Welcome to my 2017 Income Report! Each year I publish my own full-time travel expenses, as well as my income for the year. I do this not to set the bar for what you should earn or what you should spend in order to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way; rather – as the years go by and my own income and expenses vary – to demonstrate that there is no bar.
Click Here to see previous years’ income and expense reports.
2017 was a bizarre year for me. Following an upsetting upheaval in 2016, I was still scrambling to find my feet, and spent the first half of the year living and volunteering at a retreat centre in Ecuador, while informally continuing my shamanic studies of plant medicine. But at some point in the year, an expiring Ecuadorian visa accompanied by an inner voice told me it was time for a shift. I spent the rest of the year bouncing around Asia.
This time away from plant medicine commitments allowed/forced me to take a hard look at my online business (which had been largely ignored for a few years), and what I saw wasn’t pretty. So I kicked things back into high gear and put my nose to the grindstone. Problem is, by the end of the year, the only thing I’d managed to do was to burn myself out. This has led to a further business (and life) crisis. But more on that further below; first, I present: my 2017 Income Report…for better or worse.
Click here for more info on where I went and when (and why) in 2017.
2017 Income Report: Income Sources
NOTE: My income was earned in a few currencies, namely US and Canadian dollars – all of which I’ve converted to US dollars for the purposes of this 2017 Income Report. Unfortunately, with currency fluctuations throughout the year, these numbers are approximate at best.
Freelance Writing: $7,496
My freelance writing income has fluctuated wildly over the years from $6,000 – $30,000. So my 2017 freelance writing income is definitely at the lower end of the spectrum (although that number is actually more like $10,000 if I include an unreceived billable, which I’ll lump into my 2018 income report instead).
It’s not low for lack of available work; rather I’ve kept my freelance writing commitments to a minimum since 2015 when I dropped most of my gigs to pursue my studies of shamanism and plant medicine in South America. Although I took a break from my studies and hit the road in a more concentrated fashion in the last half of 2017, I didn’t actively pursue more freelance writing gigs. Instead, I focused on my website….read on for more on how that went….
Affiliate Sales: $9,899
This within $10 of my affiliate income from 2016, which is not only quite the coincidence, but is also pretty surprising to me given that my Amazon income (which typically makes up 60% of my total affiliate sales income) tanked around September and hasn’t properly recovered. Thankfully, I was able to make up for the difference throughout the year between my 20 other affiliate income sources, most notably my affiliation with Anatomie travel clothing. Other affiliate sources worth mentioning are a blogging course I heartily endorse, insurance recommendations, and even VPNs and virtual mailing services.
Ironically even though I moved to a more lucrative ad network in 2016, my 2017 advertising income is down almost $1,000 from 2016. This is largely because I have stopped accepting text links and other forms of advertising that the Google-Gods now look down upon. I also don’t accept sponsored guest posts (despite daily requests for such). Thus, the advertising opportunities I can accept – at least the ones that remotely serve my readership – are minimal and sporadic.
Book Sales: $2,193
This is from the sale of my three books: Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom, How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World, and Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination. Although all three remain relevant and up-to-date resources, they are a few years old, and thus, my total book sales are down about $800 from 2016.
TOTAL INCOME: $22,473
…which is almost an all-time low since I started recording and publishing my income in 2011 (when I earned about $800 less). It actually kind of hurts to write this number and to publish it for all to see, given that I’m supposed to be a “big-time successful travel blogger”, with one of the longest-standing travel blogs out there.
But… I must admit I didn’t give my online business the attention it deserved for over three years. And even when I have been giving it attention, it probably wasn’t the sort of attention it needed. There’s a lot to what’s going on here (see below for a teaser), but for the most part I remain grateful that I’ve been able to earn what I have over the last few years given the circumstances.
AND…. in the name of financially sustainable full-time travel, I’m still kicking ass and taking names; my expenses for 2017 (a very active year covering 10 countries) were still less than my income, thus continuing my lifestyle as more than affordable.
2017 Income Report: What Happened?!?!
It all started with my realization mid-year that scaling back my business activities for over three years has cost me dearly (in terms of SEO, visitors, income, and more, given the longevity and stature of my website).
So I scrambled. I changed hosts, redesigned the website, got an SSL certificate, and started optimizing (a bit). I doubled my post regularity, breathed new life into my YouTube channel, and increased my social media marketing efforts.
But every time I felt I was making progress somewhere, I got slapped somewhere else. My Amazon income tanked; so I hired somebody to figure out why. Turns out that (in addition to Amazon changing their payment policy), my organic search traffic was down dramatically – the only reason I didn’t notice was because I had made up for it with increased social media traffic (problem is, that kind of traffic isn’t as likely to buy stuff that earns me affiliate income).
While trouble-shooting that problem, Instagram changed their algorithm to make a fickle platform I already disliked into a fickle platform I despised. Then Facebook changed their algorithm (and did so again just recently in an even more detrimental way).
Overall, it seemed that nothing I could do was actually helping my online business or increasing my income.
It all came to a head for me in India, whilst having butter poured in my eyes and oil squirted up my butt in a desperate attempt to get ahold of my deteriorating physical health. (Yeah, you read correctly; read more here). I realized I was spinning my wheels in too many ways, and it led to a full-on depression accompanied by burnout.
So I decided to kick it up another notch (cuz that’s what you do, right?). In an attempt to plan for a (much-needed) sabbatical, I charged ahead with the designs for an online course that teaches all the logistics of arranging your life and affairs for long-term travel to allow people to go smoothly from idea to reality in six months or less. I was going to design and launch the course, then tie everything up with a neat little bow and walk away for a while.
Instead, I burned out even harder, to the point where daily functionality was affected. It was in this state that I capped off 2017.
2018: What’s the Plan?
Somewhere in the throes of burnout, I realized a few things:
1) I’m tired of living my life from behind a laptop screen. Although it’s a liberating career to have that allows me to live and work from anywhere in the world, it comes with a perpetual work-life balance struggle, and I am craving more in-person interactions with people – which feels more real to me than this invisible umbilical cord connecting me to my laptop.
2) I need to simplify. Although I’ve spent most of my life as an entrepreneur, I’m also tired of the responsibility. My success as a travel blogger has been in large part due to longevity in an industry that built up around me and carried me with it, rather than any particular savvy when it comes to the finer aspects of running an online business. Much of the time, I feel like the industry has become too sophisticated for me, and I feel like I’m in over my head.
3) It’s time for a change. Blogging is the longest standing career I’ve ever had. Through my 20s, I changed careers every few years. To be brutally honest, I was tired of this career back in 2014 when I landed in Peru and found plant medicine as an alternative lifestyle (and income source, when I was assisting my teacher). The disappearance of that outlet/income has brought me back to blogging, and I’ve come full circle to how I was feeling almost four years ago….ready for something different.
4) I’m scared sh*tless. Everything is on the table for a redesign in 2018, including my business, location, lifestyle, health, relationships, and more. As liberating and amazing as this may seem, it’s also terrifying and unsettling. From a career perspective, this website is my baby, and I’m even more scared of letting it go than I was to sell my financial planning practice and everything I owned 12 years ago.
So…where do I even begin?
I’ve scaled back my online activities (again); a necessary measure to save my health – mental and physical. I’m working every other day, to learn what it’s like to have days off and away from the computer – something I’ve rarely allowed myself in the last decade or so. This means I’ve put the online course design on hold, stopped making videos for the most part, reduced my posting regularity back to once a week, and curbed my social media marketing plan. I’m using my days off to sleep, read, relax, spend time with my boyfriend, go for walks, and generally embrace the (long) process of unwinding.
I’m keeping my eyes peeled for opportunities. Opportunities like where to live, how to live, what to do, how to earn money, and more. But I’m not pushing any of it. I’m chilling out (as best I can; it’s not a strong suit for me) in the meantime, and focusing on enjoying the present moment more. The rest will come in time; of this I am sure.
Secretly (or perhaps not so secretly if I’m writing this for all to see), I’d love to host a travel tv show. As a former actor/singer/dancer with television production experience, I’ve been approached over the years by all the big networks (Travel Channel, Discovery, etc) to be the next Samantha Brown or Anthony Bourdain. But tv’s a fickle business and in every case something has fallen through enroute to the finish line of signing a contract.
I’d also be interested in more speaking gigs. At the moment I’m not exactly all jazzed up to speak about the blogging industry; but I see myself more as a story-teller, and let me tell you: I’ve got some great stories to tell. And I think I’ve got a different/wider audience to reach with those stories.
Speaking of story-telling, there is still a bloody memoir in me that needs to be written. I’ve been alluding to it for over two years since receiving the “divine” stroke of inspiration to write it, and yet every attempt to put together an outline has flopped in one way or another. I expect the book will happen yet (perhaps sooner than later); but I need to open up some space and time to create it, and I’m not yet in that place and time.
2018 on the whole is an exercise in faith and self-care. Depression and burnout have proven themselves to be more serious than I ever thought, but now I hear the message loud and clear: slow down (on all levels). And along with slowing down, is the faith that when the time is right, the next “big thing” will come.
In the meantime….patience.
Previous Income Reports