Taylor Spinelli graduated from university last year with a teaching degree, although she has no intention to actually work as a teacher in the States for quite a while (if ever). She was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and made her first steps towards a life filled with travel when she was 16 by saving every penny she could, so that one day she’d be able to travel the world. Eight years later, she is doing exactly that and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Please enjoy this Financial Case Study, examining Taylor’s travel lifestyle and unconventional jobs that support her along the way.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
I have been on the road on and off for the last two years. I was in the middle of university when the pandemic hit which completely changed my path.
Having room in my uni schedule to take a year off and still graduate on time, I decided to work as a full time nanny and save every cent to pay my way for my first ever solo trip. On that first trip, I worked as an Au Pair in Madrid, Spain for a month and a half and then hit the typical “first time in Europe” stops in Western and Eastern Europe (plus a bit of Turkey) for another month and a half.
I returned to Philly after my three months in Europe, finished my degree, and set out on the road again. I spent another three months in Europe, this time primarily in the Balkan region. I hit a few more spots I missed the first time around in Western Europe before heading back home.
After a few months, I left on my longest ever stint on the road. I moved to New Zealand on a working holiday visa where I spent four incredible months. Then, I flew to Thailand and spent two months living in Chiang Mai before backpacking all around Southeast Asia for another couple of months.
[Nora’s Note: Click here to learn more about working as an au pair, or getting a working holiday visa!]
Please describe what you do for income.
My income is always coming from different sources since I work in a lot of short term roles. My largest source of income comes from substitute teaching and nannying while I’m back home in Philadelphia. Nannying for ten years now has allowed me to build an extensive network of families, so I am able to work a day job and supplement that income with nannying on nights and weekends.
I then travel using the savings that I accumulate. While I’m on the road, I have taken a variety of short term roles to earn extra money so that I can continue to travel long term.
I have worked as a mentor for a travel company for high schoolers in Thailand, an Au Pair in Spain, and a server in New Zealand to support myself. Coupled with some work exchanges, I’ve been able to travel for over eight months at a time.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
Since my roles are always changing, so are my hours. When I’m home, I typically work 40 hour weeks substitute teaching and up to an additional 15 or so hours nannying depending on demand (this varies a lot week to week).
During my two months as mentor for the travel company in Thailand, I was working pretty much 24 hours, 7 days a week. Since I was responsible for teenagers, I was never technically off. Though we tried our best to have a free morning or afternoon here or there, we always needed to be available in case anything went wrong. Every two weeks we had two consecutive days off.
When I worked in New Zealand I was usually working 30-40 hour weeks. As an Au Pair, I had the kids for about 30 hours each week and always had two fully free days on the weekend.
And then there are times that I travel without having a job for months at a time by using my savings and my trusted budget travel techniques.
How much money do you make?
My Home Jobs: As a substitute teacher I make $170 per day. As a nanny I make between $22 to $25 an hour.
On The Road Jobs: In Thailand I was making $400 per week. The beauty of this role was that I had zero expenses for two months, meaning I was able to save every penny of that salary to use to travel when my contract ended.
As a runner/server in New Zealand I made about $16/hr plus tips. The tips varied greatly but came out to about an extra $50 per week.
My job as an Au Pair paid 70 Euros a week and allotted me free housing and food.
Online Work: Most recently, I have started to bring in a bit of money through my social media accounts. While I am still very much getting started and running pretty small platforms, I’ve made roughly $700 online this year and I hope that number continues to grow as I grow my platforms.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
Currently, I do make enough money to support my lifestyle. I am very diligent with my money and as someone in her early twenties, I want to make sure that I am also looking out for myself in the future. Though I may be able to travel for longer with the money I’m currently earning, I make sure to set aside money to contribute to a Roth IRA account I started two years ago. I also have to make sure I earn enough money to pay back some of my student loans from university. So, though a lot of my savings are reserved for travel, I also do my best to make smart financial decisions so that I will not look back on this lifestyle and regret it one day.
In order to make this happen, I make sacrifices. While I am home and working I very rarely go out to eat or shop and I take any extra hours of work I can get. I know that my priorities are travel and setting myself up for a successful future, and making those sacrifices allows me to achieve those goals.
I would like to get to a point in the next few years where I can make more money online while continuing to work seasonal jobs and bounce around the world.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
I love that I have fully accepted the fact that I am in my early twenties and I am still figuring out what I want in life. I think so many people see this as a negative thing, but I just don’t. Through traveling and working all different kinds of jobs on the road, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, who I am as a person, and what I want.
I love that I have tried on all different types of lives. I’ve been the girl working a service industry job who hikes mountains on the weekend. I’ve been the girl who worked hands on with elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand while mentoring teenagers. I’ve been the girl living with a family she just met in Spain while trying to learn the language and adapt to their lifestyle. And I’ll continue to try on all different lifestyles and discover the things I enjoy most in life.
The flexibility that this lifestyle grants me is exactly what I desire in this stage of life. I want to be able to be spontaneous while learning about myself and the world along the way.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
The biggest challenge for me will always be that this lifestyle means leaving my family and friends for large chunks of time. It’s this extremely conflicting feeling for me: I feel the most alive and fulfilled when I am on adventures around the world. I feel inspired and like I am constantly growing and developing into the person I want to be. However, I always feel this guilt for leaving the people I love for large chunks of time. I want to be there for the people I love, but I also want to chase my dreams and become the best version of myself. It’s something that I anticipate will always be a challenge for me.
I’ve definitely had stints of loneliness as well. I am a solo traveler and I absolutely love it. I have friends all over the world and have made some of the most meaningful connections of my life. There are definitely times though that I experience loneliness when I move to yet another new place, start over in a new job, and have to make friends all over again. I think I experience a tremendous amount of growth because of it though. Working seasonal jobs actually does often help me combat this experience of loneliness because it allows me to settle for a bit and create a group of friends.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
I don’t see this lifestyle slowing down anytime soon for me. I change my mind almost daily about what I want to see and what I want to do around the globe. One day I’m extensively researching the Camino De Santiago, the next I’m onto mentoring in South Africa, teaching in Japan, and on and on and on.
My goal is to continue to pour my efforts into growing my own online business that can help supplement my travels. I have been putting a lot of work into my website and growing my social media accounts so that I can share my travels with others and inspire people to incorporate more travel into their own lives.
I don’t think I am someone who could ever work entirely online though. Interacting with people brings me the most joy in life and I want my lifestyle to revolve around service. I fell in love with my summer job as a mentor for teenagers. As someone who has always worked with younger kids, I was honestly a bit intimidated by high school students. But, that’s why I love my lifestyle: I realized that working with the teenagers brought me so much fulfillment. I plan to continue to mentor with the same company in a new location each summer for the next several years.
I don’t know exactly where I am going, but I know that I want to use my twenties to figure that out.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
I have never been someone to set a strict budget for myself and stick to it. I am, however, always aware of exactly how much money I have and how I’m going to land my next job or volunteer opportunity when I need to up my funds.
My best advice is to bite the bullet… and GO. If you wait around forever for the “right time”, you’re never going to end up going. If you’re waiting to have the “perfect amount of money”, you’re probably never going to go either.
Take things day by day and realize that there are so many ways to make money out in the world. Make a rough budget, keep an eye on your finances, and look after your future self. Then go out and have the adventures of a lifetime!!!
Interested in volunteering in trade for free accommodation while traveling? Here’s the dirt on what volunteering is like with WorldPackers.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
While there are times on the road where I have been afraid, lonely, and insecure… I wouldn’t trade those times for the world. They’ve made me into the person I am. We grow outside of our comfort zones.
I like to live by the phrase, “Do It Scared”. I’m way more scared of missing out on the things I want in life than any of the seemingly “scary” things I’ve done abroad.
GO… it might just change your life.
Read all about Taylor’s ongoing adventures at TaylsTravels!