Just saw this and it was too good not to repost. I know several people who work in human rights, or aspire to it, and I know expats teaching English who face a similar lifestyle choice.
You’re an aid worker with 10+ years experience under your belt. You earn a pittance but it works for you because you are non-resident at home so you don’t pay tax, you are catered for on assignment so you don’t pay rent,and your mortgage is covered by the people renting your place because you are never there. You can’t hold down a relationship for more than 3 months and you secretly know that despite what you tell him/her it’s really not because you’re only ever there for 3 months… it’s because you can’t live without the independence.
UN convoy in Chad; UN Photo/Olivia Grey Pritchard
Things are ok now but you’re approaching 40. What should you do? What does the future hold? Are you one of the new world order of aid worker gypsies?
Welcome to your future – these are your life options:
Option 1. You go back to a headquarters job. Instead of doing what you want to do, you now advise people who are doing what you used to do. You earn the same more or less as you did before, but your costs of living shoot skywards because you’re now paying tax, rent/mortgage and utilities…
You consider sharing accommodation and, bingo, you’re a student again and like a student can’t afford to do 1% of the things you think you would like to do.
Option 2. You go work for the UN. Keep the job you love and the lifestyle that goes with it. Your salary jumps to levels that used to get you all riled up after a few drinks back when you used to work for “honest” down-to-earth INGOs. Now you’re cynical about them all and aggressively defend your need to raise a nest egg to plough the way for the family/dog/cottage/brats you’re planning. You’ve done your bit after all. You do this for a while before you realize you sacrificed every dream you ever had in this work and can no longer look yourself in the mirror.
Option 3. You find something suitable in the commercial sector and live happily ever after. This only happens to 1/10,000 aid workers and if you’re a logistician, forget it.
Option 4. You retrain and change course. You take a massive pay cut. Your skills and experience in aid work go unused and unappreciated. You marry someone who will never fully understand where you are coming from and why you are quiet for long periods of time. If you haven’t left it too late to have kids, just remember – dysfunctional.
Option 5. You write your memoirs and someone makes a movie out of it starring Leonardo De Caprio / Angelina Jolie. You become an even more arrogant git, lose all your friends, and make a lot of cash. This only happens to 1/100,000 aid workers and will definitely not happen to you!
Option 6. You become that lonely, jaded expat sat at the bar in some third world piss pot letching over young locals and making snide remarks.
Option 7. You decide to set up home but not in your own country. Forget moving back to London, Paris, New York, Munich but head for the Balkan Adriatic or one of the emerging Eastern European States before the property developers get there, and develop a serious liver problem.
Option 8. You hit the road along with thousands of your cohorts with visions of huge bands of ex-aid worker families roaming the European countryside in caravans, plastered with “No guns on board” stickers and of course pulled by white Toyota Land Cruiser hardtops and pickups, scratching out a life by erecting latrines and living under plastic sheeting. You take stock count of everything you come across….. and from time-to-time you seek charity.