Before we get into this, let’s get one thing straight; travel doesn’t need to be expensive. You can spend as little or as much as you want on your trips depending on your priorities.
The one question we are asked time and time again is “How do you afford it?” – people find it difficult to understand how we can afford to travel full-time. The truth is you don’t need to be super-rich to afford to travel full-time, you need to be passionate and make travel a priority. You need to be willing to do whatever it takes in order to keep your travels going. Sleep in a dingy hostel, take a ride on the top of a public bus, walk rather than take a taxi, eat local food, learn some of the local language, whatever it is, if it will save you money it should be at the top of your list.
Earning an income to afford to travel full-time
With that said, saving money is only one aspect of it. We left Ireland in 2009 and we’ve been on the road since. If you have a lump of savings to work from, the more money you save, the longer your money will last – simples! But the day will come when your bank account is approaching zero and it’s time for the dream to end. So, how do you keep the dream alive?
Unless you’re a lottery winner, you’re going to need to earn an income in order to afford to travel full-time. We’ve tried a number of different ways to make an income while travelling over the years and we are now making enough money to travel the world while working from our laptops. It doesn’t matter if it’s the top of a mountain or a tropical beach – if there’s a WiFi signal we’re good to go.
Here is how we afford our current travel lifestyle and some of the ways we have made an income while travelling in the past.
This travel blog earns us a small income each month. We’re full-on travel addicts, travel is our passion and we love sharing our photos, stories and videos with others who share that passion. Our earnings from our travel blog come mainly through advertising, sponsored posts and affiliate marketing. We also partner with brands and tourism boards in different campaigns. For these projects we might receive payment or the costs of the trip might be covered. We take every project, article and campaign as they come.
It’s worth mentioning that travel blogging is hugely competitive and it can take some time before you are making any money from your blog. You need to be dedicated, passionate and be prepared to learn on the job. (Travel Blog Success is a great course to get you started and has a great community of travel bloggers from around the world.) When it comes to running your blog you will play the role of writer, photographer, editor, website designer, accountant and marketer – and doing all of this while you deal with travelling full-time. It’s not for everyone, but if you can make it work it’s the best job ever. We wouldn’t change it for anything!
In addition to running our own blog, we do freelance writing for other websites and publications. There are always opportunities on websites like Outsourcely, Elance and Upwork where you can pick up writing work, editing work, graphic design jobs, virtual assistant gigs, you name it. These can be a great way of making some extra cash while you’re on the road. If you’re travelling in a country where the cost of living is very low, like India for example and you can make $100 a week writing a few articles, then that’s your expenses covered.
The majority of our income at the moment comes from our content writing businesses. Completely separate from our travel blog, we have two small content writing businesses. We have a number of regular clients who we write content for on a number of different topics. It could be writing about anything from dentistry to gates. It can be web content, e-books, whitepapers, blog articles; you name it. This provides us with something of a regular income from month to month – it’s not a steady income but we make it work.
Travelling in cheap countries
Being able to afford to travel full-time means being selective with where you go. South-east Asia, the Indian Sub-Continent, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Eastern Europe are where we have mostly been based over the last six years. The cost of living in these countries is much lower, allowing us to live for a fraction of the cost and if you learn to haggle it can be even cheaper! It’s less expensive for us to travel in these countries than it would be for us to live in Ireland. Choosing to travel in cheaper countries will allow you to stretch your money further, enjoy your time, and do and see more in each place.
As well as travelling in cheaper countries, we also prefer to travel independently as much as we can. For us, we prefer to travel this way anyway and the added bonus is that it significantly lowers our costs. Generally, we prefer not to take guides or tours if we can help it. Instead, we’ll figure out how we can do it ourselves and it usually leads to a more authentic experience. Plus, you can go at your own pace, you don’t have to share the experience with dozens of other people and you’ll have more time to get lost in whatever it is your doing. We completely understand the pros of group travel and realize that our style of travel might not be for everyone, but if you want to cut down your costs it’s worth doing more things independently.
Stopping to live
Travelling constantly can be tiring. You’re changing beds every other night, you have no routine and you’re always on the go. Every now and then, we rent somewhere for a month or two and recharge. Airbnb is great for short-term rentals of a few months and the monthly prices are way cheaper than nightly. There are also some good deals on apartments through Booking.com, depending on what part of the world you’re travelling in. Being able to do grocery shopping and cook saves money on eating out and staying in reading, planning your next trip or just watching TV is less expensive than entertaining yourself every evening. While you are taking a break from travel, you’re also living in a new location that you can get to know and enjoy while having a base from which to go and see all of the local sights and those in the surrounding areas.
Originally our main income was from teaching English in South Korea. Like so many others we operated the common ‘work-save-travel-repeat’ program. Living in South Korea, we had a great standard of living, we travelled a lot around Asia using Korea as a base and we were able to save half our wages each month comfortably. Your employer provides you with a free apartment to live in, your return airfare is provided and the cost of living is about half of what it is in Ireland. We absolutely loved living and working in Korea and learned so much about Korean culture and customs, but we wanted to travel more than two sets of two-week holidays in a year so we looked at how we could afford to travel full-time and work remotely.
In the last couple of years, we’ve started using house-sitting as a way to spend longer in places without having to pay any rent. We stayed in a little Andalusian Village minding a home and four dogs. It was a great way to experience living in a small Spanish town and we loved the experience. The owners even left us their car to use so we were able to explore the surrounding area easily. Trusted Housesitters had been our go-to website for house sitting, it’s really easy to use, it has the best listings and although it is a little more expensive than some of the other websites out there, it’s worth it for the better opportunities.
Other travel jobs
Over the years, we have worked different jobs to provide us with an income while abroad. Some of these jobs were more enjoyable than others but they all served their purpose in keeping our dreams of staying on the road alive.
1. Construction work
Construction work is one of the easiest jobs to pick up while you’re on the road. Turn up at a building site, get talking to someone and you’ll probably find yourself with a days work. You don’t need to be skilled but you need to be prepared to work hard. Working in construction in Hawaii, our job was to gut out an old brothel as they were turning the building into office space. Working indoors it was dusty, dark and incredibly hot. It’s not the most glamorous work but we were well paid for our efforts and it kept the dream alive for a little while longer.
2. Waiting tables
Getting a job as a waiter or waitress is another great option while travelling. If you have some experience it will help but even with no experience at all you can pick up some work and learn on the job. If you can, try to find a waiting job in a ‘fancy’ restaurant. The more money you can make in tips the better. In one of my previous restaurant jobs I was earning over $100 tips per night, I never even collected my wages until I was moving on to the next location and by then they had turned into a nice little nest egg.
3. Kitchen staff
Kitchens are always looking for workers. From cooks to kitchen porters, there is a range of jobs depending on your experience. Working in kitchens can be hot and uncomfortable and it’s definitely a high-stress environment. Chefs have something of a reputation for being fiery, so be prepared to get yelled and screamed at while you make your money.
4. Au Pair work
There are countless opportunities to work as an Au Pair around the world. Your experience will depend entirely on the family you are working for so be sure to ask questions during the interview process. Find out where exactly you will be staying, ask about the kids and inquire about what will be expected. Working as an Au Pair is a great way to interact with locals in a country through your host family, their friends and their family. You get a deeper understanding of the country you are living in, the culture and how everyday life really is.
Earning enough to Afford to travel full-time
To afford to travel full-time, you need to set a realistic target for what you are going to need to earn each month. Once you have that figured out, you can go about working on a model that will provide that income. On the months where we don’t make enough money, we will cut back our spending, start looking at house-sitting for the next month or try to earn some extra money by doing more freelance work. It’s important to stay as flexible as possible.
There are plenty of people out there who have created some great models where they are earning a great income while travelling full-time and there’s no reason you can’t do it too. You just need to be passionate and really want to make it happen.
If you have anything to add or have any questions about earning a living while travelling full-time, please let us know in the comments below.
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