This is Part 2 of a two-part series on my life as a travel blogger.
It's a question I get all the time: How do you afford to travel so much?
A valid question, for sure. If I was on the other side of this whole travel blogging thing, I would be curious, too.
In fact, before I started traveling a lot and blogging seriously, I was convinced it wouldn't be possible for someone like me. Someone without a trust fund. Someone who doesn't rely on mommy and daddy to pay for everything. Someone was hasn't sold a start-up or won the lottery.
Basically, I didn't think it was possible for a “normal” person like me — with a crappy job and student debt — to travel the world.
But guess what? I was wrong. It's TOTALLY possible.
The really boring answer to how I fund my travels is: I save up money, and then spend it on travel.
I know — probably not nearly as exciting as you thought.
But the good news? ANYbody can do this. You just have to get creative with your time and make travel your #1 priority when it comes to saving and spending your money.
Let's look at how I've funded my travels in the past, and then take a look at what I'm doing now:
Job: Copy editor at a small, local newspaper
Income: $21,000 a year after taxes were taken out
Living situation: I was renting a one-bedroom apartment for about $550 per month (including utilities)
Where I traveled to: Hawaii, New Zealand, and a US road trip
How I did it:
- I would put at least $50 from every paycheck (sometimes more) into a savings account set aside solely for travel.
- I planned to stay with friends in some places to cut down on costs (and I also did my US road trip with my sister).
- I ended up moving into a 2-bedroom apartment with a friend in order to cut down my monthly bills by about $100 per month.
- I took advantage of paid vacation days, holidays that I could save up and use later, and even took 2 weeks off unpaid after clearing it with my boss.
Job: Graduate assistant (and I suppose graduate student)
Income: Less than $20,000 per year after taxes (though my tuition was covered through my assistantship, and I also took out student loans to cover some of my other grad school costs)
Living situation: I was again renting a one-bedroom apartment for about $625 per month (including utilities)
Where I traveled to: Iceland, mainland Europe (x2 and for multiple months at a time), Canada, Alaska, Belize, Costa Rica, another US road trip
How I did it:
- I took advantage of the time I got off school to travel as much as possible (i.e. during Spring Break, the Christmas holidays, and during the summer months).
- I tucked away money I made from my assistantship, again putting it into a travel savings account.
- I worked seasonal jobs — including retail for the Christmas season last year.
- I signed up for an airline credit card with a nice mileage bonus in order to score a free flight (and rack up more miles for more free flights).
- I started doing more freelancing online — mostly copy editing, since that's what I had been doing in my former job.
- I started making some money from my blog by selling advertising and working with sponsors to offset the cost of my travels (though it's worth noting that these sponsorships have never accounted for more than 40-50% of my total travel costs).
After grad school ended, I decided to take a leap of faith. First, I went traveling again. And then I decided I would try to make a go of things on my own — self-employed and location independent.
If you read my Life as a Travel Blogger post, you'll know that I keep myself pretty damn busy during the week in order to keep my head above water. But I'm doing it. I'm now making more money than I ever have before (well, not a TON more, but still a little bit more) and I have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world.
But, being a self-employed freelancer means that I have to wear many, many hats every single day.
In the past year, I've done the following:
A remote job — In early 2014, I applied for an internship with a company called LKR Social Media. I started out working a couple hours a day, helping them out with some blog and social media tasks. That internship then morphed into a nearly full-time position, working to help promote Edgar, a new social media management tool. I worked at Edgar for a year and a half, handling everything from customer service to PR to educational webinars.
Website management — For about two years, I was the managing editor for another travel blog. I basically communicated with contributing authors, set up the editorial calendar, formatted posts, added new pages when needed, updated plugins, and basically made sure the blog ran like it should.
Currently (as for January 2016), I'm doing the following:
Freelance writing — This is a mixture of one-off assignments and ongoing writing gigs. In an average month, I write anywhere from 3 to 10 freelance posts.
Branded content/advertising — I still sell the occasional ad on A Akatuki5, but I try not to bombard you with sponsored posts and links. I'm more selective now when it comes to advertising, and only accept branded content when it fits in with my blog, would be interesting for my readers, AND pays a decent rate. I usually limit it to two branded posts on my blog per month.
Affiliate sales — I don't do a ton of affiliate advertising on this site, but I HAVE upped my Amazon affiliate game in the past year. I include Amazon affiliate links to products I use (like in my travel packing posts), and when someone clicks on these links and buys something, I get a (very) small commission. I have also been experimenting with Amazon CPM ads, and occasionally will join one-off or seasonal affiliate sales, too.
Blogging course — In November 2015, I launched a blogging course in conjunction with Travel Blog Success that focuses on teaching travel bloggers how to pitch and successfully work with travel brands and tourism boards. This was really exciting for me, because teaching is something I enjoy, and this is a way I can do it while still enjoying a remote lifestyle. .
A lot of hats, hey?
But the variety is what I love most about my work life right now. No two days are ever the same, and I still have the freedom to travel frequently. If you ask me in another year how I fund my travels, this list could look totally different. But that's half the fun!
The truth is, I got to this point the same way you would work your way into any career: by working at it and never losing sight of what I was after. Being a full-time blogger/freelancer didn't just fall into my lap; it's been a slow progression over the past 4 years.
BUT, of course you don't have to be a travel blogger in order to travel the world. 😉
Did I leave something out? What else do you want to know about my life as a travel blogger?