I don’t often discuss my “other” job on this website. For all intents and purposes of this website, I’m a travel blogger. But, of course, we are not always as we seem.
My “real job,” if you want to call it that, is a playground to many, held in high regard by some, and looked down upon by more than a few. But there’s more to cocktail bartending than just regular old bartending, or pulling pints at the pub. And the story of how I, former cubicle-rat, ended up in one of the most social jobs that exists is an unusual one.
Up until I was about 25 I thought bartending was what all the “cool kids” were doing. And yeah, I wanted that.
After trying my hand at getting bar jobs in my home city of Boston, my fruitless endeavors waned as my intermittent IT contract jobs continued to shorten in length and I was constantly looking for new contracts to pay the bills with. I had just graduated, the recession had hit, and I was working in an industry that I absolutely loathed.
I decided to pack it in, sell my car (I miss you, baby) and buy a one way ticket to Australia in search of the best travel job I could find—bartending.
I had dreams of serving drinks to beautiful bikini-clad Australian women whom I would woo and seduce. My grandiose dreams were completely shattered, though, when I realized my role as a barback in one of Australia’s dirtiest backpacker bars.
I was literally cleaning up piss and puke as drunken backpackers spilled three dollar drinks over my head.
But I got my foot in the door.
Three jobs, four months and 11 cities later, I had exactly what I wanted.
I was serving drinks on the beaches of Australia. I drank beer and flirted with gorgeous women every day. I popped bottles of Corona for surfer dudes and poured vodka, soda, limes for scantily clad beach babes. Though I was behind the bar, I worked in the sun. I walked home along the beach every day after work.
Life was sunny, intoxicating and carefree. I got exactly what it was that I left home to find: paradise.
But, as all good things must come to an end, my one-year Australia working holiday visa expired and I continued my worldly journey in the ever stunning New Zealand.
Here, through some serious determination to find a bartending job (and some twisted miracle), I started working at a cocktail and wine bar in a world-class hotel. My manager, incidentally, was a 1990’s veteran of the London bar scene, and had worked at some of London’s most highly rated cocktail bars. Milk & Honey, LAB, The Player, Mahiki, Claridges, The Bar at the Dorchester, The Groucho Club, The Ivy Club, SoHo House. He had stepped foot behind them all.
Though he was a terrible manager, he taught me how to be an excellent bartender. He taught me a new drinking philosophy, in which quality is superior to quantity. He taught me techniques, recipes, standards, and the tricks of the trade that only the best bartenders in the world are familiar with. He taught me new ways to make old classics like a Whisky Sour.
Today, I consider myself very good at what I do, possessing a level of knowledge that a select number of people ever obtain. The three year progression, from where I started to where I am now, is empirically significant. I have continued to get better and improve myself as a professional. With every venue I work at, the quality of the bar, and my role within it, advances.
And I have big things planned for the future.
The point I am making is that I did not develop my career by staying at home and working on it. I found an entirely new direction in life through world exploration. I would not have discovered this passion, and acquired the skills that I have, if I hadn’t left home to travel the globe.
Staying in my environment, then, actually would have been detrimental to my career. I would still be working the same cubicle job, wasting my life away in front of a computer screen. Instead, I’m living my life to the fullest, taking advantage of worldly opportunities and improving my craft.
Now, after three years of travel, and working in different towns and cities along the way, my CV is filled with top-notch experience. Since traveling, I have had a vast amount of exposure, and my CV bleeds with well-earned qualifications.
My transient nature meant I (sometimes) carelessly jumped from one job to the next. In this sense, my travels actually expedited my ability to climb the ladder. Albeit, my jobs were for short periods of time (4-6 months each), but my level of comprehension across the board more than makes up for it.
After discovering I was passionate about cocktails, drinks and bars, I realized that the hospitality industry is something I want to continue to be a part of. Now, my goal is to open a place of my own. After all, I’m not going to get rich working behind the bar for the next 30 years.
But I do plan to get rich (doesn’t everybody?)! And I’ve realized that the best place to do this might not be in America. There are opportunities that exist all over the world, and the ones that make the most financial sense probably aren’t in your home town.
But how can someone find these opportunities if they never leave home? If you stay in the same city, working the same job, your scope is limited. Want to make big money on a global scale? Then travel the world.
I am not a product of my environment. I am the product of someone who left it. And now I have created something entirely new for myself because, with my particular skill set, and in my current location outside of the United States, I find myself on the verge of some very big possibilities.
It appears that staying at home and working a “stable” career doesn’t necessarily make the most sense. It’s uncertainty that breeds new opportunity. I had no idea I would take this path, but I never would have discovered just how much of the world was wide open to me if I hadn’t started traveling the globe in the first place.
Jeremy believe that you are doing well…My cousin has an experience of more than 15+years as a bar tender…but in India there is not much value and income for this job…So seeking for an overseas opportunity…can you please help to get an opportunity for him if possible…
Thanks in anticipation
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Hi my name is Michael I’m going to Thailand Phuket for a bartending school because I know I can’t currently work as a bartender yet but will try my best to achieve it I’m currently 17 gonna be 17 by December I’m from Malaysia by the way I would like to know which countries or places you recommend for me to go work at in these bartender jobs I saw some post about vegas and such I’m kinda new to this trying to find what I like but so far I love interacting with people and yes an extrovert but the thing is I wanna try my best and gain the experience and be better than you guys ? By the way if there is any advice you could give please do share anyone from this comment section I wanna try new recipes and experiment ?
Hey man, I seriously doubt that you will ever read this, but I just wanted to thank you so much for posting this. I recently started bartending at my bar and I’m definitely in love with it. I have never been so passionate in anything in so long. It makes me feel alive. I’ve been researching all day and night on new recipes and learning as much as I can by myself. I would definitely love to purse in bartending and make a career out of it for life, but I didn’t want to work every day, doing the same thing, making the same drinks, same routines every day. I was highly considering to drop this passion of mines and work in a stupid 9 to 5 job like everyone else to pay off loans and do bartending as a side hobby. After reading this article, it gave me a new perspective on how I can look on life and my passion. I don’t have to stay in the same place, work in the same job every day. I can always travel across the globe in order to hone my skills. I never been this excited for life knowing that this is actually possible. There is so many unlimited possibilities we can do, but we are so clouded by what society tells us what path we must take. Therefore, I must really thank you for giving me hope and a reason to go on. One day, I really hope I will be able to travel across the globe just like you and become a professional and hopefully opening up my bar one day.
May I ask one question though if you ever see this? How should I approach this dream if I have tons of loans coming from a person with no support? I really appreciate it. Thank you!
Hey Jeremy, I loved your post! I really want to travel through California for 3 months on my next vacation, but for that, I would need to work for 1-2 months. Do you think that if I go with a work visa, it will be easy to find a job in a bar? I live in Brazil and I’m 23 years old. Thank you so much!
currently am 18 but ive been serving tables for a year and a half and have been at the same restaurant for 4 years, as its been my first and only job. (I started as a bus boy)I love the restaurant life and knowing the regulars. I love talking and connecting with people, I work at a mexican restaurant so spanish is a little extra thing I can throw into a job. Im also from Guatemala I’ve been in the usa for 10 years, living here has so many opportunities. I do have to ask how does someone do what you did without direction or guide? im just lost on where to start any tips?
I really enjoyed with your story…
I have been searching for so long ways to travel while I’m young and broke. After reading your post, my heart feels like it could beat out of my chest!
My concern after following your blog post is that I am 25 & have never ben a bar tender. I’ve waited tables and have other job experience, of course, mainly in sales.
Would you suggest that I immediately start getting into bar tending? Or have you seen other outlets to travel and work in other fields in the way that you have?
If you have experience waiting tables, that’s just as good! Use that skill, take it with you, and travel the world!
Hi, the whole thing is going fine here and
ofcourse every one is sharing data, that’s in fact good,
keep up writing.
Thank you so much! I will definitely follow your link for more info. China sounds wonderful and I’m excited to learn more!
You are welcome all the time 🙂
hope to learn from you too about traveling and blogging as i recently started blogging and want to be a traveler and wander around the World..Keep in Touch.
you can also find me here on Skype
Skype Id: saleem.ashraf98
Thank you to you too
Thank you so much for the advice! I am definitely looking into Asia, as I would love to see as many different countries as possible! Could you recommend a specific area to which might have lots of outdoor activities along with the possibility of teaching? I’m a bit of an adventure junkie.
you welcome 🙂
Yes,As i already recommend for you that China is best option to teach English,Travel and adventure junkie.As China will be the gateway for you to visit Pakistan and many other countries where you can find lots of adventurous activities.These days China government and many other organizations,schools and etc welcome and need English Teachers to teach English Courses to their new generation.
This time i am also planning to Apply for China to Study “Tourism Course”.
You Can find me here for more Discussion.I will let you know more about the things related to your travel plan to Asia and help you to find a job in my Country,too.
Right now ive juat bartended in Indiana, all my traveling has been for vacation, not work related. At the moment im looking to get my TEFL certification so that I might be able to teach English as I travel, along with bartend. At the moment I really have no sources to share, I wish I could help!
Thank You for your response.
A suggestion from my side to you that you should apply for China to teach English after certification along which you can visit Asian Pacific countries like Pakistan,India,Iran etc as well.
You are living my dream…..literally I Googled traveling bartender after a dream I had last night. I’m 30 with no children or husband and I’ve bartended for the past 6yrs. Travel is in my blood. I wish this was the story of my life. I’m working on the “just do it” part…..probably the hardest part.
It’s mentally hard, but physically, it’s actually pretty easy. Just go 😉
Hope you having good time.As you mentioned in the above comment that you have worked for 6 years.Do you have any source to apply for such an opportunity which will lead us to both earning and travelling.Will you please recommend me a such platform to which i will easily apply or join???
Very helpful post and really appreciated your work.I just started blogging want to travel around the world and this best idea you have mentioned in the post to earn and travel.
But i didnt find actual link to apply for that.
Hey Jeremy, First let me me say how impressed I am that after all these years you still respond to the comments here. I’m 18 and from California. I have little work experience but I have a few friends that are teaching me a bit about bartending. I was planning on taking the same path you did and stumbled upon your blog. Just curious about how feasible this all is with no real experience? And how to make a CV as I only know about resumes? Excellent blog and quite inspiring
I am a 22 year old bartender interested in a similar path as yours.
Do you have to come back to the US everytime you need to get a new work visa?
I’m looking at some of the requirements and I’m not sure I qualify for most countries…
I haven’t graduated college and i dont have thousands of dollars sitting around for a return trip just in case.
I know you just got up and went, but what are the little details?
Which countries were the easiest to get a work visa for? Can you do it on the go? How long do they take?
Did you get your work visa for Australia before or after you left?
In desperate need of unanswered questions.
And in desperate need to see the world.
Any knowledge would help.
The stuck one…
You usually don’t need to return to your home country in order to get a work visa. You’ll need to check the specific entry requirements for the country you’re planning to visit, though. I actually recommend going to Australia as it’s one of the easiest places to get a working/holiday visa—I’ve got a blog post coming out about it soon. Keep your eyes open!
haha… then you should come to beijing take care of my bar and i would gladly go traveling instead 😛 interesting to be reading this blog because i dream of leaving my bar and go travel and you are traveling and dreaming of opening your own barxxxxxx
Thank you so much for writing this and motivating me to push my bartending skills further! I’ve felt so stuck in the small town I live in, with no room for growth. I’m in college, and I plan on finishing my term this summer, but I hate it so much, and I feel as if I’m going in the wrong direction in life. College just doesn’t make me happy at all. I’m nervous to leave, but I think it will be so worth it!
College is a worthwhile experience to have under your belt. I definitely recommending sticking around to get a degree. But, afterwards, there are lots of places all around the world that can hire a skilled bartender.
To Sarah Kirkman
I know that we don’t know each other but I feel like I need to respond to your comment about college. I left college my Jr year because I was miserable, didn’t want the degree I was after anymore, started not caring as much, and my grades started suffering. I felt lost, unhappy, and that I was wasting my time and money. Someone told me to really think about what I wanted in my life and what would make me happy. I thought long and hard. I finished up that semester and left college. That was four years ago and I still think it was one of the hardest but best decisions I’ve ever made. Even though I support a college degree and there are definitely benefits in having one, it’s not something you need to have in order to be successful and happy. I’m not saying drop out or stay in college but take time to think about what you really want and what would make you happy.
PS Good luck with bartending and whatever your decide to do!
Jeremy: If you’re reading this, great article! Very inspiring. Thank you 🙂
I am a strong advocate for getting a college degree for numerous different reasons, but you’re right–it’s an individual decision that each person needs to make.
Thanks for reading!
Well bartending is something that i really love , i still got the passion for mixing drinks … but i doubt that i am that fast as when i was younger.
The Bar is a second chance , for the unrealised artists to become truly alive 🙂
I love that proffesion .. it helped me develop my people skills , also everybody loves the one who can stir a drink and get them not thinking about their problems for a while…
Hey i am really impressed by your decisions.
I was on that path too i worked as IT technician , then i get so bored that i decided to increase my taste of life when i was 21 , 4 years of bartending , plenty of cool chicks , amazing sex life … the list can go on … actually i stopped because i wanted something serious for my life and to slow down… i worked on highly crowded nightclubs so i get a little bit exhausted… so i started to learn for software developer… but today i am again on the same place … antisocial , without social proof and i am not laid like a rockstar … actually it is tough with the chicks when you got to rely on your inner game. Wishing you good luck on your journey !
Relying on your inner game is a good exercise! You have to find reasons besides standing at a bar (which is superficial) to set yourself apart. Sounds like you wouldn’t mind taking up a part time gig though. Any thoughts on that?
So i’m doing basically the same thing as you do, i started up by moving to London from Italy, travelled to Caribbean after few years, then Barcelona, now i’m in the beautiful Sydney. Keep Traveling, keep learning, keep bartending!
1000s of these days mate!
Im in the exact position this story describes. Ive been a barmen since i was 17 now Im kind of fed up, not with the job but with my surroundings. I want to travel but all ways procrastinate. My job recenctly closed so I think now is the perfect time to pack up and leave. Uncertainty breeds opportunity .. That will stick with me for a while.
Cheers from Dublin all the best for 2016 cheif
I’m notorious for procrastinating, too! It can be done, you just have to take the first steps.
Hey. Love the article. Very well written. I am also an international mixologist. Just getting my start though. Ive backpacked europe and am going on a second trip as well.
Working in a shitty job just getting the experience required in the hospitality industry for employers.
Was there a specific country that you found it easiest to get a starting job as a cocktail bartender?
And just for fun do you do working flair?
Shitty experience is required! We’ve all got it 😉 I made my splash in New Zealand, but really it could be anywhere. You just have to have the right skills and some killer networking abilities.
I never got into flair, but I know plenty of people who do. I’ve always just focused on the drinks 🙂
Thanks for the blog. Will read on…
This is awesome man! This is exactly my dream and what I’ve been working towards since I’ve realized the 9-5 stagnant lifestyle is not for me. I’m a well seasoned bartender but haven’t taken it on the road yet. I plan on venturing out next year one i save up some money. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated! Congrats on your success so far!
My first stop was Australia–the wages are good and a Working/Holiday visa is easy to get. Good luck, man, and let me know if you have any questions!
I appreciate you sharing this article post.Thanks Again.
I’ve been tending bar for a while now, and feel dry in Sacramento, California. I just opened my eyes to traveling and bartending in different countries, I was wondering if I could get your email or you could email me, I have more than a few questions. Thanks for your time,
Of course! Just click “Contact” in the menu bar and you can send me an email directly 🙂
So,basically, I am getting ready to do the exact same thing you have done. I have been bartending on and off for the past ten years at everything from dive bars in Indiana, to Big 10 college campus bars, to night clubs in Chicago. What I am more worried about is where I should attempt to live in Australia and how to go about finding a job. Ultimately my dream would be to live on a shack on a beach, spending my days exploring and bartend at night. My living quarters do not need to be the best but I would like to be safe and right off of the beach. I am also considering moving to Australia from Chicago in August or September.
Can you please suggest a city to live in and some areas to go to? Also, please give me any advice or suggestions. Anything and everything would be appreciated.
Thank you so much!
Sounds like you’re ready for a big adventure. If you’re looking for beach, I’d recommend Melbourne as a good place to start (there is a beach in St. Kilda and there are lots of bars there). If you’re looking for a shack on a beach, I wouldn’t expect to make much money, but there are plenty of islands and small coastal towns on the east coast. You could also look into Perth or the western coast of Australia. More beach, less people, better money, but fewer potential jobs, too.
Feel free to shoot me an email if you have more in depth questions!
Loved reading this post. It’s exactly what I want to do around the world, along with a few other wildlife and fitness passions.
I’m heading to Central and South America in June time. I’m looking forward to using all that fresh fruit out there to put a smile on people’s faces whilst they’re getting drunk!
Sounds awesome, Dan! Let me know if you have any questions! Good luck, and enjoy your adventures!
Cool story! I love a good cocktail. Something fresh, maybe a tad fruity, with a tart note. Anything in your repertoire for me? 🙂 I look forward to ponying up to your classy bar one day and chatting about adventures.
I have just the thing for you! I’ll keep it in my back pocket for when you sidle up to my bar! 😉
I couldn’t have said it better myself, I previously worked a desk job upon graduating from college. Then I was asked to bartend because of my personality and genuine interest in interacting with people. I saw the money that you could make (more than double what my ‘career’ was paying) and thought: If I’m making this kind of money, I need to be the best at this I can possibly be. Much like you I have not remained stagnant. I continually strive to learn more everyday and in just a couple (of awesome) years, I’ve made it to craft cocktail level. Reading your story pretty much summed up my plans for the next couple of years. Thanks for sharing your story and i wish you nothing but the best. Cheers!
Amazing! It’s true that there are some fantastic opportunities out there. I look forward to having a drink at your bar one of these days! Cheers, Chris!
Hey Jeremy! Awesome story dude. I truly admire what you’ve done. I’ve been barbacking & bartending at many different venues over the course of 5 years in Providence and Boston. I’ll be in Australia in a few weeks to start my journey around the world as a traveling bartender. If you have any other helpful advice or connections please let me know.
Good for you, Craig! You’re going to have an amazing time! Shoot me an email if you need anything!
Faaantastc post! I’m bartending now where I live in Cali, but life is getting boring and boring is shitty.I mean fuck, this post makes me think getting out there is actually feasible. It’s been my first gig though, so I’m worried about being able to find a job if I dropped everything and did a working holiday in Oz. What’d you use for your fake CV? 😀 And since you’ve done it a few times, how risky is dropping everything and just hoping I’ll find a job? xoBecca
Rebecca, it’s totally feasible! Shoot me an email. We’ll talk 🙂
Bro m from India I just passed out my high school is there is any option to get job like this
I literally googled best cities to bartend around the world. Awesome story. I finally quit my cubicle cliche 9-5 nightmare and I have been only bartending now (I used to do both) I’m ready to just go for it! I’m glad I ran into your story….best wishes ! Maybe I’ll run into you somewhere 🙂
Amazing! One day, in some country, perhaps we’ll share a drink on one side of the bar or the other!
I love reading about people making bold moves and making their dreams come true! Thank you for sharing your story and hopefully inspiring others to pursue their own dreams and live big lives!
Jeremy – I’m all over this post. I’m currently coming to the end of my holiday working visa in Oz and am gearing up to write my own blog about living and traveling abroad. AND I’m a bartender by ‘trade’ hah – always looking to move up the ladder. Although I will say, I do miss the tips from the US 🙂
Sounds awesome, Caitlin! It’s a sad day when the working/holiday visa runs out. What’s next for you?
This is a great article my man. This is exactly what I want to do with my Oz and NZ visas. Awesome.
Do it! Make it happen, Turner!
Hey Jeremy I’m looking to work overseas, but I’m 32 .. What’s the best way to go about it? I have 13 years of bartending and serving experience. Plus I’m attractive and personable as hell.. Advice??
My advice is to just get out there! Get a work visa and go. If you’re personable as hell, you won’t have any problem picking up a gig wherever you land.
I’m the guy that showed you the ipad app moteles chile on your last day in Yangshuo.
I read your site time by time and i really enjoy it.
Hope you to invite a drink when you open your own expensive stylish bar in Boston haha.
Cheers from India
Hey Eugenio! Thanks for stopping by! I hope India is treating you well! I’ll be sure to invite you to the opening! 😀
Loved reading this post. I think the so-called ‘standards’ of the society deprived some to really discover and pursue their passion in life. Invite me when your bar opens 😀
I think you’re absolutely right! Unfortunately, so many Americans follow the prescribed path of “school, then career” with no other options made visible to them. I just call myself lucky for getting out in time!
And don’t worry–I’ll put you on the VIP list!
Jeremy did you have to deal with visas and all that in order to work? How did you do that?
Hey Sheila! Indeed, work visas are essential. Sign up for the email list and I’ll send you more info once the project is ready to be launched—it will cover everything!