How to Make Money While Traveling
Tons of people - quite understandably - want to travel around the world. But, how do you actually pay for your adventures? Instead of just draining savings, another path exists: earning cash while on the road. Here are 10 realistic options for how to make money while traveling:
In addition to writing about his and Jenna’s travel and work adventures, Chipp is a CPA and founder of Walutes Capital, a real estate development and accounting firm. Wearing this “other hat,” Chipp offers real estate investment and development consulting services to clients. If you’d like help with your own real estate investing journey, contact Chipp here to set up an appointment!
1. Work Remotely in Your Current Job
Without question, the easiest and most financially reliable way to make money while traveling is to simply work remotely with your current job. With this approach, you’re guaranteed a set income, allowing you to accurately develop a travel budget. But, to do this, you need to overcome two fairly obvious hurdles. First, you need a job that actually allows you to work remotely. Second, within that remote status, you need the additional flexibility of an employer that lets you work remotely from anywhere (as opposed to a remote job tied to a certain geographical location).
The major drawback to this model is that you will likely need to work 40 hours per week (or more), which can seriously bite into the whole seeing-a-new-place aspect of travel. Additionally, depending on your job requirements, you may have to adjust daily life in accordance with time zone differences. For instance, a 12pm call in New York City translates to an 11pm call in Vietnam - not too convenient.
2. Transition to a Contractor from Your Current Role
The next step down in financial reliability relates directly to your current job. Rather than work remotely in your same full-time employment capacity, you can ask your employer to transition into a contractor role. With this shift, you can potentially gain flexibility in A) remote work, and B) required hours.
This is exactly the approach Jenna took during our first year traveling. She’d worked at the same company for nearly a decade, with the three years before our departure in a remote status. When we decided to head out and travel, she asked her boss if she could continue working in a part-time, contractor capacity. Worst thing your boss can say is “no.” Fortunately, Jenna’s company embraced the idea, preferring to have her continue working in a reduced role rather than completely lose her skills and experience. As a result, she worked roughly 20 hours per week as a contractor for her old company, letting her make money while traveling without the constraints of a 40-hour work week.
Chipp making money as a freelancer while traveling in Namibia
3. Conduct Remote Freelance Work
Alternatively, you can conduct remote freelance work. This approach is similar to the above in that you’ll be acting as an independent contractor, however, rather than contract solely with your old company, you have to pursue your own clients. To do so, you’ll have to define a clearly marketable skill, something you believe brings value to potential clients. For example, say you worked in a marketing agency and dealt with search engine optimization (SEO). The next step is clearly outlining how you can translate those SEO skills into working directly - and independently - with a client seeking some sort of SEO services.
This is the approach Chipp took. As an asset management accountant with his prior employer, he was tied to work in and around his company’s office - remote work wouldn’t work. So, after parting ways, Chipp began building a portfolio of accounting and content writing contracts on UpWork, an incredible app that links freelancers with clients. It takes a little time to start generating income with this approach, so we highly recommend starting doing this part-time six months to a year before you plan on traveling. That way, when you take off, you’ll have established a client list to keep making money as a freelancer while overseas.
4. Write Paid Articles
Getting paid to write articles entails a specific - and potentially lucrative - niche within the freelance world. When you’re browsing company websites and see an article, there’s a good chance no one in that company actually wrote it. Instead, most companies hire freelance copywriters to craft their online content, from blogs to bios to in-depth analysis. For example, as a CPA with significant real estate experience, Chipp found (via UpWork) a number of accounting, real estate, and finance clients seeking freelance blog writing services. Working for these clients provided enough money to cover a significant portion of our overseas cost of living requirements. And, freelance writing has the major benefit of being project-, not time-, based. Every week, Chipp had a certain number of blogs or articles he needed to write, but he could write that content whenever suited him.
Succeeding as a paid content writer requires two major skills. First and foremost, you need to have a strong grasp of the written word. If you’re not comfortable with your writing skills, this probably isn't the best option for you. Second, you need to be able to quickly and thoroughly research, absorb, and translate new topics into persuasive text. For instance, say your client is a tax firm. You may have a baseline understanding of personal taxes, but your client asks you to write an article on a pending change considered by the IRS. You need to be able to read and digest enough information on this pending tax change to draft a compelling article for a client’s website.
Fortunately, tax firms aren’t the only companies looking for freelance writers! So, if you want to go this route, seek out clients in industries where you have some experience and background knowledge - will make the research and writing process far easier.
5. Rent Your Home
This option does more than just help you make money while traveling - it lets you truly build long-term wealth. But, it also requires owning your own home before you head overseas. If you do, you can generate cash flow by renting your home while on the road, and it’s exactly what we did. (NOTE: To test the waters with this approach, we recommend house hacking, or renting a spare bedroom in your home while you still live there).
Prior to departing, we emptied our home and prepared it for rent. Immediately before leaving, we signed a long-term lease with a tenant. That way, every month, the cash we received on top of our housing costs (e.g. mortgage, HOA fees, insurance, taxes, etc), helped pay for our travels. And, in addition to bringing in excess cash, renting a home builds wealth the following ways:
Long-term property appreciation (i.e. the value of your home increasing over time)
Loan amortization (i.e. paying down a portion of your loan balance - and therefore building equity - with each monthly loan principal payment)
Depreciation tax benefits (i.e. expensing a portion of your home’s purchase price as a tax deductible expense every year)
If interested in this option, here are some great real estate investing strategies.
6. Airbnb a Shared Apartment
Unfortunately, not everyone’s in a financial position to buy a home. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t use real estate to help make money traveling! This strategy is designed specifically for people who A) want to tap into some of the wealth-building aspects of real estate while traveling, but B) don’t yet have the cash or credit to buy their own home.
A close friend of ours lived in Chicago, renting a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. Our friend’s job kept him on the road about nine months of every year, but he still needed his place back in Chicago for his time there. So, rather than basically burn nine months of rent payments for a bedroom he wasn’t using, he and his roommate came up with a plan. They’d list our friend’s bedroom on AirBnB when he wasn’t there and split the cash they collected.
People looking to collect some rent payments while traveling can potentially replicate this strategy. And, even if you don’t have a roommate, plenty of companies have popped up that will manage an AirBnB on your behalf. But, before going this route, make sure it’s allowed in your lease agreement - last thing you want is to be evicted when you’re half-way around the world due to breaking a lease covenant…
7. Volunteer as a Workawayer
Need to provide some background on this one. Directly from www.workaway.info: “A Workawayer is: A traveler willing to help out for a few hours a day in return for a place to stay and food to eat. (Some hosts also offer a wage.)” This awesome platform links hosts who need a hand around the house or farm with travelers willing to help out in exchange for a place to stay - the ultimate win-win!
The benefits of embracing the www.workaway.info community are two-fold. First, from a financial perspective, spending time working with a local host significantly cuts down on your travel expenses, as room and board are included. So, this path doesn’t necessarily make you money, per se. Instead, it saves you money, which indirectly allows you to use your limited travel funds for other pursuits.
The second major benefit to this approach is access to absolutely priceless opportunities for cultural immersion. Sure, staying at a hostel is great, but you’re not truly immersed in the local culture. As a Workawayer, you have the opportunity to join the community, meeting awesome locals and like-minded travelers in the process.
8. Work at Hostels
Hostels always seem to have a shortage of workers. If you’re willing to post up at the same place for a while - and are willing to work - landing a temporary gig at a hostel can be a great option. Whether it’s housekeeping, admin, or any other number of random responsibilities, working at a hostel can be a great way to make money while traveling.
To start, when you arrive at a new place, introduce yourself to the manager. Explain that you’re planning on staying there for [insert timeframe], and you’re willing to work. Depending on the situation, a hostel may offer you reduced or free lodging in exchange for work - similar to the above Workawayer model. Or, you may actually earn an hourly rate for the work you do.
But, what happens if the hostel doesn’t have any work for you? Once again, the worst thing that happens by asking is that they say “no.” And, by explaining that you’re actively seeking work, hostel staff may be able to point you in the right direction, even if the hostel itself doesn’t have any opportunities.
9. Monetize a Travel Blog
Full disclosure: making money via a travel blog is not a quick or easy process. You need to put in significant time and effort to even scratch the surface of monetizing a website. First, you need to identify a compelling theme for your blog, one that you’re truly passionate about. Next, you need to do the leg work, starting the travel blog and having the discipline to regularly add new, quality content. Over time, you’ll gradually see your readership grow to a level that may allow limited monetization.
With a dedicated base of readers, a variety of ways exist to make money with your blog. While certainly not an all-inclusive list, here are a few options to monetize a travel blog:
Affiliate marketing (i.e. including links to products and/or services that provide you a referral fee when followed from your site)
Google Display Network ads (i.e. including ads via Google AdSense that provide you a fee based on the amount of views generated on your site)
Selling digital products (i.e. creating digital products like city guides or online coaching programs that you can sell via your travel blog)
Paid reviews (i.e. charging venues like hotels, hostels, and restaurants a fee to write a review on your blog)
Once again, we need to emphasize that this is not an easy process. If you’re willing to keep building your blog’s content over the long haul, you may get to the point where you can use it to make money. But, you shouldn’t expect this to become your primary source of money overnight. Instead, we recommend doing this in conjunction with one or more of the other options on this list.
10. Work as a Withlocals Guide
If you’ve never done a Withlocals tour, we highly recommend signing up for one when visiting a new city! Directly from the website: “Withlocals is a free-to-join platform that empowers locals like you to earn money hosting private experiences that show the real side of their city away from mass commercial tourism.” If you love a new city, feel like you know it pretty well, and are willing to stay there for an extended period of time, you can potentially make money as a Withlocals tour guide. As the name suggests, it pairs visitors with locals who provide authentic and intimate tours of different cities.
Yes, with this option, you inherently need to know a city and plan on staying there for a while, at least long enough to build your online profile as a Withlocals guide. And, you don’t actually have to be from a city to be a guide (Chipp took an awesome tour in Warsaw with an American who’d moved there several years prior). Instead, you need to know a city well enough to build a tailored tour about something you love. For example, we absolutely loved strolling through Zagreb, Croatia on a self-guided beer crawl. If we had ended up staying there for longer, Chipp would’ve jumped at the opportunity to offer English language tours to the city’s incredible breweries.
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