Most conversations that I have while staying in hostels sound something like this:
“Hey! Where you from? Cool! What do you do? Seriously? How do you AFFORD it?” and so on and so forth.
It’s a very valid question, perhaps one of the most valid I’m asked. How DOES one afford to perpetually travel?
I’ll tell you now that I am not independently wealthy and I do not have a trust fund. I didn’t sell a startup during the dotcom bubble, nor did I strike oil in my backyard.
I earn my money while on the road.
That’s right, I’m a mobile entrepreneur – or a location independent entrepreneur, as some people call it – and it’s actually not terribly difficult to do, if you’re keen to set up a similar situation for yourself. All it takes is some knowledge, a laptop and a few good ideas.
Let’s start with the basics, though.
The benefits of traveling long-term are many and varied. Not only are you able to travel as a lifestyle (rather than as a vacation), but if you’re smart about it you can actually SAVE money by living a nomadic lifestyle rather than staying put.
It sounds ridiculous, I know, but consider this: depending on your lifestyle, you’ll likely have rent, utilities, insurance, a car payment, fuel, food, work clothing, and all kinds of other unavoidable expenses that are a static part of living the stable life.
Now consider life on the road: depending on where you live, you can rent an apartment for much less than at home, buy groceries and take mass transit for a fraction of your at-home costs. You can live essentially the same lifestyle but in a different location, with different food, different cultures around you, and all the other fun parts of traveling. It’s entirely possible that your biggest expenses will be plane tickets, and if you do a little digging (or take some of Mr. Guillebeau’s advice) you can save quite a lot on that, as well.
The key to making this work is what Tim Ferriss calls ‘geo-arbitrage,’ which essentially means that you earn a valuable currency while living in a place where that currency is worth even more; for example, earning US dollars while living in Thailand, which is what I’m doing right now.
In the above case, each US dollar is worth about 32 Thai Baht, and you can get a meal for 30 Baht. Not everything is that cheap, but overall MOST things are significantly cheaper than in the States, so my money stretches much further than it would otherwise.
The result is that like Cody McKibben (who is also living in Thailand) I’m actually MAKING money just living here compared to when I was living in LA, even though I’m earning less profit overall.
So how do you make money from the road? There are lots of options to choose from, but here are some of the most common and easy to set up:
Anything you can do from home, you can do from Thailand or Amsterdam or wherever else you want to live. So long as you can access a solid Internet connection when you need it, the world is your oyster when it comes to selling your services from the road.
I’ve personally found that this can be a little tricky due to time-zones and the like, but so long as you’re willing to stay up late and get up early to hop on Skype calls with clients, it’s probably the most reliable and instantly profitable paths you can take to financial- and location-freedom.
All you have to do is figure out what you’re actually going to do and then start doing it from your laptop and with as few frills (desk? big monitor? printer? learn to live without them) as possible.
The affiliate concept is simple, but due to its popularity there is a whole lot to read on the subject, so I’ll keep this short so as not to confuse.
Someone, let’s say Bob the Sprocket-Maker, creates a product (sprockets) and sells them online.
You sign up to Bob’s affiliate program and start telling your friends about his lovely sprockets…their beauty, their practicality, these are truly the most perfect sprockets you’ve ever beheld.
A family member buys one of Bob’s sprockets using the link you provided (with your affiliate code at the end of the address) and you receive a portion of the sale (let’s say 25% of the total purchase price). Score! You’re now a professional affiliate!
But this model is scalable. Let’s say you don’t just send your affiliate link out to your friends and family, but to the people who read your blog? Or all of your Twitter followers? You’d likely get more sales for Bob’s sprockets, resulting in more money for you.
I’m sure you can see the business potential here. If you can build an audience (or audiences) you can build a business around affiliate sales. Want to sell car parts? Start a blog about cars. Want to sell clothing? Start Tweeting about clothing. The more popular your site or social media presence becomes, the richer you become.
Bing bang boom.
Create your own products
This is probably the trickiest of these three options, and the most risky, but it can also result in the highest profits (and therefore most stable traveling lifestyle). I actually started out doing more service-oriented work to fund my travels, but now I focus on this a lot more because of the potential growth (and fun!) involved.
A product can be ANYTHING, from ebooks to socks, so long as you’re able to make them or get them made and then sell them online. The big issue most people have trouble with is fulfillment, which means ‘who the hell is going to deliver my awesome socks to the customer who just purchased them?’
If you’re dealing with physical goods, you can either have a friend, family member or employee pack up and ship out the product to the customer, or you can hire a fulfillment company to do it for you (though the cost involved can be significant, so you’ll want to make sure that there is enough margin in the sale price to allow for this).
If you’re dealing with electronic goods, you likely won’t have as much trouble with this. Companies like e-junkie are fulfillment masters, and they require very little from you other than a small monthly payment to keep your products flying off the e-shelves.
Be sure that there is an audience for your product before you spend too much time creating it. You may think that a hand-sewn volume of cryptozoological-themed poetry will sell like hotcakes, but it may be that YOU’RE the only potential customer, and that means that you should probably think up another product.
The main thing to keep in mind – however you decide to make money from the road – is that you should set it up in such a way so that you’re not just moving your existing life to a new location and then settling into the same routine. Travel can lose it’s luster really quickly if all you get from the deal is another cubicle in another country.
Rethink your priorities, plan your escape, get your money-making system up an running and buy that plane ticket.
Maybe we’ll get to have a conversation about how you did it (somewhere in the world) some day.
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