This Is How I Get Paid To Travel The World (Yes, Really)

Get paid to travel the world
Travel is Awesome, but How do I Make Money?
Paid To Travel

After 9 years 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 detailed 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 around the world so much?

From the outside it must look like I’m just always on vacation, going on wild adventures to places like Costa Rica, Morocco, Iceland, and Afghanistan — but there’s a lot more to it 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?

I know it doesn’t seem possible, but it is. And I’m about to show you how.

Getting Paid To Travel In 2019

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Making Money Traveling
Full Disclosure: This Is Not My Car!

How Do I Fund My Adventures?

There are many different ways to get paid to travel the world. For me, I make money from this travel blog you’re reading now, which I started 9 years ago.

However, I’ll share other travel-friendly jobs at the end of this article too.

My own income sources can change from year to year, 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.

But because this is the big question everyone wants an answer to, I’ll finally try to clarify the details for you today.

You’ll learn exactly how I’ve funded my travels for the past 9 years — and how I’m able to use my blog to get paid for traveling around the world.

How I make money travel blogging
Full Disclosure: This Is Not My Helicopter!

Paid To Travel The World

It was 2009 when I first began planning to quit my job and travel. 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. They had me reading inspiring books and quotes about travel, and I was hooked!

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 friend Katie was working on private yachts as a chef, island hopping around the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

I thought if they could make money traveling like this, so could I!

How I Afford to Travel
Saving Money to Travel

Saving Money To Travel

My family isn’t wealthy (by American standards), and I’ve never had a trust fund. According to US statistics I was lower-middle class, a single dude living in South Florida working 2 jobs earning about $30k per year.

How could I possibly save money to travel the world for a 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: 40 Best Travel Jobs To Make Money

Getting Paid to Travel in Norway
Just Another Day at the Office!

Making Money While 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 side-hustle to make extra money 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… only working on my side business.

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 side-income business slowed down, 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. And have continued to ever since.

How I Make Money Online
Ok, Most Days Actually Look Like This…

Current Blog Income Sources

1. Influencer Marketing

Companies pay me to travel by advertising on this blog and my social media accounts. It takes many forms, like sponsored blog posts, Instagram features, brand ambassadorship programs, 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.

Examples include deals with respected companies like American Express and Momondo.

I always include a disclaimer if I’m partnering with a brand and only work with companies that I admire and trust.

How Much? With brand partnerships and influencer marketing I earn between $4000 – $20,000 per deal, depending on what’s involved.

2. Affiliate Marketing

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, Discover Cars, and many more.

There are also dedicated affiliate networks like Affiliate Window and Commission Junction who represent all kinds of different products.

To see my affiliate links in action, check out my Travel Gear Guide.

While individual commissions might be pretty small, this site receives 500,000+ pageviews per month. Many people are clicking on those links, and it allows me to get paid to travel.

How Much? With affiliate marketing I earn $10,000 – $15,000 per month.

3. Freelance Travel Photography

I earn money licensing my travel 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 travel photography to National Geographic!

Selling individual photography prints to readers is NOT a great income source. Most photography income comes from working with brands/destinations/media outlets who find me through the blog or on social media.

Learn How To Become A Travel Photographer

How Much? For travel photography I charge between $250 – $4000 for an image license depending on use.

4. Destination Marketing

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 paid to travel on 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.

How Much? For destination marketing I charge between $10,000 – $15,000 per project.

5. Display Advertising

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 earn income each time a reader clicks on one of these ads. They can also integrate into your YouTube videos, which is how vloggers make money.

If your blog receives enough traffic, premium advertising networks like MediaVine (the one I use) & AdThrive pay more than Adsense. Rates vary between $2 – $40 per 1000 views depending on your topic.

How Much? Display ads on my site bring in $7000 – $11,000 per month.

6. Paid Public Speaking

As a blogger, you can also get paid to travel by speaking at conferences and events around the world related to your topic. So in my case, I’ve spoken about traveling the world for photography.

Teaching others through a practical and inspirational speech is a skill that many companies will pay for. If you can build up your online brand, companies will start to seek you out for these kinds of speaking jobs.

How Much? Public speaking gigs can pay between $500 – $3000 per event.
Traveling in Thailand
Boat Hopping in Thailand

Other Ways To Earn Money Traveling

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 articles for other websites. They needed content, and I had stories and experiences 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.

Learn How To Become A Travel Writer

How Much? Travel writing can pay between $0.10 – $1 per word, depending on the outlet.

Link Building

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.

How Much? Link building used to earn between $50 – $500 per link.

Leading Tours Or Workshops

Some travel bloggers and photographers run their own group tours or photography workshops to exotic destinations around the world.

Some focus on budget travel, others focus on food, writing retreats, or improving photography techniques. Basically, you’re showing strangers around an area you know well, and hopefully teaching them something in the process.

Organizing a tour is a lot of work, but it can pay well too. I’m running my first one soon and can let you know how it goes!

How Much? Group tours or workshops can earn the organizer between $2000 – $15,000 per trip.

Selling Ebooks Or Courses

Selling digital products is another way some travel bloggers earn income traveling. 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 tips to share after doing this for 9 years!

How Much? Selling digital products can earn between $500 – $10,000 per month for some people.
Cave in Spain
How Much do I Make from Travel Blogging?

How Much Do I Make Overall?

I know, I know. You want details. How much do I get paid to travel?

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.

This travel blog earns a healthy 6-figures of income each year.

I’m not a millionaire, but I’m not living in a cardboard box either.

While I started with 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 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 each month because it can fluctuate from month to month. 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 9 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: Tips For A Successful Travel Blog

Resources To Get Paid For Travel

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 9 long years to get to this point.

Also keep in mind that I run one of the top 20 travel blogs according to readership. So my results are not average, I’m a bit of an outlier. But I also started at zero like everyone else.

I know these big numbers can be shocking for people who don’t understand how to blog for a living. 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 more resources I highly recommend:

  • How To Start A Travel Blog: My step-by-step guide to starting your first travel blog. Or any blog for that matter (food, hiking, fashion, etc.)
  • The Best Travel Jobs: Blogging not for you? Luckily there are many different ways to earn income while traveling.
  • Ways To Make Extra Money: Not ready to quit your day job? Here are some ideas to earn extra money on the side.
  • 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 because I’m also getting paid to travel!).

It’s been a long and wild journey so far, and I’m thankful every day for the incredible life I’m living. ★

READ MORE DIGITAL NOMAD TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on how I get paid to travel! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

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!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (328)

  1. Outstanding post! I have been researching this topic for a couple of years and am making plans myself to set out again for Europe. I started a private Facebook group for only my family and close friends for a month long journey I had last fall just to gage everyones reaction… like a beta test. With the positive feedback from that and your information, I feel encouraged to get my own blog up and running. Thanks for being thorough and sharing your knowledge.

    • Go for it Michelle! Blogging is a wonderful outlet for creativity, with the added bonus that it has the possibility to turn into a way to make money too.

      My best advice moving forward is to keep learning everything you can about the business side of it — while also creating that fun content on a regular basis. There’s a lot to learn! I’m still learning new things after 9 years…

  2. Traffic. Simple word, tough to achieve. In a world with thousands of travel blogs out there, how can I attract traffic to mine? I have been producing my blog for three years, and have virtually no traffic. I post on twitter daily, with over 25K followers, yet only a handful ever visit the site. I am active on Facebook, posting regularly, and still nothing. I would say what I am posting must not be a good enough hook, but is that it?

    • Hey Thomas! I completely agree. I’m going to be writing more about traffic in the future, but for now, make sure to read my follow up: How To Become A Successful Travel Blogger

      Social media is only a part of the whole equation. SEO is very important, a very big topic to master. Actively seeking out self-promotional activities (pitching your best stories to major media sites). Guest posting on other people’s sites. “Newsjacking” (creating content about topics that are currently trending and riding the wave).

      So for example, “overtourism” is a very hot topic right now. One way you could insert yourself into the public conversation is to write about it, or even better, put together a whole project about it. Invest your own money to visit a few locations affected, and then produce photos/video/writing about your experience. Then, when someone from the New York Times or CNN is doing research about the topic for their own piece, they find your stuff (or you reach out to them first) resulting in a feature of some kind.

      There are all kinds of ways to build traffic! That’s just one example. :)

  3. This might have been the best article I’ve read on making money traveling.
    You answered every question I had and more. Really appreciate you taking the time to share your successes with everyone.
    Thank you so much.

  4. Great. Inspirational.
    Thanks for all the tips.
    If everyone shared so much world would be a much different place…
    Happy travels. From Veteran solo female traveller.

  5. Hi, enjoyed glancing through your blog. I see you reveal you are taxed as an S corporation. Why don’t you consider moving your business base to Puerto Rico where the tax rate is only 4%. A little bit of restructuring might save you a ton of money.

    • Hey, loved how u make money and make ur dreams true . actually I also wanna be traveller nd don’t know to blog or something.no money though .so how would i strt?

  6. Hey Matthew, long time reader!

    I’m embarking on my indefinite travels early 2020. I am fortunate enough to have a business that allows me to work from anywhere, so I’m finally taking advantage of this freedom full-time.

    I’m interested to know if you take advantage of the IRS “Foreign Earned Income Exception” or are you not out of the US for that long per year?

    • Hi Tim! I’ve used the Earned Income Credit in the past, but not every year. I definitely recommend working with an accountant that specializes in expat taxes if you go that route.

  7. You don’t need to be ashamed or feel guilty about how much money you make. Celebrate your success! If you made a million dollars on this blog… you could celebrate that. If you buy a Lamborghini with the money….. celebrate. No one is judging you. It’s not immoral to make money on your blog and travel. Living a life people admire is awesome… and you should be super proud that your blog is very successful . ❤️

  8. Hi Matthew,
    I am a freelance professional Marathi language translator I first read your blog when I was searching for travel bloging. You really inspired me.
    Just a small curiosity, what about your wife and kids, do they also travel with you?

  9. Hi Matthew,

    Your blog is the first source I have come across while diving into the “how” of making a living on the road and I must say, I’m impressed!
    Finally, a guide that’s genuinely designed to help the reader, not just to rack up clicks like so many others. It gets a bit ironic–even fishy–when a web page lures me in, just to tell me I can make money by luring traffic to a web page…

    I feel a bit like I’ve hit the info jackpot with this blog because this is all new to me, and yet I almost feel as if I already have enough ideas to get started! Your transparency is winsome and inspires my determination. Saved me some time roaming the bowels of the internet. (:

    Keep up the good work, mate! Hoping to take my new wife and join you around the world before long!

  10. Hello Matthew Karsten,
    First of all i would like to thank you for making an excellent blog. It is very informative. However, i would like to know that for collaborating with Brands, there should be specific forms, approvals so that the work can be started and money can be paid. Could you provide some light on this? Refer to the sites, blogs for this?

  11. Hey mate,

    great insight and thanks for your honesty and transparency. I’m interested in how you go about licensing your photos? I imagine many of your relationships would come through this blog. But are there also platforms aside from ‘stock image’ websites where you can upload a portfolio and have companies browse for relevant images?

  12. Hi Matthew! I just found your website and I found it to be a great resource for me! I am a military spouse/teacher/mother of 4/lover of your Europe. In total, I have lived in Europe 12 years! However, my husband is about to retire from the military and we’re looking at options for this next chapter. I’m very interested in writing about my experiences here in Europe and since I’ve planned a many trips for friends and for groups in our embassy, I have many connections in several different countries and the truth is I love taking people and sharing these experiences with them. I enjoyed reading your information because although I’m a teacher by trade, I am very interested in working for myself and remaining flexible. Because I enjoy the travel so much, I am exploring the possibility that I could build a business with my experience. Many of my trips have been geared toward shopping but some of them take me off the beaten path where I have experience the culture in very special ways. I especially like helping out those who might be intimidated or unsure about where to begin when they travel. Any additional ideas you could offer would be appreciated.

  13. I’m from South Africa and I love traveling; I haven’t travelled abroad as yet but the options for the occasional weekend away here in SA are so vast.

    I would love to motivate people to travel through the agency that I have just started as a ‘side hustle’. I believe the stigma of ‘travelling is only for the rich’ or ‘those that have time’ should be done with. What advise can you give for someone with a start-up in the travel industry?

  14. Wow!
    Thank you Matthew these articles have really helped to paint a picture and reinforce the work that goes into building a big audience.
    I am currently saving up and booking a one way ticket in August, thinking of starting off in Bali and writing a cuisine travel blog.
    A few questions, you recommend some cameras in another article. I am thinking of a go pro so I can film myself cooking also.
    You say that travel blogging is saturated so it is best to think of new exciting things to write/inform about. Do you think writing about an already well explained topic such as food but with a twist…. for example like cooking with only raw ingredients round the world or would you think that that would be too niche?
    Let me know what you think and thank you! I hope to be a professional blogger myself in the years to come.

    • Hey Molly! I’m not an expert in food blogging, so I really don’t know the current landscape, but it sounds like a good idea to me!

      Honestly, I don’t think any topic/business is too “saturated”. That’s like saying don’t open a restaurant because there are too many. In business, some people fail, others succeed. Even when there’s already a lot of competition.

      There can be a nice bonus for early adopters, like myself, but we also took on more risk because there’s less of a roadmap to follow. When I started blogging it was still considered a pipe-dream to get paid to travel this way.

  15. I want to quit my job and start working on my passion of photography and travelling.could you suggest me that how should I pursue?