Google the phrase “get paid to travel the world” and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of hits – mostly websites promising to teach you how to achieve such a thing.
But is it really possible? Can you really get “paid to travel the world”?
No, not in the way you think.
This is something that drives me crazy, because I see it as fundamentally dishonest. Let me clear the record right now:
No one ever gets paid to travel the world.
What’s really happening, is that people are traveling the world WHILE earning money by providing a product or service that provides value.
That product or service is NOT the fact that they are sitting on a beach in Bali (but it could certainly be related to it.)
If someone is telling you that they get “paid to travel the world” (and that you can too!) then you can be sure that they aren’t telling you the full story.
So, How Does It Really Work?
Take your typical Instagram influencer. They might tell you (in an attempt to convince you to buy their course or ebook) that they are being “paid to travel the world.”
But they are not.
If they are making a living primarily as an “influencer” then they are being paid for is the advertising value of the online influence they have built. They partner with brands to produce promotional content to share with their audience. (No one would pay them anything if they only had 12 followers on Instagram.)
Influencers are, essentially, freelance marketers who build up their own audience and then charge brands for the opportunity to be seen by the audience.
That’s what they are getting paid for. Social media skills, copywriting skills, photo editing and design skills, the ability to tap into the needs and wants of a target audience.
The same goes for digital nomads.
They are simply not being “paid to travel the world.”
They are being paid to do something on their laptops, which allows them to travel the world.
For me, it’s freelance writing. I get paid by clients around the world to create blogs, articles, website copy, email campaigns, brochures, press releases, ebooks and other written content for their businesses.
For some people, it’s freelance web design, programming or graphic design. Some digital nomads offer social media management services, or work as virtual assistants. Some are translators, editors or voice-over artists. Some people are travel photographers and they make money by selling their photos.
If you work on a cruise ship, you are being paid for whatever it is that you are doing on the cruise ship. If you are a tour guide, you are being paid for your tour guide services.
Travel is just a perk of the job.
Remote jobs are absolutely a real thing (I’ve had one for the last 8 years.) There are so many ways these days to freelance and make a living online.
But no one is being paid for the travel itself.
Don’t Believe the Hype
The idea is ridiculous when you think about it… because why would anyone pay you to travel in the first place?
The travel itself doesn’t provide any value.
Would you pay for a random stranger’s vacation without getting anything out of it? Probably not. But if you were in need of a freelance writer or graphic designer you might hire one online. Or, if you were the manager of a brand new hotel, you might spend some of your marketing budget on inviting travel bloggers to stay in exchange for social media exposure.
It’s not the travel you are paying for, it’s the service, product or influence that the traveller has to offer you.
It’s the fact that these professions can be done from anywhere and allow for a glamorous life of travel that really adds to their mystique.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
“Okay Kelly, I get it. I know someone isn’t just going to pay me to go snorkeling in Thailand or stay in a luxury resort in Bali. I know I have to offer something of value – whether it is a service, a product or access to an audience I have built.”
“But what’s the harm in people saying that they get paid to travel the world?”
I know it’s just semantics, but I think this phrase is incredibly misleading.
I believe that, when used incorrectly, it can make this type of lifestyle seem easier and less complicated that it really is. This becomes dodgy, in my opinion, when travel bloggers and other influencers sell courses and books about how to “get paid to travel the world.”
Imagine it in another context. You create a blog about cupcakes and write several in-depth articles establishing your expertise on this particular subject. You strive to become a cupcake expert and you use social media to spread your articles far and wide, building up a solid cupcake-loving following.
During this time, you’re also paying the bills by writing cupcake related articles for other various websites and publications. Bakeries might even hire you to run their social media channels, because you are so knowledgeable about what their audience is interested in.
Eventually, you reach a point where your blog has such a significant following that a particular bakery pays you to taste their cupcakes and write reviews on your website. For each cupcake review, you need to take and edit several high quality photos and write a long and detailed post about the qualities and flavours of the cupcake.
Now, can you see how strange and dishonest it would be to say:
“I get paid to eat cupcakes.”
Technically, eating cupcakes is an essential part of what you are getting paid for. But it’s not the full story. What you’re really getting paid for is the following you have built and the promotional value your blog post offers the bakery.
I could go out now and eat as many cupcakes as I want, but I would never get paid for it unless I did the other work too.
Imagine saying on your website:
“I get paid to eat cupcakes! And so can you! Click here to learn how!”
It feels like clickbait, doesn’t it? Like you are deliberately not telling the full story, because the full story isn’t as glamorous?
Be Honest About Your Lifestyle
Here’s a post called “How We Get Paid to Travel the World” by Tom and Anna from Adventure In You.
In the first paragraph, they write:
Let me drop a bomb on you. For the last three years, my partner and I have been getting paid to travel the world.
Well no, actually. They haven’t.
The post later explains all of the things they actually DO get paid for, which include:
- Brand partnerships and sponsored posts on their blog
- Brand partnerships on their social media accounts
- Advertisements on their blog
- Freelance writing gigs
- Affiliate links on their blog (someone clicks to buy a product they have mentioned and they get paid a percentage of the sale)
- Selling their ebooks
And that’s all well and good. Those are normal ways for travel bloggers like Tom and Anna to make money. But the title of the blog post is wrong – they aren’t being paid simply to travel.
But of course, it’s all about clicks. Not as many people will be excited to read a blog post titled “How We Work Our Butt Off Freelancing and Blogging While Traveling the World.”
If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Whenever you read something online that promises you that you can “travel the world for free” or “get paid to travel to the world” – it’s always a good idea to approach it with a healthy dose of skepticism.
US based luxury travel firm ThirdHome offered a position for the “Best Job on the Planet” last year. The position was described as:
Travel the world, while staying in multi-million dollar luxury vacation homes. Pays $10,000/month plus all travel expenses for a 3-month period staying in up to twelve (12) of the most luxurious homes. Your travels will take you to some of the most desired resorts and homes across the globe.
Yes, this sounds like a dream job. And it is. $10,000 per month for three months is an amazing deal.
However, ThirdHome is a business – not a charity. And this is not a competition prize, it’s a job. They aren’t sending the winning applicant around the world for three months out of the goodness of their heart.
When you break it down, ThirdHome is actually getting pretty good value out of this position.
First of all, the job advert itself was a fantastic marketing move on their part – they got over 17,000 applicants and it was shared tens of thousands of times. That’s a LOT of publicity.
Secondly, the final choice for the job was a woman named Sorelle Amore – who already had amassed a following on Youtube 100,000 subscribers strong. That’s no small feat, and it’s valuable.
And finally, according to this video – Sorelle didn’t just spend her time relaxing in these luxury villas. She did a TON of work.
She was paid $30,000 over 3 months, and during that time she produced:
- 16 articles
- 45 videos
- 1400 photographs
That’s 1,461 pieces of high quality content from an experienced, social media savvy online influencer with a built-in audience.
$30,000/1,461 = $20.50
Yup, ThirdHome paid an average of 20 bucks each for all of these articles, videos and photos – which will have taken Sorelle hours to write, film, shoot and edit.
(Sorelle would have been working her butt off in this position. That’s more than an article per week, nearly 4 videos per week and a TON of travel time.)
Professional travel writers get paid a few hundred dollars per article, freelance videographers can make several hundreds for shooting and producing a video and professional photographers can often earn a lot more than $20 per photo.
So, when you look at it – ThirdHome got a bargain. They got a huge publicity campaign, the full time attention of an experienced writer, photographer and filmmaker and access to her 100k + audience for three months – all for only $30,000.
(And travel expenses too, but those hotels where she stayed would have all been part of the brand partnerships.)
While the “Best Job on the Planet” is a great deal, it’s not “being paid to travel.” It’s being paid a decent amount to work full time for one brand creating a ton of content over three months. (Which is why they chose someone who was already skilled in content creation in multiple forms.)
Selling False Promises
I think one of the reasons this phrase bothers me so much is because it’s such an emotionally appealing phrase that some people use to market the lifestyle in a misleading way.
Courses promising to teach you how to “get paid to travel.”
Multi-level marketing schemes that claim you can “get paid to travel.”
Dodgy freelance gigs telling you that you can “get paid to travel.”
When in reality, that’s simply not the case.
Remote jobs exist and it’s totally possible to get paid to do something online – but you’re getting paid for what you do.
So, next time you see the phrase pop up – approach it with a healthy dose of skepticism. If someone is claiming that they get “paid to travel the world” – find out what it actually is that they do. Travel is always just a perk of the job but not the job itself.