How to Make Money While Traveling the World

by Myscha Theriault

Many new college graduates dream of seeing the world before settling down in a desk job. Not only is traveling a lot of fun, but it also offers many concrete benefits — you can learn a new language, pick up new skills, and gain unique experiences that will make you more employable and provide a lifetime of memories and awesome stories. Of course, as a new graduate with new financial responsibilities, world travel might seem prohibitively expensive. But with savvy planning, you can actually save on or even make money from your travels. I’ve been making a living while traveling around the world for years, and here are some of my best tips. (See also: Save $10,000 a Year by Living at Home)

Where to Find International Job Opportunities

Options for working abroad vary wildly. Positions exist for nearly any type of profession, although some jobs offer more travel opportunities than others. One such work path is education. Teachers are needed in practically every foreign country, not only for traditional classrooms within international schools, but also for business and technical English classes. For listings of legitimate international teaching opportunities, consider subscribing to The International Educator. It’s a respected publication that has been around for decades, and it provides up-to-date job openings as well as information on scheduled job fairs. Other reliable international career options include medical positions and jobs relating to travel and tourism. By picking a location you want to explore and securing employment there, you have effectively given yourself an extended travel opportunity. Bonus? Airline tickets are typically included with employment contracts.

Finding Subsidized Living Expenses

Overseas employment often comes with highly-subsidized living expenses. For instance, it isn’t unheard of to receive complimentary furnished housing, utilities, gym memberships, and transportation allowances. Families can also negotiate for comped or reduced-rate tuition for their children at prestigious private schools. For young couples who wish to start a family right away, this is a huge perk that would be difficult to find fresh out of college. Other covered expenses that are fairly typical with international employment include shipping expenses for personal belongings and annual round-trip airfare for you and your family. Since these are expenses that usually cost an enormous portion of your salary in the United States or Canada, earning a Western salary in a low-cost-of-living country with these expenses included in your job package is a huge savings opportunity.

Design Your Own Job: Location-Independent Earning

If you find day-to-day work schedules a drag, then you may wish to forego a regular job in favor of a location-independent earning situation. This can be particularly attractive if the types of gigs you are qualified for allow you to complete larger projects at your discretion, such as if you’re a writer, a graphic designer, or a software engineer. Having the flexibility to completely enjoy a destination by day and work at night, for example, can be very appealing. Also, being able to schedule your work hours so that you have one week on and two weeks off can mean being able to visit areas that are more off the grid. Some of the most phenomenal cultural experiences are in these types of places, and they also tend to be extremely affordable, allowing you to hang out at a hostel with free Wi-Fi for a week and then return to your hut with a waterfall view for the rest of the month. When you are able to control your expenses in this way instead of paying full tourist rates to have access to the facilities you need, saving becomes much easier. Options for this type of earning include freelance writing, graphic design, web development, online coursework, business consulting, and more. There are several ways to find this type of work. Most popular job-listing websites feature freelance opportunities, or check out FlexJobs, which features positions that are flexible on both time and location.

Tax Savings

Depending on where and how you are earning your living while abroad, you may be entitled to a significant tax savings via the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. According to the IRS:

If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you are taxed on your worldwide income. However, you may qualify to exclude from income up to an amount of your foreign earnings that is now adjusted for inflation ($95,100 for 2012).

For more information about this tax benefit, check out this official publication by the IRS and consult with a qualified accountant.

Passive Income Streams

Passive income is money that comes in without you doing anything (after your initial set up and investment). You can actually start developing passive income streams while you’re still in college or even high school. In fact, the work you do for passive income might not be all that different than the work you’re doing now. For example:

  • If you’re a web designer, instead of building individual websites, you can design templates that can be resold over and over again. (Check out more passive income options for designers.)
  • If you do freelance writing, instead of writing for clients, you can write your own review blog and use Google Adsense, Amazon Associates, and Commission Junction to earn affiliate income.
  • If you know some programming, instead of writing code for other companies, you can create your own smartphone app.

If you would prefer to write for other sites instead of your own, certain online platforms will pay you for the number of reads your articles receive, while others will allow you to upload as many articles as you desire for monetization through a variety of ad networks. You can get started immediately by checking the writing jobs posted on ProBlogger. While it’s true some people only earn lunch and shopping money from these types of ventures, it’s equally true that others are managing to earn a full time living. In the end, though, for the purposes of funding your world travel, every little bit helps. Any monies earned passively will only increase your savings potential when combined with other international employment opportunities.

Photography is also a great way to generate passive income. With a reasonably high-quality DSLR and accounts at a variety of stock photography agencies, the world can quite literally provide you with a living in the form of captured cultural moments and iconic imagery. As with the other online passive income streams mentioned above, people make anywhere from spare change to a significant salary with travel photography. How well you do depends primarily upon your dedication, tenacity, content choice and, of course, raw talent. Because this is digital content you can sell over and over again if you so choose, growing your image collection is a great way to both save and meet your daily travel expenses at the same time. To get started check out this list of 33 marketplaces to buy and sell stock photos and graphics.

House Sitting

The overhead expenses of basic accommodation are up there with airline fares as some of the most cost-heavy items in any travel budget. One way to greatly reduce this line item while traveling and therefore increase your savings potential is to explore house sitting as an alternative to vacation rentals, hotels, and hostels.

Resources such as House Carers pair travelers with homeowners for a win-win outcome. For example, this fall I am scheduled to receive 6-8 weeks of free pet care by using such a service. The people who will be caring for my pampered pooch will also be getting a great deal in the form of a free place to stay. Both parties will save significantly with this arrangement, making long-term travel a more cost effective endeavor for all those participating. For more information on house sitting, check out this article on landing the perfect house-sitting gig.

Location Leverage

There are a couple of different ways that leveraging your chosen location can save you money. The first is that if you are living in an inexpensive location and earning a salary comparable to what you would in a more expensive area, then your potential for saving money is greatly increased. But there’s another way to leverage your location — when you are living in an area that provides you with affordable access to a variety of other destinations that would cost a fortune to travel to from back home, you are able to cross several countries and towns off your bucket. For example, living in northern Italy allowed me to visit places like France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, and other Italian destinations for less than it would have cost me to go to Boston for the weekend from my former home in Maine. Similarly, Kuwait City provided a cost-effective jumping off point for a dirt-cheap Nile cruise, a budget getaway to Beirut, and numerous fun weekends in Bahrain. Two tours on Guam, on the other hand, allowed affordable excursions to both Bali and Thailand.

I’m living proof that you don’t need to be a millionaire to travel the world. In fact, a travel blog I started for fun a few years ago has turned into a full blown career. You can have an adventure and still pay down your student and credit card loans. You might not stay at five star hotels every night, but isn’t that part of the fun?

Where would you like to go on your post-graduate adventure?


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