In this series, we’re exploring the various careers of world travelers, and how they make ends meet financially while living abroad. Yes, financially sustainable full-time travel is possible!
Sam Wood is a 31-year-old queer, poly, vegan guy from the UK. He loves learning foreign languages, science fiction, street art and a good vegan burger! And of course travelling, which he blogs about on his site, Indefinite Adventure. He earns his living as a freelance writer and blogger. Learn more about his lifestyle and career here!
This post was originally published in 2017, and has since been updated for accuracy of links and some content.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I became nomadic in 2010 when I started teaching short, intensive English courses around Europe. I did that on and off for six years, during which time I travelled mostly within western, central and northern Europe during my time off, but also in the Middle East once in 2011 when I visited Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. In 2013, I took most of the year off from teaching to travel around South America with my husband when we visited Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. (Nora’s Note: You can read more about this in their week-in-the-life post on my site here!)
In 2014, we made the decision to set up a home base in Berlin, but have travelled a lot around Europe and beyond from there since then. In late 2015 and early 2016, we travelled to Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan and right now we are in Mexico.
Please describe what you do for income.
On my blog I accept advertising mostly in the form of sponsored posts and I also do freelance content writing and ghostwriting.
(See also: How to Earn Money as a Freelance Writer)
How many hours per week do you work on average?
I actually time all the work I do sitting at my computer, but I turn the timer off every time I take a break, go to the toilet or stop to look at Facebook, for example. According to this record I do an average of 12 hours a week. However, since this is 12 hours of solid work, it is probably more like 15 hours if you translate it into office hours. Then, there is all the time I spend while I’m out travelling, taking pictures, researching and learning things about the places I write about for my blog and freelance content writing that is not included in this, so I think it would be fair to round it up to 20 or 22 hours a week to account for that.
Nora’s Note: I also time my work in a similar manner, and when I started I was horrified at how little time I could bill as “work”, when it felt like so much more! Sometimes an entire day of sitting at my computer translates to 4 or 5 hours of actual work.
How much money do you make?
In 2016, I made on average €640/£540/$675 a month from accepting advertising on my blog, which was pretty consistent month to month. My freelance writing income on the other hand varied a lot more throughout the year but averaged out at €520/£440/$550 a month.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
Since my husband (who I live and travel with) and I do not make a distinction between my and his money, and he makes roughly 30%-40% more than me each month, I guess strictly my answer should be no. However, we do not have debt nor do we spend more than we have each month between us and indeed sometimes manage to put some money away in savings.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
The flexibility. I love more or less being able to wake up decide, “I’m going to take the day off and sit in a park reading a book, or go to a museum, or just eat cake” (more likely the last one, if I’m honest)! Of course, this takes some planning in advance: I can’t do that on days when I have a hard deadline for a freelance writing gig, obviously, but most of the time I’m ahead of myself for deadlines which affords me a lot of flexibility.
I also love not having to adhere to fixed office hours. Some days I prefer to get most of my work done in the morning and be free from lunch onwards, while other days I might decide to go be a tourist in the morning, have a nap in the afternoon and then work in the evening.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
Switching off from it is sometimes difficult, though I am definitely getting better at this. I have now made the decision to not work at weekends for more than half an hour a day and only if it’s absolutely necessary.
Feeling truly satisfied and enthused with what I do to earn money occasionally seems like a distant memory, and like something that isn’t likely to come back if I continue doing this. That said, I do not dislike what I do, it’s fine and there are certainly projects I look forward to working on, but most of the time I feel pretty neutral about it. I’ve come to realize and accept that maybe that’s OK too as I have other passions.
Nora’s Note: In my blogging career since 2006, I’ve also gone through periods where I’ve been quite uninspired by my work. I think this can be quite normal – and in some cases it’s an indication that it’s time for a shift. It’s different for everybody.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
I’m not sure I can describe what I do as a career, and I’m also not sure how long I want to continue it. I do think I want some kind of flexible work situation for the foreseeable future, because the idea of working 9-5, 40 hours a week in an office fills me with dread.
However, I’m really not sure how much longer I want all of my income to be from freelance writing work. I am starting to think about finding some kind of employed (obviously part-time) work that could provide some regular income and also mean I’m not solely responsible for drumming up business and making sure I’m earning enough.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
Keep good records. Put all of your invoices, expenses, and information about who owes you money and when together in a way that makes sense to you and facilitates find things when you need them. I know it’s not the most inspirational or sexiest piece of advice, but it will definitely save you a lot of time and potentially stress in the long run.