HOW THE HELL DO I AFFORD TO TRAVEL?

23rd January 2016

tips and tricks for saving money for full time travel! mostly amelie

I feel there are about half a million articles about how travel bloggers can afford to travel for seemingly years on end, yet this is the single most commonly asked question I receive, so I thought I would address it once and for all. To be painfully honest, I’ve ran out of travel money a couple of times those past two years. But money comes and goes, and I always seem to find a way to continue, because I make travel my priority. I’ve taken a huge leap of faith on a few occasions this last year, trusting that things would fall into place if they were meant to be, and so far, they have. I understand that living this way isn’t everyone’s cup of tea: my lifestyle isn’t about financial security or comfort, but rather doing what I love and making sure I have the means to do so. And I do that mostly by living extremely frugally. The funny thing is: I am making the least money I ever have and traveling more than ever.

TAKING THE PLUNGE

Kayaking in Halong Bay, Vietnam

When I decided to go traveling, I advertised stuff for sale on Craigslist: books, kitchen appliances, furniture, old cameras, games, perfume, clothes: everything. I sold a lot of stuff and put all of the earnings straight into my travel fund. I made over $1,000 from this. I had worked both as a full time graphic designer and freelance photographer and graphic designer without spending much for about a year before the trip. I left Canada with US $10,000 and didn’t start working for nearly another year into my travel. I also have a savings account with Tangerine, which started generating really good interest once I had reached a few thousand dollars. If you’re in Canada, you can use my orange key 20100771S1 and we each get $50 when you open an account with them and deposit $100.

TRAVELING TO CHEAP DESTINATIONS

I’ll have a separate post soon about how much it cost me to travel through South East Asia, but it is no coincidence that I settled there while I figured out how I could make long-term travel profitable. South East Asia is so cheap. Pick a place where your currency is worth more than theirs. Visit this site to have an idea of the cost of living by country worldwide.

Everything in South East Asia is cheap, from accommodation, to food, to transportation, and this made it possible for me to generate enough income to not have to dip into my savings account so much after a while. When I converted to bicycle touring, at some point my daily cost of living was under US $10 per day! At the present time, I do not make enough money to live of my online earnings in places like Europe or North America, but there’s a way around that too! Couchsurfing and Warmshowers are great help, but keep reading for more.

WORK EXCHANGE AND SLOW TRAVEL

work exchange and slow travel

A work exchange is an arrangement where you work a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation, meals, or both. In 2015, I spent three months volunteering at a backpacker hostel in Malaysia and it was the best of all worlds for me: in exchange for 3-4 hours of work each day (which mainly consisted of hanging out with other travelers!) I got to stay in a centrally located hostel in Malacca with free breakfast, ample time to visit the surroundings and do my online work, and I even got a little pocket money, which was plenty to cover all my other expenses. So from May until August, I generated some income but had no expenses. And I still felt like I was traveling – three months in a big unknown city to me is time well spent. I’m a slow traveler and I love to take my time. I felt like I became “in the know” enough about this city to generate good content for my blog also.

Check out: WWOOF, Workaway, Help Exchange, Yoga Trade, Yoga Travel Job.

FREELANCE WORK

Before I started earning from this blog, I first made money doing freelance graphic design work. Some jobs were for returning Canadian clients and some I found through scouring online job boards and applying for dozens of jobs each day. I design websites, blogs, logos, etc. At some point, I decided to broaden my field of expertise and applied for content writing and translation jobs also, and I have had success doing this as well. I haven’t had any luck yet with sites such as UpWork (previously oDesk) Elance or Fiverr, but they are still worth checking out. There is so much money to be made online; it’s really just a matter of finding it.

Check out: Blogger Jobs, Freelance Writing Gigs, Translation Jobs, 25 Sites That Pay for Guest Posts.

TEACHING YOGA AND GIVING THAI YOGA MASSAGE (OR WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU DO!)

I’ve taught yoga and given Thai yoga massage on a donation basis during my time in Malaysia and, not only did I make a few extra bucks, it was also an awesome way to connect with new people. So, whatever it is that you do – reiki, hair cutting, photo shoots, web design, anything you can do away from home, really – put a sign up at the hostel or find a way to spread the word.

BLOGGING

How I afford to travel: blogging

After over a year of blogging, I finally started to get an income and some indirect perks from my blog. Most of is from advertising: my biggest income stream being from sponsored posts. These are always labeled as sponsored so as not to be misleading. I use Cooperatize to find gigs. I also get income through affiliation (I get a small commission from sales generated through my site, at no extra cost to you), mainly with Skimlink.

Not a direct income per se, but I also do a lot of bartering. I partner with tour companies, hotels and restaurants for complimentary things in exchange for a mention in a blog post and online exposure on my main social media channels. This allows me to make my travel costs much lower and sometimes treat myself to a little luxury I could not otherwise afford. Finally, I’ve also made a few hundred dollars here and there from readers who have felt compelled enough by my blog to donate so I can keep going and I am forever thankful for that.

As you can see, it’s really a matter of adding up small incomes here and there to make the ends meet and it worked perfectly for me while I traveled through South East Asia. But as I seem to find comfort a petrifying thing, I had to throw myself at the deep end again and move myself over to Europe.

WORKING HOLIDAY VISA

http://mostlyamelie.com/donate/

I got approved for a German working holiday visa and will base myself in Berlin this coming year as I slowly explore Europe. The visa, alongside giving me the obvious opportunity to find a part time job to supplement my online work, will also allow me to remain within the Schengen zone for a year without having to get out (90 days outside of Germany). I have previously done a working holiday visa in the U.K. and loved my experience, so I thought I would do it one last time before I am too old!

Depending where you are from, there are several working holiday visa opportunities, and some, as it is the case with Germany, will allow people up to 35 years old to apply. Check out the countries and territories offering working holiday visas.

OTHER WAYS TO TRAVEL FOR CHEAP OR FREE

HOUSE SITTING

This is something I have promised myself to dabble in this coming year. Living in and looking after someone else’s home and pets while they are away opens up so many opportunity to travel cheaply to expensive destinations and have a comfortable place to call home for a few days/weeks/months whilst exploring a new place and doing some work at the same time. It is a favorite of many long-term travelers I know, and understandably so. I have created an account with Trusted Housesitters, but there is also House Carers, and Mind my House. There is a sign up cost attached to all of those.

Check out: How to write a successful House Sitting profile.

TRAVEL HACKING

This is something I really should have gotten into long ago, but my brain seems to refuse to let me read about credit cards and loyalty programs. Travel hacking is the simple act of using frequent flyer points, loyalty programs and credit card travel reward programs to your advantage in order to score free flights and more. I have not got much to say on the topic, but I keep reading of people scoring amazing free flights with this method, so I really should get to it.

Check out: Nomadic Matt’s guide to travel hacking and this beginner’s guide to travel hacking.

How I afford to travel: Traveling to cheap destinations

Got any more questions? I’d be happy to share more!


Disclaimer: This post includes some affiliate links which give me a small commission if you make a purchase. This comes at no extra cost to you and allows me to continue running this blog!

65 thoughts on “HOW THE HELL DO I AFFORD TO TRAVEL?

  1. Hitch-Hikers Handbook

    Great ideas to travel on a budget! If hitchhiking is not your thing, I would definitely suggest CouchSurfing as well. It’s a great way to meet locals and not pay for accommodation. And yes, if you plan to travel for a long time, like you did, it’s a good idea to sell most of your possessions you wouldn’t be using on the road. We did the same thing before our Long Way Home trip but didn’t get nearly as much money for it as you did.

    Reply
    1. Ellie Moore

      Reading this just makes me want to travel so much, I have always had a desire to travel and what you are do just appeals to me so much however I just feel I like things at home would tie me down. I’m still at school but once I finish I definitely want to travel it’s just finding time, money and someone to come with me! How do you manage to travel alone and be so uncertain of your future?

      Reply
      1. Amélie Post author

        Hi Ellie! To me that’s part of the excitement! Nothing is ever certain anyway, so why not have a blast! However I do have a student loan to pay off, so at some point I will probably need to come to Canada and work to pay it off for a couple of years. No worries though! 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gregg Allard

          There was a guy we met in queens town New Zealand that was a river surfing guide. He did that during the summer and worked up at the mountain during the winter.

          Reply
  2. Megan

    Some really great tips! I’m looking at changing my lifestyle (getting rid of the nine to five) and figuring out what shape it will take. Appreciate you sharing a little more about how you got where you are. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Carol Colborn

    I might have ventured these when I was younger but no, I chose to work hard on my career. Now I travel fulltime and am able to do so from the benefits of my earlier work!

    Reply
  4. Jackie

    There really are no magic tips for traveling long-term other than as you said…make it a priority! People are also surprised to know this same mentality works for average part-time travelers, too! As for me, I am obsessed with travel hacking. I haven’t paid for a flight in years and often can get free or low-cost accommodations. You should definitely take a look and see how using miles and points can be added to your skills for traveling where and when you want.

    Reply
    1. Amélie Post author

      Ah! Yes! Whenever I look into I seem to find that I am not organized enough or don’t have big spending enough to make it work. I will definitely read more about it, I bought Nomadic Matt’s guide to travel hacking and will be studying it!

      Reply
    1. Peter yoong

      Great tips. I have stills lots to learn from you. Thank you for your sharing and it’s indeed a honor meeting you.

      Reply
  5. Kat

    This is a really useful post. Agree that the Working Holiday Visa is a great way, especially when travelling in countries where cost of living is higher. I’m doing one in Australia at the moment.

    Reply
  6. Melanie

    That’s such a great post Amélie! Wow! I already read several of these kind of posts and quite often I didn’t find them useful as there was no real new information in there! But, yours does indeed! I also blog now a bit over a year and finally some things start to change…aka working together with tour companies, hotels, earning a bit of money. It just all takes some time. I signed myself up for Upwork but never got anything (didn’t try in the last couple of months). Thanks for sharing some of the websites which work for you, will try them out soon. Also, definitely want to do housesitting soon (maybe after my round the world trip) and need to check out some travel hacks 🙂 Love from Costa Rica! Melanie

    Reply
    1. Amélie Post author

      Thanks! I just get a bit annoyed when people assume I’m rich or my parents are backing my travels, as it’s really not the case. I work bloody hard!

      Reply
  7. Jenn

    Super useful post Amelie! Like you, I travel half the year at least, am Canadian, and I’m working on relaunching and monetizing my blog. I’m currently doing a copywriting certificate to better qualify myself to work while travelling and I have a couple other little writing things I do while travelling to make cash! This post gave me huge insite into how monetization works, and introduced me to coopertize, so thank you! I would love to hear more about how you increase traffic to your blog and if you have a blog schedule, etc. Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Jen

    This post is so great for those just on the edge of deciding whether or not to give up the life of a 9-5 for travel. Throughout all my working life, I never made much money, but like you, I always prioritized travel. I had a specific travel account and put $100 from every paycheck into that account. I don’t spend money on things I don’t need. Plus, with our Chase Sapphire card, we’ve gotten our flights to both Europe and South America using miles, paying only the travel fees.

    Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply
  9. Rosemary

    Wonderful practical tips about how to travel affordably. Agree with your point about trusting that things will fall in place. They always do. Very interested about your upcoming post about traveling affordably in S.E. Asia. Please let me know when it’s out. Happy travels!

    Reply
  10. Hanna

    Great post! In couple of months I’m going to my round the world trip with almost no money. I plan to work while traveling and trying all those ways that just helps you to travel. That’s great that you shared your experiences, I hope it will help those who think that they don’t have enough money to travel!

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Show Travelers Your World With Trip4Real | Mostly Amélie

  12. Natalie M.

    Great tips! Right now the hubs and I just put away a little each month into our travel fund as well as the money from stuff we sell, etc. Right now we’re just trying to travel as much as we can from our home base in Salt Lake City but the goal is to be completely nomadic in a few years 🙂

    Reply
  13. Zita

    Thanks so much for posting this, it is one of the best ones that I have read (and I have read a few). What I really appreciate is the links that you have provided. A lot of others say “I do freelance work” but then don’t really give you information on how they find that freelance work!
    Thanks again

    Reply
  14. David

    Amelie,

    When you barter with travel providers for accommodations (or what have you) in exchange for a mention on your blog and via your social media, do you also label that as sponsored?

    Curious how you handle the ethics of that situation.

    Thanks!

    David

    Reply
  15. Leanne

    such a fantastic post, travelling full time sounds fantastic and it’s completely worth living frugally to experience so many parts of the world. malaysia is such a great place full of travellers, must have been a lot of fun working in a hostel! x

    Reply
  16. Pingback: 9 Things I've Learnt From 4 Years Of Working As A Freelance Writer - Scribble, Snap, Travel

  17. Chris Thompson

    Awesome tips Amélie! You list down some great points here! Thank you so much sharing this post I learnt something new. Surely I will recommend this and will be included in my Social Sharing:).

    Reply
  18. Tiffany

    Hi Amelie,
    Just came across you site. Great article! I too am such a big fan of working holiday visas and that wiki link you provided is a great resource. Will look forward to following along with you now!
    Best, Tiff

    Reply
  19. Danyon Satterlee

    Thank you for this post! Trying to gear up for more travel myself. I’ve been designing for a while, but I need to figure out how to pick up more clients. I KNOW I can do the work. It’s just tricky finding people >_< Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  20. Evan

    Hi!! Great tips! I like how you explain what freelance jobs you do and your optimism! I do not travel full time but is something that I am planning on doing and your ideas of how to make extra money are great! I followed the link to the translating jobs website and I would like to know your opinion about it, since you have to pay a small fee to get started,do you think is worth to try? Would youu get enough jobs to make some money, it looks too good to be true but I think it’s a grat way to make some extra money! Thanks!

    Reply
  21. Sarah

    Wow this is literally my dream. I am a graphic design student right now who cannot wait to get out in the world and travel and I am a big fan of yoga too. Thanks for writing this! It was very inspiring to read and also has some great ideas that I’ve never thought of before.

    Reply

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