Many people occasionally travel for work.
But for some, traveling is at the heart of their jobs.
CNBC Travel spoke to people from four industries about occupations where working from home — or in an office — isn’t an option.
a year of travel
Name: Sebastian Modak
Job: Former 52-seat New York Times traveler
Modak was one of 13,000 people who applied for a position that sent one person to every destination on The New York Times’ “Places to Go” list in 2018 — the first year the paper has hired for the position.
He didn’t get the job.
“A year later, I thought, why not try again,” he said. “This time it worked!”
As the “52 Places Traveler” of 2019, Modak traveled to a new destination every week – from Bulgaria to Qatar and from 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 hardest,” he said. “I didn’t have a day off for an entire year, and the constant pressure of deadlines was hard to deal with.”
Modak, who is now general editor at travel publisher Lonely Planet, said his advice to aspiring travel writers is to admit you don’t know anything. “The first step in finding and telling compelling travel stories is asking questions and admitting that you have a lot to learn.”
Source: Sebastian Modak
Modak said the job requires someone who can “do everything” from writing articles and posting on social media to taking pictures and videos, he said.
“It was a lot!” he said. “In addition to storytelling skills, they were looking for someone with stamina to spend the entire year with.”
He mainly credits his luck with getting the job, but said he believed his education and enthusiasm for travel helped. Modak’s father is from India and his mother is Colombian, he said, so “as a cultural compromise, they 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 was billed as the quintessential “dream job” – was exhausting, stressful and even scary at times, but one of constant growth and adventure.
“I wouldn’t take that back to 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
Position: Communications Specialist for the United Nations
Black’s work doesn’t take her to typical travel spots, and her work trips are anything but overnight stays.
Since 2008, he has lived and worked in Senegal, East Timor, the Central African Republic, Iraq and, more recently, Mozambique, in roles that last several months to years.
“Each [place] it has its cultural highlights and warmth,” she said, noting that living “where movement is restricted due to security concerns” is the most challenging part.
Since October 2021, Black has handled external communications for the Mozambique office of the United Nations Population Fund, a UN agency that focuses on reproductive health and rights and that is fully funded by grants, according to its website.
“Personally, I feel motivated to support those who need it most,” she said.
Sandra Black (left) with women participating in a carpet-making project at a resettlement site after Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in 2019.
Source: IOM/Alfoso Pequeno
Black wrote about people who were displaced by Cyclone Idai in 2019 – one of the worst hurricanes on record to hit Africa – while working for the UN International Organization for Migration. She remembers meeting a woman named Sarah who climbed a tree with her baby after her house collapsed because of the flood. The woman said she was rescued seven days later.
A New York native, Black speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese and a basic level of Wolof, Senegal’s national language, and Tetum, a language spoken in East Timor. She said her language skills are, in part, why she was urgently sent to cover humanitarian crises.
“At night I type until I can’t keep my eyes open and start again at 6am the next day,” she said in an interview with the UN’s “humanitarian hero” campaign in 2014.
“The most significant 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 chef to captain
Name: Tony Stewart
Position: Yacht Captain
Stewart said he hopes to travel for nine months in 2022 at the helm of the 130-foot “All Inn” motor yacht. He has already moved from the Caribbean to Central America and Mexico. From the west coast of the United States, it will go to the British Columbia Inner Passage and southeast Alaska, then fly to Florida and end the year in the Bahamas, he said.
That’s a little more than a “typical year,” he said, in part because of a surge 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, work and travel”. After a year and a half of cooking, Stewart changed careers.
Tony Stewart has captained three motor yachts since 2006, he said, including the 130-foot Westport three-story yacht called the “All Inn.”
Source: Fraser Yachts
“I decided I wanted to work to get my license and become a captain when I took a job as [a] sailor 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 travel planning and accounting to “HR duties” for crew and golf bookings for guests.
On whether it’s a dream job — “it sure is,” Stewart said.
“We put up with long days, and sometimes weeks without days off,” he said, but “I couldn’t imagine doing that… and not loving it.”
Italian village specialist
Name: Amy Ropner
Position: Head of Villas at UK-based luxury villas and travel company Red Savannah
Of the 300 villages Red Savannah works with, about 120 are in Italy, Ropner said. She estimates that she has visited about 80% to 90% of them.
She travels from London to Italy to appraise the company’s collection of “exceptionally sophisticated” villas and assess new homes to add to the company’s roster, she said. During a recent trip, she traveled from Milan to Lake Como, down to Tuscany, then further south to the cities of Amalfi and Positano, she said. Her next trip is to Puglia, she said, “because it’s beautiful, robust and very popular right now.”
Amy Ropner of Red Savannah said her work primarily focuses 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 go.”
Source: Red Savannah
About 90% of homes are privately owned, Ropner said. She knows 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 involve children, so she makes sure the stairs and balconies are safe for all ages; if not, the company notes it on the website, she said.
“We need [know] if there are cats on the property, if it’s 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 are rented for $5,000 to $200,000 a week, she said. She also explores local areas so she can advise on restaurants, boat rentals and new services like e-bike tours and gelato-making classes, she said.
“I think people think it’s all glamorous [but] it’s a lot of work,” she said, noting that she once saw 50 villages on one trip.
“It’s glamorous,” she said, “but it can also be exhausting.”