3 Ways to Make Money So You Can Travel

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Mynameisharsha; o_corgan
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Yesterday, I got together with a travel writer friend and among the many topics we hit upon during our two-hour long parsing of this industry was this: Is it still possible to start a travel blog and make money?

Make money to travel.
Make money to travel.

The answer, I think, is “Yes,” with lots of caveats. Travel blogging is a profession for a handful of people, some of whom are my friends of acquaintances. But for many of them, blogging is an all-consuming, time-intensive job that–like most jobs–has its own stresses.

If you’re not interested in or committed to travel blogging as a career, there are still lots of ways to make money so you can travel without having to confine yourself to a conventional office job (though, hey, that’s fine too, if it suits you).

Some of these ways to make money so you can travel are jobs I’ve held myself; some are gigs my friends have had and recommend to others. If you’ve got jobs to add to the list, let us know in the comments.

Become a tour guide.
I worked for several years as a season tour director for EF Smithsonian, leading educational student trips in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Not only did I travel frequently and meet teachers and students from all over North America (some of whom remain friends and who have traveled with me to other destinations), I gained contacts who were useful when I went on to author part of Fodor’s travel guide books to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

One of the benefits of being a tour guide (depending on the company) is that you’re often paid tips in cash, typically at the end of your trip. It’s nice to be able to have cash on hand that’s a supplement to your salary.

Play poker.

Playing poker suits some travelers.
Playing poker suits some travelers.
Recently, I had lunch with a new acquaintance. She holds a professional office job and seemed to be a fairly buttoned up person, so I was surprised when she said that she plays poker on the side in order to make cash to fund her travels and set aside money for a start-up she’s dreaming about.

Now I have zero experience in this area, but she’s not the only person I know who plays poker and other games as a source of income; at least one of my former students at MatadorU played poker online and off to fund his travels, and was even toying with the idea of starting a niche travel and poker blog.

I’m told that it’s become harder to play poker and make money in the US; in fact, the FBI says it’s illegal to gamble online in this country (even if you’re wagering in an offshore casino). Playing poker online is legal in some countries, though. Proceed with caution here and make sure you’re in compliance with local laws.

Ply existing skills.
Make an inventory of all the skills you possess, no matter how incidental they seem to your daily life. Do you speak another language fluently? Can you cook well? Are your photography skills better than the average point and shooter? Do you know another city or country better than its locals?

Any of these types of skills can be parlayed into temporary, and possibly recurring, freelance work.

Francisco and I have been contracted to translate a Spanish winery’s strategic plans into English. Francisco has worked as a private chef and has given cooking classes. I’ve been hired as a fixer for news crews visiting Mexico City. These are just some examples of how you can turn your existing skills and abilities into paying work.

What tips do you have for making money so you can travel– or while you travel? Share in the comments.