It’s the ultimate dream if there is one: Quit your 9-5, pack your bags, escape to your favorite Pacific island destination, find yourself – and earn a comfortable living while you’re at it!
Of course, if anyone, and I really mean anyone, ever approaches you with an offer like this, I can only tell you to back down, run away, block them in your contacts, and so on and so forth.
Life just isn’t that simple for the vast majority of us. And there for sure isn’t this one product you can buy or this one thing you can do to realize an adventurous lifestyle.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should add this one to some list of pipe dreams and forget about it. In fact, the mystery of how to travel full time and make money doesn’t have to be so mysterious at all!
Case in point: Hi there! Not to brag or anything, but I have been spending the past four years perpetually on the move, hopping from one country to the next. No, I do not have and have never had a pension, immense savings, huge family support, or a pot of gold in my backyard.
And I don’t work for the UN or the CIA either, just to clarify.
Nope, I am just a young guy who decided to pack his bags one day. If I could do it while living comfortably and seeing the world, then so can you for sure!
To demonstrate the wealth of options you have in how to make money while traveling, I’ve written up the following list.
Take it as a guide (but not as gospel!) on how you can create a life that perfectly balances out freedom and seeing the world with a happy wallet.
1. Be a freelance writer
Let’s kick it off with the choice that has perhaps been the most significant to me personally. Yes, dear reader, it’s no coincidence – that sharp wit and the excellent lexicon you are feasting your eyeballs on have been honed by years of professional practice.
In all seriousness though, writing is probably one of the most ancient careers you could pick that gives you a ton of freedom in where you choose to live.
For centuries, millennia even, writers have roamed the globe looking for inspiration and gotten by. Thanks to the internet, our liberty has only increased – as long as we can somehow conjure up some stable wi-fi, we’re good. Anywhere.
Going the specific route of the freelancer, we’re also a one-man (or one-woman) business and benefit from incredible freedom in our schedules and day-to-day lives compared to the average employee.
This freedom means that on the one hand, the sky’s the limit when it comes to your earning potential.
On the other hand, this career is also – and I really want to stress this – SUPER COMPETITIVE. When you’re at the bottom (and as a beginner, you’re bound to be), it’s dog-eat-dog.
You might think your current job is also dog-eat-dog, but think again.
Compared to most salaried professions, writing exhibits ludicrous amounts of pay inequality. The bottom – which is the vast majority – basically never earn anything. And I don’t mean “earn very little, like minimum wage or so”, I mean in the order of low three digits or less per year.
The top, however – well, let’s just say there are freelance writers that are literally among the richest people on Earth right now, even if you won’t find their names among the Hollywood or Wall Street elite in the papers.
So, starting out as a freelance writer is anything but great. Let me be frank here, it really truly sucks for most. Almost every single one of us had to spend a looong time honing our craft and collecting experience in return for little to no pay, including me.
I might have started traveling full-time in 2018, and writing has indeed been my most significant income source since then, but I first began freelancing much earlier, while I was still in school!
It didn’t really earn me more than some pocket money back then, but it was enough to serve as a springboard for the future I am living now.
And I for sure don’t regret that.
If you want to give this career a shot, I can only recommend Upwork. The freelance writing landscape has changed a ton over the years, and in 2022 Upwork has crystallized as the top choice for most of us. It’s where I’ve found some of my most lucrative work to date!
Other would-be freelancers should also put the name Upwork on a sticky note somewhere – though they’re mostly known for writing, they host all kinds of freelance nomads.
2. Surf in hostel after hostel
This one is another time-tested favorite, and it’s saved me countless times early on when I couldn’t really rely on my writing for a steady income.
Working at hostels or bed-and-breakfasts is easy – you don’t really need any special qualifications, the work is usually quite fun and simple, and you get room and board and maybe a small paycheck on top while seeing the world!
Speaking English and maybe another foreign language, being young, easy-going, and conventionally attractive (in all honesty, it does get you places) are all bonuses.
If you know a lot about the place you’re staying, that would be nice to have as well – hostels often need people to take guests on guided tours and such.
But generally speaking, hostels are almost always looking for extra help of any kind, so enthusiasm and spirit alone should already open many doors for you.
How do you get one of these jobs? That’s the best part! Most of the time, all it takes is to ask at the reception, and you’ll know what kind of help they might need at the moment.
Many hostels also post job listings online. That sure is more convenient, since you’ll be arriving at your destination with a job already in your pocket, but do note that the real ‘gems’ are usually not found on Google, but by word of mouth.
You can always try putting in the place you’re planning to go next on Hostelword and try to message some of the hostels on there to see if they’re looking for help.
3. Work as a TEFL teacher
No, that’s not a typo – I am not talking about TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language. That’s something you might need if you’re applying to university abroad, a whole different story for another article on another day.
No, for now I want to tell you a bit about TEFL. That is, Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s one of the biggest and most lucrative careers for nomads like me, and one that has powered globe-trotting adventures for a long long time.
The prerequisites for going down this path are fairly straightforward. You need to speak English fluently, preferably as your first language, and you need to be comfortable in a classroom environment. That’s about it.
Sure, there are other considerations to make. You can officially certify yourself by taking the TEFL exam, which gives you a shiny badge and a legal license to work in some wealthier countries that often require it.
TEFL certification does cost quite a bit, but it’s a worthy investment if you really want to earn serious money while traveling over the long term.
And with that diploma in your pocket, you can literally work anywhere you want, since there’s a nearly endless supply of schools worldwide that are looking for extra teaching personnel.
4. Teach a foreign language (that is not English)
Of course, to make money teaching abroad it doesn’t have to be TEFL.
For example, I went to school in Germany and have been speaking German fluently since I was a kid.
When I lived in some European countries, such as Poland and Italy, I found out that German is an extremely desirable and prestigious language to learn there, even more so than English in some ways! This led to a few gigs that I am incredibly thankful for in hindsight.
So, even if you aren’t a native English speaker, your mother tongue (or tongues) could still open some doors for you internationally. Just do your research and find out where your skills might come in handy!
Once you’ve found a niche for yourself, there’s an endless supply of apps and services you can use to connect with prospective students, both online and locally.
5. Sign up as a flight attendant
On the one hand, this career choice (out of all the ones I am going to talk about today, at least) by far requires the most serious qualifications to get started, and the entry barrier is set pretty high.
You will need to prove yourself through rigorous training, get licensed to work as part of an aircrew (which can be costly), and you need to be at least college-educated at the bachelor’s level too.
Particularly important for the ladies: almost all airlines also have pretty stringent height requirements! Platform heels don’t count, unfortunately.
On the other hand, you arguably get some of the most reliable and steady employment out of being a flight attendant compared to other ways to earn money while traveling.
Not only can you expect a healthy monthly paycheck, but also plenty of benefits and a level of luxury that most nomads would envy you for.
The COVID-19 epidemic has hit airlines hard, of course, so working in this field in 2022 isn’t what it used to be anymore.
On the other hand, seeking employment in the aftermath of one of the industry’s greatest crises means that you’ll be in a perfect position for future growth, with less competition and more demand than ever.
If you enjoy catering-type work and can see yourself dividing your time between the flight deck and many, many fancy hotels during your globetrotting career, then maybe being a flight attendant is something you should look into! Just beware: the stress of this job can be a real beast.
6. Be a traveling masseuse
Okay, I’ll admit. I’m a bit of a romantic, and that shows in the kinds of careers that I consider in answering the question of how to travel full time and make money.
The traveling masseuse is more than a career, it’s an outright archetype. It’s a symbol as much as it is a real person, and for sure it’s not the easiest to pull off. But what it gives you is truly a lot: the ability to work anywhere you want, make a living, and re-locate whenever you please.
In that sense, being a traveling masseuse is a lot like TEFL. However, it does not require such an expensive certification to get started (though you should take courses and preferably get licensed as a massage therapist).
This makes it an excellent choice for those who just don’t click with the teaching formula, or who prefer to work with their hands.
7. Labor as a seasonal farmer
This presents a different model on how to make money while traveling. While the other jobs I went over above are either full-blown full-time careers or reliable gigs you can pick up anywhere as you go, seasonal farming jobs are something in between.
Because of the nature of the job – usually you’ll be picking fruit or reaping fields – it can only be performed during a certain time of the year, often not for longer than a few months at a time at most.
This gives you two huge benefits. First, because of the short duration of the work, you get paid a lot during your time there. Usually, seasonal farmers make at least twice the national minimum wage of their country, often much more.
You can save a whole bunch by doing a job like this, and setting those savings aside will provide you with a way to fund many many moons of future adventures.
Second, a seasonal farming job gives you a ton of time off. Because you earn so much, you can (if you play your cards right) get by with working just those couple months of the year and adventuring full-time during the rest.
Sure, this model of work is not for everyone. Working on a farm is physically taxing, and the idea of compressing a ton of effort into a short amount of time to get the rest of the year off can be a blessing or a curse.
It all depends on your perspective. But if the opportunity presents itself, consider it!
8. Develop skills for freelance photography
I don’t know about you, but one of my greatest dream careers as a kid was being a reporter/photojournalist for National Geographic.
Traveling to a new country for every assignment, duffel bag full of lenses always by my side, and snapping eye-opening shots wherever I go that – of course – always land on the front page, like “the Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry.
Yeah, I told you I’m a romantic, so what? The reality of the matter is, things have changed. Nat Geo doesn’t even employ photographers anymore.
Yep, you read that right. It’s all freelancing now, putting photographers in the same position that writers have been in for quite a while.
On the one hand, this gives all of us insane levels of freedom that previous generations could have never imagined. All you need is a camera and the willingness to use it. And practice, of course. Upload your images somewhere on the net, and decide how you’re going to use them and make money from them.
Maybe you want to sell stock photos. Sure. Just crunch the numbers in your head to figure out exactly what volume of shots you need to sell to make a good living. Analyze prices on the big stock photo sites, like Shutterstock for example, to get a good estimate.
Wedding photography is another classic choice for freelance photogs. Here, the pay can be pretty good if you’re experienced – but just as with writing, getting there is the hard part. Same goes for photography within the fashion industry and such.
In the end, working as a traveling freelance photographer is just as much about marketing yourself to the public and offering your skills as it is actually about taking shots.
So, just like us writers, you better have a ton of motivation and endurance to make it in this field. Genuinely enjoying the process doesn’t hurt either!
9. Work on a cruise ship
Maybe the idea of the flight attendant’s career piqued your interest, but you weren’t sure of the commitment that’s required to pull it off.
Well, one option that’s fairly similar on paper and can still allow you to earn good money while traveling is to look for jobs on cruise ships.
Cruises are like gigantic campuses of theaters, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, and resorts, all floating in the ocean. That should give you a broad idea of the kind and number of jobs that are available on these gigantic vessels.
Usually, working on a cruise is very well-paid. This is because this type of work is performed cyclically over the year just like seasonal farming.
In other words, you’ll only be out at sea for a short amount of time, and while you’ll have your hands full, you’ll get out of it with a lot of dollars in your pocket.
Unlike airlines, cruise companies rarely employ most of their crew permanently, at least not the workers responsible for tasks like catering, desk work, cleaning, and others that are especially easy to get into for nomads.
The lack of commitment allows you to literally hop on and hop off as you please – the cruise can be both your job and an all-expenses-paid trip to your next destination of choice if you plan it right!
10. Start a travel blog
Many consider this to be the natural “next step” onwards from freelance writing.
The truth is more complex than that, and as a travel blogger, you can earn either way more or way less than as a freelance writer while putting in way more or way fewer hours of work comparatively.
Blogging is a lot like journaling, and in my opinion, you should gauge your fit for this type of job by how easy you find it to keep a diary or something similar. Do you enjoy writing a new entry every day? Does it fill you with pride or happiness to tell some audience (even if imaginary) about your everyday adventures?
If so, then blogging might be up your alley. Whereas in freelance writing, deadlines and the contents of your work are mostly decided by your clients, bloggers can write about anything and in any way they please!
On the flip side, they also have to manage a ton of stuff that us lowly writers never have to consider! From creating, designing, hosting, and editing your website to maximizing SEO, just running a blog can be much more work than the writing you put on there.
If it is to be a travel blog, then visuals are also very important – quality photography to accompany your stories is a must, and that can get expensive too!
Lastly, earning money from blogging is a bit of a tricky thing. As a freelance writer, I just get paid by my clients for every piece I finish. Easy as that.
However, no internet gods are going to come down to reward you for every reader who clicks on your blog. You’ll have to figure that part out on your own.
There are a ton of methods out there – from ad revenue to affiliate marketing and promoting products for brands connected to your traveling persona. In the end, though, the idea is that a travel blog is so much more than just a digital journal of your adventures.
It’s a whole business, with all the bells and whistles to boot.
Still motivated enough to try? Well, be my guest and good luck!