Financial Case Study: Tim Leffel, Travel Writer & Website Manager

by Nora on August 10, 2015

Welcome to the first post in my new series: Financial Case Studies! Inspired by feedback from my latest guide Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom, I discovered that readers want to know more about the various ways people make money while living abroad, including how much they make.

In this series, we’ll explore the various careers of world travelers, and how they make ends meet financially while living abroad. Yes, financially sustainable full-time travel is possible! Please enjoy this financial case study – one of many to come. 


Tim LeffelTim Leffel, author of many books including A Better Life for Half the Price, started traveling long-term and working as a travel writer in the mid-1990s, and now bases in Mexico with his family whilst traveling each month. He has a variety of websites that he writes for, which can be found at AlCentroMedia, the most popular of which is Cheapest Destinations. Find out more about how Tim earns his living abroad here!


Where have you lived and travelled to?

I lived in Turkey and Korea as an English teacher and have lived three years total in Guanajuato, Mexico. I’m not a country counter, but I’ve traveled around five continents and have been to a lot of countries multiple times because of writing assignments.


Please describe what you do for income.

I can loosely say I’m a travel writer, but there are multiple income streams that go into that title. My main source of income is the websites I own and run, including a couple of online magazines and several blogs. I also make a significant amount from book royalties/packages and freelance writing income.


How many hours per week do you work on average?

Too many! I’m looking at selling one of my sites right now to free up a bit of time. I probably routinely work 50+ hours a week. When you love what you do though, that’s not as daunting as commuting to a cubicle. And some weeks that’s mostly travel in interesting places, doing research.


How much money do you make?

It has taken a lot of time and effort to get to this point, but last year my business crossed the six-figure mark in gross revenue. This year is looking better and my goal is to clear that amount after expenses. More than 2/3 of that is ad revenue from sites I own/run: direct ad revenue, then affiliate ads, then networks/Adsense. The rest mostly from book royalties and freelance writing.


Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?

Yes indeed. I didn’t quit my “real job” until I knew I could support myself and my family doing what I wanted. (Editor’s Note: See also – Financial Travel Tip #94: Before You Quit Your Day Job). So I was a part-time travel writer for many years before I went pro. There’s not as much to put away as I would like, but we do own a house free and clear and have retirement and college funds that are not too embarrassingly small. Those are mostly in mutual funds and bonds. I consider my websites my main investments though as they generate income even when I’m on vacation and could be sold if needed.


What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?

I straddle the USA and Mexico, essentially doing the same job wherever I am. I spend an average of one week a month traveling, mostly internationally. I intend to keep doing this the next few years until my daughter is off on her own. After that we’ll probably use our Mexico home as a base, but go live three months in Argentina, then three months in Hungary, then return to Mexico, then take off again. I don’t really see much need to think about retirement since this is a fun job and is not physically taxing. I would like to ease back on the time spent on a computer though eventually, which means probably handing off more things and easing back on how many websites I’m running and writing for.


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For anyone following this path, it’s a long patient slog, so don’t get impatient. One way around that is to lop a few years off by buying an existing blog or website. If you have a bit of capital, this can be an investment with a great return and will avoid the years of building up traffic and getting indexed well in search.


Working on the Road


If you’d like to learn more about how to make a living while traveling and living abroad, check out Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tiffany August 10, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Awesome! I’m so excited to read this new series and what a way to kick it off with Tim Leffel. I clicked on the email right away. Thanks for this new addition and thanks Tim for sharing some of your inner workings. Cheers. 🙂


2 Nora Dunn August 11, 2015 at 9:47 am

Cheers, Tiffany! Looking to sharing YOUR profile soon! 🙂


3 Valerie August 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

This is a fascinating quick snapshot of the financial side of whom I consider a ‘household name’ in the digital nomad space — thanks so much for sharing! I definitely appreciate how he talks about patience and not taking undue financial risks just to get ‘freedom.’ Looking forward to future profiles for sure!


4 Nora Dunn August 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Thanks, Valerie! Tim is definitely a great example to live by – and his advice is spot on.


5 Dave from Daves Travel Pages August 23, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Always nice to read about someone who is in a position I would like to be in within a few years! I like the way he describes multiple streams of income, as opposed to relying on just one source.


6 Nora Dunn August 24, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Hi Dave,
As you’ll see in future profiles as well, multiple streams of income is a theme when it comes to making a living online. In my own experience, it’s imperative, since things can change (with regards to advertising policies and how to monetize blogs for example), so it pays to have a few avenues of income in order to have more stability.


7 Natasha September 8, 2015 at 6:16 pm

I’m curious to know where one with capital would find online businesses for sale? Thanks!


8 Tricia @ The Adventure List September 9, 2015 at 1:51 am

I love reading Tim’s blog. Glad you featured him first. I’m working on monetizing my blog now and always looking for resources. Both of you have been so helpful without even knowing it. Thanks


9 Nora Dunn September 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Awesome – great, Tricia! Good luck with your monetization strategy!


10 Tim Leffel June 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Hi everyone and thanks for the comments. Sorry Natasha that I didn’t see your question until now. For those who are looking to buy a blog or website to run, here are three places with good reputations.
Empire Flippers

I used the last one when I sold one of my sites—something I said I was looking at in this interview. I sold it for 4X annual profits and many go for less than that. If you can make improvements and up the revenue, you could make your initial investment back pretty quickly. Worst case scenario four years if things stay flat, but try doing that with mutual funds or real estate!


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