I think a lot of people believe that getting paid to travel means some company pays people to live their dream lives traveling around the world and having a blast. Though there are some great jobs, like hikers who get expenses paid to report on new hiking gear performance in exotic places, or travel bloggers who write for various publications as freelancers, there aren’t really that many opportunities to do what you want, where you want, all on the company dime.
What people are doing when they “get paid to travel” is typically growing a large following on social media and their blogs. Their fans want to peek inside their van life, or latest hikes in the wilderness, or the restaurants they’ve eaten as a food blogger.
Once they have that big audience, they monetize it with ads, mostly. It’s all most people know to do. And it’s a really tough way to make a living until you have a huge following. All the cool stuff you see in the pictures and videos is the ultra-highlights of their experiences. What you don’t see is getting stuck in customs, vans breaking down, delays at the airport, long trips with no showers and other missing conveniences we all take for granted.
A lot of travel bloggers are living right on (or below) the poverty line and sacrificing everything to live their nomadic lifestyle. Yet they all seem happy enough, at least on their Instagram pages.
What I’ve always wondered is why travel bloggers, consultants, and other freedom seekers don’t monetize their lifestyles better. And I think this is why a lot of people on the sidelines (who fantasize about letting go of conventional life and striking out to do their thing) don’t actually pull the trigger.
It takes a lot of energy to live the way most of them do it. Even people in their 30s find the grind to be too much to sustain without much better planning for comfort and relaxation. Living like a hippie is great for hippies (when they’re young – I can vouch) but most people won’t take the leap of being a paid traveler without a better chance of financial security when they’re on the road.
I think people can tell that the nomadic life and making what you love your business isn’t all sunshine, selfies, and walks on the beach. We can see beyond the perfect settings and vistas on Instagram. It obviously takes work and dedication. But it also doesn’t have to be a life of poverty and constant struggle to stay on the road.
(If you’re already “out there” and doing your thing in a van, on a trail, or visiting exotic places and the above sounds like your life right now, please do read on. This isn’t just for people thinking about starting their journey!)
If you want to do this thing and not have to cook all your meals to save money, or skip campgrounds to park for free in a Walmart parking lot every night, you need to set yourself up with a money-making plan that brings in more than just your bare expenses.
You want this to be sustainable. You don’t want to have to constantly worry about how far you can go before having to come home with your tail between your legs, completely drained of cash and the will to travel.
(I’ll talk more about building your following in this series. Make sure you get on the notification list below so you don’t miss it!)
And they are going to be interested in all kinds of things you’d never have thought they’d care about. They want to know what your free-wheeling lifestyle is like in every minute detail, including your gear, your income sources, and just how you make this life possible in the first place.
Most professional travelers (people who make a living traveling, largely by consulting, freelancing, photography, or letting people peer into their daily lives on YouTube) don’t know how to take advantage of all the ways they can make money. And they usually take the hard way making the least amount it takes to get by and not much else.
If you want this life, but you’re worried about money and how you’ll thrive (not just survive) on the road, here’s my best piece of advice: take some time to get an education in affiliate marketing. It is #1 on the list of income sources for anyone who has more desire than experience and who needs a business model that is as hands-off and un-technical as it can possibly be.
I don’t recommend people get a complicated website that has to be maintained and tweaked all the time. And I don’t think it is realistic to build a business around a product other than what you are doing (traveling) because it is a giant hassle, big learning curve, and will take every ounce of your attention and energy before you ever hit the road.
You won’t have the time and it will become a massive source of stress, which is the quickest way to take every bit of fun out of what you otherwise love to do.
Affiliate marketing is simply recommending products and services to your fans and getting paid when they take you up on your tips. What you recommend has to be relevant to what you’re doing and what your fans are interested in. Practically everyone has an affiliate program these days. But some are better than others and you have to make the effort worth the payoff. Meaning you need to know how to pick good things to promote that pay well enough to make it worthwhile.
For the last several years, the best place to learn affiliate marketing has been Wealthy Affiliate. There are all kinds of people at Wealthy Affiliate, using it to do all kinds of things. But it’s my pick for people wanting to get paid to travel because it makes everything so easy.
Many travel bloggers and other digital nomads belong to this group and finance some or all of their travel through the profits they generate from the training they receive there.
Affiliate marketing is how people get paid to travel better than people who rely on ad revenue alone. You can call more shots and pick and choose how you make money, putting together your own personal strategy that works for you.
And it can be quite lucrative! If your monthly budget goal is $5000, covering all your expenses and allowing you some play money to do all the things you want in the places you visit, then you can get that number through affiliate marketing.
It takes work like anything else, but you don’t have to do so many things that other business owners have to do. You can concentrate on putting out content, plugging the things you love and can feel good about promoting, and never have to put together your own product, do any fulfillment, run a big, complicated website, or any of that.
Getting paid to travel only works if you really get to experience the journey without becoming a slave to the next airline ticket purchase, gear purchase, or other expenses because you’re always scrapping together money just to get by.
The reason the van life movement got so big, and why they’re living in vans with 100k+ miles on them, is they don’t have a plan for income that covers anything more than gas, food, and basic expenses. They are young daredevils who have the energy and stamina to live life right on the edge and enjoy it. Which is why most people only dream of doing it instead of joining them.
The people who are truly doing the travel thing right are the ones who have a plan and know how to make the amount of money that makes their travel lifestyle a manifestation of their wildest dreams.
I’ve lived the last 20 years as a “Freedom Thriver” in large part because of affiliate marketing. I know what financial and time freedom tastes like. And even now, after all these years, being my own boss is as sweet as the first year I experienced it. It’s worth everything I did to learn how to monetize the life of my dreams! Only today it’s much easier than when we had to figure everything out ourselves back in the day.
Which is another reason affiliate marketing works so well. It can provide you with what you need, no matter how big your budget gets, without having to do anything else but keep your fans happy with your content.
Check out Wealthy Affiliate for free and see for yourself how you actually can get paid to travel in style and at the level of comfort that you desire.
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Coming Next: Getting Paid to Travel - Building An Audience