How to Make Money While Traveling (and therefore travel indefinitely)

At a seaside bar in Mykonos, there's the typical conversation. Travelers are two beers deep and are swapping stories about how long they've been in Greece, which leads to how long they've been in Europe, and then how long they've been on the road, period. It used to surprise me how there was always one person, without fail, who'd been traveling for well over two years, with no real intention or need to stop and return to "real life." It just didn't seem possible that someone could travel for that long — essentially indefinitely — and find ways to make enough money to keep going, and keep seeing the world. And here's the thing: these people rarely had extraordinary, dreamy, high-paying travel jobs. They weren't professional travel photographers or travel bloggers, paid to galavant the globe and show people at home what it's like to see the mountains of Tibet or the temples of Bangkok. They were just average people with typical skill-sets who wanted to travel, and who found ways to make it sustainable. 

The surprising thing about this way of life, though, is that it isn't a necessarily difficult or rare phenomenon. The more I traveled myself, the more I met people who — just like so many others — decided to spend however-many-years exploring the planet, and shared with me their own ways of keeping themselves afloat. As I started traveling on more long-term trips, I began utilizing these methods and finding my own ways of earning money to see the world (namely through photography and writing). But it was amazing to see just how quickly money added up when picking up odd jobs or putting in the extra effort to earn my keep on the road. So now, the idea of traveling for 1+ years doesn't seem like a pipe dream, but instead something that's absolutely attainable for those of us out there who want to see the world for years at a time but are scared of the daunting $$$ factor. (I mean, who wouldn't be?)

So that's where this list comes in. I've compiled all the ways any average person can make money and sustainably travel for extended periods of time. You don't have to build a lucrative travel blog or be the next big Instagram travel documentarian. You just have to get ready to be creative, put in some elbow grease, and the world is yours.

Me in Namibia

Me in Namibia

Work at a Hostel

More often than not, hostels are absolutely willing to hire travelers to help out in exchange for free board, food, and pay. It's worth asking around at the hostels that are in an area you wouldn't mind hanging out in for awhile, and see who has the best offer. In some cases, hostels have been know to milk it and won't pay staff that's just traveling through, but even if it's not paid, it's a good opportunity to lay low for awhile, save money, and focus on other ways to earn cash.
 

Find Seasonal Work

Earn your keep by picking fruits, vegetables, or flowers at farms that need a hand. You can do research locally once you arrive, or see what's available from the comfort of your laptop on www.PickingJobs.com or www.Workaway.info

Tutor or Teach English

Put up ads and fliers in coffee shops, markets, hostels, and online, and offer what you can: tutoring in your native language, or on a subject you're well versed in (such as in the maths or sciences, or in an art such as photography or singing). You can also look into finding a job as an English teacher (check out www.EslCafe.com).

Become an Au Pair

The situations and benefits vary greatly depending on the kind of commitment you want, but typically you'll receive room, board, and a weekly paycheck; not to mention it's a great way to get to know a culture. Look at listings on www.aupairworld.com.

Work on an Organic Farm

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - otherwise known as WWOOF - is an excellent way to save money while helping out locals and spending your days in the sun and the soil. WWOOFing doesn't pay, but it does offer free board and meals and supports a positive, global cause, which is not only a great life experience but also the perfect opportunity to save money while on the road. www.wwoof.net

Sell Your Art and Craftsmanship Skills

Whether you're a photographer, a painter, a writer, or a musician, utilize your skills to gain revenue. Sell your artwork in markets, in hostels (with permission), or open an online shop (such as Etsy or Society6). If you want to freelance, see what jobs are available in your area on Craigslist, and frequently peruse community boards to see what's in demand. If you're more interested in selling photography, submit photos to distributors such as ImageBrief or iStock, and get in touch with the tourism bureau of where you're traveling. If they're interested in your photos, it's a great way to make money. 

Teach... again

Different than what I said before about tutoring: this is more for those of you who want to be even more mobile, or would rather try something more low-key than revising calculus. If you think you're good enough at yoga or tai-chi or meditation, host classes as you go, charging a certain amount and hanging fliers in hostels and community boards. If your skills lie more in the department of sports - such as diving, surfing, or climbing - see what job opportunities are available at adventure companies in your location. It may be more difficult to find work without first applying for a work visa in your respective country, but it's worth considering.

Freelance Through Elance

Elance is where companies - from big corporations to small businesses - post listings looking for freelance work, and from the thousands of job listings that are constantly being cycled through Elance, there's undoubtedly something that matches your skill set. Whether your background is in web design, writing, programming, illustration, marketing, consulting, legal work, or engineering, you will find something that can be done remotely while you're on the road. Check out www.elance.com.

Become an Instructor

Through the website Game of Shred, a new startup for holiday-goers and athletes, you can sell your skills by becoming a freelance sports instructor wherever you are in the world. Are you particularly talented at surfing, or rock climbing, skiing, or hiking? Why not make a profit! Find out more at www.gameofshred.com,

To Climb the Highest Mountain in Africa

Mount Kilimanjaro.

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The highest mountain on the African continent, and one of the world's Seven Summits.

With its peak residing at a soaring altitude of 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro has beckoned thousands of trekkers to attempt to reach its summit, surrounded by a amphitheaters of glacier, monstrous rock, and oceans of clouds thousands of feet below where the summit looms. 

Routes

The climb up Kilimanjaro can take anywhere between five to nine days, depending on the route you choose to take. Deciding on the right route can either make or break your climb, depending on how much time you allow yourself to acclimatize to the altitude (the #1 reason why people turn around on the mountain isn't because it's a difficult hike, but because they ascended too quickly and became sick from the altitude).

Each route varies, depending on rate of ascent, scenery, crowds, and, of course, price. The run down for each route follows:

Marangu
Duration: 5 days
Crowds: Extremely high (most popular route)
Scenery: Considered least scenic route
Accommodation: Sleeping huts
Recommended for: No one, honestly. The quick ascent, crowds, and packed sleeping huts make this an unsuccessful and unenjoyable route, despite it being the cheapest choice.

Machame
Duration: 6-7 days
Crowds: High
Scenery: Extremely scenic with varying landscape
Accommodation: Camping
Recommended for: Budget travelers who are confident in their ability to have long days at rapidly increasing high altitude

Lemosho
Duration: 8-9 days
Crowds: Low until route joins with Machame
Scenery: Considered overall most beautiful
Accommodation: Camping
Recommended for: Anyone who wants to spend ample time enjoying the views, generally low crowds, and is hellbent on reaching the summit (highest success rate)

Shira
Duration: 7-8 days
Crowds: Low
Scenery: Varied and beautiful
Accommodation: Camping
Recommended for: People who want to do Lemosho but don't have the time. It's essentially the same route as Lemosho except you begin the trek at 11,000 ft, which causes the rate of success (and risk of altitude sickness) to increase significantly.

Rongai
Duration: 6-7
Crowds: Low
Scenery: Vastly different from other routes (it's the only path that begins in the north)
Accommodation: Camping
Recommended for: People climbing in the rainy season, or people who want a similar climb to Marangu (long uphill slog) but want to avoid the crowds and prefer remoteness.

Finding the Right Company
(and paying the right price)

Like most mountains of this magnitude, to climb Kilimanjaro you'll need to go with a licensed guide, porter, and pay a park entrance fee. However, because Kilimanjaro is not a technical mountain and a staggering 50,000 people attempt the mountain each year, there is a large amount of bootleg "companies" aimed towards budget travelers that offer attractively cheap prices. But the thing with Kilimanjaro -- as with any guide or company anywhere in the world -- is this simple truth:

You get what you pay for.

When you are spending over a week climbing one of the tallest peaks in the world, you will want to fork over extra money to ensure that you have a safe climb. When you find a company that has an attractive, low price, get in touch with them and ask them some very important questions, such as:

  • How many times has the guide(s) summitted the mountain?

  • Does he have a license (and can you see it)?

  • What kind of food should you expect? How will your meals be prepared? How do they keep the food fresh? Are they willing to accommodate to any dietary restrictions?

  • Will drinking water be provided, or will you be required to carry your own water purification system (such as iodine or a SteriPEN)?

  • What camping gear will they provide? What's the quality of the tent? What about the sleeping mattresses (if you're not carrying your own)? A good company will have strong, functional equipment.

  • How is their safety record? Do they know how to care for a client who may become sick with altitude? Do they know what to look for? (Altitude sickness is more common than you may think; read about it more here).

If they seem to skirt certain questions, are unsure of specifics, or are more interested in signing you up instead of answering all your inquiries in detail, odds are they're more interested in grabbing clients rather than ensuring a safe and successful climb.

Picking a Budget Company

You can either hunt for budget companies online (but again, be extremely vigilant about frauds and ask the questions I listed above), or you can wait until you arrive in Tanzania to do the hunting, depending on how comfortable and lenient with time you are.

Fly into Tanzania's Arusha Kilimanjaro airport (JRO) and spend a few days visiting tour operators in Arusha to talk to guides in person and compare prices. You can also take the cheap two-hour bus from Arusha to Moshi (the town at the base of Kilimanjaro) to speak to operators there. Either way, it will only take you a few days to pick a company out, as Tanzania's tourism industry thrives on climbers, so advertisements and operators will practically be flinging themselves at you.

In the end, expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 for a safe budget climb. 

While it's possible to go under $1,000 if you do the Marangu or Machame route, tips will most likely bring your Kilimanjaro experience to over a grand. 

And although, like I said, it is important to pay for what you want to get, there are some ways to keep the cost down, such as carrying your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad as opposed to renting them, bringing your own durable (and broken in!) hiking boots, and opting for a company that safely cuts costs by not carrying extra luxuries: such as a dining tent, private toilet, or chairs.

A budget climb up Machame route meant no communal dining tent; instead, the four of us on the climb piled into one sleeping tent to eat our dinners and breakfasts

A budget climb up Machame route meant no communal dining tent; instead, the four of us on the climb piled into one sleeping tent to eat our dinners and breakfasts

What Can I do to Help Raise My Odds of Reaching the Summit?

Unlike the other Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is not a technical mountain; meaning that there aren't any ropes, any rock or ice climbing, or any need for past mountaineering experience. Simply, Kilimanjaro is a multi-day trek. 

So why the low success rate of only 45% ? Even as low as 27% on the 5-day routes, such as Marangu, which happens to be the most popular?

There is no need for a climber to have any skills to climb Kilimanjaro, so tourists of any age, health, and fitness flood through the Kilimanjaro gates every year with hardly any training or concept of the danger they're putting themselves into. While Kili isn't technically challenging, it still holds an estimated 3-7 deaths per year due to altitude sickness and unfit tourists underestimating the strength that it takes to climb thousands of feet for hours on end.

The best way to ensure a safe, successful, and enjoyable summit is to train. In the months leading up to your climb, focus on working out 3-4 days a week. When I was training for my climb, my favorite strengthening workouts consisted of several hours on the stair master during the busy work week, and then taking a day on the weekend to go for a hike where I'd carry a backpack with weights in it (anywhere between 10 to 20 pounds). The key to enjoying an uphill slog trek, such as Kilimanjaro, is to be fit enough to not feel shaky and out of breath within a few hours, or even minutes. A successful climb coincides greatly with how much you enjoy it, because if you feel physically unwell, then you're going to become physically unwell, leaving you more susceptible to the effects of high altitude backpacking. Preparing for Kilimanjaro doesn't have to be back-breaking, but you want to depart knowing that your physical capabilities won't limit your chances to summit; after all, you paid a lot of money to get to East Africa and to attempt this magnificent peak. Every day training is putting more odds for a summit in your favor.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a right of passage for any backpacker, trekker, or person with a love of getting up close and personal with one of the most iconic peaks in the world. While the crowds can be deterring, the mountain makes up for it in its sheer magnitude and beauty, whether you make it to the summit or not.

Walk on.

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To read more about the super-specifics of climbing Kilimanjaro, and to learn more about each of the routes, visit the website Ultimate Kilimanjaro.