How To Travel As Long As You Want Without Going Broke (Interview)

This is the third article in our series of posts about perpetual travel. Subscribe to TravelBlogs for free to receive new articles in your email inbox or feed reader.

Street Performer in Paris, France

Street Performer in Paris, France. By Martin Edström.

So, you’re pumped. You’ve just learned that $5 a day is all you need to travel forever, and you know it’s for you.

Related post: How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog

But now you’re wondering: How will you get that $5 a day? And what if you want to earn a little more than that, so you can be a little less frugal or travel in more expensive place?

Wade has been on the road for 9 years, in which time he’s made his way through 40 countries and across 5 continents. Last year, I talked to him about why he’s been travelling so long; this time, I decided to find out how he does it. Or, more specifically, where he gets the money to be able to travel perpetually.

Wade

Wade: 9 years on the road.

Over the past nine years, what has been your single biggest source of income?

This is a difficult question to answer definitely, as the ways that I have earned the money to travel has always varied. For seven or so years, I mostly funded my travels off of doing archaeological fieldwork all around North and South America. But now I have been trying to come up with other ways to make up my bean money in more of a continuous manner. Before, I would travel between archaeology excavations and oftentimes work 60 hour weeks for a few months and then just travel for the rest of the year without working at all. This lifestyle became a little extreme after a while, as there was not a sense of real balance: I would jump from periods of doing lots of work to times of no work. While in one extreme I would exhaust myself, in the other I would feel a little lazy.

Now I am trying to balance my bean money strategy out a little more. I am trying to work for a few hours each day, everyday, so as I am able to live one continuous lifestyle as I make my way around the world.

Related resource: New Travel Strategy Works

The last time I interviewed you, you mentioned some of the different ways that you’ve earned money on the road: archaeology, teaching English, gardening, farm labour. Just recently, you wrote on your blog that you’ve been doing university psychological studies and living off the $10 pay-out. You’re obviously very flexible about what kind of work you’re willing (and able) to do.

To what extent do you think flexibility like that is necessary for people who want to be able to travel perpetually?

Unless you have a set profession that you can do almost everywhere in the world – like internet work or writing – I feel that it is of tantamount importance to be flexible and take any opportunity that you can to earn money which will enable you to travel perpetually.

Unless you have a set profession that you can do almost everywhere in the world – like internet work or writing – I feel that it is of tantamount importance to be flexible and take any opportunity that you can to earn money which will enable you to travel perpetually. Keep your ears to the tracks, and you will find that opportunities to make a living on the Road with little difficulty. As the vagabond Harry Franck wrote, “something will always come up.”

So if you hear of a bar that needs to be repainted, offer your services; if you hear of a hostel whose receptionist just left, show up and tell them what you can do; if you find a student studying English, offer to tutor them.

$50 is nearly a week of travel.

I have also done a lot of trading in my travels. One of the best grafts that I have used is the Hobohideout.com Traveling Webmasters Program, which is a way to trade pages on Hobohideout.com with hotels and hostels for a place to live for a week or two. This works incredibly well. In the three months of travel that I just completed in Eastern Europe, I only paid to stay in a hostel once. Every other night, I traded Hobohideout.com pages for a dorm bed or just slept outside.

Related resource: Free Accommodation while Traveling

Buena Vista Social Club, Havana, Cuba

Buena Vista Social Club, Havana, Cuba. By marlis.

You’ve done quite a bit of archaeological work to keep you travelling. How lucrative is archaeological work?

In point, archaeology fieldwork is the most lucrative way that I have found to make up your travel funds while traveling almost continuously. In North America, it is contract work and the employers provide you with a living stipend – which is far more than what you could ever really spend – on top of your wages. When doing this work I was routinely able to come up with the bean money to travel internationally for nine months off of only three months of work.

For the newbie who wants to get into archaeology, where should they start?

Just enroll in a field school through a university. They are usually held for 6 to 8 weeks every summer, and you can often take them in countries that you want to travel in anyway. I took mine through Florida Atlantic University in Ecuador in 2000. Once you have this experience you can begin applying for professional work. Though it may be a little difficult to land your first job with only a field school, as most employers technically require a university degree. I had to knock on the door of a lady who ran an archaeology firm a few times before she hired me. But once I had professional experience, I was in, and found that I could work anywhere. So it is possible to work professionally off of the strength of only a field school, but it takes a little persistence. If you couple your field school credentials with a degree then you should not have any difficulty finding work in North America or further abroad.

Related resources: Archaeology Field School, Archaeology Education and Work, How to Become an Archaeologist?

One of the most interesting ways you’ve funded your travels over the past nine years is through university scholarships. You’ve been awarded over $60,000 in scholarship, grants, and financial aid. Is this something that any university student could do, if they tried?

Yeah, anyone can do it with a little effort. I went to Global College, Long Island University, which is a four year international study program, for the later part of my university study. I just sort of studied off and on as I traveled, taking a semester or two of school when I ran out of money or took up a deep interested in some line of study. Through this school I studied in Japan, China, India, and Morocco, and it really prepared me well for living and working on the Road.

I was awarded Freeman-Asia and Gilman grants in addition to Global College scholarships and financial aid to help cover the costs of my studies and travel.

Related resource: International Study Travel

You’ve worked on monetizing your website over the last year. How much has this paid off?

I suppose that I have probably made around $2000 over the past year off of the websites. I usually put around 3 – 5 hours a day into them though, so this is probably the least lucrative way to fund traveling. It is a pipe dream of sorts, albeit one that is beginning to work out.

What advice do you have for a newbie traveller who wants to travel and live off income from their website?

Only do it if you truly love it. If you like publishing on the internet, do so regardless of financial reward. The income that I make off of my websites is extremely bleak compared to how much time I put into publishing Vagabondjourney.com. I could make far more money working in archaeology, teaching English, or a dozen other on the road trades, than I can through the internet. But I enjoy writing on the internet and watching my websites grow. It is sort of like rearing a child.

You’ve had a few articles published. How did you go about pursuing these publishing opportunities?

Up to here, I have published around six articles in three print travel magazines and am currently working as a copy editor for Cafe Abroad InPrint. I usually just write up the article, take the photos, and send them in. Though I have been working continuously for Cafe Abroad over the past year, and do a regular assignment for each issue. It is fun, but I have only made a nominal amount of money from it. I would like to someday be able to go from journalism project to journalism project while traveling and then write the background and day to day  information on the travelogue.

Besides earning money, knowing how to save money is critical. It’s pretty clear from your blog that you’re very careful with how you spend money. What are some of your biggest money saving tips for fellow travellers?

Don’t buy anything that you would not croak without. Basic self preservation and nothing more is the key to perpetual travel.

Don’t buy anything that you would not croak without. Basic self preservation and nothing more is the key to perpetual travel. Seriously. Find luxury in what is free; if something has a price tag connected to it then stay away! There is plenty to feast on in any country, city, or village that is 100% free. Let the days unfold on their own and do not plan “activities” or try to “do” places, as I feel as if this mentality towards travel will just lead to spending money. You don’t ever have to do a tour, old cities are living museums, nature does not usually have a price tag.

I generally always say no to all guides, no to all tours, and no to anyone or anything that demands money. Through living like this, I have found travel to be almost ridiculously inexpensive.

One main note:

Stay away from bars if you wish to continuously travel. Going to bars is expensive, and I have observed many travelers pumping weeks worth of travel funds into a single night. In most countries, a day’s supply of food does not cost $3, and I have watched backpackers spend $3 on a single beer in a bar a dozen times in a night. It is a question of priorities really, you can go to bars and then have to go home, or you can travel the world forever. Each drink in a bar just brings you one step closer to going belly up. I enjoy drinking, but I usually do so by picking up a one dollar bottle of wine from a supermarket or a cheap six pack of beer and going to the nearest sea coast, the top of the nearest mountain, or into the countryside. In most countries alcohol sells cheap, it is the bars that are expensive.

As Andy says, “It is far easier to save $20 than it is to make $20.” If you have this adage ever stuck in the back of your head, everything will work itself out. It was a startling moment when I realized how little money a person really needs to travel.

Last week, I published an interview with Andy from HoboTraveler.com. His basic philosophy is that if you can earn $5 a day, you can travel forever. What do you think? Is he right?

Sure, if you have the gumption to continually earn $5 a day while traveling then you probably have the determination to keep going no matter what. I think that it is possible to travel the world on a $5 a day budget if you camped on the sly, rode a bicycle or walked, and prepared your own food. It is my impression that if a traveler has the drive to make $5 daily while traveling then they have the drive to always find a way to keep wandering regardless of the amount of money they need.

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Discussion »

  • #1john-travel

    The entire article is like traveling. I like the way you described Wade’s experience.I have really inspired with his deeds.There are many special things in his time. The most important factor is the way he earned money. I will definitely do one of those actions because even I am a passionate traveler

  • #2Dave

    Great couple of articles on traveling finances!

    Some very valid points about living on $5 a day mentioned by Wade. Staying away from bars is one of them for sure. Not to mention learning to save $5 a day!

    Actually I think you pretty much have to limit yourself to staying inside on $5 a day.

    I think $5 is pushing it myself. It is by all means possible, but not all of us are sharing an apartment with a girl in Thailand and splitting the costs. That said, it’s in context, so yes you can survive on $5 a day.

    Wade’s on the right track with having a wide range of skills at his finger tips.

    Best of luck to him.

    Dave

  • #3jamie

    Do you keep a financial cushion in reserve? What happens if you need to fly home for a funeral, or have an emergency root canal? Do you plan for that, or have you been lucky?

  • #4Wade

    Hello Jamie,

    I generally like to keep a $2,500 cushion. Once my funds start dipping below this point I try to find a way to up my income. But this is just my preference and is sort of an arbitrary figure. I have traveled for extended periods of time with way less money than this, and have ended up completely broke on a few occasions. Lately, I have been keeping my expenses/ income ratio pretty constant.

    Thank you for your good words Dave and John!

    Walk Slow,
    Wade

  • #5Bobby Rica

    I am totally not sure if $5 will work for me in a day.As when i travel i want to enjoy to do fullest and $5? hmmm i really don’t know how…

  • #6NewWrldYankee

    Definitely right with you on the bar comment. Going out to eat and out clubbing or to the bar can waste a week or more worth of budget $. I went out once this semester and ended up using half a month’s grocery budget. Never again.

  • #7airportdrunk

    Some great advice, although i wouldn’t discount internet income. Vagabond Journey is a nice site that could be making a lot more if monetized properly. A good information resource like that should be treated as both a hobby and a business.

  • #8Cameron

    Hi Wade

    I was wondering what strategy you use for unexpected medical costs?

    Travel insurance is expensive these days and I am curious what other options are out there.

    In the past I have run the gauntlet yet appendix know how to reject ones body at the most inappropriate times!

    Also, have you successfully used airhitch?

  • #9Wade

    Hello Cameron,

    Medical care is not nearly as expensive in other countries as it is in the United States, and many countries offer free care even to foreigners. I have always been able to pay out of my pocket for all of the medical attention that I have needed outside of the USA. In India, I did a two day stint in the Harvard Hospital in Bangalore (which is one of the best hospitals in the region) and it only cost $100. Other times I have needed to buy medicines, but they have always fit into my overall expense pattern.

    So I would not worry medical care, you will be able to get everything that you need for yourself somehow.

    I also think that travel insurance is often not worth the expense.

    Thanks for writing.

    Walk Slow,

    Wade
    Vagabond Journey.com

  • #10Tom

    This guy is pathetic. His strategies often involve leaching off others, and he talks on one post somewhere on his site about only showering every two or three days.

    Selfish, dirty and unoriginal.

    How about a life approach, one of travel or not, that is self sustaining and that celebrates the human body by, like the best of close-to-the-earth cultures like Thailand (the real Thailand, not the ‘travelers’ heavily trodden path), staying as clean as possible.

    Cheers and happy travels walking slowly and bathing often, Tom

  • #11mitch

    No travel insurance? I’ve been working as a travel agent for a year and have had heard and had experience with some real horror stories. The most recent being a 21 year old girl that had insurance (though my work mate), but that had run out a week before she was killed in a road acident in South America (which I came close to myself some years back). What about those that have to help out if you don’t have the means or are dead? the girls mother is currently in South America trying to negotiate (with no Spanish) a 25,000 bill to get the body back home. What a nightmare

  • #12dana

    Excellent article full of practical information! Saving 20 bucks is the same as earning 20 bucks.

  • #13Dom

    I think brilliant! Not sure why Tom is getting so angry, but for Wade to find his way and follow it is inspiring. It takes balls to do this, I think, and ultimately creates a sense of freedom. I will certailnly be remembering saving 20 bucks is easier than earning 20 bucks!!!! Thank you Wade!

  • #14G. Michael Schneider

    Wade,

    What would you think if I wrote about how to go to an absolutely GREAT restaurant and get out for less than $5 by drinking only water, not ordering anything, and eating the remains off of other people’s plates? You would think I was crazy! Well, travel to me is like a great restaurant–it can offer enormous pleasures but not if all you think about is getting out for the least amount of money. Yes, somethings are free, but sometimes you want to enjoy the food, culture, adventures of a place whose costs far exceed $5/day.

    I would rather live somewhere for a few months or years earning enough money in 3,4 days of work each week so that the other 3 or 4 days can be filled with activities without the worry of always looking into my wallet. Once when I was a very young student I went to Italy, crashed on someone’s couch, ate nothing but ramen noodles, and never got to the opera. I decided then that if I am going to travel I will go for long enough to become a part of the culture and earn enough funds to enjoy it. That is the theme of my own blog, On The Other Guy’s Dime in which you live and work overseas earning enough money to never have to reach into your wallet and never once skimping on the joys of travel. I personally think it is a far better way to travel.

    Michael Schneider

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