It’s the age-old question: How to make money and travel the world? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t black and white, and the reality is there are several ways to finance a life of travel. I too, once pondered the same idea before deciding to make a career out of travel. And I am not alone. There are many of us who have turned our nine-to-five jobs into a means for enabling our nomadic spirits, while others in our industry have ditched the safety net of a promised paycheck all together.
The way to succeed in this industry is to find a void that your expertise and experience can fill, then get creative about monetizing on it. Whether that means working for yourself or for someone else, traveling a little or full-time, slow or fast, luxury or budget, for business or for pleasure. First thing’s first. The commitment needs to be there, then the ideas will follow.
For most, travel is a luxury, but for a few of us, it’s life. With the travel industry constantly evolving, an entrepreneurial spirit can go a long way. It is important to keep in mind that what works for one travel professional may not work for another, and that’s okay. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you may not make the type of money you desire right away and most of us cannot live off travel blogging alone. Hopefully this article sparks a few ideas and helps shed light on our much-admired but little-understood industry. So I asked my colleagues to answer one simple question in 250 words or less: How do you make money and travel the world?
Becky and Gray Padmore, Global Grasshopper
We’re based near London, UK but we travel at least once a month and have clocked up a few countries between us over the years, having a whole lot of fun along the way. Our blog GlobalGrasshopper.com is our main source of income but becoming a professional travel blogger isn’t easy. It took a lot of effort get the ball rolling in the beginning but after around 12 months of hard work we were rewarded with a decent amount of traffic, followers and even a handful of award nominations. Monetizing our traffic was the next tricky bit and it took making a few mistakes along the way to finally work out how to do this effectively. Most of our income now comes from a mixture of advertising, affiliates (through our ‘cool hotel’ features), Adsense and paid press trips which gives us the freedom to work remotely from almost anywhere in the world.
As well as our main website, Gray also does freelance work in photography and web design through his DesignGrasshopper.com and we’ve also just started selling a range of travel inspired gifts (which we designed ourselves using mostly our own photography) through our Lo-Fi Nomad Etsy shop. It’s very early days yet with the Etsy shop but we’ve just made our first sale so that’s pretty encouraging!
Kate McCulley, Adventurous Kate
For the past three and a half years, my total income has come from my career as a professional travel blogger. I make my money in three ways on the site: advertising, sponsorship, and affiliate marketing. I make my money in three ways off the site: freelance writing, consulting, and public speaking. It’s important to note that I am an exception – far from the rule. Becoming a travel blogger earning enough money to live off it sustainably outside the developing world is very rare, and it’s much more difficult for new bloggers in 2014 than it was for me in 2010. That said, if you’re able to crack it, it’s a challenging, intoxicating, infuriating, but overall fabulous life.
Larissa Olenicoff, The Blonde Gypsy
I’ve been traveling my entire life thanks to the wanderlust gene that seems to run in my family tree, but making it a lifestyle choice and trying to earn an income from it really only goes back to about 2012. Beforehand, all of my trips were self-financed by working as much as possible for months on end, even while attending university full-time, and then taking off to travel for about three months during the summer and sometimes during the long winter break.
While I was studying for my Master’s degree in Sweden a few years ago, I started The Blonde Gypsy and after about a year of taking blogging more seriously i.e. learning the ins and outs of self hosting, putting in time to network with not only travel bloggers, but professionals in the travel industry, and focusing on quality over quantity in terms of content, I had an audience and I had tourism boards/travel companies that wanted to work with me. Since then, many of my travel expenses have been covered by these tourism boards and travel companies in exchange for promotion of their destination or brand through my social media channels which I have zero qualms with considering the sizable amount I have personally invested in traveling over the past 10 years. That and the fact that I can still keep it real.
Press trips don’t pay the bills however (at least not yet) and I’ve done enough freelance writing and business online to know that it’s just not something I want to mix with traveling so I’m moving back towards staying put for a period to work, and then getting out to see the world. In May and June of this year I will be starting a new venture with a fellow blogger in which we will be leading tours for our readers through the Balkans. I’m really excited about it, but whether or not this will be a viable source of income remains to be seen. Check with me in 2015.
Leah Walker, Leah Travels
Before launching my website in 2011, I studied everything from social media to blogs to more traditional travel media outlets. For about five months, I poured over best practices for SEO and WordPress. It was a lot to take in, but I wanted a solid knowledge base. From the start, my intent for LeahTravels.com wasn’t just a personal blog. I viewed the site as a business that I hoped would lead to other opportunities. For the first year and a half, I also worked a full-time job. Managing that, my site, social media, and travel was a chore, but ultimately it paid off. In February of 2013, I quit my job and dedicated my full efforts into growing the Leah Travels brand.
Being solely focused on Leah Travels has paid off, though not necessarily in the bank account. Since I now focus on luxury and adventure, I am afforded spectacular and exclusive experiences that are often priceless. Though, fancy hotel stays don’t pay the bills, do they? I’m fortunate to have a family who believes in my vision, and they are a big help. My site has given me a platform to be seen by media outlets. In less than three years time, I’ve parlayed that success into contributor and editor roles with Forbes Travel Guide, The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Travel Squire, Room Key, and Luxe Beat Magazine, where I’m the Editor-at-Large. Primarily my income comes from selling articles. I also do some writing and social media consulting, as well as work as a brand ambassador. I’m certainly not becoming wealthy by doing this, but I feel like my life is still rich given the places I’ve experienced and the people I’ve met. I wouldn’t trade those memories for any material possession.
Mark Wiens, Migrationology
Food is the reason I travel. There’s nothing I enjoy doing more than visiting a country to explore the local food and learn about the culture through its cuisine. Most of the money I make while I travel is a result of initially starting a travel food blog back in 2009 and committing myself to maintain it. Currently, I make money through a variety of different ways. The first is through selling my premium food and travel guide e-books. I offer a lot of free information and resources on my blog, and if someone wants more in depth information packaged into an e-book format, it’s available for purchase. Another way I make money is through advertising on my food and travel videos on YouTube – I publish 2 videos per week – and each video includes ads. I also earn some money through affiliate marketing for products and services I personally recommend or use. For instance, after staying at a hotel I really liked, I might mention it on my blog, and if someone were to book that hotel, I would receive a commission (I only recommend products or services that I personally trust). My final biggest source of monthly income is through random freelance jobs, which include writing articles, doing projects for restaurants, selling photos, or producing short videos for clients. People that follow my blog and videos are interested in learning about delicious and unique food from around the world.
Sam and Audrey, Nomadic Samuel and That Backpacker
Audrey and I have funded our travels in many different ways over the past few years. We originally started out as ESL teachers in South Korea, which allowed us to save a substantial amount of money before we set out on a major backpacking trip. Over the past year, however, our jobs have shifted to focus more on blogging, social media, and YouTube. For example, our YouTube travel videos have ads on them so when people watch our videos and click the ads we get paid for that (of course, this only amounts to something if you have a large audience following your channel!) When it comes to blogging and social media, we sometimes partner with travel brands who are interested in reaching a specific audience. A partnership could involve anything from promoting a new tour company to sharing a travel contest with our readers – the main thing is that it be relevant to our audience. Audrey also work as a freelance travel writer where she sells stories and photo essays from her travels to various travel publications. And aside from that we have also done some work with tourism boards, where we are hired to produce destination specific content. So in short, we do a lot of different things which allow us to work remotely and travel longer!
Ryan Gargiulo, Pause The Moment
In May of 2010, I quit my job and set off on a six month around the world trip. I planned to travel on savings and create an income somewhere along the way. It wasn’t until a few weeks before I returned home that I realized I could make money by selling ad space on my blog. I then began to fund my travels via ad sales on my blog and continued to travel the world on my own dime as well as a few sponsored press trips in between.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I came a realization that while selling ad space was funding my travels, it really wasn’t something that I was proud of doing. I desperately wanted to create an income for myself based around something more meaningful. I wanted to provide a service to my readers that were interested in transitioning from a 9 to 5 to becoming lifestyle independent just like I did back in 2010. I started offering travel planning sessions and life coaching sessions for those who have always dreamed of traveling the world and working remotely from just about anywhere as long as it had a decent Internet connection. I also started picking up freelance work to supplement my income. I used my passions, knowledge and my skills to provide freelance services such as travel planning/strategy sessions, web design, blog maintenance/management, freelance travel writing and more.
Nowadays, I enjoy spending time (3-6 months) in different destinations versus constantly being on the move from place to place. I love nothing more than arriving in a new destination, finding a comfy place to live, mingling with the locals, and networking with foreigners, expats, and solopreneurs.
Lainie Liberti, Raising Miro
My son and I left the States for a one-year tour starting in 2009. Five years later, we still find ourselves on the road, traveling slowly with no intention to stop. With our savings completely depleted, we’ve had to become creative in terms of creating a sustainable income. As someone who’s had experience running a business, the greatest lesson I had was to embrace my strengths, and realize anyone’s greatest strength was their passion. Honing in on our passions allowed us to create multiple streams of income. However, the reality is, not one stream is consistent and our income varies from month to month, some months, close to nothing comes in. The key is to diversify. Here’s how we’ve managed up to this point: advertising and Sponsorships for our web sites, writing articles for magazines, like our paid post in USA Today, life coaching helping other parents overcome their fears, freelance web design and branding consulting, a kickback from my former career, as well as producing a learning retreat for teens.
Our biggest project to date is Project World School, a natural learning retreat in Peru based on our combined passion for world schooling and immersive learning. We are about to produce our second retreat this July in Perú’s mysterious land of the Incas. Designed for homeschoolers, un-schoolers and democratic learners alike, this immersive 22 day, Temporary Learning Community utilizes the enigmatic landscape of Cusco and the Sacred Valley as a canvas for discovery. The key is to create multiple streams of income, is tapping into your passions. From there, other opportunities will unfold and new opportunities present themselves. The only thing that can come between you and potential income has always been and forever will be “fear.”
Marcello Arrambide, Wandering Trader
I do something very different than what most people do in the industry. For the last five or so years I have been day trading and traveling around the world. Day trading in the stock market allows me to make a living while traveling anywhere around the world. I’ve also been able to make money with the travel blog, WanderingTrader.com, but my main source of income is day trading. Other people started to ask me for training as well and I started to create teams of other “WanderingTraders,” which are people that are also day trading and traveling around the world. I now day trade my own account and also train others to learn how to day trade the markets to obtain their own financial freedom. I have had the honor of traveling with some of our traders at The Day Trading Academy (where we train others how to day trade). I am now living in Colombia and starting a day trading center in Medellin to teach local Colombians how to obtain financial freedom. We are also starting a center in Brazil to also teach locals Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro how to day trade. Soon we will be traveling around the world with our army of “Wandering Traders.”
David Hoffmann, David’s Been Here
For the past seven years, I have traveled the world exploring one country at a time, documenting my travels through videos, photos, and articles. After two years, 22 countries and a whole lot of passport stamps, I desperately needed an income! In 2009, I began licensing my stock footage clips on Though Equity Motion. Shortly after I began publishing travel guides on Amazon.com Kindle Store. These two revenues helped take me to the next ten countries. In 2010, I started my own branded line of travel essential products (travel pillow, luggage scale, passport holder, toiletry bag, and eye mask), which I sell on Amazon.com. In 2012, I began publishing “DBH Insider” guides for other travel writers who weren’t exactly sure how to go about publishing and marketing e-books. I only recently began advertising on my site. I also recently launched DBH Films – a boutique media production company. Since I started David’s Been Here in 2007, different organizations have covered my travel costs in exchange for promotion. Among these are hotels, tourism boards, rental car companies, airlines, and tour agencies. For the most part, my job has allowed me to work from my computer and have the freedom to travel whenever possible. I moved to Europe in April 2013 and have been living in Barcelona ever since. My business is, and always will be, traveling and showing others how to do the same. My audience is curious, open to new experiences, and prefers independent travel.
It is my hope that anybody interested in making money and traveling the world will read this and be inspired to find their place in the travel industry. I encourage all you future bloggers to be original and not to just play it safe because that is what you’ve been told. I asked my colleagues to share their stories because I wanted a little transparency and insight into the inner workings of our industry – the perks as well as the reality. I also wanted to highlight some of the options you’ll have in creating a meaningful career of travel. Most of us were not given the money to begin traveling, but instead created the opportunities ourselves by being relentless and committed to showing others how important it is to get out there and see beyond our immediate environment.
If you have any questions or feedback after reading these stories, we would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.