by Kathy Schmidt
We all know those articles “14 things to prove you are a travel addict”, “do you have a travel habit”…. and so on. We read these and tick off all the boxes then we sit back and wonder how the heck are you meant to fund your travel habit?? I have been lucky enough to pretty much fall into traveling, I am not even sure when it really became a habit, everyone would ooh and aah and call me brave, but it is just something I do. This also means it becomes a normal thing to discover ways to find travel, often without even realising that’s what I was doing. Here are the top 10, seven of which I have tried in one form or another…
1- Teach English
This was the job that officially got me hooked on travel. After graduating university finding a job proved really difficult and my mom found a job ad for an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea. It was one of those things you always thought maybe you could do but never thought you would. The plan was to go for 11-mths (to keep my green card active for the US) and then find a real job. 3 years later I finally came home and moved on. Teaching English not only gave me insight into the culture and countryside of South Korea but also offered me the opportunity to visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Singapore and Malaysia. It also allowed me to pay off a large chunk of my university fees and come home with some money in my pocket… truly a fantastic way to fund your travel and your life and to live with a culture and learn about it.
2- Massage Therapist/Hairdresser/Manicurist
While I only ever did a few massages for money as an apprentice masseuse I have met a lot of people who offer beauty and health therapies as a way to pick up cash. One of the most exciting thing as a traveler is to find a fellow traveler who is a hairdresser and will cut your hair for $10 or a beer. If you have these talents take them on the road!!
3- Travel Writer/Website Design
If you have a way with words and can find a place to pay you this is another great way to fund your travel habit. All you need is a computer and some time each day. A good friend of mine, funds his entire travel schedule from writing and creating websites, he can be on the road for 2 or more years and still keep going. I have had the opportunity to write for a couple of travel sites and have also been offered free trips on the backpacker buses and such for my blog articles,
Often the Pen is Mightier than the Wallet!
4- Work Trade/Hostel Worker
I have spent a large quantity of my nights sleeping in hostels and backpackers all around the world. I also discovered an excellent way to supplement my travel budget. Usually, the most expensive things while traveling are transport and accommodation. So if you do a work trade, clean the hostel for a couple of hours or the like for free accommodation that takes a large chunk and puts it back in your wallet. In the same manner if you actually start working at a hostel, say front desk duty, you can actually get paid and have free accommodation!! But wait there is more, most hostels are connected and chat to each other (I know I used to manage one in Seattle) and if you are a good trade worker or worker they can recommend you as you go or occasionally hostels will offer a free bed to another hostel worker as a favor to someone in the industry.
Being able to fund your habit and do something good at the same time is an awesome achievement. Unfortunately, a lot of volunteer groups charge you exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of volunteering. My way of looking at it is to find one that either doesn’t charge or charges a small fee to cover the basics. For example my first real volunteer travel was in Ecuador, once again my mum had found an article (she is very useful with my travel ideas). Amazoonico is a small wildlife refuge in the Amazon forest, I was charged $120 USD per month and received accommodation and food. I knew there was no way I could travel around Ecuador for a month for less than that so it was a great opportunity. I loved it and learned some Spanish at the same time.
My next foray into voluntourism was an incredible chance to volunteer in Tonga working for South Pacific Animal Welfare. They offered accommodation (turned out to be a mattress on the balcony) in exchange for volunteering and no fee. Be aware sometimes the volunteer experience can be hard, this one was for me, but I never regretted participating and, well, I got to go to TONGA!
Being someone who is good with their hands and repairs or an electrician/plumber, you can fund your travels easily. Hostels are always in need of repairs, trust me I know I used to manage one, and, especially in developing countries, expats always need help with projects around the house.
Occasionally while traveling you might come across someone who wants a professional or semi-professional photographer to do a shoot, perhaps a couple on honeymoon, or just got engaged or a dancer traveling who wants some sunset shots of fantastic dance moves on the beach. Either way if you have the gear and the drive you can pick up some cash.
8- Artist/Jewellery Maker
If you are artistically inclined then you can offer portraits or do some paintings/sketches of the countryside and sell them. If you make jewellery (I make macrame string jewellery, just the basic version, but I have managed to cover the bar bill or dinner with selling a few), there is always someone willing to purchase or trade for something unique and handmade.
9- Cruise Ship Worker
This was my most recent gig until I came to Koh Phangan. Working on a cruise ship is not for everyone, the contracts are 6-8mths long with no weekends, you work every day. The food for the crew is often unidentifiable, you share a tiny cabin. But you get to see the world and meet people from every nationality you can imagine. Everyone who loves travel should try it at least one. Here are some of my adventures while onboard.
10- Dive Pro!!!
Last but not least become a Scuba Dive Pro!!! Yes, it is possible and everyone can give it a try. It provides you the opportunity to live and travel all over the world anywhere where there is water. There are some amazing jobs, at the moment I have trained with Scuba Futures and living on Koh Phangan, but there are opportunities in Bali, Fiji, Hawaii, England…. everywhere. If you don’t have the cash to start, you can work as a cruise ship worker then save money and do the PADI Instructor training like I did. But once you have the training and the gear you can work anywhere. A bit of advice, find a cheap place to live when you are training and getting experience, such as here in Thailand, and then move on from there. Adventures await!
Pretty much the key to funding your travel is to be flexible, to become… A Jack/Jill of all trades…although I think diving might be my calling…at least for now!