Working while traveling is something that many long-term travelers do to help fund their adventures. Whether it’s teaching English and socking away money while exploring the region you’re living in, or working on a farm, in a hostel, in a local bar or restaurant, or finding/creating a job as a digital nomad, there are several ways to supplement your income while on the road.
When researching costs of long-term travel, it can be very eye-opening, and finding out just how much you can save (and what you’re going to have to sacrifice) can be intimidating. If you are discouraged by your financial situation and pondering whether it might take as long to wait for retirement, we’ll encourage you to consider other options before you give up on your travel dreams.
Or maybe you don’t actually need to work but instead want to transition into a location independent lifestyle. Many traveling families are going this route, working remotely from wherever they go. Many career breakers are looking to find a new profession while traveling and taking a break.
While this isn’t the same free-wheeling lifestyle as a gap-year or “traditional” RTW trip, it still gives you the chance to escape the fast-paced lifestyle of home. And you may be able to carve out a new job or career or possibly go into business for yourself. There really are many possibilities – the key is start planning for this early.
Getting a job as a digital nomad can be challenging as many are jobs you create and build on your own, becoming an entrepreneur. While this is becoming more and more possible because of widespread internet availability in even the most remote and developing countries, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of hard work to do it on your own. But as the years go by, more and more companies are allowing their employees to work remotely.
Freelance work: Your best bet is do start doing some freelance work, but it’s necessary to already have a set of marketable skills. Web design and consulting are fantastic options, while travel writing is a possibility (though you shouldn’t expect to start a blog or consulting firm and begin earning enough to make a living immediately – it takes lots of time, hard work, and patience). If you are thinking about trying to earn some money while traveling, it might be best to think in terms of developing freelancing skills well in advance.
Keep your job and start working from home
It is possible to keep your current job and travel at the same time, working remotely while on the road. Start small as you make the transition to location independence. If you don’t have much face time at the office, you may want to propose the idea to your boss to let you try working from home, maybe one or two days per week, then gradually build up to full time as you prove that you can do just as good of a job from home (and soon, the road) as you do in the office. Of course, the trick here to make sure that you really do continue to be a model employee. If this goes well, you can take the next step and ask to work from another country.
Obviously, if you have not been at your current job long, your boss will probably not respond well if you walk into his or her office and announce that you’d like to work from Southeast Asia for the next six months. But if you have a proven track record at the company, your boss may be open to the idea. People who work from home often work longer hours than those in an office. Plus, the company will save money by not having to provide you with a desk and computer. If you’ll be purchasing travel insurance for your trip, the company will save even more by not having to pay your insurance premiums.
Explore all options: If your job absolutely requires that you work in a specific location, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a location independent professional. It just means you’ll have to get a new job in order to do so. Start looking for jobs that specify “work from home” or “remote” (just be careful that the job isn’t a scam). Look for jobs that utilize your current skills but don’t require that you work in a particular location.
You might be more limited in where you are able to go if you plan on working while you are there. You won’t be able to go to very remote places, as you’ll need to make sure you have access to phone or internet services. Plus, you might be more weighed down than you would if you were traveling free and easy. For nearly all remote jobs, you’ll need to bring a laptop.
This could mean that you have to hunker down and stay put for a while at times and not move around as often as you thought. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, you may get to visit few places during your trip, but on the other, by staying longer in each place, you may gain a deeper understanding of life there. And if you are one of the many who are starting to take their families on adventures like this, slowing down is imperative for the kids, especially the younger ones. It also makes educating on the road far easier when you stay put for a month or two at a time.
Before you decide to travel as a digital nomad, carefully weigh the pros and cons as they apply to your situation.
- Is the security of a steady income worth the sacrifice of having to work while you travel?
- Could you be location independent in your current job or would you need to find another?
- How much time are you willing to work each day or week while you are on your trip?
- If you’re a traveling family, how will one (or both) parents working impact your why or what you are trying to accomplish by taking this trip to begin with?
For some, location independence is a great way to continue working while they see the world, but it’s not for everyone.
One of the most popular ways of making money while on the road, teaching English as foreign language (TEFL), is a great way to make some money while still traveling. The necessary qualifications depend on where exactly you want to teach, but most developing countries only require you to have a college degree and be a native English speaker. A certificate of some kind (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA) is certainly helpful and may help you find a job more easily and with higher pay.
Some travelers without certifications may have to work under the table, which is a risk, but thousands do it each year. If you’re looking to hunker down and actually live somewhere for a while, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and certain parts of China pay the most. Time off will give you the opportunity to explore where you are living, plus you get the advantages of living in a completely different culture, which is an adventure in itself.
If you only want to teach here and there to gain a little extra income, that’s also possible in many countries in regions like Southeast Asia and Latin America. Pay is typically lower and you will most likely have to work illegally, but it can certainly prolong your trip.
For more in depth information on teaching English abroad, check out the following articles and resources:
- Read Work Overseas: Teaching English Abroad
- Read 17 Questions You Should Ask Before Accepting a TEFL Job
- Read 7 Secret Benefits of Teaching Abroad
- Read 7 Truths You Won’t Hear About Teaching ESL Abroad
- Check out Dave’s ESL Cafe
Restaurants, bars, and hostels
If you’ve ever had any experience working in the hospitality industry, now is the time to brush off those skills to earn a few extra bucks. Getting a job in a local restaurant or bar as a server or bartender is possible, though you’ll most likely have to work under the table. Most places prefer to employ locals, but it is possible to find jobs, particularly in really touristy towns (and at Irish bars which, for some reason, seem to be located in every tourist city in the world).
Working in a hostel is another possibility, though you probably won’t earn much money. Instead hostels will employ travelers to do a bit of cleaning or bartending for a few hours here and there in exchange for room and sometimes board. It’s a great way to keep your per day budget down while staying for a while in a cool place and meeting lots of new friends. The traveling hostel bartender is usually a pretty popular person.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a fantastic way to make your trip last a bit longer and is very popular in countries like Australia and New Zealand (which are typically more expensive countries in which to travel). The premise is that you work on an organic farm in exchange for room and board – so while you won’t be adding to your bank account, you won’t be spending much money either, and you will meet a good number of interesting people in the meantime. A lot of WWOOFing locations are “off the beaten path,” so you can take advantage of living in and seeing part of a country that most don’t get to. This kind of work is available worldwide.
If you simply don’t make the kind of money that’s going to allow you to save what you need without having to wait half a lifetime, you don’t have to give up your dreams of traveling the world. Adding in some work along the way, or moving somewhere to teach for a while, can help tremendously.