Making money on the road
Here's the big question we get asked whenever we explain to people that we are full-time travelers, and it's an obvious query.
"How do you afford it?"
So, after almost a decade on the road together, we're excited to share the blueprint on how we manage our time and money to make this independent lifestyle work.
CASH is still King!
It should go without saying that, for most of us, money makes the world go round, but for us, it gets us around the world too!
So how do we get that sweet moolah to take us from HERE to THERE?
There are a couple of concepts we know of to fund prolific travels:
- Generate your own business or investments
- Get a J-O-B
To address the first option, and for those whose "own business" involves blogging, let's bust the most elephant-sized myth in the blogging room.
Return on investments takes time, and travelling the world on the merits of your own content creation is hard. Full Stop. And full disclosure - it's not something we do at the moment to any great effect.
Our dirty little secret to success is that from time to time we choose option 2 - we're proud to be lowly...employees.
It's become taboo to say you trade time for money in these heady digital days of traveling as an "influencer", an "ambassador" or an "affiliate marketeer". But in our blueprint, we don't mind a bit of traditional work every now and again.
WHAT can we do to make money traveling?
Our first item of business is to assess what skills we can bring to market.
We both have degrees and experience in a couple of flexible fields like marketing and communications. We also rely on our vast casual employment history to snap up hourly work when required. You'll be surprised how much of that after-school, summer, or 2nd job from ages ago might be relevant to landing a similar position to help fund your travels today.
WHERE can we make money remotely?
Once we have an idea of what we can do, we look for places where we're legally allowed to do them (while granting us at least a taste of the traveling life while we work.)
Usually this is on our home turf - we often fall back on our country of residence. It's easier to navigate the job scene in a place where we're familiar with the culture and have a few contacts. This doesn't mean we have to stay in our hometown. It's a ton of fun to discover new locales around our native countries too.
A word about using a sponsor. Of course you can be sponsored by a specific employer to obtain a working visa in a different country, but we personally don't find this desirable for a couple of good reasons:
- It makes us too reliant on one employer - they would hold our future in their hands
- Being tied to one position is not flexible enough for our preferred travel lifestyle
Working Holidays. An amazing option we highly recommend is the Working Holiday Visa that some countries make available to citizens from elsewhere. These schemes grant temporary working rights in a host nation to promote cultural exchange. Some famous personal favorites along this route have included programs in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
Freedom of Movement. Another model for finding a place to earn your footloose fortune is the "freedom of movement" afforded by various countries coming together in a special union. We find the ability to live and work across the EU (European Union) and EEA (European Economic Area) to be a beautiful right, and it's a shame hard working folks in the UK are set to have that freedom severed.
HOW can we make money to fund our house sit travels?
There are a couple of different options available for choosing where our physical work gets done.
Office Space vs. Remote Working
A classic choice is to work on-site (like our hospitality and admin roles) which we find has several pros and cons for long-term travelers.
- Pro - It's a great networking opportunity to find future gigs, and provides a pool of new friends for local antics or tips on the area you are living and working in.
- Pro - It provides structure and routine for where we're going and what time we need to be there. This can allow for a welcome change from the sometimes overwhelming freedom of always being on the road.
- Con - It doesn't take long for the commute and micro-management to feel like a grind. We remind ourselves it's only temporary, and our efforts are just a means to a glorious travel end.
Thankfully there's a new trend now as remote work opportunities increase year on year. This enables us to earn money from home, which theoretically can be anywhere in the world.
Editor's Note - Another popular way to make money on the road in to teach English online. If you'd like to know more and benefit from a 35% discount on a TEFL course, take a read of this article: "Fund your house sitting travels by teaching English online"
Remote working as "digital nomads" is all the rage at the moment, and it is an evolving industry. There are plenty of forums available where you can find work across many different disciplines.
We've been fortunate to land gainful employment in several remote positions, including customer service and data analytics. Here are a few takes on what we've learned:
- Eliminating the commute is outstanding! The time saved on both ends of a shift is invaluable.
- Knowing we can still earn money while we move is a traveler's dream. There are a few considerations that can sometimes create stress, such as intermittent WiFi, time zone constraints, and the need to bring specialized technology to do the job. All of these can impact the sustainability of life as a digital nomad.
- Remote work demands an extra level of mental fortitude over in-house jobs. The "self-starter" buzzword really hits home when there's no-one around to help keep you focused and motivated. It can be a lonely road too, no matter how much video chat improves.
- We also find this kind of employment less than reliable. Hours vary, head office moods shift, and working remotely restricts our ability to read any changing winds.
In the end, we combine the two. Our preference is for quality, stable, remote work when available, but the reality is more traditional work on-site still represents the majority of the opportunities to fund our lifestyle.
HOW NOT TO BUDGE ON YOUR TRAVEL BUDGET
As important as income is to our sovereign travel fund, it is also essential to understand our expenditure.
There are a plethora of quality resources out there to inspire a family budget embrace.
We have ours down to a near science, and with this mentality, we rarely feel restricted in what we do. Any extra cash we accumulate goes into savings for another day.
Everyone will find their own sweet spot when it comes to managing their money. Some of the budget basics which give us excellent mileage include:
- We don't have a mortgage
- We bought a used car in cash
- We have chosen not to have kids
- We don't smoke, and rarely drink
- We prefer home cooking to eating out
- We take care of our things and aren't big consumers
- We travel slowly, off-peak, and sleuth out great deals
- Our favorite hobbies are often free (just walking around a new place is tops)
Using house sitting to pump up our savings
A total game changer for increasing our travel funds came when we discovered house sitting back in 2013. Now we deploy our service in a variety of ways to supplement our budget and make lasting memories on the road.
While we settle down to earn, we combine those efforts with securing full-time house sits. The savings on rent and utilities month after month is the equivalent of working an extra 40 hours each week.
We find this much easier to achieve in a big city where there's a large pool of people looking for sitters, but it can also be done consistently in some regional areas where seasonal properties are often left empty.
London has been our regular working base of choice due to the number of sits available, and we book them back to back while maintaining regular work. It's a great way to discover lots of neighborhoods in a dynamic city we would otherwise be unable to afford.
And when the urge to travel abroad does take our fancy, house sitting helps us enjoy more in farther flung destinations too. If there's a particular area of the world we're keen to explore, we'll look for house sits around that region to provide a new home base overseas.
This strategy came in very handy over our recent 5 month swing to the Americas where we saddled up with long-term sits in Denver, Rio, and Buenos Aires. We roamed the Rockies for our anniversary and caught a total solar eclipse in Argentina.
Our final thoughts ...
Though it may seem a mystery to many how we have managed life on the road for so long, the truth of how we afford it is rather ordinary.
We get jobs and save money. We're great at staying on budget, and house sitting has helped tremendously. If we have to work every now and again we don't mind - there are no plans to retire any time soon.
So make the most of your time on task, explore your own backyard, and take advantage of your earning potential to travel for longer after the work is completed, but in a place where the cost of living (like a local) is a lot lower.
This is our own travel lifestyle laundry...wash, rinse, repeat… for happy days!
BIO - George and Michelle are The Real Housesitters - a Yank and a Pom who met in the red centre of Oz. On the road together since 2011, they've hunkered down to work in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK while sitting long-term in 10 countries, and enjoying travels over dozens more. Their latest adventures include rock-themed anniversaries, chasing total eclipses, and coaching aspiring sitters. You can follow them on their website at TheRealHousesitters.com or on Instagram and Facebook
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Last updated on December 17th, 2019