There’s always a little voice in the back of my head, and it’s never happy.
“What if you run out of money?” he asks. Frankly, it’s a good question.
My first four years of traveling, I worked in bars to afford it. I would spend three to six months working in a new city, saving up money, and then travel for a couple of months before settling down for a while longer at a new job in a new city.
I still love working in bars, but I’m taking a hiatus to focus on personal projects while I travel. In fact, I was supposed to start a bar gig in Beijing in March, but that fell through, and I was left stranded in South America with no idea about what to do or where to go. My plans for the entire year had just hit the proverbial fan, but I accepted an invite from the Israel Ministry of Tourism and I’ve been blogging and freelancing full-time ever since then.
Somehow, I’ve managed to make it work.
I usually travel on my own dime, but the work I accept comes to me because of my travels and my blog. I’m not being paid to travel the world. I travel the world and work at the same time.
Long-term travel means always having to watch my money and accepting an added component of risk. Because what if…?
It’s stressful sometimes. I don’t have an apartment to rely on and I don’t always know much money I’m going to make in a given month. Freelancing is a hustle—that’s the truth.
But, I get to see the world.
How I Save Money While Traveling
Sometimes traveling can be cheaper than living at home. But you should know that my travels aren’t usually filled with luxury hotels or private rooms. Monthly rent for a single room in New York City, for example, can easily cost $1,500 per month or more; my entire monthly spend (food, water, accommodation, transport) is often that much TOTAL.
When I travel, there are a few key strategies that I rely on to keep my costs down.
Stay in Hostels
Long-term travel is very different from a holiday. I rarely stay in hotels and usually opt to stay in a hostel. I much prefer them anyway–it’s a great way to meet other travelers and, when you’re traveling solo, you rarely feel like you’re alone (unless you want to be). Most nights I sleep in a shared room with 3-4 other travelers. The cost of these rooms? I’ve paid between $2.50 and $40 in various parts of the world.
By staying in one place for longer, you can take advantage of weekly or monthly deals at hostels or on short-term apartment rentals. When you’re constantly moving, you pay full price every night, plus you’re paying for transport on a more regular basis.
Travel in Affordable Countries
If you’re looking to go on a budget holiday, Paris is not the answer. Much of my travels have taken place in countries where the conversion rate is in my favor–places like Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe are all affordable destinations.
Cook for Yourself
Unless I’m in a place where food is both delicious and affordable (I’m looking at you, Vietnam), I’m cooking for myself. Unfortunately, traveling does not mean always mean staying in luxury hotels and eating at all the best restaurants. Sometimes it means eating bread for breakfast and bland pasta for dinner, but it’s worth it.
I travel with very little. Everything I need fits into two backpacks, and I am able to live a happy and fulfilled life. I have one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, five t-shirts, and other basic necessities. The only things of value that I have are my laptop and camera gear. It’s all I really need.
Partner with Travel Brands
Because of the size of my blog audience, some of the work I do involves free hotel stays, activities, and tours; oftentimes I’ll get paid to write about or promote their services. I learned how to start a travel blog and now I work with travel brands on a freelance basis as part of the way that I’m able to afford my travels.
It means that I get to live a lifestyle that I’m passionate about while continuing to write about amazing places all over the world. I am always transparent about my partnerships and you should know that I always tell the truth about my experiences. I’ll never promote a company I don’t believe in.
From Five-Star Hotels…
As a general rule, I travel slowly. I’ll often stay in a hostel for a couple of weeks or rent an apartment for a short period of time. Sometimes, if I’m traveling more quickly, especially if I’m on a press trip, I sleep in a different bed every night.
Part of my recent trip to Israel involved staying in some of the country’s most prestigious hotels. The purpose of my trip was to show that Israel is still a safe and viable tourist destination. I was a guest of the Tourism board, and I worked with some local companies, and for three full weeks, my accommodations and tours were covered. I stayed in 4- and 5-star hotels all over the country.
This is a job you get into for the perks because you certainly don’t get into it for the money.
…to Five Dollars a Night
After spending three weeks in Israel, and traveling to Jordan and Palestine from Jerusalem, the decision of where to go next was easy. If I was going to be in such close proximity to Egypt, I simply had to visit the Pyramids of Giza. I didn’t even question it.
With one week until my flight from Cairo to Greece, and with very little planned, I hopped aboard a bus from Jerusalem to Eilat, where I crossed the border into Taba, Egypt and take a bus to Dahab, in southern Sinai.
Dahab is a small tourist beach town on the Red Sea. The boardwalk is filled with shops, cafes, restaurants, and a plethora of accommodation options. Dahab is mostly well-known for its scuba diving and liveaboard options in Egypt, especially the famous Blue Hole dive site. It used to be an Israeli beach destination (think: visiting the Hamptons for a weekend), but ever since the conflicts, the level of tourism has been paltry.
In fact, for five full hours on the bus, the only thing I could see from my window was half-built resorts that had been abandoned. One after another, hundreds of forsaken resorts were the only things that stood between the mountainous brown desert and the turquoise waters of the Red Sea. It was perhaps one of the most unique (and creepy) landscapes I’ve seen.
When I arrived in Dahab, I met a friend at a resort/hostel called Red Sea Relax. The hostel was just an apartment across the street from the resort, and we were allowed to use all of the facilities, including the pool. The price? $5 USD per night, and if we were diving (just $16 per dive–the cheapest I’ve found anywhere in the world), the hostel bed was free! Not a bad deal.
I spent an entire month of traveling in the Middle East and my total spent on accommodation was roughly $15.
This, of course, is not a common way to travel, but as you can see, there are many different and affordable ways to do so. I have created a job for myself that allows me to travel, and I find ways to save money wherever I go.
Traveling like this doesn’t make sense to many people; even my family doesn’t fully understand it. It’s not a traditional job, but many jobs these days are not. Through combining my business with my passions, I have built a life that I love. Whether it is working in a bar or working online, and whether I’m staying in five-star hotels or a five dollar hostel, this is how I can afford to travel.
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That’s pretty amazing! My brother owns a bar in Yerevan, Armenia. If you ever decide to travel around the Caucasus, and would like to guest bartend let me know ^_^
Oh that’s so cool!! I might take you up on that offer ?
I have dreamed of doing what you are experiencing since I was a little girl looking through Travel the World books that came with the Encyclopedia Britanicas my parents bought. I joined the Army right out of high school to see the world but fell in love with Hawaii and stayed there. Then there was marriage, children, divorce, debt, then taking care of aging parents, disabled sister, grandchildren…I still dream of traveling the world but how to afford it now that I finally can? I want to set off in the next 3 years…before I’m 60.
Life gets in the way—I know that all too well. Why not see what kinds of jobs you can find overseas? That’s a great way to make some money and travel at the same time 🙂
Great story, how long have u been blogging untill u get your 1st sponsor?
Hard to say, actually! I started blogging a long time ago—I can’t remember that far back! 😉
Hey. We absolutely fell in love with your blog! We are right at the beginning but we would be thrilled if you could have a look at our site
What a wonderful opportunity you have created for yourself! Fantasic! Seeing the world on your own terms, perfect!
“I’m not being paid to travel the world. I travel the world and I work at the same time” that is me in a nutshell!
Travel slowly and be selective in where you choose to travel – wise advice. We experienced this in Cuba. Transport (collectivo taxis) are not cheap and the buses times are not always accurate and not advertised! We ended up doubling our daily budget and had to book into the all inclusive (madness!) in order to curb the spending. If we had that budget in Colombia (where we were previously) we would have lived like kings!
Oh no! It’s so important to do your research on local costs, though I can see why that would be much more difficult with Cuba. I hope to make it there soon!
Ah well we have lots of articles on location which are live on the site to help you in your planning. General advice articles coming soon.
Wow we stayed in Cuba recently and we are a family of four and we stayed under budget. The collectivo taxis are dirt cheap if you speak a little bit of Spanish. We payed 1 dollar for four of us to head from el centro Havana to our casa about eight blocks away. And it was heaps of fun for the kids in the old cars. We would never pay all inclusive anywhere let alone Cuba. We stayed in a casa familiar, they are like homestays or BnB’s and very affordable. You do not stay in hotels in Cuba if you want to experience the people just go to them for the wifi. Loved the story on Isreal. We want to get there one day.
Great article! Don’t forget you’re building an asset in the form of this blog. Your Israeli experience could be the start of a vivid awesome lifestyle business. My friend, Nick Onken does this stuff all the time and is in such demand now that he has to turn down work (nickonken.me).
It seems to me that world travelers today should seek to maintain lives of long term travel while thriving financially and personally.
That’s 100% my goal, Ian! I’m constantly working to grow and build my brand, and hope to be able to turn down work some day soon 🙂 I will check out your friend Nick and see what he’s all about.
Nice when things kind of drop in your lap. Look forward to reading about Israel. I agree with staying for some months in one place. I made the mistake of only hostels and spent too much money. This time I stumbled on a really nice room for 200€ a month in Pamplona that would allow me to cover the entire San Fermin Festival and keep my costs way down. I’m retired so don’t have to scratch up all expenses, a little bit of design work puts a few dollars in my pocket (or gets introductions).
That sounds like a great setup you’ve got. Israel was really interesting–you can read some of my previous posts if you’re looking for them. I hope you enjoyed San Fermin!
You’re so right, Jeremy. I’ve seen how much work you’ve put into this blog and social media. You can be well proud 🙂
Cheers, Zascha! I really appreciate that–it’s a thankless job. I hope you’re having a great weekend 🙂
I loved what you said in the beginning: “I’m not being paid to travel the world. I travel the world and I work at the same time”. 🙂
It’s a common misperception. Many people think there is somebody paying me to travel around the world, which is simply not true. I have worked hard, and continue to do so, for the sake of location independence.
Great article. This is pretty much how I role, so to speak. It was on a kibbutz in Israel where it all started for me, back in 1995. The only significant thing thats changed in the way I live now is I am no longer doing it alone 🙂 Met my wife while working as a safari guide 6 years ago, and she is the same as me. Quality over quantity, we like to spend more time in a single place, and work there if possible, like a ski chalet in Austria. Got payed peanuts, but free food, booze and lift ticket for the entire season wasn’t a bad deal. Like you and Israel, we are trying to promote the area of Southern Africa as a still value for money tourist destination, together with the fact that there is no ebola here! It broke out closer to Europe than it did to South Africa.
So yes, you have made it clear that getting rich while travelling and blogging is not easy, at all, but it still can at least pay for the necessities.
At the very least it can pay for the necessities, but above all else, it leads to a fulfilling life 🙂
A fulfilling life I’m not about to give up for anything:-)