I get this question from readers at least once a week, so rather than keep answering every person individually, here’s my answer to all who are wondering the same – how can she afford to travel all over the world?!
Let me begin by saying that I am not rich, I did not receive a huge inheritance, my parents are not paying the bill, and up until a few months ago I still had student loans to pay. This is me putting in long hours and choosing to make travel my priority.
So let’s have a look at some of the jobs that have helped me fund my travels over the years:
My first job in high school
When I was 16 I got my first job working as a tutor. I worked 2-3 days a week for a total of 10 hours a week, and I got paid $7 an hour. Yes, that was a grand total of $280 a month before taxes, but it was enough for the occasional outing with friends and I was also able to save towards summer or winter travel with my family.
My parents taught me the value of hard earned money at a young age, and this is why when I got my first job as a tutor, I also started paying my own way (or at least part of it) on family trips. If we were going to Cuba to escape the Canadian winter, I had to chip in as well, and you know what, it made me appreciate the experience so much more because I had earned it.
Random jobs throughout university
I worked lots of random jobs while I was in university: brewing coffee and mopping floors at a cafe, stacking books at a bookshop, summer admin work in an accounting office, and even painting houses. The pay at many of these jobs wasn’t great – I think at this point the minimum wage had risen to $10 an hour – so I worked in between classes and took on weekend shifts so that I could afford a couple of international trips a year.
This is when I started travelling farther from home and for longer periods of time: 10 days to Peru in between exams to go visit my grandma and see Machu Picchu; 2 weeks through London, France and Spain with friends; 1 month backpacking around Argentina; 5 weeks hanging out in Rio de Janeiro while my university went on strike…
Combine that with my penny-pinching ways – sleeping on friends couches in London, hunting for cheap hotels in Portugal over paying regular price, opting for baguette sandwiches instead of fancy restaurants in Paris, visiting free attractions rather than the pricey art galleries – and voila, I was able to squeeze in quite a bit of travel multiple times a year while I completed my undergraduate degree.
Teaching English in South Korea
My main reasons for taking a job in Korea were that I had student loans that needed to be paid off (the job hunt in Toronto wasn’t going so well) and I was also craving the opportunity to live abroad and experience a new culture; the opportunity to work in Korea ticked both those boxes.
Most overseas teaching jobs in Korea pay around $2000 a month, provide round-trip airfare from your home country, give you a free apartment, and reward you with a pretty hefty bonus once you finish your one year contract. Now you can see why so many young university graduates end up working here, right? It’s easy to save money to travel and pay off student loans. I managed to save $17,000 in one year while working in Korea.
The blurred line between work and travel
I honestly never thought I’d be able to combine travel and writing into any semblance of a job. I started this blog because travel is my passion and I wanted an outlet. When I published my first post, I never thought my little project would eventually lead me to all the opportunities it has.
Aside from keeping this travel blog (which brings in a little bit of income through advertising), I am now a regular contributor for a few online publications where I write articles and produce photo essays from my travels. It’s not easy getting your foot in an industry that is so over saturated, and it’s even harder convincing an editor to take a chance on your pitch when you’re the newbie, but at the end of the day there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
If you’re interested in set up your own blog, this guide on how to start a travel blog will come in handy.
Cutting down costs and being wise with my money
So I’ve talked about the jobs part, but the other half is what you do with your money. Just because you have a job doesn’t mean your savings are automatically going to start growing. You need to choose what you want your money to do for you!
For me, the choice was clear – I wanted to travel, so my social life looked a lot different from what some of my friends were doing. I wasn’t going out to bars on weekends, or getting pampered with manicure and pedicures at the spa, and I certainly wasn’t getting the new pair of Prada shoes – are you kidding me? I could probably get myself a one way ticket to Dublin for that much.
Going out to a club on a weekend, in say Toronto, may not seem like much, but between parking downtown, grabbing a quick bite to eat, paying admission at the new club, and having a mojito or two, you can easily spend over $100 in one night. At the end of the month it all adds up.
So there’s the answer to the mystery; that’s how I have been funding my travels ever since I got my first job at sixteen (which was almost 10 years ago!)
This post made me reminisce my first part-time job as an encoder in our school’s registry system (manual to computerize) then took some gigs related to dancing. Been earning from my blogs since 2008 and I am glad we have this opportunity to work from any part of the world as long as there’s internet and enough patience. I have to work on my saving skills though. I end up spending most of it on food hehe. Keep up the good work, Audrey! 😀
Patience is right! The internet part can be challenging some days – especially when dealing with photos or video… 😉
Hi Audrey!! I just became an instant fan of how you view your life and prioritize!! Way to go! And best of luck for your future endeavors..
My parents were the opposite, teaching me to spend beyond my means and so it took me a lot of years to change those habits. But once you realize what you can DO with the money instead of buying Prada shoes (I used to actually shop like that) suddenly none of that stuff even seems worth it anymore! Now I have trouble coughing up dough for clothes until the ones on my back are quite literally falling off of me. It’s not the easiest lesson to learn, but once you do it never leaves you. Wise words from a wise lady.
Wow, that says a lot that you were able to change those spending habits and learn how to not only live within your means but also save. Well done!
Hi Audrey! I am an instant fan of how you view your life and prioritize your needs. Best of luck for all your future endeavors!!
Nice one. Many people seem a little secretive about how they do it. But at the end of the day, most of us do work. Maybe just not in the traditional 9 to 5 sense and usually earning less than we otherwise could if we worked in an office.
But it’s about being in charge of your own destiny right?
Yup, everyone has some sort of job to make it happen.
I’ll second, third, forth, and one hundredth the idea that teaching in Korea helps for saving money–whether you use it on travel or loans or shoes. Once the big day happens, I’m going to write a blog post about how we paid off over $45,000 in loans between the two of us in 2 years. Hopefully it’ll happen in the next month or two! Maybe we’ll have money to travel after that, maybe we won’t, but if saving money is a priority, you can make it happen… you just might have to travel to the other side of the world! (but isn’t that way better than saving money while living with your parents???)
That’s incredible that you guys have been able to save that much over 2 years. Doesn’t it feel SOOO good to get student loans paid off?! Well done you two. 🙂
I have terrible spending habits! I’m quite the sucker for those marketing campaigns that make out that you can’t possibly be happy without this latest thing, or that you’ve “made it” when you have a walk in wardrobe full of designer clothes, and that you have to have the best version of everything.
I’m slowly getting to grips with the idea that experiences are far more valuable than things. I really adore your blog Audrey!
Thanks Amber. I’m glad to hear you like the blog. 🙂
Thank you for this – it could not come at a better time for me. I’m leaving on 12th September to travel for as long as I can and running out of money is one of my most serious stresses – it’s so reassuring to read a post like this as we’ve been doing fairly similar things to save. (Apart from the savings in Korea – WOW! Need to get myself involved in that gravy train) Love your blog Audrey!
That’s exciting that you’re heading out on your big trip soon. Just 2 months to go! 😉
Nice post Audrey. Similar to myself youve worked in loads of random jobs. Hard work reaps dividends and you dont get much for free. But when you work hard you can travel and live the lifestyle you want. Im almost 10 years nomadic now and always had more than one job at any given time. Its all about priorities. If you want to travel, you can. All you need to do is to work hard. Safe travels. Jonny
Ive traveled throughout Central America and South America, with Thailand being recent. Ive done different styles like:
1. Saving money ahead of time and taking time off from work for a month
2. Selling odds and ends from America into say Colombia, which they highly value anything from the US. I remember selling some clothes, vitamins, etc for a good markup.
Now my goal is to see if I can make a living from blogging, and since Ive kinda mastered how to live CHEAP in other countries while still enjoying my American habits (internet, gym, etc) I feel like there might be a chance. But I do plan on teaching English in Thailand soon if the blogging thing doesnt work out.
Oh, and Ive lived for $500-$2000 range in those countries. True, money can go fast, but if you make an effort to keep track of your allowances/expenses, it becomes a habit thus making it easy.
Yes, working hard and saving up is really just one side of the coin; learning to spend wisely is also an important part of being able to afford to travel long term!
Your idea of selling stuff from the US abroad is an interesting one. I’ve heard of people buying, for example, handicrafts from developing countries and selling them at a good markup in a first world country, but not the reverse!
This is a great post!! People are always asking me how I managed to move to the Caribbean and become a dive instructor. Well, first, I worked my ass off at two full time jobs for seven months….and saved that money. Then I sold everything. Then I moved down here, became a dive instructor, and got a job 🙂 And that’s how I make money now! I don’t make enough to travel the world, but I can travel around here and go back to Canada once a year, and have a few nice things every once in awhile (side note: I’m in a third world country. Nice things include: a haircut, going out for dinner at a place where you should wear more than flip flops and a bathing suit, and using my clothes dryer instead of hanging them outside. Hehe.)
I’m not one for prada either. When I think about all the food I can buy with that price, I’m “yeahh, noooooo.” I’d rather get more for my money. And part of that is in travels. I save most of my money anyway (it’s a throwback from being a broke college student). I just can’t really part with it, so if I’m going to give my money away, I’d rather do that towards a worthwhile adventure, like travel.
My husband and I work full time and stick to a strict budget which is also how we’re able to afford to travel during our holidays. Now, we’re both on a quest to become our own bosses so that we can be location independent and travel even more! I don’t think that people realize just how affordable travel can be if you save, live on a budget, and scour for affordable deals. Great post!
Love that you answered this question as I get this all the time too! So many people think they can’t afford to travel, but I always say if you REALLY wanted to do it, you’d make it happen– because I wanted to live in Italy, I worked my butt off for 6 months and saved every penny and was able to live there for a year. It’s all about priorities! 🙂
I agree with all of you. It depends on how you spend your money. You can do everything and stay in great places if you don’t spend too much in other things that aren’t important.
Not everyone gets a financial education like you. It’s great that you learned that at such a young age.
It’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you spend!
In my day job, I carry an after-hours pager. Being on call can limit you in what you do in your spare time but the upside is. I can choose to be paid out of my time or I can bank lieu time. A 50/50 split of doing this + vacation time gives me lots of time to travel and away to pay for it other than my salary.
I totally agree! It’s all about hard (but mostly fun) work and selective penny pinching. None of my funding currently comes from my blog or other writing, though it’s definitely something I’d like to explore 🙂
This is the exact post I expect to be writing in about 4 months. My hubby and I leave for our 6 month around the world trip in 2 weeks!
Holy guacamole I didn’t realize teaching in Korea was so lucrative. When I decided to teach abroad I chose Thailand over South Korea for the promise of tropical paradise and because the place sounded warmer and more exotic to me. But I think for that amount of savings I need to reconsider things a bit…
It seriously is! I was also looking at jobs in Thailand before going to Korea (I wanted the sunshine and the beaches!) but in the end I’m glad things worked out the way they did. 🙂
Thanks for the honesty. I’m always telling everyone it doesn’t take a rich bitch to travel you just have to be a bit of a tightwad give up things you can do without and focus your money on travel.
Haha, I like the way you put it. Tightwad sums it up nicely. 😉
I love that your folks made you chip in for vacations. My friends never understod why my parents didn’t give me allowance for doing chores around the house.
I think you summed it up really well with the line ‘For me, the choice was clear – I wanted to travel’. This is certainly how I feel about money and travel. Its what I want to do so I make choice, not to buy new things, not to go on nights out and most difficult for me not to go out eating delicious meals all the time. Its not easy all the time but once you’ve made the choice, its easier to focus.
Yup, when you know what the end goal is, it’s a lot easier to give up a few luxuries in order to get the big prize. 😉
No joke, this is exactly the same as how I earn and save money for travel! …except for I work in China making less than you did in Korea 😉
I was working and saving money when I was 14 years old, earning a bit of money from the website, teaching English and definitely not going out to bars and doing the same things that people back home do.
Travel is my priority! Thanks for sharing this, people usually assume that we must be drug dealers, get money from our parents or have some sort of trust fund! Definitely not the case.
Your example about Toronto nightlife is hitting the nail on the head. Many Canadians can travel more but they choose to spend their money on cell phones and wants (not needs).
The latte factor is a small part but cutting major expenses really pays off.
Excellent post. And congrats on getting your student loans paid off — and at such a young age! I was able to pay mine off by my mid-20s, too, and it felt sooo good. Especially when you look around and see that so many of your friends are handcuffed because of their debt. My experience has been that people seem quite jealous of my traveling and that they can actually be judgemental about it. They don’t realize that we live very different lives than they do, and if they changed the way they lived, they could travel, too! Because we’re on an overseas expat assignment right now, most of our travels are actually funded by the company.
It’s amazing how swiftly you can cut costs… I spent a year paying $150/month in rent and then house-sitting. It was exactly what I needed to get my life back on track!
I think that cutting costs tends to take you further than earning more money. Yes, I have earned a good living in Corporate America, but I also chose to save a lot of that for travel.
I think most people who have a conventional job find it astounding that travelers–people like you guys and me–are always, well, traveling. It seems a bit crazy to them, I think, but I think it’s all about priorities.
Good for you for having earned all the money you need for traveling yourself. I think it really teaches you to understand how difficult it is to earn money and you will appreciate your travels much more too. When I finished high school so many people at my school went on gap years. I couldn’t, because the money I had saved were just enough to buy me a plane ticket to London and pay for an Au Pair program. I was fine with that, as I could learn a new language and become more independent. My parents weren’t willing to give me tens of thousands of Euros to travel around the world. And who can blame them? I wouldn’t either! There is nothing more annoying than spoiled graduates who get the amazing opportunity to travel because of the kindness of their parents and then complain about almost everything during their travels. I have met so many of those types of people, I lost count. I think if they had worked for their travels themselves they wouldn’t complain so much. Rant over! 😉
A flexible job since high school, being wise with money, and write your interesting story on blog.
Its so awesome live. Get your freedom, follow your passion, and you happy to do all your travel job.
I dreaming someday I can following you, to travel around the world.
But now, I’m starting to traveling around Indonesia first. 😀
Keep success, Audrey. 😉
I had no idea working as a teacher in Korea could earn you that much! If I didn’t have a job right now I would have packed up my bags and head out there!
Seldom is it from just one source. And seldom does it cost as much as many people think.
We have lived in South America for four years and we have worked online for more than three of those years – with blogging as our primary income. Here is our full breakdown:
Excellent post. Thank you for sharing. I wish my student loans would be finished, so I can spend more on traveling.
I had no idea you could make so much money teaching in Korea! For me earning money is not so much of an issue but I tend to spend too much when I travel. I like staying in a decent hotel or apartment and I like to eat out in nice restaurants. Now that I’m travelling full time I’m much more careful with those two expenses and have cut back a lot but it’s worth the small sacrifice.
Thanks for sharing. I’ve heard the question many times, too. People don’t realize that a year’s worth of round-the-world travel can cost less than living in the U.S. for the same duration (at least that’s the case in my and my wife’s case). And that it’s possible to save for a RTW trip in less time than one would think. All you need is determination (we saved in 2 years, on nonprofit salaries). So much gets wasted on mortgage and car payments, clothes, eating out… You don’t have to be rich to travel long-term, you just have to want to travel enough to organize your life around the goal.
Great article. I’m 26, fresh out of grad school, and am looking forward to launching my travel blog this October. Like you, I started saving since high school, so it sometimes bothers me when people incorrectly assume that my parents foot the bill. It’s refreshing to see you reinforce the notion that you don’t have to be rich to travel the world, but you do have to make it a priority– simple budgeting goes a very, very long way. When I graduated from college, I was earning minimum-wage in a high-rent city, but after 9 months of saving, I comfortably afforded a 9 week Eurotrip. It all came down to sacrifices– giving up cable, always eating in, searching for deals, etc.
I’m about to transition from short-term travel to long-term travel, so it’s a whole different type of budgeting… Which makes me nervous. I didn’t realize you could save so much teaching English abroad, so I’ll definitely need to look into that. Thanks again for the inspiration. Safe travels! 🙂
I think, teaching English is the Jolly-Joker to make some money while travelling around the World.
I should start searching for ways on how i can possibly teach english in Korea! Hmmm! I was able to teach for a few days here in the Philippines but the pay wasnt that much 🙂 And korea seems like a good place to discover! You’re an inspiration, Audrey. You make me want to ditch whatever im doing right now to wander around the world..
This is such a great post. It’s a huge misconception that you have to be extremely wealthy to travel. So many people I know can’t believe it can be affordable and don’t even try. It’s all about priorities!
Everyone’s looking for the magic pill to being able to travel often. What they don’t realize is that there’s none. It’s simply making it a priority.
I have 2 kids now (4 and 1 year old), so priorities are pretty screwed whereas I cannot now make traveling a priority when I have kids.
However, if you’re without children; then it’d be easier to prioritize that way.
I saved up money from years of babysitting and saved money on my actual trip by staying with friends and friends of friends along the way.
Greetings, I’m asked the same also every week on my travel blog. There are many ways you can get money while on the road. You just have to be active and willing to work. big hug from Venezuela!
I also get that same question about once a week, which also inspired me to write a comprehensive answer on my website. Our answers are pretty similar. Simply put, live and travel frugally, and make as much money as you can. It comes down to priorities.
The one thing we both left out in our advice is investing the money wisely. I increased the size of savings dramatically when I made good stock market picks. 😉
That’s a great way to save up! I just finished university my self and I am loaded with student loans! However, I did manage to get my self a wicked high paying job and I’ll be able to manage to save up easily 12,000-15,000 thousand by April. I will be using this money to travel to south east Asia, how long do you think I could make it last?
Well said! I admire your courage and will to travel and see the world even Solo. Hope more and more people will realize this as well and see the goodness in traveling. Well, as they say, if there’s a will there’s definitely a way! Truly inspiring. =)
Food, culture and adventure and you haven’t been to Italy yet? You are missing out! Going to visit my 5oth country in 2 weeks…Vietnam! Whereabouts are you now and how did you make traveling into a job? I’d love to do the same! Cheers, Patrizia
Saving and cutting costs it where its at! You don’t need a high paying job, you just need a job and to be sensible with what you spend your money on. If anybody wants something bad enough, they WILL get it. So if it be they want to travel, they will work towards that. My friends are astonished by how much I travel and can afford to do it for months to even years (without working overseas). Well all it is, is, saving money and not spending it on useless things. For me I stick the the Will Smith quote “why do we spend money we don’t have to buy the things we don’t need, to impress the people we don’t like”
I’m so glad you talked about your saving strategies. That pair of expensive shoes, and regular nights out add up. So do all the Starbucks coffees and fast food meals
Nicely written Audrey!
As you say, it all comes down to being proactive – being organized, living frugally and working towards a long term goal.
Too often do I hear stories that travelling has to be expensive. The reality couldn’t be any more different – with the right destination and a sensible head, even long term travel can be sustainable on a modest budget.
Good luck with your adventures in 2014!
I love this! I don’t understand why people feel the need to go out ALL the time but then complain about money. I would SO rather save the cash and spend it on a flight or a few meals during my travels. Everything adds up and I agree getting in this industry is difficult! I’m trying my hardest, I wish I started as early as you did. 🙂
I love it, in a few minutes of reading, I was able to virtually visit places I have physically been to before. Victoria Peak, Mon Tok, Star ferry, Wan Chi, Mirador Mansion, Chungking Mansion, Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Canton Road, Kowloon Park, need I say more?
Joe, in love with Hong Kong
I really like your blog. There are a lot of travel blogs that are so fiery and flowery with passion but there’s no substance to most of it. I like reading your entries because they are concise, not overly emotional unlike the usual travel blog where the world of wonder is too exaggerated. I’m the type who almost never document my travels. And I like reading your tips that are blunt and practical. I really like your blog.
You inspire me most of your blog. Thanks for the information and help us believing and pushing that traveling needs not to be expensive… I hope you plan and visit Philippines soon, and i am very much excited to meet and host and surf you in our 7,107 Islands.
What do you think the possibilities are of making it teaching English in Brazil (or anywhere for that matter) while being able to afford pay off my student loans? I have payments that add to be just over $800/mo 🙁 – Also, I am really split between taking an online tefl course (wayyy cheap) and taking a CELTA course (in-person, first hand teaching and observing experience, a network of people, etc.) – Any advice? I know I’ve seen that for Asia it really doesn’t matter what cert you have, but wonder if it makes a difference in Asia? I hear it definitely make a difference in Europe (and France is my number 2 destination after Brazil) – Asia is not really my thing, though I’m open to it… Do you think I need to “pay my dues” there first so I can save up some money and THEN try to go? I really need some wisdom/advice/mentorship!
Thanks for your message. Honestly, Brazil is a tricky market. Unless you’re a certified teacher and are planning to work at an international school, you likely won’t be earning enough money to afford life in Brazil and make your $800/month loan payments. The job market is competitive (Brazil is paradise!) and salaries aren’t that high, plus you have to keep in mind that the cost of living in cities like Rio de Janeiro has really gone up over the past few years. If you want to go for the experience, then Brazil is a really cool choice. However, if you’re looking to save money and pay back your loans, the best markets for that are South Korea and the Middle East (they offer high salaries, free flights, and great completion bonuses if you stay the full year).
Regarding the TESL/CELTA course, I think if you’re planning to teach for a while, then it’s worth investing in the longer in-person course. You’ll get a lot out of it, and the practicums really help prepare you for that first day when you’re standing in front of a classroom with 30 students staring at you. Also, a lot of employers want to know the length of your course, so if you’re just doing a short weekend one they won’t be too impressed. Try to go for a course that is at least 100 hours in length.
I hope that helps a bit!
That helps a lot! Thanks so much for your prompt and thorough response!
LOVED this article! Thank you for making me feel that with hard work, anything can be achieved. 🙂 I’d really like to both travel and pursue my career in acting. Oh, and make money for food somehow? haha Besides Korea, have you heard of any other countries with similar benefits for English teachers?
Thank you so much for sharing this!
I recently finished 6 months in Europe, and I too had others assume things about how I was able to afford it. It can take some courage to be completely transparent when it comes to financial matters, so I applaud you for sharing your way.
Thanks again 🙂
This is such a great post and you have an awesome blog (I recently randomly discovered this and now I’m obsessed haha). I just turned 18, and my family and I have been traveling since I was really little, similar to what you were talking about. We aren’t extremely wealthy and I am definitely not going to inherent any money. My parents say that the trips we take are in place of an inheritance haha, which I am fine with because I have grown up with more culture and experiences than alot of other kids I know. Many kids will get a new pair of shoes from their parents every month and my sister’s and I get a pair once a year and if we want more, we have to buy them ourselves with money from babysitting, work, etc. , because my parents believe paying for our travels is more valuable than paying for prada or tori burch. I’ve been extremely lucky to have seen so much outside the U.S, like many parts in Europe, South Africa, Canada :). and only in 18 years! your blog is such an inspiration. thanks for sharing.
Great tips, it shows it is possible if you just put everything into. Travel is worth it!
I would like to teach English abroad. How would you recommend I get started. I’m not sure what would be required of me. Thank you for your help.
It all depends on where you want to teach. I taught in South Korea and the requirements were: to be a native English speaker, to hold a Bachelors degree from an English-speaking university, and a TESL certificate was considered a bonus. I would recommend going through a recruiting agency to help make the search a bit easier. A few to consider include Teach Away, Footprints, and aWork N Play. I hope that helps a bit!