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How to find a retirement ‘job’ and travel more

Having the time to travel is one of the best things about retirement for some, especially if you can make your dollars go further.

Growing numbers of retirees are finding new ‘careers’ as travel guides and cruise ship lecturers. Not that they necessarily receive a salary as such. Instead, food, accommodation and often airfares are provided in return for a little of their time and knowledge. And, when they’re not providing lectures and accompanying groups, they have the chance to see the world.

For Ralph and Maggie Leutton, both in their 60s, finding creative ways to travel more cheaply has seen them visit countries all around the world on a relatively modest budget.

It began more than two decades ago with their membership of an international not-for-profit organisation that encourages goodwill among different nationalities. Servas International is a platform for hosts and travellers to meet up, like a free version of Airbnb.

After being screened by the organisation and becoming a member, you can stay with other members and you can choose to become a host yourself. Hosts agree to offer guests a maximum of two nights; no money changes hands and there are no obligations on the hosts.

Using the Servas network, the Leuttons have stayed in some 20 countries and have accommodated many guests in their own home.

“When we lived in Sydney, we’d have as many as 12 visits a year – some singles, some couples and a few families of three,” says Maggie.“It’s certainly a way to save money while travelling but the best thing for me is the opportunity to meet and learn more about people from other cultures.”

The couple’s involvement with the network has seen them build lasting friendships around the globe.

Overseas volunteering

Volunteering with overseas aid organisations is another way the Leuttons make their travel dollar go further and extend their interest in mixing with other cultures.

They’ve visited Papua New Guinea, Kazakhstan and Thailand to conduct personal development, team dynamics and communication skills training for Australian teams as well as the local staff. On these trips they pay their own airfares and the organisations provide accommodation and meals while they’re working.

Were they worried about the risks of travelling to such countries? “We chose not to think about them,” laughs Maggie. Others may choose to weigh up the pros and cons more closely.

Both Maggie and Ralph had previous skills and experience in training for teams and their first trip, through their own church’s overseas aid group, led to ‘jobs’ with similar organisations run by churches of other denominations.

Cruise ship culture

More recently, the couple have discovered the cruise ship lecture circuit. Ralph, who says he’s now in his “third career” after working first as a scientist then a political lobbyist, joined a Sydney-based speakers’ bureau that specialises in providing lecturers for cruises.

He receives an email letting him know that speaking slots are available for various particular cruises. If he’s interested, and replies with an outline of his lectures before others do, he and Maggie (“my research assistant”) sail off into the sunset.

So far the Leuttons have completed two cruises in the South Pacific. They provide their own travel costs to meet the ship but, once on board, all costs are covered apart from drinks and sightseeing in port. There are no special skills required, says Ralph, other than public speaking and research.

“Sometimes they’ll give you a general topic, such as history or local knowledge, other times you can provide your own,” says Ralph.

So how much work is involved? Apart from the research time before you board, it may be as little as a one-hour presentation each day the ship is at sea. Lectures are not offered on the days a ship is in port.

A guide to travel

The couple’s latest adventure is a plan to act as tour guides for a trip to Israel and Jordan late next year.

Working with an established travel company that specialises in Holy Land tours, Maggie and Ralph will put together a group of 20 people and then accompany the tour. For this trip, “a fair percentage” of costs will be covered, says Maggie.

The couple have developed a nine-night trip based on Ralph’s biblical literacy teaching at their local church. “The purpose of this tour is to take people back to the sites described in the Bible to provide some context — it brings into reality what we’re reading,” says Ralph.

The tour provides a new level of travel for the Leuttons with a big dose of responsibility for the 20 people they’ll accompany, so they’ll probably be looking for a break after that?

“No way!” says Maggie. “We’ll be heading to Thailand to run another training course.”

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