Although it’s quite popular in Europe and Down Under, it’s a dream many Americans don’t pursue: Backpacking the world for months or years at a time. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been taught that you go to school and then get a job so you can buy things. What if we take a break for a while from our fast-paced lives and voracious consumer appetites and live with only what we can carry on our backs?
That’s what my sister and I did. We sold everything, bought airfare, traveler’s checks, and wandered around the world for a year and a half. Of course, we blew through our money faster than we had expected. Wanting to stay on the road for as long as possible, we came up with some ideas on how to make money while traveling.
- Submit your photographs to stock photography websites. You’re taking photos anyway of everyone and everything you see. Why not upload them to several of the major stock photography websites and earn money? They pay you on consignment for each photo someone purchases for reuse in books, brochures, websites, etc.
- Become a seasonal fruit picker. These jobs don’t pay very well, and it’s hard labor but at least you’re outdoors with other travelers getting in shape and earning money. The jobs are usually plentiful, depending on the season.
- Become a ranch hand or do odd jobs. Such jobs are usually found just by word of mouth or calling ranches. Sometimes you can find jobs in a local newspaper, but usually you need to ask around about temporary work in whatever locale you happen to be in.
- Teach English. Like fruit picking, these jobs are plentiful but do not pay very well. But sometimes they provide living accommodations and it’s a great way to get to know the local culture and make friends.
- Become a freelance travel writer. Write articles and submit them to magazines. If accepted, you will usually be paid per word. You can also write articles and submit them for free to article marketing websites. You’re allowed to put a link in the resource box at the end of the article to your personal website (see #6 below.) This helps drive traffic to your website. These articles spread virally through the Internet and are reprinted in blogs, ezines, and other places.
- Design a website with affiliate programs. A great way to stay in touch with friends, family, and new friends you make while traveling is to set up a travelogue website where you display photos and stories about your travels. On such a website, you can get a little entrepreneurial. If you know that most of your friends like to shop at a certain online bookstore, for example, then sign up for that bookstore’s affiliate program. It’s fairly easy to do as long as you have a website building program that allows you to cut and paste an html link. After you sign up for an affiliate program, just cut and paste their affiliate link or banner into your website on a “resources” or “links” page. Then ask all your friends and family to click on that link the next time they wish to purchase something from that online store. You will get paid money each time someone clicks on that link and purchases something, and it won’t cost your friends and family anything extra. There are all kinds of products you can sell on your website. Generally, the more expensive the item – such as seminars, CD programs, or services – the more money you will earn.
- Become a WWOOFer. It’s an international program that stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. You choose an organic family farm you’d like to visit, make arrangements with the family, work all day, and, in return, you get free meals and lodging for each day you work. It’s a wonderful way to learn about organic farming and the local culture.
The key is to be open and creative. Making the time to step out of your normal life tends to foster creativity and frees the spirit. You are only limited by your work visa and your imagination. Maybe host a brainstorming happy hour at a youth hostel to get some help from your fellow travelers. Other backpackers are a wealth of information. During your travels, remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”