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Do you know how to support yourself while travelling the world? Here are 5 out-of-the-box ways to make money that many travellers don’t know about. Read this and you may be able to travel …forever?
How To Support Yourself While Travelling The World
If you’ve been scrolling through social media and see people who don’t just go on short ‘holidays’, but seem to be constantly adventuring to beautiful and exotic places, you might be confused by how they can afford it. If you want to do the same and are wondering how to support yourself while travelling, this is the right blog post for you.
After a few years of full-time travel, here is what I’ve discovered.
Think Outside The Box
Before we discuss traditional ‘jobs’, I want to explore the concept of exchange vs traditional ‘work’.
In my 20s, I worked in a variety of jobs like office administration, hospitality and even fruit picking. Later on, I worked as an English teacher. I would then spend the money I’d earned on my expenses (like accommodation) while travelling for the rest of the time. When most people travel, this is what they tend to think about doing – and for short-term travel, this makes sense.
Yet, if you want to travel the world for longer periods, traditional jobs may not be the best way to go. Instead consider how you can exchange your time and skills for free food, accommodation and transport. There are a number of benefits to this approach:
- You may be able to travel exclusively on a tourist, not work, visa (depending on your location);
- You will eat, sleep and travel like a local;
- You will develop skills that you are interested in and gain references who can vouch for your ability;
- You open up opportunities for paid work via the people you exchange with (or those in their network);
- You may reduce the amount that you pay in income taxes.
Let’s explore how this looks in practice…
1. Labour Exchange
Some of the best labour exchanges that I’ve found are house-sitting and WWOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). In house-sitting, you care for people’s pets and homes while they are on holiday in exchange for free accommodation and utilities. In WWOOFing, you exchange a few hours of daily labour for the same.
You don’t need any particular skills other than a love of animals, respect for property and/or the ability to perform physical labour. In WWOOF situations, it is not uncommon to be offered paid work for additional tasks that the ‘hosts’ require. If you have skills like carpentry, building, childcare and teaching, you will find it is very easy to gain paid work via these exchanges with your hosts or local community… but I’ll discuss this in greater depth later.
If you’re relatively young and inexperienced, these types of exchanges are straightforward and simple. You can use sites like Aussie House Sitters or WWOOF Australia to find opportunities for less than $100 AUD/year. With house sitting, you are often staying in homes that cost $500-$1000/week or more on AirBNB for only an hour or two of ‘work’ a day.
There are also common labour exchanges in most areas like working in a hostel cleaning or staffing reception.
Also, consider things that other travellers commonly need and can either earn you some money or that you can exchange for things like meals and transport: Hair cutting; portrait drawing; mural painting; jewellery making; henna (or permanent) tattooing; entertainment/music/busking – the list is endless!
In my experience, if you approach people with an offer to help or entertain them or make them look good, you’ll be surprised by how much open they are to reciprocate. If you’re offering a service or product, you can also make some money on the side too.
2. Skill Exchange
This option is generally for older and/or professional travellers but can apply to anyone willing to put in the effort: instead of offering general help in exchange for food and accommodation, consider gaining a high-value skill.
‘High-value’ is a relative concept and depends on many factors. Basically, you need to be able to offer skills that are either 1) highly in demand; or 2) uncommon. Again, what is in demand changes from country to country, but can involve:
- Trade skills (carpentry, building, plumbing, electrical etc);
- Care skills (medical, disability support etc);
- Technical skills (IT, design, web, coding etc).
These are just a few. Essentially, if you are thinking of travelling for an extended period of time and you want to do so on a budget, consider what your existing skills are and how you can use them to help people along the way. If you don’t have any easily transferrable skills, consider doing a few short courses before you leave.
For example, as someone who studied digital media and has run a number of successful blogs, I have strong skills in website design, maintenance and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Recently, I posted on a Facebook work exchange group in exchange for private accommodation. I was completely inundated with replies.
Focus on developing skills that can help businesses (email marketing, copywriting, sales pages) and you’ll be able to negotiate with the owners of accommodation owners that will be more than happy to let you stay for free. Once you have a few ‘clients’ that you’ve worked with for free, ask them to give you a reference. Use these to gain paid work.
The next step in skills exchange is freelancing. Either through your exchange connections (or online platforms that connect freelancers like Airtasker or Freelancer), you can offer your services for a fee by project or by the hour. Freelancing is one of the best travel-friendly methods of earning money while travelling, because for the most part, as long as you deliver the product or service to your client – you can do the work whenever you have the time.
According to UpWork, here are some of the most in-demand freelance skills in 2023:
- Full-Stack Development;
- Email, Phone & Chat Support;
- Graphic Design.
In my early 20s, I studied a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate and spent the next decade in the industry, including a few adventurous years teaching in Mexico and Colombia. For a flexible and meaningful way to support yourself, teaching is my top suggestion. From ≈$250 (AUD), you can study for a TESOL qualification that will unlock jobs in 100s of non-English speaking countries around the world. While you won’t likely become a millionaire in education, it can lead to high-paying jobs in the university sector or freelance work. If you’re interested in teaching online, I’ve put together a comprehensive list that I update frequently.
If you speak a language other than English, or have another skill, consider teaching.
5. Work In Travel
Finally, working in travel, tourism or adjacent industries is one of the best ways to use your travel knowledge and work at the same time. You’ll also be surrounded by fellow travellers who share your passion and often work seasonally, giving you time to visit other areas in the off-peak.
Consider jobs like:
- Tour/Trail Guide;
- Scuba/Ski/Snowboarding Instructor;
- Travel/Booking/Reservation Agent;
- Bus/Tour Driver;
- Cruise Crew Member.
How to Support Yourself While Travelling The World
Travelling the world can be expensive, but if you keep an open mind and think outside the box, there are many ways to support yourself. You can choose a traditional, but travel-friendly, job or freelancing. Or, consider exchanging your skills in non-traditional ways to save yourself money and make connections. Either way, if you follow some of the five ways of supporting yourself above, you’ll be travelling for longer and cheaper. I’ve been ‘on the road’ for years, and you can too.
See my Mega-Guide to Australia for Digital Nomads.
See my Complete Guide to 50+ Digital Nomad Visas for Australians.
Want support to make your digital nomad dreams a reality? Get in touch.
Kate is a teacher, writer and CEOh of ohnomad.com and teachenglishonline.com.au. After travelling for years, she became a digital nomad/house sitter in 2019. Offline, she’s patting every dog at the park. Online: Twitter/LinkedIn.