Gabriel 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 living as a vlogger on YouTube through his channel Gabriel Traveler, which is very impressive! Learn exactly how he does it below.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
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.
Please describe what you do for income.
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.)
How many hours per week do you work on average?
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.
How much money do you make?
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.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
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.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
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.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
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.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
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.)
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
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.
Nora’s Note: Great advice, Gabriel! I too, built my online business through consistent activity and commitment to the long haul. If you’re interested in learning more about making money as a vlogger, I recommend Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging school, where he has a specific course on The Art of Travel Vlogging.