How To Travel Aboard A Luxury Yacht For Free

Money is what keeps people from traveling more, but it doesn’t have to. There are a lot of ways to earn money and travel. I saved over $20,000 for my original trip but, after I decided I never wanted to stop traveling, I knew I had to find a way to earn more money so I taught English in Thailand and Taiwan to help keep me traveling.

However, if teaching isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other jobs to choose from. One of those jobs is crewing a boat and sailing around the world (two of my friends have done this). Today’s reader story is of Arielle and how she found a job working on a yacht in order to realize her dream of seeing the world (cue Little Mermaid references):

Nomadic Matt: Tell everyone about yourself.
Arielle: I live and work onboard a 40 meter private yacht. I left my home in Maryland after graduating from university in 2010 and headed to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to get a job working on yachts in order to fulfill my lust for travel. Traveling by water is also a passion of mine (not surprisingly) and landlocked states freak me out. I guess I can thank having a father in the Navy for that. Unlike many Navy brats, I was lucky to be able to grow up mostly in one place, however, we spent a few years in Italy when I was younger and that probably contributed to my love of international travel.

What inspired you to want to see the world by boat?
I always wanted to travel and becoming another cog in the corporate machine after school just didn’t seem right. I definitely got my wanderlust from my parents who have both traveled extensively. An older friend of mine had been in the yachting industry for years and looking at his pictures and Facebook posts always made me so envious. What made me choose to follow in his particular footsteps, though, was the ability to earn and save money while working and traveling on yachts. My parents worked tirelessly to instill a sense of financial responsibility in my brother and me, so depleting funds was something I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I’m a very “live in the moment” person but I always have the future in the back of my mind.

arielle yacht boat docked in alaska

Did you feel overwhelmed at all during the planning process? If so, how did you get over it?
I think with any big change like this it’s totally normal to go through a period of being overwhelmed but I also felt excited, anxious, sad, and scared, sometimes all simultaneously. It helped that I have an amazing support system at home who have always encouraged and supported me in my crazy endeavors. Focusing on saving money also kept me busy. I also had a friend who had been in yachting for a few years already who was an invaluable resource and definitely led me on the right path. Because I would have been lost without his insight, I am always excited and open to helping anyone who has questions about getting into this kind of work as well.

Where did you go on your trip?
It started in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida which is a major yacht hub and a great place to look for work. On the boat we’ve been to Western Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, British Columbia, Alaska and we’ve currently been hopping around the Pacific Northwest having some repairs done.

arielle eating foodHow did you save for your trip?
I worked at two restaurants waiting tables and worked as a nanny during the day. It was definitely exhausting, but I was able to save a few thousand dollars over 3-4 months. Now, I work on a yacht and that pays for my adventures.

You work on a yacht to fund your travels? What is that like?
I live and work onboard a private yacht as a nanny to the captain’s son. We have a small crew for the size of our vessel so we actually all kind of pitch in in all areas, as maintaining a private yacht is a lot of work. There are only five of us (besides the child) and we are very close. On the financial side, it’s great. Because I live on the boat, I have little to no living expenses so most everything I make I can save (plus I know I’ll have accommodation anywhere we go)! I also get to see places from an interesting perspective as we sail past coastlines and the marinas are often in great locations in city centers.

Is it hard to find one of these jobs? Do you need experience?
It’s probably “hard” in the sense that people wouldn’t think to look into this industry. People forget that it takes whole crews to run and maintain yachts so the lifestyle per se isn’t just for the rich and famous. I would say once you know where to look, though, and how to go about getting certified, it still takes a bit of persistence and ambition to score a job. It seems to me that as the economy struggles, more people look into alternative work and there has been a huge influx of potential “yachties” into this somewhat limited job field. Most people won’t have yachting experience so experience in the hospitality field is usually a big plus (especially for stewardesses). However, all potential yacht crew are required to obtain a STCW ’95 certificate which covers all basic yacht training, including fire and water safety training. As long as you are motivated, hardworking and exude a professional demeanor, you should be able to eventually find a job working on a yacht.

Some good job websites are Jobs on Yachts, All Yacht Jobs, Crew 4 Crew.

a yacht during sunset

Do you switch boats often?
I’ve been on the same boat for the past two years as I was lucky to find one with a crew that I really get along with and one that has had a great itinerary. It’s not uncommon for other yachties to jump around from season to season though. However, longevity in a given job usually looks better on your CV.

How much time do you get in each port?
One thing you learn quickly working on yachts is that one week can turn into two or three months! That being said, at most ports we spend a few months, with occasional hopping around within a specific region here and there. For instance, we were in Bali for an entire summer, but this summer in Alaska we spent a few days to a few weeks at each port in the Southeast region. There really is no “normal” in yachting.

arielle kayaking in beautiful nature

What advice would you have for people trying to do what you’ve done?
Make sure you are mentally ready to spend 24/7 with your coworkers and live where you work. There is no escape from the job, so if you don’t think you have the personality to handle that, it might not be for you. Being clean cut/shaven and having minimal to no tattoos/piercings are a HUGE advantage as many employers won’t hire those with visible tattoos or piercings. Other than that, just being motivated and relentless will get you a foot in the industry.

How much longer are you going to do this? What’s next?
This job began as a one year commitment but I’m now going on my third year, which is a testament to how much I’ve enjoyed it. I think I’ve got about another year left in me before it’s time to start a new adventure. My dream has always been to study and perfect my French at La Sorbonne in Paris so that will probably be my next move. I’ve been dying to get back to Europe and travel and explore that part of the world.

Go ahead and try it yourself!

“To reach Port, we must set sail.” – Live according to that.

I’m a writer based out of East Village, Manhattan. I work from my condo and local coffee shops (and a few restaurants with menus that are more unhealthy than licking a subway railing), meeting friends who have boats or boat access, touring the zoo for the zoo to visit my ex-boyfriends, and forcing my political beliefs on others at social events (kidding, don’t be one of those people.