Between the article that Wade from Vagabond Journey did on me and my comments on various other articles/blog posts, I receive at least a dozen emails a month asking for details on how I support myself traveling. This is on top of the same question I get from almost every traveler I meet (which is a lot).
Since this seems to be a common question, I’ve decided to just lay it out in a blog post rather than continuing to type out the same response over and over.
So, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions:
What do you do?
The quick and easy version is: I put websites on page 1 of google. The more complicated version is: I do SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
Search engine optimization is the process of developing a site and adding content to it and promoting it in such a way that it attracts the attention of other websites and the search engines which will help it move to the top of page 1 (where you need to be to make money).
It’s a complicated and ever-changing process that can be approached in several different ways. There are as many methods to online marketing/SEO as there are SEOs so if you want to learn more about how to build websites to make money I recommend going and reading the following forums: Black Hat World & Traffic Planet. These are two of the best resources out there and if online marketing is something you’re thinking of doing, you’d be well served to spend a week or two reading through some of the most active threads to see what others are doing.
Something important to keep in mind is that Google is King of the search engines and he’s a fickle bastard. Making money in this way is NOT a steady income and you can go from $2500/month to $250/month with just a tweak of their algorithm (trust me). If you go this route, you should make sure you keep a nice cushion of savings and/or have another income source you can fall back on.
Do you make money from your travel blog?
No, I don’t. And I probably never will though I hope to get to the point that some of my expenses are covered by tour sponsors.
The travel niche is *highly* competitive and it takes a lot to outrank the leaders in the industry. It’ll take time, money and quite a bit of effort. While I could do it eventually, I prefer to spend my time actually *traveling* than jostling for a page 1 ranking.
This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t try to make money from their travel blogs, it’s just a suggestion to not take the “you can earn a million dollars as a travel writer” claims at face value. I know many people who make money from their travel blogs but they work hard for it and generally have some other additional source of income.
How many hours a week do you work?
It depends. If I’m starting a new project or if google decides to have kittens, I’ve been known to put in 14-18 hour days for days/weeks on end. On the flip side, I’ve also been known to not work at all for weeks on end.
Basically, I’ve been doing this long enough that almost everything I do is automated so I have to put in very little effort unless I’m doing something new or all hell breaks loose on one of my sites.
How much do you make/need to live on?
This depends a lot on you. If you’re willing to travel slow, live like a local and eat at home sometimes, traveling can be surprisingly inexpensive. However, if you need to stat at 4* hotels, party like a rock star and eat out every night, your budget will be substantially more.
In my case, my budget runs from $400-600 a month. For this amount, I live comfortably in a studio apartment 5 minutes walk from the center of town which includes everything but drinking water. I go out to eat/have a few drinks with friends 3-4 times a week and I take some trips around the area. This is a low-end budget for an expat lifestyle. A frequent traveler will pay more as moving from place to place can be expensive – which is why moving slowly is one of the easiest ways to save money.
It’s a very comfortable lifestyle. I could live for less but I’d have to sacrifice personal space and comfort and social life so it’s not worth it to me.
My earnings more than cover my monthly expenses and allow me to put a chunk into savings each month. They also allow me to purchase things I want/need (like a new G7 tablet for my upcoming trip) without stressing too much about it.
How long did it take you before you were able to support yourself online and start traveling?
From the time I really started focusing on making money online until the time I was making my minimum target amount ($600/month) was about 4 months. This was extremely fast. I got lucky and stumbled onto a site/method that worked quickly and well. For most people it’ll take a lot longer and some will never figure it out.
Once I made that amount for 4 months straight, I gave notice on my apartment and hit the road. That was in late 2008.
How can I live this lifestyle?
Get creative. As you can see in Wade’s blog series, the ways to make money to support your travel goals are virtually unlimited. You just have to get creative and put the time in. Some jobs will be more time-consuming than others but it’s important to remember, it’s a JOB. People don’t get that permanent travel isn’t just one long vacation. You actually have to work. Granted, sitting with your laptop on the beach is much more enjoyable than being crammed in a cube, but it’s still working. Unless you win the lottery, the odds of you being able to travel with no effort to earn money are pretty slim.
How do I start?
The best way is to sit down and figure out where you want to go (tip: Central America and Asia are good places to start as you can live very cheaply in those areas) so you can figure out your minimum monthly budget. Once you get that nailed, have a brainstorming session. List every interest and skill that you have that could possibly be converted into an income. Read Wade’s blog series for inspiration then start figuring out how to make it happen.
Are you a long-term traveler? I’d love to hear how you fund your travel lifestyle. Share your tips in the comments below!