yachts at the United Nations
Many people travel occasionally for work.
But for some, travel is at the heart of their job.
CNBC Travel spoke with people from four industries about occupations where working from home — or an office for that matter — isn’t an option.
A year of travel
Name: Sebastien Modak
Job: Former “52 Places Traveller” of the New York Times
Modak was one of 13,000 people who applied for a job that sent one person to every destination on The New York Times’ “Places to Go” list in 2018 – the first year the paper hired for the job.
He didn’t get the job.
“A year later, I thought, why not try again,” he said. “This time it worked!
As “52 Places Traveler” for 2019, Modak traveled to a new destination every week – from Bulgaria to Qatar and Uzbekistan to Vietnam – in a year he described as both exciting and grueling.
“I often say it was one of the greatest experiences of my life… but also the most difficult,” he said. “I didn’t have a day off for a whole year and the constant pressure of deadlines was hard to handle.”
Modak, who is now an editor at travel publisher Lonely Planet, said his advice to aspiring travel writers is to admit you don’t know anything. “The first step to finding and telling compelling travel stories is to ask questions and admit that you have so much to learn.”
Source: Sebastien Modak
Modak said the job requires someone who can “do it all,” from writing articles and posting on social media to taking photos and videos, he said.
“It was a lot! he said. “Besides storytelling skills, they were looking for someone with the stamina to get through the whole year.”
He attributes it mostly to luck getting the job, but he said he thinks his upbringing and enthusiasm for travel helped him. Modak’s father is from India and his mother is Colombian, he said, so “out of cultural compromise, they basically decided to move constantly.” As a result, he grew up in places like Hong Kong, Australia, India and Indonesia, he said.
Modak said the job – which has been billed as the quintessential “dream job” – was exhausting, stressful and even scary at times, but meant constant growth and adventure.
“I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world,” he said. “It opened my mind, introduced me to people on six continents…and cemented my love for going somewhere and looking for a story.”
Name: Sandra Black
Job: Communications Specialist for the United Nations
Black’s job doesn’t take him to typical travel locations, and his work trips are anything but overnight.
Since 2008, she has lived and worked in Senegal, East Timor, Central African Republic, Iraq and, most recently, Mozambique, in roles that last from several months to several years.
“Each [place] has its cultural highlights and warmth,” she said, while noting that living “where travel is restricted for security reasons” is the hardest part.
Since October 2021, Black has handled external communications for the Mozambican office of the United Nations Population Fund, a UN agency that focuses on reproductive health and rights and is funded entirely by donations, according to his website.
“I feel personally driven to support those who need it most,” she said.
Sandra Black (left) with women participating in a mat-making project at a resettlement site after Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in 2019.
Source: IOM/ Alfoso Pequeno
Black wrote about those displaced by Cyclone Idai in 2019 – one of Africa’s worst hurricanes on record – while working for the United Nations International Organization for Migration. She remembers meeting a woman named Sarah who climbed a tree with her baby after her house collapsed from flooding. The woman said she was rescued seven days later.
Originally from New York, Black speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese and a basic level of Wolof, the national language of Senegal, and Tetum, a language spoken in East Timor. She said her language skills are part of why she was rushed to cover humanitarian crises.
“At night, I type until I can’t keep my eyes open, then I start again at 6 a.m. the next day,” she said in an interview for the agency’s ‘Humanitarian Heroes’ campaign. UN in 2014.
“The most meaningful part of humanitarian communications is providing a platform for people affected by conflict and natural disasters to tell their stories,” she said. “Many sincerely want the world to know what happened to them and their communities.”
From leader to captain
Name: Tony Stewart
Position: Yacht Captain
Stewart said he plans to travel for nine months in 2022 at the helm of the 130ft “All Inn” tri-deck motor yacht. He has already left the Caribbean for Central America and Mexico. From the west coast of the United States, it will travel to the inside passage of British Columbia and southeast Alaska, then fly to Florida and end the year in the Bahamas, a-t -he declares.
That’s a bit longer than a “typical year,” he said, partly because of an increase in charter business this year, he said.
Stewart said he started in the yachting industry as a chef in 1998 and “immediately fell in love with the lifestyle, the work and the travels”. After a year and a half of cooking, Stewart changed careers.
Tony Stewart has ordered three motor yachts since 2006, he said, including the 130ft Westport tri-deck yacht named “All Inn”.
Source: Fraser Yachts
“I decided that I wanted to work towards getting my license and becoming a captain, at which point I accepted a job as [a] deckhand and started my journey,” he said.
The job requires strong problem-solving skills, organization and a high tolerance for stress, Stewart said. Captains do “a little bit of everything,” he said, from trip planning and accounting to “human resources duties” for crew and golf bookings for guests.
As for whether it’s a dream job, “it absolutely is,” Stewart said.
“We endure long days, and sometimes weeks without days off,” he said, but “I couldn’t imagine doing that…and not loving it.”
Expert in Italian villas
name: Amy Roper
Job: Villa manager for British travel and luxury villa company Red Savannah
Of the 300 villas Red Savannah works with, about 120 are in Italy, Ropner said. She estimates that she has visited around 80 to 90% of them.
She is traveling from London to Italy to appraise the company’s collection of “exceptionally high-end” villas and to assess new homes to add to the company’s roster, she said. On a recent trip, she traveled from Milan to Lake Como, to Tuscany, then further south to the towns of Amalfi and Positano, she said. Her next trip is to Puglia, she said, “because it’s beautiful and rugged and very popular right now.”
Amy Ropner of Red Savannah said her work focuses primarily on Italian villas, but also rental homes in Greece, Spain and the Caribbean. “I’m always ready to go anytime…we’re always on the move.”
Source: Red Savannah
About 90% of homes are privately owned, Ropner said. She meets with the owners and analyzes everything from the size of the pool decks to the beds (“there’s a difference between a British king and an American king”).
Most bookings are for children, so she checks that the stairs and balconies are safe for all ages; if not, the company notes it on the website, she said.
“We need to [know] if there are cats on the estate, whether on a dirt road…which obviously takes a little longer to get to…where the sun rises, where the sun sets” , she said.
Ropner often stays in the villas, which rent for between $5,000 and $200,000 a week, she said. She also explores local areas, so she can advise on restaurants, boat rentals and new services such as e-bike tours and ice cream-making classes, she said.
“I think people think everything is glamorous [but] it’s a lot of work,” she said, noting that she had already seen 50 villas in one trip.
“It’s glamorous,” she said, “but it can also be tiring.”