How do travel bloggers afford to travel? This is my own story.
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 run out of travel money a couple of times those last few 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 travelling more than ever.
TAKING THE PLUNGE
When I decided to go travel, 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 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 off 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
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 and 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.
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 such as Craigslist and applying for dozens of jobs each day. I designed 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 or Fiverr, but they may still be worth checking out. There is so much money to be made online; it’s really just a matter of digging around and finding it. I also took on a few clients for whom I do social media remotely.
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, but it was also an awesome way to connect with new people. So, whatever it is that you do – reiki, haircutting, photoshoots, 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. Get crafty!
After over a year of blogging, I finally started to get an income and some indirect perks from my blog. Most of it is from advertising: my biggest income streams being affiliate marketing, ads, and sponsored posts. These are always labeled as sponsored so as not to be misleading. I use Cooperatize to find gigs mostly, but some just come my way from interested partners, and I also do outreach myself.
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.
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 over to Europe.
WORKING HOLIDAY VISA
I got approved for a German working holiday visa and have been based in Berlin for a year now. The visa, alongside giving me the obvious opportunity to find a part-time job to supplement my online work, has also allowed me to remain within the Schengen zone for a year without having to get out (I get 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 on where you are from, there are several working holiday visa opportunities, and some, as 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
Living in and looking after someone else’s home and pets while they are away opens up so many opportunities 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, 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.
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.
Got any more questions? I’d be happy to share more!
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