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How We Make Money On the Road | Affording Vanlife
It’s no surprise that many people ask us how we make money on the road. Money is a very real barrier to entry for most people that want to travel full time. Traditional jobs are stationary, and traveling isn’t free. It makes sense that people want to know how we make it work.
Everyone does it differently. You can find a ton of resources to give you ideas about how to make money remotely, us being one of them. From travel nurses to social media managers to crafting, there are so many ways to make money. Keeping costs low by living a minimalist lifestyle means that you’ll need to earn less money overall. Understanding how much money you need to travel is the first step. If you don’t have an idea of your costs, read our blog posts about How to Build a Budget for Vanlife and How Much Does Vanlife Cost to give you a baseline.
What’s Your Hustle?
The real challenge is finding a hustle that you enjoy and making it work for you. People perceive being a digital nomad as the ideal job. You can make money on the road, traveling as you please, all while earning an income along the way. But we’ve met a lot of them on the road and they are tied to the need for cell service and/or wifi. It works for some, but not everyone.
Others are selling an art or a trade such as paintings and photography. In addition, many vanlifers are travel nurses. They move from one contract to the next and picking up gigs in areas that they want to explore. A step further than that are seasonal workers, who pick up jobs here and there as they travel to fund the next leg of the journey. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
There is no right or wrong way to make money on the road. There is opportunity where your skills and passions align.
So back to the original question: How Do We Make Money On the Road?
Since we are big on financial planning, it was important for us to have financial security going into vanlife. Additionally, we didn’t want to be burdened with financial stress while we traveled. It is important for us to proactively manage our money so that this journey doesn’t come to a screeching halt because we ran out of money.
For that reason, we saved up 2 years of living expenses before we quit our jobs. The goal has always been to make this adventure financially self-sustaining. We knew that wasn’t going to happen right away. The first year of travel has been funded entirely by our savings account. We’ve estimated that our costs are close to what we budgeted, so we have another year to do that if we want.
Making Money on the Road: Seasonal Work
I mentioned that we like to plan our financial future. Even though we saved for 2 years of travel, we are only one year in and are working seasonal jobs to buffer the bank account. Not because we overspent, but because we’re not used to seeing the funds continue to drop and not be replenished. That’s just uncomfortable for us. Since we were planning to spend the winter in California anyway, we decided to pick up jobs and make some money while we’re here.
Greg is working at a ski shop tuning skis from November through April. I am working a few days per week on the retail side of the shop. It’s hourly work that we are way over qualified for. But it’s simple and doesn’t cause us stress. For example, when we clock out and go home for the day, we are not on call, nor do we have heavy responsibilities. We show up, we make money, we go home.
Ideally, we earn enough money over a season to fund our entire year of living expenses, including the months that we are traveling. If our budget is accurate, it should all work out. The perfect scenario would be that we could make the same amount of money in 3 months, and travel 9 months instead of 6 and 6. But we’re grateful to have the opportunity that we have in Southern California, which is a great place to spend the winter anyways.
THere’s so Many Options for Making Money On the Road
There are a lot of other seasonal jobs out there too. Full time travelers can be camp hosts at camp grounds, do trail work for parks, or work the beet harvest in North Dakota. You could join Amazon’s Camper Force, in addition to many other options. If you are looking for seasonal work for the summer, it’s important to start looking in January and February. Most of the hiring agencies finish hiring by the end of March for the summer.
In addition to seasonal work, we are building an online business that will monetize our website. Having passive income is very important to us. When we travel, we want to be untethered and able to just go wherever we want. Through affiliate marketing and partnerships, we are building an online presence that will slowly pay us monthly with very little maintenance.
The internet is a saturated place, so the challenge is to stand out. Everyone wants to be a travel blogger. Everyone wants to be an Instagram or YouTube star. It’s just not realistic for everyone to expect profitable success on those platforms, nor does everyone want to put their lives on display for money. We are super awkward on camera and prefer to interact with people face-to-face. But we do have a passion for writing and photography. This blog is intended to share our experiences with you, and make a little money doing it.
Our Advice: Make a Plan
If you want to travel full time, but don’t know how you’re going to pay for it, our suggestion is to either save money or have a financial plan in place before you quit your job. Vanlife is less expensive than living in a brick and mortar structure for most people, but it still costs money.
Our solution was to save money and go into vanlife hoping that an opportunity would present itself. Knowing that we are smart, capable people with a lot of skills, we felt confident that we could quit our jobs and find a way to make money on the road.
What do you think? What ideas do you have for making money to travel full time? Tell us in the Comments section below!