You don’t have to quit your job to see the world; some companies pay you to travel. Alan Perlman has what many JetSetCitizen readers would consider a dream job. Alan gets to go travel around the world to research the cost of living in various countries. Alan discusses some of his experiences in this interview.
What is your job?
I am a cost-of-living surveyor. A few times a year, I travel to different cities around the world on a global scavenger hunt for prices. Granulated salt? Women’s panties? You name it. The data is used to help multinational companies with their employees’ cost-of-living-allowances.
How many countries have you visited on business?
So far, I have surveyed 21 cities in 17 countries.
- Survey 1: United States, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Survey 2: Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan
- Survey 3: Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana
- Survey 4: Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Albania
- Survey 5: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Jordan (currently here…hello from Amman!), Syria, Qatar
What do you do when you go to a new country?
Ideally I will already know which outlets to visit—supermarkets, pharmacies, malls, real estate companies, etc. Sometimes that information is out-of-date, or if we have never surveyed a city before, unavailable. Such was the case in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and let me tell you, if weren’t for the help of my sweet, sweet translator, I don’t know how I would have gotten any work done!
To homogenize the data, each surveyor looks for the same market basket of goods in each city, so while I may not always know where to start, at least I know what to collect!
If you had to choose one country to live in for the rest of your life, where would that be and why?
Djibouti. Definitely Djibouti. No, wait! Turkmenistan. No, wait! Just kidding. Whew, really had you all with Djibouti, didn’t I? Seriously, though, if I was forced to choose one country to live in, I would have to choose the United States. This is where I have spent the most of my time, and I am quite comfortable with the “system” here. That’s not to say that I am against the idea of living long-term in other countries. Why John, do you have space for me in Japan?
How difficult is it to become a cost-of-living surveyor?
It’s like any other job, really. Since it’s a niche industry, though, it certainly helps to know someone. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and seized the opportunity when it came my way.
Do you have advice for others wanting to get started in this field?
I imagine that most people interested in this line of work are attracted primarily to the element of travel. I know I am. That being the case, there are plenty of ways to travel the world and get paid for it. Yes, there are photographers and writers and journalists, but there are also many, many corporate opportunities too. Keep your eyes peeled, and in the meantime, beef up your resume with language/travel experience to make yourself more marketable.
Do you have any plans or hopes to leave this job and do something else?
Yes, absolutely. Due to the turbulent nature of the work, most surveyors work from two to four years. I have personally committed to working at least two years (halfway there) and then reevaluating after that. For now, my stamina is strong and the travel bug is still itching away!
Please tell us about the Personal MBA and you experiences with it?
The Personal MBA is an experiment in business self-education. In 2005, after hundreds of hours of research and evaluation, Josh Kaufman put together a list of books that cover every important topic in today’s traditional MBA program. The list, which is periodically updated, is now at 95 books.
So far, I’ve read 5. On my blog, I hold myself publicly accountable for reviewing each of the 95 books, which has forced me to read more actively and to think about what specific lessons I can draw from each book. There are some books I’m not looking forward to (cough, cough, accounting, cough), but hopefully by exposing myself to the many sectors of the business world, I will narrow and refine my interests.
Do you recommend the PMBA to others?
If you’re like me and wary of shelling out a small fortune for an MBA, then yes, absolutely. I understand the value of networking, but (in my honest opinion) unless you’re in a top program, the costs far outweigh the benefits. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments! To read more, check out Kaufman’s manifesto.