The Art of Financially Sustainable Travel


Would you like to chuck it all in to travel the world full-time?
Perhaps more moderately, would you like to take a long-term vacation, career break, gap year, or sabbatical?

Let me guess…one of the biggest things stopping you from doing it is money.
It is for most of us.

But it is possible to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way; I’ve been doing it since 2007.

Full-Time Travel
In 2006, I decided I’d had enough, and sold everything I owned (including a busy financial planning practice) to chase my dreams of long-term immersive travel. I had no idea how I’d make a living, what I’d do, where I’d go, or ultimately how long my travels (or my money) would last.

I just knew I had to go.

Learning the Ropes
Shortly into my journey, I discovered the internet’s income potential and rediscovered my talent for writing. Combining the two (and parlaying my financial expertise into my writing), I slowly learned how to make a living from anywhere in the world with little more than a laptop and internet connection (and about a million working hours for good measure).

Considering I was concurrently learning the art of slow travel and how to keep my travel costs low without making (many) sacrifices, it was a long arduous bumpy road up the learning curve.
Now, and a few dozen countries and six years in, I’ve got it down pat. My cost of full-time travel is way less than it ever was to live in one place, and yet I fly in business class and stay in gorgeous places. My travel experiences have been invaluable, unpredictable, and at times unimaginable.

How to Make Your Travels Financially Sustainable
Assuming you want to travel long enough that you can’t do it on savings alone, here are the two key elements to financially sustaining your travels:

Reducing Your Expenses
There are a number of ways you can keep your travel costs low, from volunteering in trade for accommodation, to traveling slowly, using frequent flyer mile strategies, and even getting sponsorships. Accommodation is a big one; in 2011 I spent a whopping $173 on accommodation – for the whole year.

Earning Money
Regardless of how low your expenses are, you still need to spend money to travel and live, which is where earning money comes in. Again options abound, with working holiday visas, freelance careers, telecommuting jobs, teaching English, and any location independent business your entrepreneurial mind can conjure up.

There’s a balance between reducing your expenses and making money, which will be unique to you, your income, and style of travel.

If you make more money, then you can spend more on the things that are important to you about travel (be they experiences, destinations, or amenities). Beware, however, of putting in so many hours that you forget where you are.
Working less (and often, making less) means having different travel choices and lifestyle. But taken to extremes, there’s no point in traveling if you can’t afford to experience the culture.

It’s a balance – and at times a compromise. I’ve had times when I looked up from the grindstone realizing I’d traded one rat race for another and lost appreciation of my exotic surroundings; other times I’ve worked less than two hours a day without worrying about money.

More Tips
If you want to know more about the logistics of financially sustainable travel, here’s a free 5-part intensive series that teaches you how to do it. Click the link below to learn more:
How to Travel Full-Time in a Financially Sustainable Way

What’s Your Style?
How do you envision your own travel adventure? Where will you go? What will you do for money? And what do you want to experience?



Nora Dunn is the The Professional Hobo, a woman who sold everything she owned (including a busy financial planning practice) in 2006 and has been travelling the world in a financially sustainable way ever since. She is an internationally published freelance writer on the topics of travel, personal finance, and lifestyle design, with columns on Wisebread, Credit Walk, and many others. She penned the books How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World, Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination, and most recently, Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Travel. Check out her latest musings on Facebook and Twitter.

5 responses to “The Art of Financially Sustainable Travel

  1. I agree balance between work and play while traveling is key. I see you are also an accomplished travel agent from your bio. Personally, I find most of my revenue comes from that arena. Helping people travel from across the globe has proven pretty beneficial for us sharing our expertise through travel. Cheers fellow tribemate!

    1. Shonda – That balance between work and travel and play is such a tricky – and ever-changing – thing! But I’m not a travel agent; not sure where you saw that. Do you work remotely as a travel agent?

  2. Interesting article for those wishing to travel long term. I think its a great way to know about the word and many of us would liek to travel full time but financial constraints prevent us from doing so. Interesting point on the balance between reducing your expenses and making money. Thanks for these tips.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! The great thing about lifestyle design and full-time travel is that every person’s balance between reducing and expenses/making money is unique, and often changes over time. I’ll be publishing my 2012 income and expenses on my website (The Professional Hobo) shortly, and you’ll see that last year was very different to previous years, as my own income/expenses matrix has shifted.

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