It’s hard not to dwell on money when traveling. Like an addiction, Tom and I are insistent on continuing our journey abroad, but it takes funding. Departing from the states yielded some uncertainty as to how we were going to afford to travel. Now 16 months, 22 countries, and four continents later we’re still on our feet. We must be doing something right. At times our efforts are amateur at best, but we still keep pushing the boundaries. We continue to grow our travel budget while living nomadically. How? Through working, volunteering, apps and taking chances we’re able to make money on the road.
The best opportunity at a consistent paycheck is to acquire a working holiday visa and find a decently entertaining job to commit to for a few months. Countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and Australia are some of the most popular countries that offer working holiday visas. With an opportunity to live and work in these countries for up to a year, it’s possible to balance travel with making a decent wage. If the country has a high cost of living, such as New Zealand, the working holiday visa is a great option that enables backpackers to navigate expensive destinations. The benefits far exceed the cost to get there, especially when the New Zealand visa is free for Americans under 30.
The first category of income is finding actual employment. The most common jobs that transcend geographical boarders are hospitality and teaching.
Hospitality— We’ve had some luck in working hospitality jobs around the world. We bartended in Paracus, Peru, waited tables, and even cooked at high demand restaurants in New Zealand. Hospitality consists of everything from fine dining to tours and cleaning hostels. Simply being able to speak English and connect with strangers, can aid to your getting a job abroad. Wages are dependent on the country’s minimum wage and employers discretion. Finding hospitality work is easiest when asking around, beginning with hostels and making an effort to search job boards on the internet.
Teaching— Most popular in Southeast Asia, teaching English is a fantastic opportunity to make money while traveling. There are several different forms of teaching English based on the individuals preference, intensity, and level of certification.
*Teaching at an international private school is the best option for a good salary. The positions are more demanding, but the lack of accredited teachers in Southeast Asia means the ones who are qualified will be compensated well. The qualifications are a bit more rigorous. At minimum, they require a TEFL or CELTA certification, but again there are options to get certified online for as little as $30USD on Groupon. Most private international schools require accredited teaching certificates. These positions pay between $2,000- $3,500/ monthly salary based on teaching qualifications. This is more than comfortable salary in Southeast Asia. They do operate as full-time jobs, 40 hours a week, but the school year comes with consistent breaks and summer leave.
*Private tutoring allows teachers to arrange their own hours and salary. With a flexible schedule, private tutoring is enticing. However, the income matches the amount of effort put in. Less hours, less money. It’s an option for those interested in making a bit of play money. It does take more work to build a client base for private tutoring. Private tutoring is most often a way to make money on the side. If one does decide to teach privately full time, they’ve usually come from a language center and brought clients with them.
*Language centers allow teachers to create an income more steadily. They are the most popular way to teach English abroad as the structure, students, salary, and sometimes the lessons have already been established unlike private tutoring. The hours are usually in the evenings and weekends. The salary depends on the demand. In our experience, Vietnam pays between $10—$15/hour at English centers. Getting a job at a language center usually requires an interview and a pre lesson in which the employers observe your teaching style and classroom management. They may require a TEFL certification or an accredited teaching certificate, however we met a handful of backpackers who were able to land a job without any certification. There’s also an option to take the TEFL course online for as little as $30USD (a Groupon miracle). Many of the centers are eager to have anyone who can speak English, even as a second language. For the students, just listening to a fluent English speaker is helpful, so there are even opportunities for people, with little to no experience, to help. The pay will simply reflect the qualifications.
The second category of work for backpackers is the digital nomad route.
Fiver connects projects and people all over the world. Fiver is made up of freelance professionals listing their specific skills and trades in which people can contact them for hire. Usually, skills include design, coding, photography, and writing. There’s even a genre of social media celebrities that charge an amount for a shoutout on their Twitter or Instagram feeds. This little bit adds up. The brand name comes from the price. Each skill or job is usually listed for only $5, but depending on the timeline or specs of the job, the lister can charge more. This may not seem like much, but if the skill is in high demand and it’s something simple you can do in minutes, than $5/item becomes money to fund your travels. You can change your availability, hours, and schedule so that taking work on the road is easy and practical.
Upwork is the flip side of Fiverr. Instead of the workers listing their skills, the jobs are listed and qualified individuals can contact for hire. It’s different than job boards, because it’s freelance based and people are hired for individual projects being paid upon completion. Jobs range from technical skills, editorial opportunities, videography, and coding. Depending on your skill level and timely productivity, this website can provide a decent amount of funding while on the move.
Blogging is a great way to turn passion in to paychecks. If you have something to say and a platform to entertain the billions of people online, then why not give it a try. It’s hard work and blogging doesn’t always pay well, but being successful means working all over the world. Through affiliate marketing, consistency and persistence, it's possible to make money. Start by focusing on what your passionate about, get to know your audience and create good content. What follows will be much easier if you can start with these elements. Some of our favorite bloggers making money on the road are:
Other than blogging, selling photography is another aspect of making money through online efforts. There are websites and apps that pay for photography from hobbyist to professionals. Each company will have different regulations concerning copyrights and royalties, but they all offer a chance to reach markets and clients searching for of the perfect photo. Traveling is an endless opportunity for unique photos. Some of the companies that pay for photographs are:
Lastly, there is money to be made in traveling with an open mind and jumping at rare opportunities, like being a traveling artist.
Tattooism is the industry of traveling tattoo artists, pursuing their ambitions to travel through funding from tattooing tourists. We had the chance to sit down with artist Daniel SKG to talk about how his skills in art have allowed him to move throughout South America making money tattooing in hostels, at festivals, and connecting with people through social media. His efforts started with his home town of Lima, but with such a high demand from tourists, Daniel has been traveling to neighboring countries several times a year making money from his craft.
Other artistry includes street performers, live art performers, specialized craftsman, and of course musicians. Having talent and an interest in travel goes along way. We’ve met quite a few artists and musicians that make money while traveling. Negotiating a few gigs in exchange for money or food is a great way to backpack. You'll have the opportunity to meet incredible people while pursuing your personal interests and skills abroad.
There’s no guarantee where the next paycheck will come from when taking life on the road, but being creative and taking a chance is better than not trying at all. Most importantly, do what you love. If what you love is to travel, than the money will sort itself out.