If you plan to travel long-term, you’ll need a source of income. While some folks are lucky enough to travel using someone else’s money (like paid stipends for journalists or sponsorships for travel influencers), most of us have to pay our own way – whether that’s on credit, savings, or through work opportunities open to travelers.
If you don’t have a way to make money traveling, eventually even the thriftiest of travelers run out of money during international travel. For many travelers, this is when it’s time to go home, but in this article, I want to talk about a few novel ways to make money while you’re on the road.
Thinking Creatively about Building a Travel Income
With the widespread proliferation of the internet to just about every location, many more work-abroad options are available. (Need proof? In 2019 I spent a few nights on a floating island made from reeds in the middle of an Uros village in Lake Titicaca, where solar power, cell phones, and even wifi were freely available.)
When you think about making money during international travel, you may automatically think about working at hostels or picking up odd jobs working in distant locations. But because these types of jobs create issues with work visas, most individuals have a tough time creating a livable and sustaining income while traveling and working abroad. (Instead, these positions tend to “pay” in the form of free or discounted lodging, which can reduce costs but doesn’t make money)
With the Internet available virtually everywhere, the door flings wide open for using the internet to make an income while traveling. Legally, it’s also a little easier to earn money this way.
There may be legal issues working in a country while you are thre on a tourist visa. Check local laws in the countries you visit.
Generally making money while traveling doing work for an American business and receiving funds deposited into your American banking is permitted.
People making money while traveling should also think about taxes. Consult an accountant if you plan to work while traveling regularly. If you’re an American citizen, with a primary residence in the USA, and get paid to an account in the USA, then US taxes are almost certainly due on all your income earned while traveling. If, however, you are outside of the USA for more than 330 days of a calendar year and working certain jobs, taxes get easier. You may not be required to pay any US taxes if you qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. Consult with an accountant for details.
Factor in Cost of Living
One of the coolest things about working online while traveling is that, if traveling in countries with a low cost of living and thus a low-cost of living as a tourist, you can cover your expenses with just a few hours of work a week. For example, when experimenting with working abroad on my first long trip, I found that it was far easier to live like a tourist in South America and Eastern Europe than as a full-time resident with a long-term lease in Seattle, Washington!
Getting started Earning Money while Traveling
In this article, I’ve outlined a few of the ways that I earn money while traveling- plus some additional avenues to make money traveling that I have not tried but I know are legitimate work opportunities. Some may require some setup time (my Amazon FBA venture took about 24 months before I could build sufficient passive income to travel). But if you’re willing to work while abroad (not just accrue passive income while traveling), the opportunities are almost limitless.
Here are a few ways to earn a living while abroad:
Easy-Start Digital Nomad Jobs:
If you need to make money traveling immediately, becoming a virtual assistant could be the gig for you.
Virtual Assistants, or “VA’s,” do tasks for busy professionals. VAs answer DM’s for travel influencers or do inventory management for drop shippers. Other VAs write product descriptions for an amazon vendor or design graphics for bloggers.
Any skills you have – such as editing photos, doing customer service, making spreadsheets, etc. become an asset in the virtual assistant world. Any skill can be a way to be a VA and make money traveling.
Getting Started: There are countless ways to get started as a virtual assistant. Avoid courses offering to teach you how to start, and jump to creating a profile on Fiverr, Upwork, or even a Facebook group.
On-Demand Writing (or Editing)
Gig writing is perfect for travelers with excellent written communication skills who may want to work in bursts. Burst-style travel working might look like working for 3-5 days straight in a remote location, finishing the writing project, and then heading out for 7-10 days of full-time exploring/traveling.
Alternatively, some editors or job-posters may appreciate shorter writing more regularly. If you can consistently produce high-quality writing, an on-demand writing gig might be right for you to earn a steady income while traveling. You can get writing gigs in technical writing, creative writing, product description writing, public relations writeups, and blog posts.
Blogging while Traveling (about anything!)
The travel blogging niche is saturated, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to add, my free guide to starting a travel blog can be a solid start. You can blog about absolutely any topic in which you have expertise, knowledge, and/or curiosity.
Making money from travel blogging can be a slow start, but if you stick with it, write good content, and study SEO, blogging can become a steady income. Blogging income can be almost entirely passive. With a blog making steady income, you can travel for months at a time while earning passive travel income.
Disclaimer: Check with your accountant or another tax professional before setting out on international travel with the intent to make money traveling. Depending on the type of work you do, your location, and other factors, you may be liable for taxes on your travel income to the country in which you are physically working.
As long as you are moving from country to country and operating primarily as a tourist, not an illegally working alien, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about international labor laws
Teaching English Online
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a degree in education or even be fluent in another language to become an English teacher for English as a second language students. The flexibility of working online means that you can get hired to make money traveling as an English teacher from anywhere you can connect to the internet. Here’s a roundup of a few sites where you can learn more about making money teaching english online.
Create a Passive Income via Producing Creative Content
Again, think beyond just working as a travel podcaster or a producer of travel videos. You can use your time overseas to create all kinds of content.
Do you have a creative skill? There are many ways to make money traveling off of your art (Such as Patreon, Print on Demand Merchandise, etc), music (via Bandcamp), podcasts, or videos. As long as what you create can be done digitally with supplies that can fit in your suitcase, you can be a remote creator – making art, music, or podcasts from absolutely anywhere in the world. In fact, as a creator myself, I find that my own inspiration and creativity skyrockets when I leave what’s familiar and travel into the unknown of solo travel.
Fulfillment by Amazon – Hands-off E-Commerce
If you have a lead on an obscure manufacturer or know a family member or friend making a niche product, you just may have a foot in the door for an exclusive product listing on the world’s most successful e-commerce platform.
Watch some YouTube videos about starting as an Amazon seller, pour through the laboriously technical instructions from Amazon, and launch your product. While this is a long-term game (in my experience launching a product takes anywhere from several months to several years to reach a significant monthly profit) it’s one of the most hands-off ways to make money traveling- and all without labor while you are off doing your own thing.
For a cut of the profits, Amazon handles everything from labeling and packaging to customer support and returns. Bonus? When you grow tired of selling at Amazon, your entire account, product listings, and vendor relationships can be resold to someone just entering the Amazon FBA game. Generally, Amazon FBA businesses sell for 24-28 times the monthly profit, and selling the business can, itself, be a fun goal to work towards.
Sponsored Travel Work Programs
It’s ok if you aren’t an entrepreneur or self starter- not everyone is! Making money traveling as a creator, self-employed person, or independent contractor has challenges that sponsored work programs don’t. If you are looking for a less-stress way to make money traveling and don’t mind where you end up, working on a cruise ship might be a good fit (just be sure to do your research and read about what working on a cruise ship is really like, before jumping in!)
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Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.