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!
About Will Hatton: Writer and photographer. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been travelling the world on an extreme budget for nine years and is currently hitchhiking from England to Papua New Guinea, a journey which has taken him through far-flung lands like Iran, Pakistan and Bhutan. Will Hatton blogs over at The Broke Backpacker about his $10-a-day adventures. For the first few years he funded his travels in any way possible, but now his blog covers the bills. Read on to learn how!
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I first hit the road when I was nineteen, hitchhiking across Europe to Africa and then finding myself in India for a couple of years. I’ve been travelling and living on the road for nearly nine years now and have been running my blog for two years. I’ve been to around 70 countries, I think… I’ve never been fond of counting.
This year, I hitched across Europe, through Iran (where I stopped briefly to convert to Islam and marry a Persian girl), across Pakistan and then into India where I picked up a multicoloured rickshaw and drove it nearly 2,000km across the country… I paused at the Burmese border, not quite ready to leave central Asia and did a u-turn, heading back to Pakistan and Iran to visit my new wife’s family.
Next up, I’ll be making my way to Bhutan and then crossing to Thailand via India and Myanmar. Once I’m in South East Asia, I’ll pick up a motorbike and explore for a year or so before building a raft and attempting to sail, or paddle, to Papua New Guinea – my final destination and a place I have wanted to visit since I was a kid.
Please describe what you do for income.
Originally, I did whatever I had to… which meant that I usually found work on farms, behind bars, selling scarves and herb on beaches and sending shit back home to sell on Ebay. I got pretty good at sensing opportunities to make quick cash and I only had to bribe my way out of jail twice… it was a different age. I had a brief crack at being a travel agent but was fired almost instantly for refusing to cold call; who likes getting cold calls after all?
These days, I run my blog which provides me with a very decent income compared to how much I actually need to be on the road.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
Sometimes, when I’m in the depths of Pakistan for example, I only work ten hours a week. Other times, when I have a decent connection, I work eighty hours a week… On average, I probably work forty hours a week.
How much money do you make?
I turnover about $4,000 a month; a lot of this is from advertising, brand partnerships and consulting but some of it is also from affiliate sales. Moving forward, I am working on some online courses and ebooks to teach others to travel with no money. Although I am now making decent cash, I still travel cheap – all of my money has gone into my recent investment into land for a backpacker hostel in Pakistan.
When I first started blogging, I focused a lot on advertising as it’s an easy source of money for bloggers – these days, I only really partner with companies that I actually like – such as RedBull, Berghaus and GoPro. The blogosphere is a competitive, yet friendly, place and if you put time into networking it’s easy to build relationships which will yield new contacts and a better source of income.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
I can travel on just ten bucks a day so I am easily making enough cash to fund my adventures and even to buy some shiny new camera gear! Moving forward, I am planning on opening a chain of Broke Backpacker hostels all over the world so more cash is needed to make my dream a reality.
I have a few plans and will be leading adventure tours around Iran and Pakistan later next year which will be a much needed cash injection; although I make good money I am almost constantly still broke as I tend to spend it all on various investments around the world.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
I like being my own boss… I like that I can work at 2am in my underpants whilst sipping wine out of a carton; it might not be glamorous but it’s me and I yearn to have total control over my life.
I like to think that in some small way I may have helped get some people on the road; that, for me, makes the blog worthwhile.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
Sometimes, working at 2am is a necessity and not a privilege… In all honesty, since I started taking the blog seriously it has completely consumed some elements of my life; I think about it more than I should, I worry – is this post OK, do I know enough about SEO (nope), should I focus on writing shitty listicles rather than in-depth articles that people can’t be bothered to read… Running any business on your own is tough, I’m lucky enough to have some help but ultimately only I can do most of the important tasks. I’m a passionate person and I have a tendency to get very emotionally involved in my projects; I like everything to work and I am my own worst critic.
Because I have been on the road for so long, there have been many missed birthdays, weddings and Christmases from back home… The biggest struggle I find is that most of my competition, other travel bloggers, do not actually travel. They simply blog… about the same shit, again and again and again…. Ten reasons you should go to Thailand – it has lovely beaches, the food is good, blah blah blah… Unfortunately this means that bloggers who are actually in the depths of Absurdistan, working off a shitty connection and a failing VPN, simply cannot compete with the amount of hours that some of the competition put in. Some of the most successful travel bloggers in the world very rarely travel and, when they do, they go to easy countries… For me; travel should be inspiring, challenging and an immersive cultural experience.
Ultimately though, this is a role which I chose and a calling which I find rewarding.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
Once I get to Papua New Guinea, in two or three years, I will be taking a break from crazy backpacking adventures… for a few months anyway! I would like to get a motorbike and drive from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego, the tip of Chile. I have a few projects up my sleeve, forming a rock band being one of them (I need to learn to play the sax first).
I would like to start a travel fund to help other folks get on the road and I suppose it might be nice to make little humans at some point – but when I’m forty… That’ll change things for sure.
Besides travel, my real passion is Crossfit and Olympic lifting and I would like to dedicate a few years to trying to break into this professionally; it hasn’t been possible with constant relocations but I have competed, fairly successfully, a few times over the years and this has encouraged me to dedicate a few years of my life to it once I’m finished with this exploring malarky.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
It is totally possible to create a location independent lifestyle for yourself… it is, believe it or not, fairly achievable to have a job you like and to travel the world at the same time. Decide carefully what you want to do though – blogging is one of the hardest paths to take to financial and location independence and I would strongly recommend drop shipping instead if you are more focused on the destination than the journey or if you have no real passion for writing.
Ultimately, travelling isn’t for everyone but living your passion is; do what makes you happy, do it to the best of your ability and work hard… A strong work ethic is something that seems to be lacking when I meet a lot of people on the road – heck, I’m guilty too! What you need to realize is that working hard doesn’t mean working sixty hours a week; it means working efficiently, with passion and with direction. When it comes tog managing finances… I’m damn terrible at this. If there’s money in my accounts, I spend it. If there isn’t, I hitchhike, camp and dumpster-dive… simple!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Really, you can have any lifestyle you want. Most people say they can’t afford to travel but, if you do it right and don’t mind sacrificing some of your normal luxuries, it’s cheaper to travel than it is to live in Europe, The USA, Canada or Australia… Travel is the great leveller; get out there, have an experience, learn from it and decide what is important to you. If being on the road is what you land on… well, there are many many options available to keep you travelling; teach english, start an online business, import stuff to sell back home, get into freelancing, the opportunities are endless! Good luck!