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If there’s one question I get asked repeatedly, it’s how my life works. I travel full-time, so it’s natural people would question how I am doing that. I used to scroll through Instagram, wondering the same!
In this post, I am going to share how I got to the point of full-time traveling and fund that by creating travel content. Plus, all the life hacks I use to save money on the road and make this lifestyle even better.
How I Became A Full-Time Travel Content Creator
I started this website at the end of 2017, right before I set off to go backpacking around the world for a year.
I knew nothing about the business of blogging and was less than consistent in my posting, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t earn a penny from my blog that year. However, age is an important factor for SEO (your posts showing up in Google search), so just having my blog alive was a benefit.
But when I came back to my 9-5, I was miserable. I finally came to terms that I would never be happy working a normal job. Surprisingly, traveling for a year didn’t “get it out of my system” – oh, the lies we tell ourselves!
I wanted to make a living from my blog and knew other people were doing it – I just had to figure out how.
I started investing in travel blogging courses like Travel Blog Prosperity, and within a couple of months made my first bit of money from my blog through affiliate marketing. The fact that I could make some money gave me the confidence that I could make more.
The other big thing that motivated me to quit my 9-5 was that I got invited on a press trip to Pakistan that summer. I didn’t have a huge following at the time, maybe 3k on Instagram and 5k monthly page views. So yes, you can still work with brands as a small creator!
The trip was almost a month-long, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the time off work as I had used up every possible type of leave available at this point. It was time to finally say goodbye to my 9-5!
I want to be fully transparent that I also had built up savings to live off for this transition period, as I was still building up my business.
If you do want to quit your job, I recommend having a solid savings account OR another source of online income – of which there are plenty.
After that trip to Pakistan, I got invited to another press trip on a conservation project in Malawi. My page views began to increase every month, my social media following was growing, and it felt like I was on the right track.
So in December 2019, I gave up my apartment in Toronto to reduce costs further and become a full-time digital nomad.
Then two months later, I found myself almost stuck in Italy when Covid hit. The travel industry came to a standstill, and my dreams came crashing to a halt. It felt like all the progress I made had been wiped out overnight.
But I didn’t want to give up on my dreams. I came back to Newfoundland and lived with my sister in my dad’s home (he passed away a few years ago), so I was able to reduce my living expenses as my income crashed overnight.
I worked on my blog every single day, writing content that was mostly not being read. There were days when it felt futile, but I am so grateful I didn’t give up on my dreams because this ended up being my best year yet.
Pivoting to local Canadian content allowed me to work with local tourism boards and get my first paid press trip in Nova Scotia. Plus, much of that content I wrote is now ranking a year later, and my page views are the highest they’ve ever been.
I also started freelance travel writing during the pandemic, which was one of my main sources of income for years. I got my first writing assignment with Skyscanner through the VIP opportunities you get access to as a member of Travel Blog Prosperity.
I had no other travel writing experience at this point, so my entire portfolio was my blog which goes to show how powerful starting one can be.
Since then, I’ve been able to get paid writing work with many other major travel websites, including Matador Network, Travel Off Path, Explore Magazine, Be My Travel Muse, and Insider.
It was only this year that I actually started making enough money to support my travels; I was very reliant on my savings for the first two years of this journey.
It’s hard to say what would have happened if the travel industry hadn’t crumbled halfway through, but I’m just happy I was still able to find a way to make it work.
But wait, how do you make money as a travel blogger?
Whenever I tell people I’m a travel blogger, the first question they ask me is if I make money, and how.
Unfortunately, no one writes you a check every two weeks for being a blogger, but the good news is there are hundreds of ways to make income, and any smart blogger has a diversified income stream.
Everyone’s first assumption is display ads, which are a good revenue source, but not many bloggers live completely off ads. Once you hit a certain amount of page views, you can apply for ad networks (each has its own threshold).
Ad revenue is directly linked to the number of people visiting your website, so the more page views you have, the higher your income. Ad revenue now makes up a significant part of my income.
The nice thing about ad income is that it’s completely passive. Even if you don’t work that day, you’ll still make money from people visiting your website.
Another great source of passive income is affiliate marketing. If you click a link on my website like this one and buy something, I get a small commission from that sale (thanks)!.As a travel blogger, you can be an affiliate for hotels, tours, travel gear, and just about anything else you can think of.
Once you build up an audience (either on social media or your blog or both), brands will pay you to promote their products and services because they want to get in front of your audience.
If you have a high domain authority, you will also get inundated with people asking to pay for links on your website. However, this can be risky as it goes against Google’s terms, and you may be penalized for doing it.
It’s much better to promote things you truly love – just make sure to disclose that it’s a sponsored post!
Once you build up a portfolio of your writing (which you can do with your own website), you can start pitching other websites and publications to write for them.
The freelance writing world is a wild west, and you’ll probably have to start off at a lower rate to build up your portfolio, but over time, you can start charging more. Freelance writing was how I supported myself for many years.
Creating content for others
There are thousands of travel apps and startups out there, and many will pay you to create content for them which is easy to do if you’re making travel content anyways.
Unfortunately, many will ask you to do it for free or for “exposure” but I would be VERY wary about doing this unless they have a super large audience. NaviSavi pays its users $1-2 per short video clip they upload into the app.
Press Trips and Comped Experiences
One very cool part about being a travel content creator is that you can work with brands and tourism boards and get “free” travel (and sometimes even paid for it). I put the word free in quotation marks here because although you are not paying for the trip in money, you are in the time it will take to produce the deliverables.
And trust me, it’s a lot more work than it looks. That said, working with destinations is one of my favorite parts of being a travel content creator!
It has allowed me to go on some amazing experiences that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. Here are some examples of sponsored trips I have done since I started this blog:
- A two-week conservation project in Malawi
- A 9-nine paid trip in Halifax and Cape Breton with the Nova Scotia Tourism board
- A one week trip in Central Newfoundland with the Newfoundland Tourism Board
- BPM Music Festival in Costa Rica
- A 25-day press trip in Pakistan
- A one-week surf and yoga retreat in Costa Rica
While on these trips you aren’t incurring any expenses (or at least, you shouldn’t be). And because I am a nomad and don’t have rent, etc I usually can save some money.
That said, they are full-on and you don’t have much time to work on other stuff, so in this way, you are losing money, which is why a lot of creators charge a fee in addition to having their expenses covered.
The influencer industry is the wild west, and it’s really up to you to stand up for yourself and charge what you’re worth. It’s something I have struggled with, and I’ve had to work a lot on my mindset about this. Also, don’t expect opportunities to always come to you – 90% of the work I’ve gotten is because I’ve pitched for it.
There are the main ways that I make money as a content creator, but by no means is this an exhaustive list. Many other bloggers create their own products (e-books, courses), set up patreons, offer coaching services, and much more.
The cool thing about being a travel content creator is that unlike traditional jobs, there’s no limit on how much you can earn. But it’s a constant hustle figuring out how you’ll make that money!
Other Life Hacks I Use For Traveling Full Time
As I hop between many different places, I frequently fly, which makes it one of my largest expenses. But I’ve found a way to mostly offset this through travel hacking (using points and miles).
I will write an entire post just about this but essentially, the crux of it is taking advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses, over and over again, which is known as “churning.”
Travel hacking does require some amount of organization (and decent credit to start), but the time spent learning and keeping track pays for itself in the thousands of dollars I save in flights each year.
For example, I recently flew from Denver to Croatia, which was a $2000+ flight, but I got it almost free on Aeroplan points. I learned everything about travel hacking from Prince Of Travel (he’s Canadian and is the best resource I know on Canadian credit cards).
If you’re American, good news because your credit card offers are way better. Check out The Points Guy to get started. I will say this disclaimer, though: if you cannot pay off your credit cards in full every month, then you have lost the game.
A common misconception is that this will hurt your credit, but it has actually improved mine. Paying off credit card balances in full every month is one of the best ways to build credit.
My Money Works For Me
If you have any savings you don’t need in the immediate future, put it to work. If you aren’t earning interest on your money, then you are losing money because of inflation.
Thanks to my dad teaching me finance in high school, I had the good sense to start saving money when I got my first job out of university. And if you save money regularly in a decent investment account, you’ll be surprised about what you can make in return. Compounding interest is magic.
Some years I have made a 12%+ return. That’s 12% more money for doing literally nothing. Even when the stock markets crashed last year after Covid, I still came out ahead of inflation! Do not be scared of investing – yes, the markets do crash, but in the long term, they always go up.
If you aren’t sure how to start investing, you can do it through a financial advisor at a bank. The benefit of this is that someone manages all your money for you, so you don’t have to worry much about day-to-day trading, and they can also give you financial advice. The (big) downside is that they take what’s called a management expense ratio (MER) around 1-3%.
If you don’t want to pay someone to manage your money, you can invest yourself through an app like WealthSimple or Robinhood into stocks or ETFs (collection of stocks, less risky).
However, if you don’t know much about investing, then I’d recommend using a financial advisor to get started and do some self-learning in the meantime. Financial literacy is so so important, and it dumbfounds me they don’t teach this in school.
I Get Free Accommodation By Housesitting
This summer, I was able to stay in Colorado for free for over a month by house sitting. In exchange for watching other people’s homes and pets, you get to stay at their house for free.
Through TrustedHousesitters, I got two housesits in Denver and one in Aspen all of which were beautiful homes. Plus, it means you get to have a pet temporarily! If you’re traveling long-term and love animals, it’s a pretty great way to save money.
I Live A Minamilist Lifestyle
Given that I live out of a 40l bag, I don’t own many personal belongings. I don’t have a house to furnish, and I certainly don’t have a car.
If you live in North America, I’m guessing that many of your expenses are related to car payments, insurance, and mortgages. Cut those things out, and you suddenly have A LOT more money.
I know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it’s allowed me to travel and see the world for years, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Things don’t make you happy, but experiences do.
I Live In Cheap Places
One of the best parts about working online is that you can work from anywhere, and most of the world is cheaper to live in than in North America. While living in Mexico this winter, my rent was $280 per month!
If you’re earning a North American salary online but living in cheaper destinations, you can actually save money while experiencing some of the most beautiful places in the world. I recently moved to Lisbon, Portugal, which is an incredible city, yet still, the cost of living is significantly less than in Toronto.
Phew, that was a lot! I hope this post could give you some insight into how a life of full-time traveling works.
It’s been a journey to get to this point, but every day I have to take a moment of gratitude for how thankful I am to be living the life I used to dream of.
If you have any questions about it or have your own life hacks you want to share, let me know in the comments!