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!
Tiffany Soukup of Vagabond Way is an adventurer, writer and photographer. Together with her husband they take off for far flung adventures around the world for months or years at a time, supporting themselves by getting seasonal jobs along the way and doing freelance writing and photography. Find our more about how they make ends meet below!
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I started moving around the country and then world once I went to university. It was during this time that I realized how easy it actually can be to move around the world and find interesting jobs while living in amazing places.
Since 2001 I have:
- Lived in Flagstaff, Arizona and worked as a secretary for the campus Fire Life Safety Department;
- Lived in Denver, Colorado worked as an Americorps Member doing environmental conservation projects;
- Lived in Salt Lake City, Utah worked as a Wilderness Therapy Instructor;
- Lived in New Zealand picking cherries, grapes and worked for some people we met on a beach;
- Spent a month traveling around Fiji;
- Lived in Gettysburg, PA worked in an At Risk Youth Home;
- Lived in Elmore, Vermont worked as a Park Ranger;
- Spent a winter in Costa Rica and had a big road trip to Florida;
- Lived in Waterbury, Vermont worked as Park Supervisor;
- Moved to Australia for two years and worked on a potato farm and cafe;
- Made a few trips out of Australia to renew my visas and traveled to Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia;
- Lived in Groton, Vermont worked as an Innkeeper returning for three summer seasons;
- Spent one winter doing a four month trip through South America visiting Peru, Chile and Argentina;
- Did a massive overland trip through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
Throughout all of these travels, moves and jobs are many other mini-adventures, various skills gained and many memories made. (See also: 11 Ways to Earn Income While You Travel)
Please describe what you do for income.
Right now my primary income source has been from seasonal jobs around the world. This has been highly advantageous to me as I have been able to move to get the best jobs I can find. I am slowly building up contacts with magazines as a freelancer and getting some other sources of income gigs lined up as well.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
Well, this depends a lot on what I am doing at the time. When I worked in a remote mining town in Australia, I worked two jobs and squeezed as many hours in as I possibly could. On average, I worked at least 65 hours per week if not more, and yes, I did get tired after a while. But, that push helped me and my husband not do any official work for an entire year. So it seemed like a pretty good pay out.
In recent times I have found myself working seasonally as an Innkeeper as I manage a beautiful lodge in a 27,000 acre forest. I really enjoy this job, although it is demanding. I am scheduled to work 48 hours a week and I try not to work any more than 55 hours a week. It is because of working this more intense job, both of us have been able to take our winters off and not do any official work for five months of the year. I have used this time to see our families and spend one winter in South America and last winter we had an epic road trip across ten African countries last winter.
How much money do you make?
My travel style has varied greatly over the years and is still changing all the time. I’ve gone an entire year traveling off savings and had no money coming in. Then I have other times I have worked 70 hour weeks and been able to put most of my money in the bank. So I guess what I am saying is there is no normal year!
To give you at least an idea, and keep in mind since I am married, we file our taxes jointly, our annual income ranges between $30,000-$48,000 per year combined. There are also years like 2012 where we did not earn any income and lived for an entire year off savings while going on a massive road trip around Australia.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
Saving has always been important to me. I never wanted to put myself into a situation I couldn’t get out of, so I have always ensured to have a savings and continue to grow it. To me it is exciting to reach certain saving milestones and continue to set other financial goals.
My savings goes up and down greatly depending on whether I am earning (ie working) or spending (ie traveling). I still never feel quite comfortable when I watch the bank account going down, but I make money to travel. That is my passion and that is what I do. So I choose to work seasonal jobs while also working on my writing and photography and that combination is enough to support my lifestyle.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
I am always thinking about the future and how I will continue to evolve. I know I want to keep pushing myself towards the next step of professionalism with my writing and photography. People ask us all the time if we will ever ‘settle down’ or will we stop traveling. (Editor’s note: I hate that question!).
Traveling and this lifestyle is definitely not a short term endeavour for us. When we get tired of living out of our backpacks, we find a job or a place we like and stay there a while. When we feel rested we hit the road again.
The best part about this lifestyle is I feel free to live the life I choose. I feel so very fortunate to be able to pick and choose where I want to live, work and what I want to do. I am motivated every day to jump up out of bed because I know I am working towards my goals and dreams. And to me, that is one of the greatest feelings of being alive.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
From my experiences, the best thing you can do for yourself is do whatever it takes to get rid of any debt you have and live a frugal lifestyle. Especially when Chris and I were younger and still had college debt, we made sacrifices and chose not to participate in a lot of expensive activities that a lot of our friends did. We rarely went to bars, we didn’t eat out a lot and we didn’t buy things we were not going to use.
After getting rid of debt, always have a savings that can last you at least six months. As a traveler and if you are looking to work on the road, always, always, always have that core savings. See also: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Planning for Travelers
Want to know more about how they do it? I interviewed Tiffany and Chris at length about their exact costs of their full-time travels and how they make ends meet in Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom. Check it out!