How We Do it (And Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Us)
If our inbox is any indication, y’all are ready to get serious about travel.Lately it absolutely overfloweth with logistical questions about our lifestyle and how to travel long term. We are so frequently asked about how we make money, what travel insurance to buy, what we pack, how we budget, how we blog, etc. – that we finally decided to put our answers all in one place.
We love hearing from our readers and try to be as helpful as possible, but we must preface this blog post the same way we do many of our responses: you’ve come to the wrong place.
Because in all honesty, even though we’ve been traveling for many years, we’re either just figured it out ourselves (the parts about making money), or we’ve just given up all hope of ever being good at it (budgeting and packing). There is a reason why we just tell stories and share pretty pictures and video on this site – we are not the most practical travelers. We have so few solid tips to give, in fact, that we’ll give you our brief suggestions but then refer you to other bloggers who actually know what they are talking about.
So, here we go.
how we make money
This is, without a doubt, the number one question we get. People love the idea of housesitting their way around the world, but recognize that these gigs are typically unpaid, and that revenue or a stash of cash is still required to put food on the table.
We have both. We still have savings that we can dip into if we need to, but into our fifth year, we haven’t taken a dime.
Where is the money coming from? While the blog itself does make a wee bit of advertising money (and opens the door to some amazing travel adventures), it has mostly served as the platform for securing other opportunities, and in the last year we’ve developed many different sources of income: eBook sales, affiliate earnings, social media consulting and campaign management, freelance writing, freelance video, selling photos, new blogger training, and more. We’ve tried a lot of different things to find out what we like to do and what works until we finally found our way forward. By putting our business skills and to work with our new found love of travel, we’ve found that sweet spot that can keep us traveling for years. For almost two years now we have been helping connect brands and bloggers and managing social media marketing campaigns. Recently, we’ve also published a book for the industry on how to work with travel bloggers.
This has all been a long time in the works, and for anyone who thinks that they can start a blog and simply travel the world for free is sadly mistaken. It is not as simple as posting a few words and photos – most of us nomadic-types work very hard at a number of different things in order to make this lifestyle sustainable – and truth be told, most of the best opportunities for income do not come from blogging alone. We spend far more time stuck behind a laptop than we do exploring these days – the big differences compared to our previous lives being that we are working for ourselves and can do it from anywhere in the world. We like that.
Although a few people have bravely left home with few dollars and managed, we are not those people. If it wasn’t for our savings we wouldn’t have gotten this far, and if it wasn’t for our hard work to develop various revenue streams, we wouldn’t go much farther. There is no magic formula for how to make this lifestyle sustainable – the opportunities will vary as much as individual skill sets do – the key is to find something you like to do and work hard to turn it into a viable location-independent business.
- Or, consider becoming an extra in a Bollywood film, teaching English, working on a cruise ship, etc. – try any number of these 42 ideas on how to make money while you travel listed from our friend Wandering Earl, and see what works for you.
- This is a fantastic and comprehensive article from one of the biggest blogs in the biz on how they make (lots of) money. They even give additional ideas for different income streams they haven’t tackled yet!
- Matthew of Expert Vagabond provides similar transparency (including figures), and has followed an income stream path that many travel bloggers use.
- This post from Technomdia is a fantastic resource full of ideas on how to make a life of traveling while you work.
- Many we know make a living just by their work as photographers. Starting out can seem daunting, but advice from Laurence Norah on buying the best travel camera is a great place to start.
how we budget
The short answer is that we don’t, out of pure laziness. We are frugal, without question (and housesitting helps us a lot with that), but we don’t keep ourselves to a strict budget nor do we track our expenses.
- Should we? Probably. And if we did, we would use this: the “Trail Wallet” by our friends at Never Ending Voyage. Track by month, track by trip, convert currencies right there – everything you could want in an expense tracking application is there. (Or, so the many, many satisfied users say. We should probably become one of those.)
- Budgeting for the long-term is a tricky business. Thankfully, there are people out there who keep track of such things! This wonderfully comprehensive guest post on how to create a long term travel budget is an excellent start.
- Wondering about what you should budget based on where you are going? Among other great tips, Legal Nomads’ World Travel Resources page rounds-up plenty of general and location-based budgeting posts from other bloggers.
how we pack
Oh boy, if you could see the state of our bags, you would not ask us this question. How we manage to stuff the crap we do into the two bags we each have is beyond me. Within minutes of setting them down in a new location, they naturally explode into a giant unorganized mess.
Without embarrassing ourselves by disclosing the exact contents that we haul around the world with us (and because we are kinda scared to reach into the deep corners of our bags), we have each decided to just give one packing strategy that we actually think is quite good. Because, in reality, we each have only one good strategy.
Dalene – The essential cotton dress(es). Many nomads are sun chasers – hopping around to new destinations when they serve up their warm weather. We are not those nomads, in 2013 (for example), we bounced around relentlessly – from a Wisconsin winter to tropical Guatemala then Finland in February, and from a scorching summer in Poland to near the Arctic Circle. The only way I can make this work and keep my wardrobe to a reasonable size is with short sleeved cotton dresses – in cold weather I can layer them with leggings and a long sleeve shirt, and in warmth wear them freely. I see no other logical way.
Pete – Compressible air tight packing bags help me get the most room out of my backpack. They are great if I need to only pack a carry-on for a day trip and give me lots of space opposed to the clothes just being packed on their own. Plus they’re waterproof so when my bag sat in the rain in the London airport my clothes stayed dry.
There are so many other fantastic resources out there to advise on packing for long-term travelers, here are just a few:
- We’ve long given up on the dream of being able to fit everything in what can be carried to our airplane seat. But that doesn’t mean you should! We’ve got the best tips for traveling carry-on only (as told by someone else, of course).
- HerPackingList.com has oodles of posts reviewing different products, packing strategies, etc. (HisPackingList.com exists too, but is not as thorough yet.)
- Nora has been at this nomadic gig for a long time, and so her packing list is one of perfection!
- I love these tips from our friend Gigi on how to stay fashionable while living out of a bag.
- Erin and Simon from Never Ending Voyage are a wealth of information on their lives as nomads, and their packing list is no exception.
- Janice, aka Solo Traveler, has some great basic advice on packing with the bare minimum in mind.
how we blog
We have been getting more frequent requests for blog “coaching” from newbies who are about to set out on their world journey and others who are just bursting with stories to tell.
I can tell you definitively that our blogging journey has been one of intense trial-and-error, and yes, we have many tips to give. But rather than reinvent the wheel and develop our own resources on it to share, we are instead going to point you to the very valuable Travel Blog Success platform. Not only will you begin with a well-crafted course that starts from the ground up, but you will have access to a variety of forums (their private Facebook page alone is worth the investment as it contains many of the top bloggers in the world offering their advice), webinars, and more.
what we do for travel insurance
Being from Canada has huge perks, one of them being the health insurance. Even better is that we are from Alberta, where premiums are absolutely zero, and their policy allows us freedom to travel. As long as we check in at home every couple of years (which we do), we can have that policy run in the background with some extra travel insurance on top.
We use Travel Cuts “Bon Voyage” travel insurance. Because they only insure travelers under 50 years of age, the premiums are kept very low (we’ve never found better rates). Plus, we can buy policies that last up to eighteen months which is perfect given that we are often out of Canada for longer than one year at a time.
- For other valuable perspectives on insurance, check out fellow Canadian blogger The Professional Hobo, as well as this excellent post by the Expert Vagabond. And Nomadic Matt also does a very thorough travel insurance review.
other helpful stuff that you should read
If you are serious about wanting to make a life of travel, there are several other resources well worth your time:
- The eBook “How to Live a Life of Travel” by Wandering Earl is the best all-encompassing resource out there. Read our review of it here.
- Jodi from Legal Nomads has many resource pages on her site for living a life of travel, but this one in particular is useful for those who want to make their living from the road.
- Don’t just take it from us (really), in this very informative post, fifteen travel bloggers reveal how they have made their vagabonding ways work for them.
- The Professional Hobo offers oodles of resources on how to travel in a financially sustainable way.Start here, and be sure to sign up for her newsletter for ongoing tips.
- Also check out this complete guide on “How To Travel The World On Any Budget”. It dismantles the money myth and gives you the tools you need to make world travel a reality – on your budget.
Anything we’re missing? (I’m sure there is, like I said, we ain’t good at this.) Please leave us your questions and/or other resource links below so we continue to update this post and make it more helpful for readers (and, errrr, us.)
Please note that some links in this post are affiliate links. While it comes at no increased cost to you, we are rewarded with a small commission on your purchase. We firmly stand by every product that we promote.
Thanks for the great tips!
I’m also an Alberta resident, and I was under the impression that you could only leave the province for periods of no more than 6 months at a time and maintain healthcare. I’d welcome additional info!
Hi Joanna! Here is a link to the coverage for Alberta residents. It does specify 6 months, as you said, but there are options for extended coverage (a little further in that link), where it says up to 2 years. We have had no issues in getting that each time.
Thanks Dalene – good to know it was an easy request. I’ll keep that in mind for future, thanks!
Happy travels and maybe we’ll meet up one day, either on the road or “at home” 🙂
Thanks for the awesome shout-outs! You rock. And this is a GREAT resource post.
If I might make a wee shameless plug on the packing list front, I have the ultimate packing list for full-time travel here….in the form of a fancy widget that explains why each item is in my bag….
Thanks Nora! We’ll move this up into the post.
Ditto Nora’s comment: thanks for the shout-out! 🙂
Of course Gigi!
Haha, you guys sound like me! I do everything “wrong” according to most people – I don’t travel long enough, I pack too much, I move too fast, I don’t keep track of my budget, I plan ahead, I don’t plan enough… You name it, and I am probably guilty of it.
But you know what? I don’t care. These are my travels and my blog, and I’ll do what I want!
Amanda recently posted..Venice Isn’t the Only Island in the Venetian Lagoon
Yeah, damn straight Amanda!
Thanks for such a great and informative post 🙂 It will definitely help me in my trip preparation!
Great Catherine and good luck! Let us know if you have any questions 🙂
Haha… glad I’m not the only one out there who thinks “uh oh” when someone emails me to ask how I do it! Also good info on Travel Cuts, I never thought of that.. I’m from SK and that happens to be the only province (well, that and Quebec) that World Nomads doesn’t cover, which seemed to be the only place I could get more than 6 months of world traveler insurance from. I will definitely check out Travel Cuts when I’m up for renewal…right now I’m paying some seriously high prices for international expat insurance from some company in the States.
Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 14 Roundup
Wow, what did Saskatchewan do to World Nomads? It’s pretty crazy that we need an insurance policy on top of our insurance policy to go to the U.S., but if there is one place you need it, it’s there.
That’s for sure Pete! I’m from the states and medical insurance as well as medical cost are out the wazoo here! Not to get political but people in the states that have never visited another country have no idea. I was fortunate to be able to live in the south of France for ten amazing years and the medical care as well as cost there is one of the reasons I was reluctant to leave and am now planning to return.
Thanks for a great post! It’s refreshing to hear from someone they don’t have the answers (and yet still be pointed in the right direction to find a good resource — and listen to your advice when you DO have the answers!). I appreciate your candid advice as you actually have some great tips, even if we “shouldn’t listen to you”.
Thanks Becky! We’ll always be the first to say “you shouldn’t ask us” because we seem to do things backwards. But we do have a few tricks up our sleeve 🙂
Just an FYI for Ontario residents…
Ontario also has a two year leave of absence! Super easy to get! Just cruise into the local health department office and fill out some paper work.
We were recently home and were even able to have a check up at our family doctor with NO problems whatsoever.
Thanks for the Ontario tip K.T.!
Can you tell me if Ontario has an age restriction for this 2 year leave? I’m 63 and love travelling and dreading the 2 year mark when I turn 65 and OHIP seems to think I can only be trusted for 1 week away. Thanks and love the blog.
Hi Ingrid, we personally have no experience with that, but check this web page for more info. http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/ohip/travel.aspx
Aah yes, dementia must be setting in — I meant my Visa travel insurance is only good for four days at 65. I will need to explore independent insurance options for anything longer. Thanks for the link. Very helpful.
I love that you aren’t claiming to be experts in ALL areas. That said you guys pretty much rock! I think we are a little more similar to you, in that we are still trying to figure it out too. Savings has been our funding and we will slowly unfold the rest. We have our first house sit in a couple of weeks, so baby steps.
I think the biggest learning we have had the past year is do what works for you. You see so much that others are doing, but is that what you want. Sometimes you need to cut out your own path. 🙂 Thanks for this.
Precisely Heidi, you need to find out what works best for you. We hope this post will help give people ideas to find their own path 🙂 Thanks again!
Interesting timing as I just attended TBEX and am trying to figure out next steps, monetization, and generally where to go from here, after 15 months “on the road”. My husband and I are supposed to be having a With Husband In Tow corporate retreat to work together on these things, but the darn blog and travel planning (and the dogs we are sitting, and the food in Singapore) keep getting in the way…But, thanks for all of the tips.
Amber recently posted..Pico Iyer and Where is Home?
No problem Amber and let us know if you have any questions along the way. We can try and help 🙂
Best of luck forward!
Awesome article! There are so many factors to this life on the road. Thanks for your honesty, and I for one, was one of those Bloghouse attendees and really feel that it helped me get focused and know that I was on the right track, my blog just needed some tweeks here and there. Thanks so much to Pete for all his help with my website. You two are certainly pleasant to be around! cheers!
Cacinda Maloney recently posted..La Bottega del Ligno: The Wood Shop in the Forli Region of Italy
Thanks Cacinda, it was our pleasure to help out. Keep working hard it and best of luck. If you need anything, you know where to find us 🙂
Helpful one! Since I have been blogging for the past 14 months, I understand that blogging is tremendous labor and no money initially. But it’s absolutely fine, because I am doing what I like!
Good for you Renuka, you have to like it otherwise what’s the point, right? All the best going forward!
Thanks so much for the Trail Wallet mention guys.
You know, we’re all just figuring things out as we go along. Even though we travel with just carry-on backpacks I still feel I have too much stuff. And the income thing is a constant struggle really, it gradually gets better but I’m not sure it’s ever easy.
You’re welcome Erin. We are still figuring this whole game out too and probably will be for a long time as things always seem to be changing. As far as stuff goes I wish we could go down to carry-on only, but my camera gear alone takes up almost 40L. When the fees go over $100 per check-in bag, that’s when I will reevaluate.
I love all of your honesty! lol
Thanks Jeska, nothing but truth bombs here.
I am terrible at packing too. I have 65l backpack and daypack and still don’t have enough room. I have the additional challenge of having to take smart work clothes with me for my NGO contracts, so I need to try and take stuff with me that looks smart enough to wear in an office, but is not too posh and unpractical for sightseeing trips. Oh and I also like trekking, so I also need room for some trekking gear, such as boots, warm clothes etc. That takes up the most room. Sigh!
TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Me vs. the leeches – Mountain biking in the Chi Phat jungle
I hear you Tammy. From our camera gear to all the seasonal clothes we’re hauling around it gets a little tiresome. Oh well, it’s the life we love 🙂
Thanks for such an honest response to these ever popular questions, and giving resources of other bloggers who you believe have better answers where you’re lacking. It’s so great to know that everyone has their own approach to these things, and I think that’s a really powerful motivator; there is no right or wrong way, just your way!
Exactly Sam, hopefully we can direct people to some ideas to make their own choices! And we may have a few answers to share as well 🙂 Thanks again!
Thanks for this great post, and thanks for including me 🙂 Very informative and full of useful resources, will totally share this!!!
Making money with a travel blog is hard, it’s not only writing a few blog posts and the money rolls in. I spend a lot of time to promote my blog (really like crazy!!) and on the other side I learned to live with very little. I need less than 500 bucks a month to be happy and buy everything I need.
I never worked harder in my life for such a small amount of money. The money doesn’t even matter. I love my work, I love every day seeing my blog growing and encouraging people to live the same lifestyle. Best decision ever.
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Great post! So thorough and so very much appreciated! These topics, as you yourself point out, are often a great mystery to those who haven’t ventured into a professional nomadic lifestyle and you have detailed it all beautifully!
Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..PHOTO GALLERY: Serengeti National Park Wildlife Safari
Great post! Thanks for being so honest and so transparent (and linking to so many other good resources).
You guys did a great job talking about the biggest concerns of long-term travel in my head: money, health insurance and packing.
I know everyone’s experiences will be different but I like that you laid it out as you’ve done it and have also shared other resources of how others did it, as well.
The biggest takeaways for me is that it’s all a journey and that it’s okay to learn as you go.
Woa! Most CHOCK-FULL post ever! Just the BEST!
You two are my digital nomads, house-sitting gurus, travel blogging, HEROES!
Question izzz… can I ADOPT you? 😉
Very inspiring! This is my first visit to your blog, what a nice place you have here!
As someone who is learning to blog and loves travel, I was definitely motivated by this post. I will be looking forward to reading more posts & I wish you all the best in your travels and business ventures!
Hi Dalene, Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Great post, love your honest words. All the best, Carina
Good experience is easy to share bcs its more than being in school.!
Great tips and links here. Thanks!
Cristina ✈ (@travelingjourno) recently posted..How to Learn French (or Any Language) in Less than 3 Months
Love the tone of your articles and site. You provide great information all while helping people understand that while you do it, it’s your own way and may not be the best. We feel ya there. We try to provide the best info we can so people know they can do it if they change their way of thinking and are willing to change some priorities.
Jeep Gypsies recently posted..Camp Memberships – Which Ones Do We Have
Great info, thank you. Really helpful!
1. In your travels, have you come across a Canadian woman traveler who might marry an expat American, so I can get that Alberta travel insurance?
2. What are those two (pink+white) devices hooked to your laptop?
LOVE your blog, love your writing, love those photos!!
1. Haha! Haven’t come across anyone yet, but I will keep you in mind. 🙂
2. The white device is a mifi, and the pink was the case for my iPod (it got dyed a bit from being in my red bag).
Thank you for the tips! I have been trying to prepare life as a digital nomad. These information helps me! 🙂
A big shout out hello from Calgary!
So what finally gave you the courage to just do it! To end the research and just go?
I’ve traveled all over the world, but always had a nice safe job and house to come home to.
Give me the courage! 🙂
Hi Cheryl! This post explains exactly why we decided to do this…. https://www.hecktictravels.com/why-we-travel-part-one
As for the courage, once we had made the decision, all we knew was that it was the ONLY thing we could do. It felt like there really was no other choice.
What work is considered legal when you are on a tourist visa?
I don’t know the answer to your question. We are freelance, so working independently no matter what country we are in.
Just discovered your blog – AMAZING!! Any suggestions for resources for traveling with kids? We have 3 and have been trying to figure out how to even work out a plan for 1 year of travel with them in tow. I find it a bit easier looking for suggestions for 1 or 2 adults traveling, but throw kids into the mix and there’s almost nothing.
Hey Kristy! There are a lot of great blogs out there for traveling as a family, but the first one I would suggest is definitely ytravelblog.com. They are full of info!
WOOOOW!! God bless you guys for putting all this info together and for others that shared, too!!!
I really think there is better way for our bags/luggage to help us organize all our crap as there is a big trend of people traveling much more then ever before. And it’s interesting that people in this trend are becoming a kind of unique labor force, too. I think it’s totally possible we have a conference called World Travelers…whether they travel around locally a lot or hop skip around and in between countries, to share info and support their businesses or etc…? idk…
Anyways, I just think it’d be cool if some of us be able to meet up somewhere in this world while traveling/wwoofing/housesitting/etc ; )
Cheers! And thanks so much guys!!!!!
Wow this is the best list ever! Thank you!!!
Bonjour Dalene et Pete!
Je suis français et j’ai 18 ans. j’ai décidé de vivre une vie sans regrets! alors j’ai tout plaqué 🙂 Je voulais savoir, comment vous faites pour les hébergements, le travail, etc…Merci de votre réponse!
I really like the idea about layering the dresses. This year I have a couple of long trips that span the seasons and was wondering what to do. Thanks for the tip. I’d like to see some photos of the combos!
Thank you Pete and Dalene for another wonderful post. My dream is for our little family to take off by the time we’re 40 – my 39th birthday is next week so we need to get cracking. I stated my natural parenting site to try to give us freedom in the future – it’s a baby at the moment but hopefully some day soon it may mean quitting the day job and taking off. We absolutely love travel and have done a lot of it – Canada is out fourth country we’ve lived in the last decade, and we just became citizens 🙂 Having our son has amplified how fast life passes us by and we feel it would be the greatest gift to show him the wonder and beauty of this amazing world we live in. And then maybe my blog will take on even more travel! Happy wandering 🙂
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Just came across this post. Wow, lots of great gems inside. Thanks for the sharing. Definitely useful for many travelers.
Hi. Great advice! Thanks. Just one thing I am curious about is what address do you give your bank etc? Although I am paperless for bills etc, our banks still want a physical address.
Any tips would be gratefully appreciated.
We use our generous family members! But there are virtual mailing services, check this out –> http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/financial-travel-tip-109-virtual-mailing-services/
I love your site and ideas, but I just wanted to know where you live when you are not house sitting? And doesnt it get expensive to fly to house sitting jobs? I am not able to be a nomad, but wanted to visit the Yucatan for a few months and thought I might be able to do it by house sitting. Thanks, Sue
p.s. I hope you are doing well.
Hi Sue, when we’re not housesitting we often rely on Airbnb. We also tend to book our housesits where we know we are going to be, and for longer periods of time, so that we’re not actually flying that often!
Came across this blog while searching for other travel blogs, and I really enjoyed your content! Love the honesty and personality in this article, looking forward to keeping up with your travels!