Many people that dream of quitting their job and traveling the world have already figured out that their monthly long-term travel expenses will be less than what they’re spending now just for the daily grind at home. Going to The World’s Cheapest Destinations makes that even easier of course. Then comes the hard realization that it still costs real money.
It’s really hard for a couple to travel around the world for less than $12,000 once you factor in airfare, immunizations, visas, and travel gear. Or for one person to do it for less than 7 or 8 thousand. Double that if you really want to see and do what’s available out there, if you’ll be moving around a lot, or if you’ll be spending any time in Europe, Australia, or Japan.
For most people it’s almost always easier to save first world dollars at home and work an extra few months—no matter how much you hate your job—than it is to try to earn thousands of dollars along the way while traveling in foreign lands. Still, I spent five months of my first trip around the world teaching English in Turkey, so I understand that sometimes you just can’t wait any longer and just need to go. Here are the best ways to make a buck while on the move.
This is the most lucrative option available to most people who are lucky enough to speak English as their native language and either have the skills or education to teach (hopefully both). Thankfully English is the language of commerce and of tourism, so there’s a demand for it nearly everywhere where people normally speak something else. To make the big bucks you need to sign a long-term contract and have recognized ESL certification, but there are plenty of temporary, under-the-table jobs available, especially in the big cities. Here are some good books on the subject and you can usually find jobs on expat message boards, posted on hostel bulletin boards, or by just asking around.
The other good way to keep making real money is to keep doing what you’re already doing—if you have a skill that lends itself to working remotely. If you’re a writer, a graphic artist, a web designer, a translator, or some other position that is location independent, try to line up work before you go and then keep at it later through eLance, Sologig, or by surfing Craigslist ads.
Use Your Skills Locally
If you have a specialized skill that is in demand, you may be able to find work locally. This usually needs to be a job with clear barriers to entry and certification, however, rather than things a local can pick up through experience or short classes (like carpentry or computer repair). Examples of this include dive instructors, dentists, doctors, specialized software developers, and import/export paralegals.
Be a Nanny
If you don’t mind staying in one place for a while and having your schedule dictated by someone else, there are some places where you can make money as a nanny taking care of children. Granted, they can hire someone from a developing country for far less, however, so this usually only works where they want someone who is a native English speaker. See Work Your Way Around the World for more info or look for books and websites on this subject specifically.
Work on a Farm
Fancy the life of a migrant worker? If you don’t mind back-breaking work in the hot sun all day, you may be able to scrape by for a while as a farm worker in some countries. Sometimes it’s merely a volunteer position that supplies room and board (like WOOF or on a kibbutz), other times you get picked up somewhere in the morning and earn a daily wage. Scroll down this page for books on short-term jobs abroad.
Hustle for Work
There are all kinds of jobs out there for someone who is a hustling salesperson if you’re good at that kind of thing. Backpacker hotels and tour companies are often looking for English-speaking touts to help lure customers in a competitive environment and it can result in free boarding and commissions. Or you can work the front desk, answer e-mail inquiries, translate menus, work the bar, or do other jobs where communication in fluent English is desired.
Run a Web-based Business
I’m putting this last on the list because if you’re taking off soon, it’s probably too late to start down this road. But if you already have a blog, a website, or some kind of e-commerce site that you can keep running while you travel, that can provide a bit of income along the way. If the business is far enough along, it could even finance your whole trip. Like anything worthwhile, this takes time and dedicated effort to bear fruit, plus regular maintenance while you are on the road. Done right, however, it’s a painless way to make money that doesn’t require all that many hours of work each week once it’s established.
Did you find work (or make work) along the way in your travels? How did it go?