I’ve traveled nearly constantly for the past 4 years, visiting over 17 countries around the world (Europe, North and South America, Asia). The way we’ve been able to sustain it is fairly straightforward and relatively easy to replicate if you’re truly devoted to traveling. The first thing you have to be able to do is let go of any reservations you might have that you’re not following the “traditional” path that is expected of you by society. I’ve had many friends and family members question me, demanding why I’m not getting married or finding a more stable career, etc (these demands are amplified by the fact that my family holds very traditional Asian values). If traveling makes you happy, don’t listen to them. At this point in my life I’d much rather spend my money on travel rather than a big, expensive wedding.
Here’s how I fund my travels:
1) Photography – not at all in the traditional sense. Social media has completely changed the way people can make money and the biggest game changer for me was Instagram. This platform rewards people for finding a niche and building a following, because sponsors and advertisers see you as an “influencer” and will pay you to subtly (or in some cases, not so subtly) flaunt their business. Companies look at the level of engagement you create amongst your followers, therefore it’s not possible to take the easy way and just buy your followers (never ever do this, it’s not only bad for business but it’s incredibly obvious to everyone else). We’ve been able to get free trips, free gear, etc. just by posting a few HIGH-QUALITY photos of our travels per week and have met many, many others who play the same game. In fact, one of our friends with 70k+ followers makes about $100-200 per photo that’s posted. The key is to have a very NICHE and ENGAGED audience. All this being said, don’t get into Instagram just for the “insta-fame” or because you expect to make money. We manage and update our accounts because we truly love what we do and we’d do it without any of the perks that come with it.
2) Travel blogging/business – we run a travel/hiking blog in order to document our adventures and in doing so, we’ve gained a following and are able to direct traffic to our business which is a luxury travel operator (www.eliteyyc.com). I was blessed to be born in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I turned my passion for exploring the mountains into a viable business. The structure is simple, using our knowledge of the area and numerous connections, we organize fully-planned luxury vacation packages for clients. I’m sure this can be replicated in almost any part of the world, as people are always keen to explore outside of the box and gain local insights. You can email me if you’d like more info on our business and how we do it.
3) Real Estate – this is the big one. Although the question asks about traveling as a career, I couldn’t do what I do without real estate. It offers a sense of security and for those who are more risk-averse, it’s a must, because when you don’t know when your next client will be having a steady rental income is a godsend. The formula to create passive income is simple: buy a house, fix it up a bit so you can ask for more rent, make sure it cashflows every month, find solid tenants and a good property manager (this could be a friend or family member) to look after things while you’re out of the country. The execution is definitely not as simple – real estate requires a lot of homework, preparation and a good understanding of costs and values.
The realization that changed my entire life was that living abroad is almost always cheaper than living at home. When you can find a gorgeous, beach-side bachelor suite in Thailand on airbnb.com for ¼ of what you pay for rent at home, moving abroad becomes a no-brainer. Your cash-flowing property will be able to cover a big portion, if not all, of your rent abroad.
4) Modeling – fairly straight-forward and self-explanatory. I only do this when I find a project I like. Modeling is well-paid and lucrative but most times, it isn’t worth the physical/emotional toll it takes. In line with this, many people can become freelancers in whatever industry they like: writing, photography, web/graphic design, etc and these are all mobile.
So… that’s the very condensed version of what I do and how I travel. This is obviously the most basic version of it all so make sure you reach out and message me if you have further questions.
This blog post was written as an answer on Quora by Louise Tee. @wzylouisey on Instagram.