Looking out over the Moki Dugway to the Valley of the Gods
IN almost five years of travel the question we’ve been asked the most is “how can you afford to travel for so long”?
We don’t have rich parents, we haven’t scored a huge inheritance and no, we didn’t win the lottery, but somehow we’re travelling around the world – and we’ve been doing it since 2014! We’ve made it from Scotland to Malaysia and onwards from Alaska to South America – largely by bike – as part of a multi-year, multi-continent tour, thus proving you can have your cake and eat it too (if your cake is a supermarket special eaten in a muddy field next to your tent) and the truth is it’s not (really) very hard.
Step one – reduce the budget by ditching a hotel for a tent. You’ll get complete autonomy and wake up to views like this!
First of all we had to decide to do it and secondly, we saved our butts off. We scrimped and saved for two years in the hopes of accruing enough for a decent trip and by the end of it we had about $30,000 AUD. The truth is we’d hoped for more but life got in the way and the equipment cost a small fortune itself (bike, panniers, clothing, tent etc to last five years).
Along the way we learned to be yes people, to jump at opportunities and to throw reservations out the window.
We knew our savings wouldn’t go the whole nine yards (not with our love of bakeries and cappuccinos) and so from the word go we brainstormed ways to supplement it.
Most people we’ve met on the road have funded their world trips with work at one point or another. Some work from their computer (whether it’s freelancing as a writer, photographer, designer or IT guru) with online English teaching becoming a solid little earner for travellers via websites such as Cambly. Others take a guitar and busk in the street or simply take seasonal jobs. We met a couple who made and sold jewellery (not a big earner) and others who have simply stopped their trip to work for a few months before taking it back up again.
The tip of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska!
Whether you use sites like HelpX or Woofing (part time work for food and board) to save some dollars, sleep in ditches, hound Couchsurfing hosts or dumpster dive (we’ve met people who did all those things) it all helps the bottom fiscal line and the underlying message is this: where there’s a will there’s a way.
So how are travelling the world and keeping our bank balance afloat?
We’ve worked along the way as florists, English teachers, salsa makers (the edible kind) and freelance writers. We stopped for a solid year to teach English in Chengdu, China (read about our experience here) and we also flew home to Australia for five months to visit family and earn some money at the same time (read about that experience here). Along the way we learned to be yes people, to jump at opportunities and to throw reservations out the window.
Saving, working whatever jobs we can and even selling flowers has allowed us to visit amazing iconic places such as this – Monument Valley, Utah
While odd freelancing jobs such as writing for Lonely Planet have helped a little – we found (like so many other travellers) that stopping for a good stretch to work is the best way to allow you to travel the world without really returning home. Asia is a fantastic place to teach English and with China in particular requiring 50 per cent more English teachers than they currently have, it’s pretty easy to obtain a job in a private academy that pays up to $2000 USD a month with housing allowances thrown into the deal. We worked at i2 English Academy, which is one of China’s fastest growing schools and offers pretty competitive salaries. But there are a slew of other schools such as English First and Disney English that offer competitive salaries and pretty fun atmospheres for teaching.
China is a great place to work and travel with a growing need for more English teachers plating up great opportunities
Over the past four years we’ve met a slew of travellers trotting around the globe while earning sporadic incomes such as Gökben and Nico of Frogs on Wheels, who taught yoga and free-diving respectively in Thailand (as well as English in China); British cyclists Nick Thomson (of Cycling Elsewhere) and Jonathan Kambskarò-Bennett (of JKB’S Bike Ride) who both stopped for a few months in Australia to work on farms and then Miami law student Evan (who we met in Istanbul) who spent a semester teaching in a teeny Georgian village via the Teach and Learn with Georgia program.
So with all that in mind here are our:
Top 5 tips on how to make money while travelling – and how to save it
1. Teach your native language. English is the big one (and arguably the most lucrative) but we’ve had friends teach Spanish in India, French in Vietnam and Portuguese in Australia. Asia is the epicentre for English teachers and that’s because there’s lots of jobs, the pays pretty great, the quality of life is fantastic and visas are typically easy to get. Most schools in China require just a degree (any old degree) and “experience”. The better schools with the better paying jobs (upwards of $3000 USD per month) ask for a teaching degree. Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan are also fantastic options with jobs galore. Nine times out of 10 you’re better off landing in the country and finding a job on the ground and from there your school will help you with visas, accomodation, bank accounts and the rest.
2. Become an entertainer or take your trade with you. Can you sing? Dance? Fire twirl? Blow giant bubbles from soapy buckets? If so, you can make money. Check out the incredible Bici Clown (Alvaro Neil) who has travelled around the world for years and performing wonderful clown acts along the way! We also met one resourceful Kiwi who travelled the globe with his hairdressing kit and not only provided top cuts for fellow backpackers – but also locals.
3. Become a seasonal worker. Countries like Canada, Australia and the USA are popular options for those looking to make fast cash in the right season. In Canada, it’s everything from planting trees, to picking fruit and even collecting mushrooms (the morels sell for a premium) with many travellers able to easily pick up under the table temp work – no questions asked. In the USA it’s all about weed trimming (which can be very lucrative but also very sketchy depending on the farm) alongside seasonal snowfield jobs and yes, making salsa or selling flowers! In Australia travellers can earn more than $20 USD per hour picking fruit or working on farms.
4. Ask for free accommodation. Your chances of scoring a complimentary room at the Hilton for free are probably limited, but don’t be afraid to ask the locals if there’s somewhere free to rest your head, or if you’ve got a tent, somewhere to pitch it. We’ve scored rooms, backyards, and once a piece of grass in a military compound in Morocco through this method, but we’ve also been frequently been fed and watered while meeting great people.
5. Run a blog and sign up for Media Vine. Ok, you’re not going to make money with this unless you reach over 25,000 independent clicks per month. BUT if you’ve got a story to tell, a knack for writing SEO savvy content and some snazzy photos to boot you can earn a great living. Check out the blog masters Goats on the Road who share all their tips and tricks for making a lucrative website that enables the ultimate travel lifestyle.
Budgeting might be tough – but it means you get to share experiences and views like this!