Long-term travel is a dream of many, but often that dream never becomes a reality because of financial constraints. Although long-term travel doesn’t have to cost the earth, once you run out of money, you usually have to call it a day and go home. End of. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s possible to travel for WAY longer than most people think!
Essentially, there are three parts to the puzzle that need solving:
Saving as much money as you can before you go.
Removing or mitigating costs back home so your money is being spent on the road.
Earning money whilst travelling so you can travel for longer.
In this post, I will primarily look at number 3, and offer up some ideas for how you can fund your travels while on the road. Don’t worry, I’ll tackle number 2 in a separate post so stay tuned. But I get asked about number 3 a lot, so I thought I’d start with that one. You could also volunteer, but as this post is about earning money to travel, I’ll stick to that.
Before you go into this, however, I’d like you to ask yourself seriously if long-term travel is really for you because it’s not without its challenges. Travelling long term can be exhausting. You can develop ‘travel fatigue’ (ie. the gloss of travel has worn off), you can miss family and friends back home, and sometimes (dare I say it) you can get bored. It’s important to say all this now so that you’re aware of the pitfalls of the perceived holy grail.
On the positive side, travelling for extended periods of time, and working along the way, can give you a deeper understanding of the cultures and places you’re visiting. It’s hard to get under the skin of a destination when you swoop in for a few days. But stay and work for a few weeks or months, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the country and its people – and have a richer experience for it.
OK, disclaimers aside, here are some ideas for earning money whilst on the road so you can travel as long as possible.
1. Freelancing (AKA digital nomadding)
Freelancers are people who work for many different clients, sometimes on a retainer (a monthly fee) or on a job-by-job basis. Freelancing can entail working on-site in the client’s office, but it can also be done remotely. For example, freelance copywriters, graphic designers, web developers, consultants, admins, illustrators, editors, translators, programmers and all manner of other folk can usually work from anywhere on their laptops. It’s what I’ve done as a freelance copywriter, journalist and editor for years. You could also consider becoming a consultant and work remotely.
To start freelancing, you need to build up a client base. You’ll also need to do your own accounts and taxes, or hire an accountant. There’s also a number of apps and software companies to help you with that. The benefit of freelancing is that you can choose your clients, hours, availability and rate, and work for anyone in the world, from anywhere in the world. There are plenty of freelancing websites out there to help you find work. The pay isn’t always the best, but they can be a good place to start. And sites like Udemy have lots of courses on the basics so you can get up and running quickly.
Speaking of which, you can also create your own courses on sites like Udemy, Thinkific and Teachable, then sell them to an audience of students.
Here are some websites to look for freelance work:
If you have a job that can be done on a phone or computer, chances are it can also be done remotely. This might sound like a crazy idea to those committed to the 9-5, but nothing is stopping you from requesting to work remotely at least some of the time. Your boss can only say no. Start by requesting to work from home one day a week and show them that you are just as productive, if not more. Then build from there. Or ask to take a sabbatical. Plenty of people have negotiated this and more, so it’s just a case of asking and making it happen. The reality is that most people will be working remotely or on a freelance basis in the near future, so companies are going to have to get on board with it sooner or later.
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is a great way to live and work abroad. Although it means staying in one place for a period of time, you can always travel at the weekends and school holidays. Teaching can be a great way to integrate and absorb another culture and language before jetting off again, and it’s very rewarding. I taught English in Paris for six months and it was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Check out this article on the 10 most mind-blowing places to teach English overseas.
Many countries are crying out for English teachers, especially in the Middle East and Asia, and will pay you handsomely for your skills. You’ll need to be a native English speaker and have a qualification, such as the Trinity TESOL or Cambridge CELTA, but some schools also offer a shorter crash course, either weekend courses or online. Personally, I recommend paying the extra and getting a bona fide TEFL certificate. It’s a great asset to your CV, and with that, you’ll be future-proofing your life because you’ll always have work wherever you are in the world. And that is priceless.
Here are a few websites to scout for teaching work:
There are many jobs that can be done on the road, such as fruit-picking, bricklaying, carpentry, tour guiding, bar and restaurant work, working a ski season, hiking guiding, reception work, teaching scuba diving, teaching yoga, hairdressing, house-sitting, looking after horses and dogs, and taking tourists on trail rides… the sky’s the limit. I’ve often met travellers who’ve picked up odd jobs along the way to keep them going.
In my own experience, it’s largely been a case of right place, right time. That and doing ‘the rounds’ with my CV. I’ve usually been lucky with waitressing and bar work. Though I know people who got construction work, modelling and acting work, mechanics work, and someone who always advertises her hairdressing services on the hostel notice board and does a roaring trade. The great thing about these kinds of jobs is that the rewards can be immediate, and although it’s sometimes tough and tiring, it’s also a lot of fun and you make great mates/travel buddies on the way. Check out this post about applying for an Australian work/holiday visa. And this one for the Canadian visa.
Here are some sites that advertise jobs and house-sits:
Yes, I had to include blogging, naturally! Setting up a blog is a great way to earn a few extra dollars. Although the money isn’t immediate, and it takes a lot of time and hard work to set one up and gain traction, once you’ve built up a following, a niche and a name for yourself, you can start monetising it through advertising, affiliate links, sponsored posts, and even consulting services for whatever it is you’re blogging about. The options are endless. It’s never too late to start a blog, even if you’re already travelling.
Don’t be put off by the apparent saturation of the market, either – there’s always a new niche to tap into, or your own unique spin to put on things. Results won’t come instantly, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ll be adding a blogging course to this site very soon, so stay tuned and subscribe to my mailing list to find out more. You can also read this excellent post that describes what’s involved in order to blog and travel long-term.
Check out Siteground for web hosting packages and WordPress as a blogging platform – these are what I use for this site. And sites that schedule your posts on social media are really useful for promoting your posts. I use Missinglttr, and with this link you get three months 50% off.
TOP TIP: Use a cashback site, such as Quidco, for booking all your travel and business needs. Sometimes the returns can be 10-20%.
Working on a cruise ship or superyacht has two main advantages: you get to travel while you work (quite literally), and your salary is tax-free, with hardly any expenses. I know a few people who have worked on superyachts and travelled the world. One was a cook/stew and the other a stewardess. Crews on superyachts are a tightly knit bunch, so once you’ve completed one stint, you’ll have a network to reach out to for your second job. Boats always need crew, and if you’re ready to travel at the last minute, chances are you’ll always find work. The work on cruise ships is a little different, and much more varied. You can be a croupier, a bartender, a massage therapist, a chef, an entertainer, a yoga teacher, a pot wash, you name it. Cruise ships are like hotels at sea, so whatever you can do in a hotel, you can do on a cruise ship. The challenge with both jobs is that, whilst at sea, you’ll be expected to graft really hard, and be willing to put in the hours with very little time off. But once you’re done, you should have earned enough to travel and live well for a good few months.The best way to find work is to head to a boaty location and do the ‘dock walk’ (handing out your CV to prospects).
Alternatively, here are some sites to look for work online:
When you’re away, chances are your room or home is lying empty, so why not capitalise on that space and rent it out to someone who needs a place to stay? You could place an ad on SpareRoom or Gumtree for a short-term let, or rent it out on Airbnb. If you want to get really serious, you can also use an Airbnb management company or letting agent, which removes a great deal of the hassle for you but means you’ll be paying a percentage of your earnings to an external company. Personally, I think it’s worth it for the peace of mind but that’s entirely your call. I wrote a blog post about the pros and cons of Airbnb, which you can read here.
Another side hustle could be becoming an Airbnb Ambassador, meaning you earn extra cash for referring hosts to Airbnb. This is a great way to make money whilst travelling as you’ll be meeting lots of new people who may not have joined Airbnb yet. If you’d like to join the program, it’s completely free, and you can start sending invites to your friends and whoever you like immediately, then when they sign up, you earn some extra cash as a thank you. You need to be referred (I can do that here), so join as an Ambassador, simply sign up here, then on the part of the form where it says “How did you hear about the program?”, you click “Other Pro Referrer” (the first option), and mention my name (Katie Monk). And voilà! You can start referring and earning!
Increasingly, e-commerce is THE way to go to start a business online, and thus how to make money whilst travelling. Unlike freelancing or consulting, e-commerce can be far more lucrative once you get the hang of it, plus you’re not trading time for money so the sky is the limit in terms of profits. By e-commerce, I’m talking selling products online or private/white-labelling. These products can be physical or digital. Ideally both, thus maximising profit potential and minimising your risk. If possible, set up a whole product ecosystem, with a website, blog, course, books and products all working together under a coherent brand. Personally, I use Gumroad to sell my own online courses, and I’m really enjoing the platform. You can also sell books and digital products here too. Here is a link to my courses on pitching, travel writing and PR, if those are something you wish to learn about.
All this takes time and effort and investment. But the returns can be huge, so it’s worth learning all there is to know, and applying the knowledge as soon as possible. The sooner you take action on your plan, the sooner you’ll be saying ‘location-independent-digital-nomad-entrepreneur’. Again, Udemy is a good place to learn about this stuff because the courses are very reasonable. Starting an e-commerce store can be done with as little as $5 a month, so there’s a very low barrier to entry. I’ve detailed six recommended courses below. As with blogging, I’ll be adding more information on the e-commerce world further down the line, so stay tuned! Exciting times.
eBay Drop Shipping Guide with No Inventory – Work From Home
That’s it, folks! Good luck with your travels. If you have any comments or suggestions for more ways to earn money whilst travelling, I’d love to hear from you. This is a community, and we’re all in it together, so please share! Thank you.
(NB: This post contains affiliate partner links from sites and products that I use personally. This means I earn a small commission if you buy anything after clicking on some of the links, at no extra cost to you. In fact, with some of these links you actually get a discount. These links are not included in exchange for coverage, and I’ve only recommended sites I use myself, or know will work. For more information, please see my T&Cs.)