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Around the world in 80 jobs | Bellevue man finds work, experience in his global travels
While talks of a stagnant economy still saturate the public dialogue, Turner Barr has spent the last year as a tequila harvester in Mexico, peddled tours outside the Colosseum, made pizzas in Italy and sold mulled wine at a Christmas market in Germany, just a few of his many odd jobs.
“Most Americans do two months in Europe [after they graduate], and that’s their biggest hoorah,” says Barr. “Then they think, ‘I have to go to the real world now,’ whatever that means, rather than creating a world they want to live in.”
Barr grew up in Bellevue. He attended Newport High School, and later went on to UC Berkeley, where he says he got good grades, and excelled in most subjects. But like most graduates, he didn’t feel satisfied with his college years.
“American universities pump this idea: You go to school, you get the best job you can, you make the most money you can. They don’t give you direction. They don’t ask the question: What is it you’re good at,” says Barr. “In fact, they gloss over all that.”
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Barr traveled to Latin America, using the money he’d saved to get around. He had plans of opening a youth hostel in Columbia, but when the economy tanked, so too did his business venture. Barr didn’t feel done with his travels, so he got his master’s degree in Luxembourg, while plotting his next move. That’s when Barr realized, there was nothing keeping him from living abroad.
So he started a blog, titled “Around the World in 80 Jobs,” and began puddle jumping from one country to the next, hustling for gigs as he went. Each new experience was converted to a blog post. Barr didn’t want to compete with the host of travel bloggers in cyberspace. He wanted to prove to himself, and others, that his dream was feasible.
“It’s hard to get at what you want to do in life, what are your values, because those are derived from experience,” explained Barr, who admits most of his peers have already fallen lockstep in with the rest of his generation. “...But you have to create those opportunities.”
Barr recalls one of his most recent gigs in Austria, where he played the role of a Krampus, an abominable-snowman-like creature that disciplines children who’ve misbehaved around the holidays. Young men, dress up as the ghoulish figure, visiting with children much as kids take pictures with Santa Claus in the U.S. Barr suspects that he’s the only foreigner to have auditioned for the part, and insists that experiences like that one, have allowed him to experience global cultures in a way no other tourist could.
“The first time you go abroad maybe you go on some boxed tour or something. Or if you’re a young person, maybe you stay at a hostel, then go out and explore on your own, or coach surf,” says Bar. “But [to be] on the back of a wagon, going through the Alps, in a Krampus mobile with 20 other guys who don’t speak English, that’s a whole other layer to knowing a culture.”
Barr returned to Bellevue this December, but hopes to leave again as soon as possible. Among the jobs he hopes to secure this time around is a safari guide in South Africa. Traveling can lose its luster, he admits. So this time around, he’s hoping to find more permanent gigs.
Barr points to other travel bloggers and says that there’s a new generation of nomadic entrepreneurs surfacing. Finding jobs abroad requires a certain set of skills and scrappy persistence, says Barr. Unlike stateside, many don’t have social networks to fall back on.
Barr says that he used to fall into a mindset that many in his generation share: an attitude of entitlement.
“I’d graduated from school, and was taken aback,” said Barr about not immediately being able to find a job. “Because I’d done what I was supposed to do...I think our generation has this sense of entitlement – you get this because you did that.”
Barr says that he’s not working toward any particular goal, but notes that there are often more job opportunities abroad than there are stateside. Self-assured and thoughtful, Barr says his parents have always supported him, saying that even from a young age he marched to the beat of his own drum.
“I’m still trying to find my muse. It’s an evolution and it changes with time and life experiences.”