No One Actually Gets “Paid to Travel the World”

Sorry to burst your bubble.

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.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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16 Comments

  1. Kelly, you have nailed it again. I HATE this type of false promo. This extends to anyone with a “make money online” sales funnel set up to set you up with a sales funnel to teach others how to make money online. My eyes cannot roll back any further in my head. Keep up this sort of posting and calling out the truth benders.

    1. Thanks Sandra! Yeah, I really don’t like the phrase as it’s so misleading. I often see it used to promote travel Multi-Level Marketing businesses – which are essentially pyramid schemes.

  2. Thank you for writing this! This is so so so needed! I hate seeing all of these ads on Facebook and Instagram where people are promising to teach you that one trick that will make you millions and let you travel the world for free. There is no one trick! I know it’s semantics but I totally agree with you that it is important. By making it sound like travel bloggers/photographers/influencers are getting paid to travel, we are devaluing their work. And we’re making it harder for those people to get paid for their writing/photos/marketing because everyone assumes just sitting by a beach is payment enough.

    https://teaspoonofadventure.com/

    1. Thanks for your comment, Riana! I’m glad you liked the post. I agree, anything that advertises the opportunity to “get paid to travel” is certainly misleading and dishonest. You’re right, the work that *actually* makes the travel possible is being glossed over. I really do wish people were more honest about these types of careers and how they actually work.

      After all, if it were really possible to get paid for doing nothing but sitting on a beach, EVERYONE would be doing it!

  3. Hi Kelly, I’ve just found your website today and I absolutely love it! I am especially thankful for this article as, even though I am skeptical of those type of articles, I see them all the time online (presumably because my cookies about working abroad are stored) and I can feel myself getting sucked in. So thank you, this article is exactly the reality check that is needed to discourage people from parting with their hard earned cash on the premise of what is effectively, false advertising. Your writing is awesome, thank you again for sharing with us!

    1. Hi Jade,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m glad you are enjoying Global Goose and that you enjoyed this article.
      I see this type of advertising all the time too – my Facebook feed is full of it. I’m sure it’s because, like you, my cookies are all about travel and working abroad.
      It really is false advertising, but it does mislead people who don’t know any better!

  4. “Paid to Travel the World” is really a funny idea! I just get bothered with this such irritating ads often. Thanks for writing this detailed post. Photos was also awesome! Keep this nice stuff continue.

  5. Really liked how you explained this lifestyle. I keep seeing all these vlogs and digital nomads and always wondered how they do it. Mystery solved.

    1. Thanks, Aaron! Yeah, it’s interesting how many digital nomads and vloggers are not very transparent about how they earn a living. I think it’s because they are also trying to sell their lifestyle, so they want it to seem as glamorous as possible.

  6. Brilliant! This is exactly right. Going to have my kids read it to understand what’s going on behind the various “I’ll just make money by traveling the world” posts they bring me as examples of their future career plans.

    1. Thanks, Cory! You’re right, it’s especially important that your kids understand the reality behind this lifestyle if they are considering making it their career. It IS possible to work and travel, but not in the way that many of the “lifestyle gurus” try to sell you.

  7. Just adding my support to what has already been said! Way too many people trying to make money off of telling people it’s easy to make money while traveling when it’s simply not true. Like anything worthwhile, you gotta work; put in time and effort with ups and downs. If it was as simply as the promotions claim, every one would be doing it. But it’s not so hush other people.

  8. Hi Kelly. This is my first time to your blog and I want to share a heartfelt thank you for this very honest and researched post. My partners and I recently bought a travel agency. This info is right on time. Thanks

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