Travel Concerns: Cash Flow on the Road

(This post is inspired from a recent email from a fellow wanderlustful lady. She was looking for some advice on how to finance indefinite travels and what it’s like to be a solo chica on the road (I’m only addressing the former in this post — the latter will come later). I’ve been asked about these things more than a few times so I suppose it’s time to share my insight with the interwebs. Granted this is an overview to spark some creative thinking and not a step by step how-to. Everyone is different and there are countless ways to keep traveling.)

Money Honey: Living and Working Abroad.

Of course your main concern in money. It’s only natural and it can be quite scary to take off not knowing what’s going to happen if (when) you run out.

I should say, first off, that I don’t really believe in traveling forever without working. It’s a nice idea, but unless you’re some kind of Trustafarian, you’re going to have to make a little dough at some point. That being said, it is VERY easy to find work along the way.

1) Teach English

A popular option in pretty much any country. Most places you don’t even need a TEFL certificate, but of course do your homework to determine if you need the certification – it’s only about $500 anyway. Be mindful that this will keep you in one place for at least 6 months and more likely a year.

I have friends who taught English in South Korea for a year and walked away with $15,000 USD in the bank. All of their living expenses were paid for (including their flights to the country!). Not all countries pay this well or have the perks, but it’s certainly not a bad option to live abroad AND make money for future travels. $15K can last a LONG time on the road depending on where you go and how you spend your dollars.

Even if you teach English in a cheap country, you’ll still be making enough to counter your living expenses. Overall it seems to be a great way to experience another culture for a longer period of time.

2) Pour Drinks and Make Beds

For the party people, there is always the option of working in a bar or hostel. You’re probably spending a lot of time in these establishments anyway. Once you find a place you decide you’d like to explore a bit more, pick up a few shifts a week in a backpacker bar or behind a hostel desk. They might not pay the best, but they will usually give you a room, food, and booze definitely making it worth your while.

Many parts of Southeast Asia and South America actively seek out westerners. Most hostels I’ve visited, regardless of country, have had a diverse staff from all over the world.

This option also doesn’t require the same time commitments as teaching abroad. A couple weeks to a few months will suffice. This is definitely easy to do in cheap countries, but may not work in more developed countries which leads me to my next point…

3) Get a Work Visa

Many friends of mine get work visas for Australia or New Zealand because those countries are too expensive to spend a significant amount of time in without some income. Yet they still get to live abroad for awhile. And really who doesn’t want to explore the beaches down under and the land of hobbits? Now that I think about it, I actually have an active work visa for New Zealand that I haven’t utilized. Perhaps that should be my next destination…

On the flip side I have Kiwi and Aussie friends with work visas for Canada (not so much the USA though. Hmmm…).

Essentially this allows you the opportunity to legally get a job so you don’t end up sitting on a street corner with a sign asking for food.

4) Utilize your Passions and Skills!

I have my camera, laptop, and some nerdy skills. In two days I’ll also be a certified yoga instructor.

My friend Mik travels with his tattoo gear to make some cash on the go. This particular payday for him was in Kampot.

A friend of mine was living in Hawaii and would go into the jungle, load up a box of mangos, and sell them on the side of the road.

There was a woman in Chiang Mai making dreamcatchers and selling them at the guesthouse I called home.

The lady who sent me the email mentioned that she has a background in social work and couldn’t imagine that would allow her to travel. Quite honestly, I think that particular profession would allow all kinds of opportunities with non-profits around the globe. You may have to volunteer for a bit before getting paid, but it’s a worthy pursuit that can take you many places. And if you’re volunteering, organizations may at least put you up with a place to stay and feed you, cutting down your costs by a huge margin.

So you see, it’s really just a matter of getting creative. There are lots of options out there to keep you going. These are really just a few off the top of my head 

A couple good reads to help you think outside the box

The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.

This book, hands down, changed my life long before I became a wanderer. It’s a life hack book more than a travel book, but he does advocate travel as that is a big part of his life. The basic concepts and little tricks he provides to make your life more efficient are invaluable.


How to Travel the World on $50 a Day by Nomadic Matt.

I randomly met the author in a book store in Portland. After a short conversation with him I figured I might as well buy his book. I was not disappointed. The book is chock full of awesome travel hacks from getting the right credit cards in order to accrue the maximum possible miles to making your dollars go their farthest on the road.