If you take a look at the vast majority of travel bloggers, they generally have some type of a "job" apart from their blog and travel brand. While many leverage their travel blog as a means to earn more, most start off with some type of location-independent income source: graphic design, freelance writing, consulting, an Airbnb property back home, day trading; the list goes on.
Individual results vary, but as a general rule most full-time travel bloggers spent around two years building up their community and the traffic necessary to warrant sponsorships and advertising deals to leverage "free" travel. Before any of us arrived at this point there was a lot of spending involved, especially in relation to transportation, food, accommodations, and the gear necessary to take high-quality photos, record high-quality video and pay for the platforms that host our escapades: websites, social media sites and beyond.
Even if you don't run a blog to earn sponsorships and advertising and you just want to travel for the sake of it, there is a need-for income especially if you want to live a life on the road as opposed to only traveling on vacation in between work sessions, there is a need-for- income. While every blogger and their brother has their own version of "how to travel the world for next to nothing" and there is a never-ending barrage of one-upmanship in terms of who can travel the cheapest, the cold, hard truth is that until you've built up the reputation and the traffic to earn sponsorships and to land housesitting gigs, you have to shell out your own cash to travel.
While you can temper those costs somewhat with Couchsurfing, housesitting and sponsorships, you'll almost always have transportation, tech and food costs. Unless you plan on living on fruit and ramen noodles or surviving on street food in Asia for a dollar a day, you can expect to need at least 10 dollars a day for basic food costs. Less if you have a long-term accommodation and can make your own food as opposed to eating out; Cris and I, for example, usually spend 200 dollars or less per month on our basic food costs; that's around 6 dollars a day. If we eat out that goes up accordingly.
If you plan on staying in one place and exploring a city for a few months, you can keep your transportations cost down to a minimum. Let's say you plan on visiting Rome for two months and you are lucky enough to have free accommodations. You'll need food + a subway pass or taxi fares to get around and see the sites, which can range from 5 to 10 a day on average.
With just basic food and transportation costs you already need around 400 to 500 to get around and survive. And that's without even adding accommodations to the mix which adds to a need for income. If you can't find a Couchsurfing place or a housesitting gig and you don't have the social clout and traffic to line up sponsorships, you'll be paying out of pocket for those expenses, and unless you plan on living out of a bug-ridden hostel with spotty Wi-Fi and cold-water showers, you can expect to pony up to 30 to 50 a night for 3-star accommodations.
This is where long-term apartment rentals come into play, and why Cris and myself choose the immersion travel option when we are funding our own travels. When you can rent a fully furnished apartment for three months at around 400 to 600 a month, we end up finding most of our accommodations for around 15 to 20 dollars a day. Add that to our max of 10 a day for transport and our average of 6 a day for food, and we average about 30 dollars a day for a couple, living out of fully furnished, middle-class accommodations anywhere in the world.
That's not a bad price; 30 a day comes out to around 900 a month, on average. If we are on the ground for a longer duration, the transportation costs can get even lower. Our time in Cancun, for example, has seen our basic total costs per month down around 650 per month for the two of us; even with our friend and my personal assistant Devlin added into the mix we end up around $800 a month for the three of us to live.
If you want to do vacation-styled adventures, your costs go up exponentially because people charge more money for vacation homes and you don't have enough time on the ground to leverage long-term discounts.
Entertainment is additional, of course: entry fees to ruins, hot air balloon rides, scuba diving adventures; these are all extra. But when we are talking about the basic nuts and bolts of the travel lifestyle, there are always going to be some basic costs associated with the life and a need-for-income.
Whatever you do, don't believe anyone who tells you that you can travel the world for free as a blanket statement, because while you eventually can mitigate some of the costs associated with a life on the road, there are a lot of caveats to get you to that point. Considering that most bloggers worked around two years to build up their reputation to get sponsorships, that means they shelled out an average of $25 to $30 a day, minimum, without even taking into account airfare.
As a general rule, it cost between 10K and 15K a year to "budget travel" before you even add in the airfare, which can run 3k to 5K per year depending on how long you are going to be in a destination or if you are jet-setting around the world on a monthly basis. Almost every blogger I know of has spent around 15k to 20k a year in total expenses to pursue the full-time travel lifestyle so they have a need-for income. Most of them needed two years to get to the point they could get "free" travel, and that's a 30k to 40k investment.
Which is the same amount you would invest to build any type of 100k a year business, such as restaurant, supermarket or beyond. So before you run off, quit your job, hop on a plane and ditch your country of origin to live full-time abroad, realize that you need a game plan to fund your lifestyle during those first few years of reputation-building before people are knocking on your door to send you around the world on the company dime.
T.W. Anderson has been traveling the world full-time since January of 2008. He is the author of books which detail how to build a blog, brand and income and travel the world without a budget. His website is Marginal Boundaries.com
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