This post is especially geared towards recent grads or other individuals without full-time big-kid jobs. All of the information can be relevant, but it is really a start-from-scratch guide to making money.
The struggle is real. When the desire to travel is exponentially higher than the amount of money in your bank account, it can get disheartening and feel as though you will never complete your quest to explore the world. I’ve been there.
When I decided to relocate to China to teach English abroad, I knew that there were a few expenses I needed to cover. My flight, my TEFL course, my accommodation for the first few months in China, and any expenses that might arise until my paycheck was stable.
For others, you might be saving for a months-long trip through South America or a few luxury weeks in Europe. Maybe you are even saving for a language course, an exchange program, or a volunteer opportunity. The reality for all of us is that we need to put away a few grand, and that doesn’t come easy unless you are making big bucks already.
And let’s be honest, you’ve already read countless articles about this.
You know that you need to cut costs, make sacrifices, and move back in with mom and dad if you have the opportunity to do that. I’m not here to tell you how to save. I’m going to tell you how to earn.
This is a list of the creative ways I’ve made money for travel, ways that I pursued but never actually did, or ways that just sound crazy enough that they just might work. Here we go!
Sell your old stuff (I’ve tried it).
This is a great first step to get you going. Before going to Argentina, I rid my closet of about 75% of it’s weight. It was painful at first, but after the first few bins it was incredibly liberating. Most of my clothes were from places like H&M or Forever 21, so I couldn’t get that much money for them, but I was able to sell them to a consignment store and made about $120 on the deal.
Granted, if you’ve ever sold clothes to somewhere like Plato’s Closet in the US, you can imagine just how many bins it took to get to that dollar amount. But it left my closet with just the necessities, and after that purge I realized how little I really needed. It made a small boost to my savings and a huge boost to morale.
I also sold most of my furniture on Craigslist when moving out of my apartment, and since I bought most if it on Craigslist, it really came full-circle! This made for less to move and more in my bank account.
Sell your eggs (I almost tried it).
Sorry—girls only! There are countless regulated services out there looking for young, fertile women to donate their eggs. While this requires a long and tedious process of gathering detailed family health histories, answering hundreds of personal questions, attending health checks, taking medications and injections, and going through a slightly invasive procedure, it is considered safe and does not affect future reproductive ability. And the payout is pretty nice: up to $5,000 in most US states.
I signed up with quite a few services, but my efforts didn’t generate a lot of interest in my genes. For one, my family has quite a history of cancer, as well as I may not have been as academically or aesthetically inclined as other applicants. Prospective parents look through portfolios of candidates for their future babies, and it appears you have to be pretty darn special to make the cut for a lot of them.
However, if you are a winner of the genetic lottery, have a special talent, or are just and all-around great gal, give it a shot! I even know someone personally who somehow made $15,000 in one egg donation session. That could fund a full year of travel in Southeast Asia!
Get a freelance gig (I tried it).
Most of my summer before coming to China was actually spent freelancing. I had one primary gig that included blog and social media writing, and that was my primary source of income. I also had some other smaller side gigs, and altogether it helped me save several G’s. Significant.
It allowed me the freedom to work from my bedroom in my parents house at all hours of the night while watching the Office, so that I could spend my days hanging with my family, playing with my dogs, and visiting friends that I knew I wouldn’t see for a long time. Many people go through freelancing websites and services, but I found all of my freelance opportunities through previous jobs and internships and through other networking connections I’d made, so never be afraid to reach out and see if someone needs some extra content or social media work done. It’s out there.
Find another online gig (I almost tried it).
Other online jobs are easy to come by as well. You can teach English through VIP Kid, transcribe video and audio files for cents per word, or translate documents into your second language. I either signed up for or seriously considered all of these options, and although I never quite found the time for them, someone much more dedicated and time-oriented would breeze through them.
I’m already considering working for VIP Kid in the future if I ever find myself in a location-independent situation and the time zones line up well. It is an online portal that connects English teachers Chinese students, and after my experience teaching in China, I know it would be incredibly rewarding and super easy.
Get a random Craigslist job (I tried it).
If you scroll through the “gigs” or “etc” section of craigslist, you will find a myriad of interesting jobs. Just in my local area of craigslist, I’ve seen ads for the following jobs: paid focus group attendees, dog walkers, side-of-the-road vegetable sellers, food testers, liquor distributors, Uber and Lyft drivers, nude models, wedding DJs, graphic designers, drone pilots, hired paparazzi, gopher exterminators, content writers, video editors, gardeners, stagehands, brand ambassadors, flyer distributors, face painters, karaoke hosts, music festival workers, and so much more.
I personally found a job on Craigslist as a photo booth attendant. I attended countless weddings and events around my local area tending to a traveling photo booth, which essentially entails standing there, smiling, helping old people use the touch screen, and making sure people remember to grab their photos afterwards. It was easy money, and it was so much fun to do something completely different.
Other friends of mine have found jobs as bike taxi driver, apartment concierges, fish farmers, and fruit pickers on Craigslist. The opportunities are endless, and just imagine the stories you will have.
Get a seasonal job (I tried it).
Seasonal jobs have always been my go-to. I worked every summer during high school and the beginning of college at a fireworks store, which had a massive influx of business during the month leading up to the Fourth of July and tapered off from there. I also spent the summer before coming to China running my own franchised fireworks tent with Karl and had the time of my life, which you can read about here.
I’ve also worked seasonal help at a sporting goods store around Black Friday and Christmas, worked at a summer camp, and worked textbook rush at my college bookstore. There are so many seasonal opportunities in different industries year-round, the key is to apply before the rush and pay attention to seasonal trends. Retail is a great option around the holidays, but other things like lifeguarding, labor, and lawn care would be good for the summer.
Be a guide (I tried it).
If you just can’t wait to travel, find an organization or company that is looking for wilderness or travel guides! I found a great opportunity through friends in college who had started an adventure travel company, and I convinced them to let me develop, market, and lead their first international trip to South America.
I got to bring a group of college students around the continent to some of my favorite places and acted as the lead guide, translator, coordinator, and crisis-averter—but also a personal photographer, food connoisseur, and cultural interpreter. It was so much fun, and I made a pretty penny while doing it.
Work while you travel.
If you can scrape up the starter funds to get yourself to somewhere like Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland, you can spend a year on a Working Holiday visa and travel the country while working odd jobs along the way! This will require several thousand dollars in starter funds, but it is a great way to maintain your travels for a year, see more of the world, and possibly leave with a little bit extra in your pocket.
You can also teach English abroad, which is what I am currently doing. Again, there will be some start-up costs such as your TEFL and your flight over, but once you get settled the opportunity to save money is astounding, especially in places like China and South Korea. I saved up enough money to get myself to China, with the long-term goal in mind to save enough money while I’m here to travel the world indefinitely. And I’m happy to say, I am right on track for that.
Get a big-kid job.
There’s nothing wrong with jumping into the job market right after graduation, and getting a few years of experience while making real money is an excellent thing to do. Traveling isn’t forever, so coming back and looking for a job will be much easier for those who already have experience.
If you stay frugal, motivated, and excited about your trip, saving money will be easy and your trip will mean so much to you after all the work you put in to get there.
Are you full of ideas yet?
In the end, saving loads of money for travel is going to be a whole lot more difficult if you’re not really making much money to begin with. All of these options can be combined with regular full-time and part-time jobs, so there’s bound to be a money-making solution that works for you.
How are you planning to make money for travel or what worked for you? Let me know in the comments!