A Practical Guide to Vagabonding and Long Term Travel (Part 5): Making Money on the Road
by Nora Dunn | October, 2008
At this point in the series you’re on the plane to your destination of choice. You have taken the leap into a world of giant unknowns, saved up your pennies for the trip, dotted the t’s and crossed the i’s, and packed up your gear. Now it’s time to hit the road!
But wait a minute – depending on the goals you set and money you saved, you may need to earn a little cash on the road to pay for your travels. If you have an open-ended itinerary with no set time frame and you don’t have a stash of money to fund the entire trip (especially if becoming a vagabond is a life choice and not a gap year), you will most certainly need to be creative in your travels.
Here are a few ways you can earn some dough while traveling:
With the advent of the internet becoming an increasingly viable way to do business, you can put your talents to work at an online business.
I recently came across a book about how to set up five income-producing websites in 20 weeks, with step by step instructions for people who don’t need to have intricate knowledge of website development and computer languages. The fellow who wrote the book makes over $10,000/month working part-time and lives abroad full-time.
For myself, I make a living (if you can call it that!) with writing. Although it wouldn’t pay the bills if I had to cover rent, it does pay for incidentals when rent isn’t an issue. (I’ll get to covering off the rent in a minute).
And there are a myriad of online businesses you can run that allow you to make a living with nothing more than an internet connection. A fellow contacted me who has a background in law and a desire to become a vagabond. I suggested he could start a business in giving legal advice for a small fee online. He could also start a newsletter (for which subscribers would pay), and offer all sorts of affiliate services and products through his website that provide a service to his clients and for which he would receive a commission.
Another friend of mine has a coaching business. Although this is a full-time endeavor for her, she could technically run it from anywhere in the world. She coaches her clients through telephone, Skype calls, and even email. She has a “virtual assistant” who answers the toll-free number her international clients call, and serves as a liaison.
In many countries, you can work in trade for your accommodation with nothing more than a tourist visa, all completely above-board (Australia is a perfect example). In other countries, you can often make informal arrangements to cover off your accommodation in exchange for some work, be it house or pet-sitting, taking care of some chores at somebody’s home or estate, or helping out on a farm.
There are of course some drawbacks: you have to work! But if you want to plant some roots (perhaps literally as well as figuratively) in a place and get to know more than just the tourist culture, this is an excellent way to travel.
Here are a just a few resources to help you find work-trade arrangements around the world:
These and more opportunities to live rent-free are expanded upon in another article about traveling the world and living rent free here.
My boyfriend and I figured that since drinks are poured around the world, bartending could be a widely employable skill. So we took a course in bartending before we left home and now we can mix drinks with the best of them. At the very least it makes us popular at parties.
Now I’m not telling you to go out and work illegally, because that would be wrong. But if a friend of yours is willing to shoot you some cash for tending bar at their establishment or party, then you can decide if that’s the gig for you.
The same goes for food serving – also a widely employable skill and largely a cash business.
With these two particular working opportunities though, make sure you are acquainted with international tipping policies; North American service industry employees see the most tips of any places in the world. Others pay better hourly wages because customers don’t tip.
If you are a jack of all trades with manual skills like carpentry, plumbing, electrical, or general handy skills, you may also find that with some creative networking and getting the word out, there will be people willing to toss you a few bucks for helping them out with some repairs. Again I’m not suggesting anything illegal … just a friendly expression of gratitude in exchange for your help.
And of course, if there’s a country on your list to visit that you know you want to spend some time in, it may be worth your while to apply for a work visa in advance. Depending on the country and your skill sets, they can go from extremely easy to almost impossible to get.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 for example, you will have no difficulty in procuring an Australian work visa for one year – they’re practically begging people to go there and work in the service and agriculture industries.
Research to Find Your Perfect Work Opportunity
With a little internet research, you’ll be able to find lots of ways to earn money on the road, from cruise ship jobs, to agricultural and hospitality work, to volunteer organizations willing to pay specific experts in their field.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
If you have a home that’s fully (or almost fully) paid for, you may want to consider renting it out to tenants instead of selling it along with everything else. You would either have to contract a property management company to collect rent and find tenants while you are away, or enlist a responsible friend or family member to take on the task for you. It just may provide the ongoing income you need to stay on the road indefinitely.
There’s also nothing saying you can’t go “home” (back to your home country), work like a dog, live like a monk to save money, then take off for another extended trip. This is a pattern many a traveler adheres to quite happily.
And going home doesn’t have to be seen as the end of a trip … by now you are probably coming to realize that becoming a vagabond is as much a mindset as it is an act of traveling.
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About the Author
Nora Dunn is the The Professional Hobo, a woman who sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 and has been travelling the world in a financially sustainable way ever since. She is an internationally published freelance writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design, with columns on Wisebread, Flight Network, and Care One. Check out her latest musings on Facebook and Twitter.