough hostels. The typical traveler will pack up all their stuff in a backpack and just go from place to place and find work when they can, see the differnt places, meet lots of people and then keep on going. Its a great way to spend a year or so.
  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:03PM (#4474242) Homepage Journal

    If you're an electrical engineering major who reads slashdot, I wouldn't be too confident that the wife and kids thing will just fall into your lap later on down the road. You might want to get to work on that part right away. It could take some time to implement.

  • by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:07PM (#4474277) Homepage
    I hear Saddam Hussein is hiring electrical engineers that know a lot about high-speed centrifuges. Apparently they use them for making baby formula, go figure.
  • by vocaro ( 569257 ) <trevor@vocaro.com> on Thursday October 17, 2002 @07:50PM (#4474564)
    Like the original poster, I felt that my life as a geek wasn't quite as fulfilling as it could be. Although I had a nice job designing software for medical instruments, I felt that I would never do anything really worthwhile. That's one of the reasons why I joined the Peace Corps [peacecorps.gov] soon after graduation. They sent me to Ghana, West Africa, to teach physics and math. I got back from my service last year, and I had an absolute blast. I even brought back a wonderful souvenir [vocaro.com].

    For pictures of my experiences, see my site [vocaro.com]. You'll notice that I brought my laptop with me and was able to apply my geek skills by teaching computer classes on the side. You can find more stories about my geeky life in the Peace Corps here [vocaro.com].

    When I left Ghana for good in August 2001, I still wasn't yet ready to return to the life of a software developer, so I immediately applied for a job as an English teacher with Nova [teachinjapan.com], the largest private school in Japan. As some here have suggested, this is another great way for geeks see the world and learn skills that don't require electricity. For anyone thinking of that route, I've written some tips [vocaro.com] on deciding whether to join Nova.


  • IAESTE (Score:3, Informative)

    by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:25PM (#4474766) Homepage
    Like AIESEC mentioned above, IAESTE is a great exchange organization: International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience. Find the US site at http://www.aipt.org/subpages/iaeste_us/index.php

    I got a summer exchange internship in Norway over 20 years ago with IAESTE, and met many current friends that were there with both IAESTE and AIESEC from around the world - that summer in Bergen alone there were exchange students from these organizations from France, Denmark, Scotland, USA, Canada, Nigeria, Yugoslavia (that was then), Greece, Turkey, Indonesia, England, Ireland, Italy, and probably more that I can't remember.

    Check 'em out
  • Try: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joel Ironstone ( 161342 ) on Thursday October 17, 2002 @08:51PM (#4474942)
    Engineers without borders


    Here's an internship for a hardware/software project leader in Uganda:

    http://www.ewb-isf.org/content/internships/f02/u ga nda.shtml

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard