You’ve been bitten by the travel bug. Your evenings are spent pouring over maps, websites and blogs of people doing what you want to do, sampling the exotic. You, however, are stuck in the 9-5 or working your way through school with what looks like a very long road ahead. It will be at least two years before you can break free and hit the road as you long to.
Of course there are options that would let you travel sooner: You could teach English abroad, you could become a WWOOFer, you could volunteer in some other capacity, or take a job as an Au Pair. None of those appeal to you. What you really want to do is be free to travel your way, without trading one work environment for another.
The good news is, that with some creative effort and a willingness to adjust your expectations, you probably can do just that. You could take off on your ‘round the world adventure in a few months instead of a few years and find ways to make it happen as you go.
How do I know this is possible? We’ve been doing it for 3.5 years, and we’ve met hundreds of other folks, from twenty-something backpackers to families with four or five kids, who are living their dreams and creatively funding them underway. Here are five ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Develop a quirky angle and a website
The internet is a great tool for creating a location independent income stream. There are lots of ways to do it and lots of people who are financing their dreams from exotic locations. One approach is to work remotely, either freelancing or by convincing your boss that your productivity will increase outside of the cubicle.
Another approach is to develop a quirky angle and create a website to match. Find your people, develop a following and create value for people that will provide income for you! It can be done, but first, a word of caution:
It’s foolish to expect that you can throw a website up over a weekend, crank out an e-book and in three weeks have an income you can live abroad on, in spite of what some of “those” websites and e-books may say. Building, developing and maintaining a website is hard work. There’s no free lunch and there’s no “quick fix,” and your financial expectations should be realistic.
That being said, there are ways to use a website to fund your travels. Here are a few profiles of people we know personally who’ve done it:
Location Independent: Lea & Jonathan Woodward coined the term Location Independent to describe a career that allows you to live and work anywhere. They have been living LI for several years and they make it their business to show you how you can do the same. Their focus is helping folks develop long-term strategies for life style change and design.
Man Vs. Debt is the brain child of Adam Baker. He and his wife wanted to travel, so they started selling their crap and getting out of debt, all the while traveling and doing what they wanted. Is debt holding you back from your dreams? Check out Baker’s site, he can help you and he’ll definitely inspire you!
The Mama Bus is an excellent example of a short term adventure funded creatively, without taxing the family budgets. Two Mamas (including this writer) and their 11 kids under 15 are now on a 2 month American Odyssey. The quirky angle? We’ve raised the money, $4500 in 3 months, through unusual means, and by gathering sponsors.
What separates the websites that work and those that don’t? Value to the reader. If you’re going to develop a site and hope that it will fund your journey, you have to provide something that others want. You can’t just throw a huge “yo, send money” button on a site and expect to spend six months cooling your heels in Bora Bora.
What constitutes value?
* Helping your readers get what they want. Sharing your corner on the market.
* Doing something entertainment worthy the people want to watch.
* Create a way for folks to “buy in” and participate and get something in return.
In my experience, it’s been easiest to fund a trip through a website that is well defined and of a limited time frame (a few months, not an open ended, multi-year world tour). People will often get excited and buy into something happening fast and furiously where they might get bored and forget about a long plodding journey. If you’re going to try the website angle then think it out thoroughly, push forward with enthusiasm and treat it as part of the adventure!
Take your show on the road
Busking (street performing) is a long venerated art among travelers. It’s still widely practiced, especially among lifestyle travelers who are trying to find a way to keep going. There are lots of options for the creative (and reasonably talented) person.
Music of any sort is a popular option. We know folks with fiddles, harps, guitars, flutes, bag pipes and even a didgeridoo who are supporting themselves as they go.
There are other arts that are conducive to making a few bucks at the drop of a hat: Poi, or fire dancing, belly dancing, miming, comedy , aerial silks, and henna art are just a few.
Do you dance? Or speak another language? Or know how to paint, knit, or make jewelry? Are you a massage therapist or a holistic health practitioner? Are you a computer genius? Your skills will be in demand on every continent, from hostels, restaurant owners, local businesses and fellow travelers alike. Don’t be afraid to offer your assistance. Can you tend bar, or wait tables? You’ll be able to barter those skills. Consider giving lessons in trade for food, lodging, or for good old fashioned money as you travel.
Street corner performing is an old fashioned fall back, but you can often do better. Many restaurants and bars will eagerly trade a full meal and twenty bucks for the ability to advertise your presence and draw in drink buying customers for an evening. You still get to pass the hat!
Hostels are often good places to put up a notice of your availability for lessons. So are community bulletin boards in the town you’re based in. Offering dance, or poi, yoga, meditation, jewelry making, language or any other kind of lessons you can provide “from 3-5 p.m. for $10 per person” is a great way to make a bigger chunk of money in a short period of time.
Too shy? Think it can’t possibly work? Consider the experience of a 14 year old girl, who, on her first backpacking trip with friends, armed with her fiddle and guitar, discovered that she could arrange gigs with bars and restaurants in Guatemala and make enough money to support herself quite nicely. Don’t believe it? Believe it; she’s my daughter.
Working under the table
Now that we’ve got you thinking about all of the possibilities, it’s important to touch on some of the logistics and legal issues.
If you’re traveling on a tourist visa, you’re not allowed to work. You know all of the stink that’s made in the USA about “illegal aliens” and “illegal migrant workers?” Well, if you’re working illegally under the table to fund your journey, that’s you. It can result in your visa being revoked and you being escorted, not so gently, out of the country.
This is a touchy subject. Where are the lines drawn? I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a gypsy, so I won’t presume to delve into all of the shadows. I can tell you this: working on the road (even under the table) is very common. It’s very easy to do. And I know many, many people who live their whole lives doing it. Is it legal? There’s a lot of grey area, depending on whether you’re being paid cash, or not, and whether it’s a business you’re working for, or just a lady who needs her yard raked in exchange for a hot lunch.
If you want to try it, the safest options are those in which no money changes hands and you’re bartering services for services (desk work for your hotel room, bar tending for your dinner) or “volunteering” in some capacity.
Educate yourself on a country by country basis. Know the law. Know the restrictions to your visa. And take your own risks accordingly. For our family, we choose never to break the law and we work to be good guests in foreign countries by always abiding by the terms of our visas. Period.
>> Find the best travel jobs
Lower your costs
If you dream of travel, be it that two week dream trip to Italy or a year long walk about, you’re going to need to find some money somewhere. Lowering costs is one very obvious way to turn those dreams into reality.
If you’re really serious about your dream and you really want to hit the road sooner, rather than later, then one option is to drastically lower your costs at home. Sell your stuff, downsize significantly (from house to apartment, from apartment to a room), sell your car, get rid of all non-vital expenses like gym memberships and cable tv, and eat in and skip a few nights at the bar and the money will quickly add up. Put all of that money into your trip account. Make minimalism work for you!
Looking for inspiration on this front? Check out:
The Great Family Escape: Watch one family downsize, learn to live with less, define their dream and hit the road. They share all of their secrets and will challenge you to focus on what really matters to you.
Breakout Of Bushwick: A single Mom and her tween daughter move from a big time Manhattan job and a from a fancy loft apartment to a tiny rented space in their journey towards lifestyle travel and location independence. Share their joys and struggles as they adjust to life with less, freelance work and alternative schooling.
>> Read about creative ways to save money for traveling
On the road
You’ve saved all the money you can, maximized your mobile earning potential and now you’re traveling. Now it’s time to maximize food, lodging and transport strategies that will create more disposable income… you know, for beer.
Eat at food stands instead of restaurants. The food is cheaper, often better and has the added benefit of being cooked right in front of you (so you know it’s clean and well cooked). Shop at mercados instead of big grocery stores this has the added advantage of pouring your money into the local community instead of corporate pockets & reducing your carbon footprint. Carry a one burner stove and a pot and cook anywhere, this will take your per-meal cost from dollars, to cents
When it comes to lodging, hostels are cheap, camping is cheaper, and a Hennessy Hammock might save you hundreds. Accept invitations, some of the best experiences you’ll ever have will be in the homes of generous locals. Make it a policy to always accept an invitation. Ask if you can trade your lodging for work they need done (tip: Don’t look like a homeless person!) Never be afraid to ask. The worst they can say is “No.”
Rent an apartment or house, which is way cheaper than a hostel or camping. Don’t bother with an online booking service, just show up where you want to be and check local listings. A single friend of ours rented a two room house, with running water, on an acre of fruit trees for $75 USD a month in our village in Guatemala last winter.
Stop taking tours, at least organized ones. Organized tours always have the primary purpose of fleecing the tourist. At very least, negotiate a better price by going in a group. Better yet, ask a local if they can give you a personal tour for less and the added benefit of making a friend.
Don’t be afraid. Women & children are in the back of that pickup truck, you can ride there too. So many western tourists are paralyzed by the fear of the unknown and uncertainty bred from strange languages and strange cultures. Dive in, do what the locals do,and it will be okay.
Don’t take the tourista buses. Walk, like the locals do. Travel on the cheap, slow, buses, the ones with animals as passengers. Your experience will be more “authentic” and your budget will be extended. Rent a moped instead of a car. Ask around and you’ll find one available. You can ride the length of the Ho-Chi-Minh trail, like a friend did, or you can bop around town with your groceries in style.
The slower you travel the more you’ll save.
Lots of folks are familiar with sites like couch surfing and programs like house swapping. But did you know there is a growing market for caretakers of various sorts? That’s right, people will pay you to travel, to take care of their house, pets, farm or grandmother. These range from short term, two week gigs, to year or more long commitments in exotic locations.
There are a wide range of these jobs available, for singles, couples, and families, for pet lovers, and those with domestic skills or experience. From campground hosts to ranch hands, to butlers and grounds keepers, there is free lodging in exotic locations to be had if you want it.
You’ll need to be clean living, well mannered, and dependable, with a clean criminal record and good references to get the best of these deals, but they are out there. A few that have come across my desk lately: Maintaining a cocoa farm in Honduras, house sitting in Australia, living in a stone cottage on the grounds of an estate in the south of France, pet sitting in a village in the highlands of Guatemala. For a small fee you can get the listings at The Caretaker Gazette.
>> Learn about au pairing around the world
Extended travel is possible now, if you’re ready to get creative in order to fund the trip of your dreams.
What creative ways have you used to fund a trip? Let us know in the comments or learn more about long term travel on a budget:
- How to Travel Around the World for $40 Per Day
- 10 Free Ways to Discover Your World
- The Art of Traveling in Developing Countries
- The Real Cost of Traveling the World Like Rolf Potts