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After 7 years of traveling the world, the most common question I get is: “how do you make money traveling?” or “how do you get paid to travel?” Well here’s my answer.
Working as a professional travel blogger has been a dream come true after many years of hard work. But I completely understand your curiosity. How am I getting paid to travel so much?
From the outside it must look like I’m just always on vacation traveling around, having a blast — but there’s a lot more to it than that behind the scenes. Somehow I need to make a living!
How exactly do I make money? How do I fund my travels? Do I have sponsors? Who is paying me to travel the world?
To fund my long-term travel lifestyle, I make money different ways.
But it all became possible after I started a travel blog.
My income sources are always changing, and some are more complicated than others. Attempting to explain how I get paid to travel in casual conversation usually takes a while.
Often times I’ll just throw out “travel writer” or “photographer” to avoid a lengthy discussion.
However because this is the big question everyone wants an answer to, I’ll try to clarify this burning query for you today.
You’ll learn exactly how I’ve funded my travels for the past 7 years — and how I’m able to get paid for traveling around the world.
Get Paid To Travel The World?
It was 2009 when I first began planning to quit my job and travel the world. I was inspired by two friends. Both were traveling very cheaply, on a backpacker’s budget, living on less than it takes to live in the United States.
I was completely enthralled with their photos and stories from exotic destinations around the world.
At the time, I didn’t realize you could travel long-term for less than $1000 a month! Budget travel was an entirely new concept for me.
My buddy Ferenc was backpacking through Southeast Asia, making money advertising with Google Adsense on his photography website.
My ex-girlfriend Katie was working on private yachts as a chef, island hopping around the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
I thought if they could travel like this, so could I!
Saving Money To Travel
My family isn’t wealthy, and I’ve never had a trust fund. According to US statistics I was considered lower-middle class, a single male living in South Florida working 2 jobs that earned about $30k per year.
How could I possibly save money to travel the world for a whole year living on that?
The answer is I downsized my lifestyle to live on even less.
I’d just finished paying off my car, so I decided to sell it. I canceled my car insurance, gym membership, and Netflix subscription. I purchased a used commuter bicycle, a rain poncho, and a bus pass to get around.
I sold off almost everything of any value that I owned. Goodbye DJ turntables, goodbye stereo, goodbye sports equipment.
I stopped going out to bars, restaurants, and nightclubs too. I cooked a lot of pasta & rice at home. Made my own cheap sandwiches for lunch.
I rented a small room for $400 in a small 2 bedroom house I shared with 2 other people in the suburbs.
These simple (but boring) actions allowed me to save about $7000 over the course of a year. It required discipline, and it wasn’t exactly “fun”.
READ MORE: 33 Best Travel Jobs To Make Money
Making Money Traveling
While I spent a year saving money for (what would initially be) a 12-month journey through Central America, I was also dedicating my free time to developing a 2nd source of income that would help pay the bills as I traveled.
I worked countless coffee-fueled nights and weekends doing hundreds of hours of research to learn about and build a small online business writing and selling digital guides (aka ebooks). My social life kind of fell apart, because I wasn’t going out much.
But chasing my travel dreams was more important to me at the time.
When I finally left for Guatemala in November of 2010, in addition to my savings, I was also earning $1000-$2000 a month selling three different how-to guides on various topics related to the nightlife industry.
After a few years my ebook business slowed down though, as much of my success was from advertising with Google Adwords, a platform that shows ads in your search results. Google made changes that hurt my business a lot.
Luckily by then I’d begun to diversify my income streams, and was earning money from my travel blog.
Current Blog Income Sources
Companies pay me to advertise on this blog and/or social media accounts. It takes many forms, like sponsored blog posts, Instagram features, or newsletter mentions.
I’ve built up a large loyal audience of people who are interested in travel, and these companies want access to that audience.
I always include a disclaimer at the bottom if I’m partnering with a brand and only work with companies that I admire and trust.
Slightly different than traditional advertising, longer term partnerships (or ambassadorships) are longer projects with companies that can last from 3 months up to a year.
They usually involve multiple blog posts, regular social media coverage, licensing of images, maybe writing articles for the company’s blog, promoting giveaways, and more.
Whenever I share my favorite travel gear, photography equipment, books, or online courses with you, I include special affiliate tracking links to those products.
This means if you decide to click through and buy something, I’ll receive a small commission. The price remains the same whether you use my special link or not.
Examples include Amazon.com, Booking.com, WorldNomads.com, BlueHost.com, and many more.
To see my affiliate links in action, check out my Travel Gear Guide.
While individual commissions might be pretty small, this site receives 700,000+ pageviews per month. Many people are clicking on those links, and it can add up quickly.
I earn money licensing my photography for use in commercial marketing campaigns, or for editorial use by media outlets. Tour companies, national tourism boards, outdoor brands, magazines, book publishers and others buy my images from time to time.
I’ve even sold images to National Geographic!
Selling individual photography prints to readers is not a great income source. Most of my photography income comes from working with brands/destinations/media outlets who find me through the blog or on social media.
Here’s a great guide for improving & earning money with photography.
Occasionally a country’s tourism board will invite me to visit and write about my experiences traveling through their country.
In the past these were unpaid; but flights, accommodation, and activities were covered like a traditional media press trip.
Well now I’m getting compensated for these destination marketing projects. Usually, they reach out to me, but sometimes I’ll pitch a project to them too.
A campaign usually produces a mix of blog posts, social media content, photography, and video footage.
Google has an advertising platform called Adsense. By placing some special code on your blog, they display relevant ads within the content of your site.
You then earn some money each time a reader clicks on one of these ads. You can also integrate these ads into your YouTube videos, which is what a lot of vloggers do.
Other Ways To Earn
There are other ways to make money from a travel blog which I currently don’t take advantage of. Here are some additional examples.
Freelance Travel Writing
I used to write travel-related articles for other websites. They needed content, and I had travel stories to share. The Travel Channel was once one of my clients.
It can be a decent source of income for some people, for me it was sporadic. These days I’m able to earn more working on my own site rather than writing for others, so I generally don’t chase this type of income anymore.
Here’s a great course on improving your travel writing.
In the past, I also engaged in something called text-link advertising. Companies would pay just for a backlink to their website in my older posts, or provide a full pre-written “guest post” full of links for me to publish.
Why? Because it helps those companies increase their search engine results, sending more people to their website and growing their business.
The practice is frowned upon though, because it’s against Google’s guidelines.
If you’re caught by Google, it can backfire, so I don’t recommend it. Yet many bloggers still make money this way — so I thought I’d mention it.
Some of my travel blogger friends have been earning income for speaking at conferences and events around the world related to travel or business.
Teaching others what you’ve learned, through an inspirational speech, is a skill that some companies will pay for. I suck at public speaking, so it’s not an income stream I make use of. Who knows, maybe in the future!
I know of other travel bloggers and photographers who run their own tours to destinations around the world.
Some focus on budget travel, others focus on food, writing retreats, or photography workshops to teach clients how to create better images.
Organizing your own tour isn’t a simple process. I’m running my first one in March 2018 and can let you know how it goes!
Selling digital products is another way some travel bloggers earn income. Either travel guides about a particular destination, or books about how to travel on a budget, how to make money from a travel blog, improving your photography, becoming a better travel writer, etc.
I find it kind of funny that I was able to fund my first year of traveling in part by selling ebooks, yet don’t sell any now.
That may change in the future, as I have a lot of useful information to share after doing this for 7 years!
How Much Do I Make Overall?
I know, I know. You want details. Asking someone exactly how much money they make is a very personal question, and it’s not something I’m entirely comfortable posting, but I’ll give you an idea.
These days I earn a decent six figures a year from this blog.
I’m not a millionaire, but I’m not living in a cardboard box either.
While I started from humble roots, and still prefer to travel the world on a budget, I’m also able to save money these days. Or splurge on some expensive experiences/trips from time to time.
Of course there are also many expenses with running my business. Website hosting, photography equipment, travel expenses, etc. No one paid me to travel to Greenland for example, but independent travel like this is also part of running my travel blog.
And the reality is that even now, I actually have no idea how much I’ll make next month. Or the month after that. It’s one downside to working for yourself. In exchange for freedom, you often lose some security.
But I’ll choose freedom over security any day.
There have been a few occasions over the past 7 years, earlier in my travel blogging journey, when my bank account was drained to its last $300…
Embracing uncertainty and risk on a quest to do what you love can be scary sometimes. Really scary!
Hey, I know what it’s like to live in a cave if it ever came down to that. :-)
I love what I do, and continue to learn new skills and work towards making this travel lifestyle sustainable, or at least until I no longer enjoy it.
I strongly believe that anything is possible with hard work, patience, and dedication.
You also can’t be afraid to take some risks or fail along the way.
READ MORE: Professional Travel Blogger Tips
I’m not going to sugar-coat this and tell you that making money while traveling has been easy. Quite the opposite actually. I work a lot more now than I did when I first started.
This income didn’t just appear overnight either, it’s taken me 7 long years to get to this point.
Also keep in mind that I run one of the top 10 travel blogs according to readership. So my results are not average, I’m a bit of an outlier. But I also started at the bottom like everyone else.
I know these big numbers can be shocking for people who don’t understand blogging. Yes, blogging can be more than a hobby. It can be a viable business if you treat it like one.
Like all businesses though, it takes time to grow.
For the first 2 years, there’s no way I could’ve survived on my travel blog income alone.
However if you’re determined to get paid to travel, here are some resources I highly recommend:
- How To Start A Travel Blog: My complete step-by-step guide to starting your first travel blog.
- Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging: Huge in-depth course on building and monetizing a travel blog.
- The Best Travel Jobs: Blogging not for you? Luckily there are many different ways to earn income while traveling.
- Vagabonding: This book by Rolf Potts convinced me to save money and travel the world as a budget backpacker.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: This book by Tim Ferriss is full of useful tips for building a location independent business.
I hope my article answered your questions about how I can afford to travel so much. It’s been a long and wild journey! ★
READ NEXT: How To Start A Travel Blog
Have any questions about how I get paid to travel? What else would you like to know? Drop me a message in the comments below!