The Challenges of Long Term Travel #1 – Finding a Portable Source of Income

In 2009 I went on a working holiday to New Zealand, thinking that I would only be gone for 6 months. Six years later I am still travelling and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Sometimes travel goes beyond a short term trip and becomes a long term lifestyle. Travelling long term is an amazing experience and it allows you to savour amazing experiences around the world with no time pressure or sense of urgency.

When you choose to wander for several years like Lee and I have, there are certain challenges that come with the lifestyle. These are different challenges than you might face while living in one place or while on a shorter trip. While the challenges make it more difficult, they are not insurmountable and with the right attitude and strategies you can overcome them. After all, every lifestyle has its benefits and challenges – the most important thing is how you deal with them.
In this series of blog posts we will look at some of the challenges of long term travel, starting with finding the money to support yourself on the road.

A Portable Source of Income Is Essential

When I went to New Zealand I said to myself, “I’ll try to find a job on the road to fund my travels, but the main focus of this trip is to travel and have fun. If I come home with $0 but I have had an amazing experience, that’s fine.”

Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand
Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand

I did finish the New Zealand trip with $0 and although I had an amazing time, I realised that if I wanted to travel long term I would need to have a different approach to money. In order to stay on the road for the long term, you will need a source of income that you will be able to sustain as long as you are travelling. That’s when Lee and I came up with the idea to become digital nomads. We built up an income online from blogging and freelance writing and we went to Portugal to conduct our first Digital Nomad Experiment and find out whether we could make it work. Four years later, we are still making a living on the road and exploring as much of the world as we can!

Lee and I make our income from my freelance writing work, his web design work and a tiny bit from this blog. However, that’s not the only way to do it. There are many careers that you can do from anywhere so that you can live a digital nomad lifestyle.

It is also possible to pick up work on the road as you go along, but this brings with it other challenges. You never know if you will find work in the next destination and you keep having to leave jobs in order to keep yourself moving. Having done both styles, we feel that it is much easier to have a job that follows us wherever you go.

How Much Money Do You Need to Earn?

How much money do you need to earn in order to travel long term? The answer will vary depending on your style of travel and the countries you are travelling in. Also, I think it is important to make a little more than you spend (or spend a little less than you earn) in order to be able to save a portion of your income.

The ideal is to be able to grow your savings over time, so that when you decide to settle down after years of long term travel you aren’t starting from zero. Lee and I save a little bit of our income while travelling in every country and save quite a bit of our income while travelling in cheap countries, which means that over our years of travel our bank account has grown rather than shrunk.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok - Thailand is a great long term travel destination because the cost of living is so cheap
The Grand Palace, Bangkok – Thailand is a great long term travel destination because the cost of living is so cheap.

Someday we might want to stop travelling and make a home somewhere, we want to make sure we have some savings to start with when that chapter of our life begins. You might not want to be travelling forever, so it makes sense to have a plan for transitioning out of travel into a more settled lifestyle and savings are essential for that.

Building up a career that is sustainable and creates enough income to allow you to travel and save is not easy – but it can be done. Check out the story of how I built my freelance writing business and what I learned along the way.

If you have any questions about earning a portable income on the road, leave them in the comments below and I will answer. 

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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  1. I enjoyed reading your article. Heres the thing, I’m 60 and have spent time looking at where I can retire but feel.too energised to just sit back. I need to keep busy some of the time. Portable income was mentioned as I’m keen to identify ways I can move to a new country and fund my retirement while keeping active.
    Please advise

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