Financially Sustainable Travel: My 2013 Income

by Nora on September 29, 2014

Each year, I publish my cost of full-time travel, as well as my income for the year. I don’t do this to set the bar for what you should earn or what you should spend in order to maintain a financially sustainable travel lifestyle; rather – as the years go by and my own income and expenses vary – to demonstrate that there is no bar.

Here was my income for 2012.

And for 2011.

 

2013 Income Sources

Note: I earned income in British Pounds, US Dollars, Canadian Dollars, and other currencies. All has been converted to US Dollars for ease of comparison.

Freelance Writing: $30,675

My freelance writing career has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last few years, 2013 being another 50% increase over the year prior. However there are two hefty payments in here that aren’t normal: One was an editor buying out the rights for a large portfolio of articles I had with them, and the other was payment for a sponsored trip I took through Europe. These two payments alone more than make up for the increase in income for the year.

Affiliate Sales: $8,160

Surprisingly my affiliate sales are down almost $2,000 from last year, despite a big increase in Amazon affiliate sales.

Advertising: $3,636

Advertising revenue is down almost 50% from 2012. When Google changed their algorithms yet again, advertisers scrambled to find ways to integrate. I don’t accept guest posts outside of my week-in-the-life series, which puts me out of the market for sponsored guest posts – which currently seem to be the advertising vehicle of choice.

Book Sales & Coaching: $565

This is a new category for me; in November I launched my first e-book (How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World), and sold a whack of copies at a huge preview discount. I also (quietly) dipped my toes into the world of Skype coaching, providing resources and planning tools/suggestions to help people embrace their travel dreams and arrange their finances and careers to do it. I tested the water with a few discounted clients at the end of 2013.

Other: $295

This is an accumulation of small things like royalty payments or commissioned photos/reprints.

TOTAL: $43,331

…which is about $4,000 more than 2012.

 

Freelance Life

It’s funny. Looking at the above breakdown, I realize certain aspects of my business weren’t so good (despite an overall income increase). If I hadn’t have received those two large lump sum payments through my freelance writing, 2013 would have looked very different overall – especially given that my expenses for 2013 were out of control.

It was a year of ups and downs – including my income. Just when one contract was walking out the door, another two walked in. And just when I was about to have to dip into my savings to pay the bills, a big payment or freelance gig would land in my lap. Despite the struggles of 2013, there was also a lot of serendipity.

 

Financially Sustainable Travel: 2013 Income Versus Expenses

My 2013 expenses were just above my 2013 income. I barely kept afloat, during a year that held so many unexpected expenses, I had trouble balancing it all.

Then again, is it the chicken or the egg?

Although I had about $20,000 in ridiculous expenses/losses in 2013, somehow the income came through in the end – despite big drops in advertising and affiliate sales. I made just enough money.

Queen of my own castle, spending money I don’t have???

 

Could I have stemmed some of my expenses in 2013, had my income not been as flush? You bet. Most of my expenses in Europe could have been drastically cut down on, and I wouldn’t have bought a car in Grenada.

But I did have the money, and life had thrown me some nasty curve balls.

I’m a pretty frugal gal (almost to a fault), and splashing out in Europe was a treat I’ve rarely ever afforded myself. It’s difficult for me to spend money – even if I have it – and I think I did a pretty good job of it in 2013, without going so far overboard that my full-time travels ceased to be financially sustainable.

 

What’s on for 2014?

2013 involved a delicate balancing act of income versus expenses. 2014 has stabled out a bit; what I might lose in one area, I expect to gain in others. (This is the art of financially sustainable travel.)

I released a new e-book in 2014 (Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination), and I’m producing a guide in collaboration with Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides, due for a November release.

 

Do you review your annual income and expenses? How have the last few years treated you? Any surprises? Any new plans for 2014 and beyond?

 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda Kendle September 30, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Good stuff Nora. And I do find that life tends to balance these things out, especially if you’re a generally sensible spender like you.

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2 Nora Dunn October 1, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Thanks, Amanda! What a year – whew! 🙂

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3 Michael Murray September 30, 2014 at 10:17 pm

I always appreciate your income and expense reports each year and they were really useful and inspirational in helping me figure out that I could do this full time myself. I was curious if there was any investment income from when you sold your business in Canada not included here?

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4 Nora Dunn October 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hi Michael,
When I sold my business in Canada, it gave me not a lump sum, but rather a 2-year stream of income that I used to support myself in the first two years of traveling and building up my freelance writing business. I have some investments, but the income from them is reinvested for growth, so I don’t “count” it as income for the purposes of these reports.
Good questions!

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5 Rob September 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I really appreciate you laying it all out like this. It’s a help, thanks!

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6 Nora Dunn October 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Glad it’s a help, Rob! Cheers.

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7 Tim October 13, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Hey Nora,
Even when we stay at home life throws us curve balls. I unexpectedly had to buy both a heat pump and air-handler $5050 and a dishwasher $550 in the same month. But I do monitor my income and expenses on a monthly basis (actually usually works out to about every 6 weeks).

What I’ve found even more useful than Income and Expenses is calculating Net worth. Of course, if you don’t have any savings/investments Income and Expenses is all that matters but once you get assets that fluctuate in value… Assets and liabilities become more important than Income and Expenses. I figure as long as my Net Worth is doing OK, income and expenses are actually inconsequential. If my net worth is falling (even if it is due to a stock market crash) I still might want to cut back on expenditures.

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8 Nora Dunn October 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

Hi Tim,
Good point about net worth, since it plays into income and expenses in that if expenses exceed income, you have net worth to rely on.
However net worth is a very different type of calculation, since it takes into account longer-term goals and financial elements such as retirement, ownership, emergency funds, debt, and other factors. As such, I don’t believe it’s applicable to the art of financially sustainable travel (hence I don’t publish my net worth, since I don’t believe it will help other travelers. Everybody’s situation is very different in that respect).

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9 The Guy November 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hey Nora,

Fascinating read and provides a very good insight.

What I draw from this is that the freelance writing is really critical to success and you’ve been very strong in this area.

With the Google algorithm change in the last year all us bloggers have seen a massive impact on the number of approaches and income from guest posts and advertising – apart form the ones looking for a free link – i.e. those who have no concept of the value of being placed in front of our audience.

I’m impressed with your affiliate sales and indeed those from amazon. This is an area I’ve traditionally been very weak on. I’m working on improving this to at least cover my annual site costs if nothing else.

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10 Nora Dunn November 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Hi Guy,
Yes, without the freelance writing, my blogging income would look pretty meagre! However if it weren’t for my blog and other ways of reaching a large number of readers (such as social media), I wouldn’t be able to command the freelance rates that I do….so they go hand-in-hand very well.
My Amazon income continues to be stellar and on the rise; my best month this year has been over $700 in Amazon income! Most of it seems to be coming from a few well-placed links in very popular articles I published a few years ago….a residual income that is paying dividends for sure.
Happy monetizing! 😉

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11 Dean February 26, 2015 at 10:00 am

Easy come, easy go eh?

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12 Nora Dunn February 26, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Dean,
Ha ha – That’s the world of freelancing!

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