The Professional Hobo Reveals All: 2017 Income Report

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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.

This post was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

Click here to see all of my Annual Income and Expense Summaries!

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 Chart - The Professional Hobo

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.

Advertising: $2,885

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 (since discontinued), 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

2016 ($28,000)

2015 ($34,000)

2014 ($31,000)

2013 ($43,000)

2012 ($39,000)

2011 ($22,000)

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26 thoughts on “The Professional Hobo Reveals All: 2017 Income Report”

  1. It sounds like you have always had your own path to travel, a path that’s just a bit different. It’s worked out well for you so far, there is no reason at all to think it won’t continue. You made your life!

    You’re a story teller & I appreciate you sharing your story through your blog. I’ll miss it if your path leads you away from the blog but you need to do what makes you happy.
    Being happy is important.

    Reply
    • Hi Rob,
      Thank you so much! Your support, readership, and comments are appreciated.
      Indeed….ever since the start of my travel “career”, I’ve done things a bit differently from your average digital nomad. There’s no reason to believe this won’t continue.
      Let’s see what happens! At the moment, I can’t imagine being “done” with this site, since sharing my musings here is as much therapeutic for me as it is (hopefully) interesting for you! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Nora, ugh, sounds like a rough year. I only spend a month or two on the road a year, so I have longer recovery periods. But I fully get you about screen-time burnout as well. My days are spent looking at a glowing box, and something tells me that’s not the healthiest approach to living. Anyway, hope you find a good balance, and of course, have good fun too.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Tom! Next up on the list for me is to find a home base; I think that will make a big difference in my travels, lifestyle, and career. Even if I don’t change anything else in terms of how I earn a living, I think the sheer existence of that base will create a shift that could well help me turn things around.

      Reply
  3. Thank you for being so brave and publishing an honest account of your year. Its not easy to admit that you’re not where you want to be or that you need a change. Especially if the change is something you’re “supposed” to be good at. Following your gut is a healthy thing though and if you listen you are likely to find the change you desire. Best of luck!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! Indeed….for an expert in change, it’s pretty funny how “resistant” I’ve been! 😉 But it’s starting to flow….bit by bit. It’s more a matter of patience than anything else.

      Reply
  4. Thanks Nora for being honest, that it’s not all roses, we love your stories and your site was instrumental in us figuring things out (like health insurance, so much incorrect info out there) before we left. Best wishes whatever you decide. We’ve only been on the road for nine months, moving every week, we figured that we could do that for a couple of years, but hit a wall a few weeks ago. So we are also reevaluating, we still want to do the six months in Europe that we had originally planned but will probably take it slower. But it’s so hard so many places to explore, and w aren’t getting younger. Being retired we are not dependent on our blog for income, so it’s just for fun, that gives us a lot of freedom.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ian,
      Whew – the mere thought of moving every week (and maintaining a blog, whether for business or pleasure) is exhausting! In my experience, less is more. I’m sure you’ll find a good rhythm as you go….it’s different for everybody.

      Reply
      • Yeah after a working lifetime of 1-2 week vacations and staying a few days at one spot before moving on we thought one week was a vast amount of time. It was great for a while as everything was new and exciting. Then we started noticing it changing. Finding out long term travel is a totally different animal, as you know well. But it’s all part of the adventure, we just need to refine as we go along.

        Reply
        • Ian,
          It takes a while to carve our your own personal style of travel, and it’s different for everybody! I certainly had my own learning curve to stumble up… 😉

          Reply
  5. Nora, thank you for being so candid! You only get a once around in this life, so you owe it to yourself to follow your bliss. I believe that once we unload those things that are not serving us that the answers and opportunities magically appear. You are wise beyond your years…allowing things to unfold instead of trying to frantically control everything. You are in a good place…look after You, and everything else will get looked after.

    Reply
  6. I’ve always appreciated your transparency and the honest information you’ve shared over the years. I’ve followed many of these “travel life” bloggers and notice that what they’re doing is still just a job and a time consuming business – but they are doing it on the road. Through the years people change, our desires and dreams change and there’s nothing wrong with admitting it and adjusting. I’ve enjoyed your blog and will continue to follow. I’m excited to see what’s next!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Merrill!
      Indeed, travel blogging isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve tried over the years to be transparent about the lifestyle – which is often amazing, and sometimes not.
      I’m just as curious and excited to see where things lead. 😉

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much for sharing all of yourself in this report. It may not be appreciated by everyone, but it’s greatly appreciated by me. I spent much of 2016-2017 traveling nomadically, and I, too, had some very uncomfortable and revelatory experiences. Not exactly like yours, but with enough similarity to feel some strong inner reverberations while reading your post. I applaud your efforts to try to relax into the discomfort. I am doing the same. It is also not my strong suit. I am still awaiting some sense of sureness as I move through the motions of starting a new life in a new location, and every day I wonder what the #@$)% I’m doing. Good fortune to you! I hope you find what you need in perfect timing and that it’s even more wonderful than you hoped. Thanks, again!

    Reply
  8. This is an incredibly refreshing post to read. I’m a new travel blogger, trying to gain website traction, manage social media, figure out how to monetize etc etc etc all while traveling long term for the first time in my life. I’m struggling a bit right now with how much energy this takes on the road, not just in terms of work but my mental energy as well. Traveling in terms of how I can write about it more than I’d like. So, I’ve decided to scale back a bit too and focus on two-three things to move my blog forward. Thank you for your transparency, honesty, and vulnerability.

    Reply
    • Hi Katie,
      I started out similar to you: carving out my own travel style and figuring out life on the road concurrent to developing my online business. It almost killed me! So, yeah. I feel your pain.

      But also, I’ll tell you, 12 years in myself, the balance of full-time travel and managing an online business doesn’t get particularly easier (at least, it didn’t for me). The travel lifestyle takes a LOT more energy than living/staying in one place, and it has to be factored in. That, in turn, means you need to work differently. I still haven’t quite figured it all out, so if you do, let me know! 😉

      Reply
  9. Hi Nora,

    I really like your honesty… I was searching online and found your blog 🙂

    Re-focus on your goals and what you are doing… reach out if you need any help… you have a huge community behind you.

    And remember, the paretos 80/20 rule… that will give you a great edge when you figure what brings you the most results.

    Good luck x

    Reply
    • Hi Robin,
      Thank you for your support! Indeed, taking a more strategic approach to business has been quite necessary (and quite possibly overlooked for many years).

      Reply
      • That’s good to hear 🙂 Hope this year is proving more fruitful and for many years to come.

        And also, better late than never 😉

        Reply
  10. Hello Nora,

    I found your website through exploring alternatives youtube videos.

    Sounds like to me you need an opportunity with streaming video providers such as netflix, hulu or amazon prime videos. I would watch your show !

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, believe me , you’re the lucky one, we’re the slaves to the big corporates and waiting all year for that two weeks of vacation to come.

    Reply
  11. Thanks, Andy! Indeed – while I have my sights on having a network tv show, there are likely more opportunities with the streaming networks. Let’s see what happens! 🙂

    Reply
  12. This has been really interesting to read Nora, thank you! Looking forward to seeing your 2018 post too! I started publishing my ‘online income’ reports back in July – when I first started earning online, like you. It does put the pressure on to improve though eh!

    Reply
    • Hey Peti,
      Indeed – Over the years I’ve wrestled with both pride and guilt in publishing my annual reports, depending on my income and expenses for the year. 😉
      Good for you for putting it out there though….I believe it’s a great help to others. (At least I hope….)

      Reply

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