Gabriel Morris (aka Gabriel Traveler) was born in Canada, and raised in the United States in the woods of northern California outside of a small town, where he started hitchhiking as a kid. The day after he turned 18 he flew to London, England for a summer of traveling around Europe. He hitchhiked the length of the United Kingdom, slept out on the streets of Paris and on beaches on the Greek islands, hiked to the peak of Mt Olympus, slept in a barn in the Pyrennees Mountains of France and much more. To make a very long story short, he spent the next three decades adventuring around the world.
Gabriel is among the rare but increasing ranks of people who earn a full-time living as a vlogger on YouTube through his channel Gabriel Traveler, which is very impressive! Learn exactly how he does it below.
2022 UPDATE: This article was originally published in 2018. When I randomly ran into Gabriel in Bulgaria (as he captured on this video), I asked him if he wanted to give us an update on his career and finances. This post is now a comparison between his 2018 answers and his 2022 updates.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
2018: It depends on how you calculate it. My travels first began in the summer of 1990. But as far as making a living while traveling, it’s only been two to three years. I’ve been to 45 countries on five continents, including eight times to India, five times to Thailand, four times to Greece, three times to Nepal, three times to Spain, etc., etc.
2022 UPDATE: My travels have continued over the past several years, with only occasional breaks back in the United States to visit friends and family for 1-3 months per year. I’ve added lots of new countries as well as revisited many of my favorite places. I’ve now been to 82 countries in total, eleven times to India, six times to Thailand, nine times to Greece, four times to Nepal and four times to Spain.
Please describe what you do for income.
2018: My main source of income is ad revenue from my Youtube vlogger videos. I’m also an author of seven books which are available on Amazon.com. Three are published through publishers and the other four are self-published through Amazon Create Space and KDP. I make more money from the self-published books than from the ones with publishers. I also make money from Amazon affiliate sales, travel insurance affiliate sales and from supporters on Patreon, as well as the occasional odd job here and there.
I recently spent a month washing dishes in Alaska to pump up the bank account a bit more for winter travels. (In other words, I’m not exactly getting rich.)
2022 UPDATE: Nothing has changed as far as sources of income since I haven’t added any new revenue streams, but things have shifted a little. Basically, a greater percentage of my income is now ad revenue from YouTube since my income from the videos has increased, whereas income from the other sources has stayed the same or decreased. Patreon is my second biggest source of income and all the other sources are essentially negligible at this point. I haven’t had much luck lately with Amazon affiliate sales, increasing sales of my own books or travel insurance affiliate sales.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
2018: That’s really, really hard to say. My work as a vlogger involves filming travel videos, editing them, posting them to Youtube and then managing my Youtube channel. Filming as a vlogger requires going out and exploring places, which is basically just being a traveler and then filming some of it. So that doesn’t really feel like work. Editing takes a lot of time on the computer, but I don’t keep track of hours. I rarely, if ever, go a full day without doing one of those things, so it’s always a work day even though it never really seems like it. I could pick a random number out of the air but that would just be a guess. Basically, I spend a lot of hours every day focused on the things that conveniently end up funding my travels.
2022 UPDATE: Nothing has changed in this regard. I still work daily on filming and editing videos for YouTube as well as managing my channel. None of my other streams of income require any work to manage them. And since the videos on YouTube are by far my most reliable source of income, I concentrate all of my efforts there.
How much money do you make?
2018: It varies month to month but my income is in the general range of $2,000-3,000 per month. Roughly 80-90% of my income comes from ad revenue through my Youtube vlogger videos. Google owns Youtube, they control the advertising and so when you have a Youtube channel then Google is your boss, so to speak. They send you paychecks monthly, which in my case are deposited electronically into my bank account. My vlogger paychecks from Google in recent months have been over $2,000, plus my additional revenue from the other sources adds up to another few hundred dollars.
I don’t have an apartment back home or a mortgage. My only monthly bills other than my traveling expenses are a very cheap storage unit, my student loan payment and my phone payment. I don’t keep track of my daily expenses at all, but watch what I’m making daily and try to spend less than that and then I’m saving money every day while I travel.
2022 UPDATE: As mentioned, nothing has changed in terms of source of income but luckily my income overall has increased substantially. I now make around $5,000-8,000 per month from YouTube ad revenue and my Patreon account now pays more than $500 per month. It’s actually a bit of a mystery to me why I’m making so much more on YouTube, because my total number of views per month has pretty much stayed flat over the past five years, averaging roughly 1.5 million to 2.5 million views per month. One major reason my income has increased is certainly because my videos have gotten longer and YouTube pays in part based on how long people watch your content. Other reasons could be that YouTube is generally paying more now per view than in the past, and perhaps my content is now attracting higher quality ads that pay more.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
2018: Currently, yes. The big variable is which country I’m in and how expensive it is. For example I’m in India at the moment, which is super cheap. I have a room for $15 a night (which is a little expensive for India, I could easily find cheaper), I’m spending maybe $10 per day on food and a few more dollars on other extraneous expenses. That means that I’m way under budget and saving money every day. If I go somewhere more expensive such as Europe, then I would be staying mostly in dorms and probably be close to breaking even with my daily expenses vs. how much I’m making as a vlogger. My ultimate goal is to get out of being a budget traveler and have the option to stay in nice rooms anywhere I like. But I’ve got a ways to go still to get to that point.
2022 UPDATE: As my income has increased, I’ve adjusted my traveling and now tend to pay more for accommodation, rarely stay in hostels, rent cars more often, etc., so that my traveling expenses have increased. But my income has increased more than my expenses, so I’m saving more. For one thing, since I’ve been a budget traveler for most of my life, my approach is still geared towards trying to keep costs down as much as possible. So I tend to look for that cheaper room or take a bus instead of a taxi, etc. As a result I’m saving money every month after all my expenses are covered, which is a pretty amazing situation to be in.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
2018: The complete freedom and flexibility. I have no boss other than the ones that send me paychecks, who I rarely have to talk to (only through email for various issues with videos). My Youtube channel is completely my own thing, so I create whatever vlogger videos I feel like creating, whenever I like. If I don’t feel like filming on a particular day then I don’t. I can take a day off whenever I feel like it. Speaking of which, I should probably do that more often to give myself a break from the computer and the internet.
2022 UPDATE: No changes in this regard.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
2018: A lack of life stability and stable relationships, other than my friends and family that I see once or twice a year whenever I go back home to the United States. I travel with others occasionally for short periods of time. But mostly I meet and talk with other travelers briefly here or there and then probably never see them again.
2022 UPDATE: No changes in this regard.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
2018: I’m in Rishikesh, India at the moment at a restaurant overlooking the Ganges River, thinking about going on an adventure into the Himalayas and trying to decide where I’m going next after India. I don’t know where I’ll be next week or next month, so the next year or two or five is wide open. My main focus for now is increasing my monthly vlogger income and my savings so that I have more possibilities available to me in the future rather than being constricted to always being a budget traveler.
I want to get to the point that I can afford to have my own place permanently somewhere in the world, travel part-time throughout the year and have a familiar place to go back to and live for part of the year.
(Nora’s Note: Funny….I was in Rishikesh just a couple of months ago when I too decided I wanted the same thing! Here’s the (funny) story of how that happened.)
2022 UPDATE: As mentioned above, I’m now in a much better position financially, which gives me a lot more flexibility to stay in nicer hotels if I want, as well as rent cars, go on tours, etc. But I’ve also shifted my perspective on non-stop travel and am more interested in finding a home base somewhere that I could have my own house or apartment, while traveling for shorter periods of time throughout the year.
(Nora’s Note: Yep. I hit that stage a few years ago, and now I have a home base from which I travel as and when I want – which it turns out, it still a ton).
I haven’t actually taken any steps to make this happen yet, but am planning on looking into options later this year once I head back home after my latest big trip. I’ve been traveling constantly for almost all of 2022, six months straight at this point, visiting fourteen countries during that time and will be ready for a break in the coming month or two. We’ll see what actually happens.
Shifting into living in the same place somewhere permanently is a big challenge at this point with nothing established, especially when I make more money the more I travel. So it will require a major lifestyle change and personal adjustments on lots of levels, including either finding other sources of income or else shifting my YouTube channel into a different type of content. Whether or not that could work is a big unknown.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
2018: Find something you like doing that integrates into your traveling, get immersed in it and keep doing it. If it’s writing about your travels and providing information that way, then get serious about it and the opportunities will come your way eventually as a result of your dedication. Don’t count on a viral article or video or photo or whatever. If it happens it happens, but that isn’t likely how you will find success. Instead it will be by consistently putting stuff out there that is genuinely enjoyable and useful to people. You have to have something substantial to offer people, so figure out what your skills or knowledge is and then start distributing that in whatever way makes sense: writing, photography, videography, podcasts, teaching through Skype, etc.
But you have to be dedicated to it even when it isn’t going well and keep at it. It took about four years from when I first learned how to edit videos to get to the point where I was making a living as a vlogger. So don’t expect you’ll start out and make money right away, but you never know, maybe you will. Other people have better strategies than me that have worked better. There are an infinite number of different ways to do it, especially with the internet at your fingertips. Focus on accomplishing something almost every day, no matter how small. It will add up to a lot over the course of a year.
2022 UPDATE: I fully agree with my former self from five years ago, so nothing further to add on this subject.