Earning Income While Traveling: My 2015 Income

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Earning income while traveling can take many forms, and can accommodate many lifestyles. This post is an example of how it can be done.

This post was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

In 2015, I launched a popular new series called Financial Case Studies which profiles the incomes and lifestyles of various people to live and work on the road. I am fascinated by the myriad ways people are earning income while traveling, and how they manage to live sustainably – which involves a balance between earning enough money to cover expenses, and using creative techniques (like getting free accommodation) to keep expenses low.

In turn, each year I publish my own cost of full-time travel, as well as my income for the year. I do this not to set the bar for what you should earn or what you should spend in order to live on the road in a financially sustainable way; rather – as the years go by and my own income and expenses vary – to demonstrate that there is no bar.

Click here to see all of my Annual Income and Expense Summaries!

2015 Income Sources

NOTE: My income was earned in US Dollars, GBP, and Canadian Dollars – all of which I’ve converted to US dollars here. Unfortunately, during 2015 the Canadian Dollar took a nose dive, so currency fluctuations throughout the year mean these numbers are approximate at best.

Freelance Writing: $5,989

In order to make space in my life for my shamanic studies, I dropped most of my freelance writing gigs. So this number is considerably less than what I made in 2014 (which was almost $16,000).

Affiliate Sales: $10,631

This is a wee bit higher than my affiliate sales for 2014. About 60% of my affiliate sales consist of income from Amazon, which provides a nice stream of passive income given the vast repertoire of posts on my site (and others) that include Amazon affiliate links.

Advertising: $2,889

This is about $1,000 less than I earned last year. I am very choosy about the advertising I put on my site (vetting opportunities carefully for compatibility with my site and readership). So this category of income can be pretty volatile, since internet advertising policies (and budgets) seem to be a moving target.

Book Sales: $13,046

This is up drastically over 2014’s book sales (which were about $1,600), due to the release of my latest book (in February 2015): Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom (since discontinued). The initial months of the launch made up most of this income, although it continues to provide a passive income of a couple of hundred dollars each month.

This is in addition to the income from my other two books: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World and Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination.

Other: $1,839

This number includes some coaching sessions, royalties from a Hollywood movie I filmed many years ago, and some income earned from assisting my teacher with plant medicine ceremonies. With the ceremony income, it’s much higher than 2014 (which was about $300).


…which is about $3,300 more than I earned in 2014. Over the years, my income has fluctuated for a variety of reasons, and it comes with the territory when you’re self-employed. So I don’t lose sleep; instead, I ensure that my income and expenses are sustainable – which in 2015 they were (in fact, I spent way less than I earned in 2015, despite having a home base in Peru to maintain in addition to my travels to six countries.

Business Plan for 2016

earning income while traveling; Nora Dunn overlooking the Sacred Valley in Peru

I did pretty well in 2015, given that I’ve been scaling down my online operations to make way for my new life in Peru. But I’m not so sure this will last through 2016, since a chunk of my 2015 income took the form of reaping the benefits of my book launch in February. My income (from my online activities and writing career) should be steady in 2016, but likely lower overall than 2015.

I expect to make up for some of this online income loss with the work I’m doing with my teacher and plant medicine ceremonies in Peru. I’m still learning, so my wages are pretty low, but given that I am assisting him with many retreats this year, I’ll earn more than I did last year.

However. When it comes to financial sustainability, 2016 is likely to be a wild card for me. In obtaining my Peruvian residency (which should come through shortly), I’ll be on the hook for some hefty expenses for the next two+ years. It’s too complicated to outline for the purposes of this post, but ultimately I’m prepared for the distinct possibility that I’ll have to tuck into my savings to make ends meet.

Luckily, though, I have savings to tuck into. I live very well, and I want for nothing – but I also live fairly frugally (and in a country with a relatively low cost of living). In 2015 alone, I spent almost $9,000 less than I earned. Ca-ching! No need to worry in 2016, even if the books don’t appear to balance out.

As time goes on, I’ll also be earning more money with my plant medicine work, and who knows what income opportunity lays around the next corner.

Such is the life of an entrepreneur, earning income while traveling. If and when I need to, I’ll create the income I need in order to continue to live the life of my dreams.

What does the life of your dreams look like in 2016?

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23 thoughts on “Earning Income While Traveling: My 2015 Income”

  1. Very interesting. We have been full timing for almost 4 years, and we still struggle with making ends meet sometimes. We always manage to make it work somehow though. I like how you have different sources for income, I think this is where we fall short. Something we are trying to figure out for sure. Peru must be wonderful!

    • Hey Mary,
      I think it’s always a work-in-progress to get a good balance between earning enough (without working too hard!) and traveling enough. Diversification is certainly key – especially in the online business world, where things can change on a dime.
      Good luck with your own business plans this year (you’ve certainly got a beautiful photographer’s eye)!

    • Thanks, Rohit. As for working hours, I’ve got a pretty good deal now, but trust me – I worked more than 8 hours daily for much less money in the beginning! That’s one of the things about starting a business: you call the shots, but your work is never really done! πŸ˜‰

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. As someone who is just starting out in the blogging world, these real life numbers are crucial in order to get a real grasp at what other bloggers are making and how they’re making that money. I appreciate your honesty with this information. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Mara! These annual summaries are as useful to me as (I hope) they are to my readers. Good luck with your blogging endeavours! πŸ™‚

  3. Great Post,

    There are lot of income sources while travelling. you have to take care about you expenditure.

  4. Hi Nora!

    Aren’t you amazing!
    There are so many out there you have the standard quote ‘We save money and spend little’, but hardly anyone wants to divulge!
    I work full time and write whenever I can – and it’s so difficult to get someone to publish – let alone earn from it!

    Thanks for all the info! You rock πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Lavina! Indeed, it took me a long time to develop a writing portfolio and reputation that started to pay the bills. So…keep on writing….the income will come. πŸ™‚

      • I sometimes feel downcast and feel like giving it all up! It does get to you when you’re juggling too many things at once!
        But yes I definitely agree it takes a while to build a reputation πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for another chunk of inspiration, Nora!

    I am working on finding a way to earn money online and am dreaming about traveling mostly around the US and possibly Costa Rica (not sure why this particular destination is calling me…). I feel drawn to visit/explore intentional communities/eco-villages/retreat centers (I’ve managed to stay at/volunteer at 2 great places in Europe, but ended up spending all of my savings and now I am literally broke. Never thought this would happen to such a responsible person like myself, but taking risks sometimes leads to unexpected consequences πŸ˜‰
    It’s really great to see how you’re doing it, although I am not a writer at all and don’t think I’ll be starting my own business any time soon…
    I am currently exploring teaching math online and possibly venturing out into the world of becoming a virtual assistant. I am also a bit concerned that I’d be spending much more time than I’d like in front of a computer, but so far it seems like the only option…
    Will be following your journey into shamanism and would love to be able to come to one of these retreats!

    May your travels be filled with joy and ease,

    • Hi Marianna,
      As I’m sure you’re discovering, there are lots of ways to earn a living while traveling the world, but as you’re also discovering, it requires a lot of time in front of the computer if it’s of the location independent ilk!
      This has been one of my challenges over the years (achieving a good work/life/travel balance), and I would highly recommend spending the time before you travel to establish the foundations of your virtual assistant/online tutor career, so you don’t have to do this “grunt work” once you hit the road!
      But anything is possible, and it would be great to meet you on the road (perhaps in Peru at one of our retreats) one of these days!

  6. Hey Nora – I really appreciate you publishing this data. Being based in Bangkok I’ve seen the ‘digital nomad’ evolution start out back when it had a very negative connotation here (‘pay for perpetual travel by promising to teach people how to perpetually travel’). It seems to have come a long way since then with many people showing a myriad of ways on how to make it work without ‘selling the dream’. You go a step further and provide not only a break-down, but also do that for activities that are actually reproducible. While not everyone is born a writer, I do think you draw a realistic picture of the financial realities of the life a lot of people aspire to. Kudos.

    • Wow – Thank you, Karsten! Indeed, the travel blog / digital nomad industry has changed and evolved a few times over since my start 10 years ago. I really appreciate that you think my information and writing is helpful – because that’s the idea! πŸ™‚

  7. Great article
    I travel a lot and I tried all kinds of ways to make money online.
    What works best for me is Koocam.
    Can do it from anywhere
    I teach my hobbies, and sells my knowledge in any field that I’m good at
    It’s great


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