I get asked a LOT of questions ever since I started travel blogging, and one of the top 5 questions that I receive is: (How I Afford to Travel)
“How can you afford to travel around the world…?!”
It’s a reasonable inquiry because I know that it can be quite surprising how I started to travel the world sustainably at the young age of 21. After all, not only do I hold a limited third world passport, but I also previously worked in an office job that paid very little (for total disclosure, it was around $300 or Php 15K every month; so yes, I barely had ANY savings to buy a plane ticket per se).
…But lately, after responding to hundreds of messages that ask the same specific question, I realized that it’s about time I dedicate one focused article to this topic in order to explain things clearly.
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So once and for all…
After I quit my job to chase after my travel dreams, I managed to afford a travel lifestyle with my own effort and money by doing three main things: online work, travel blogging, and “travel hacks”.
To bust the misconceptions even further: NO, it’s not because I was rich (in fact, I was almost broke when I started!) and I did NOT have a secret inheritance either or whatsoever. My family was not a wealthy one anyway — we were actually sandwiched between the poor and middle-class levels (if there’s even such a thing). Plus, even if my parents did manage to put me into a good school, they worked really hard for that.
Aside from these things, some people have subtly made distinct innuendos as well, but no, I did NOT have some sort of ‘sugar daddy’, ‘sugar mommy’ or ‘sugar whatever’ who was (or is) giving me cash. As an individual, I never liked depending on other people and that holds especially true ever since I graduated from university.
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In short: I did it all with my own power. These facts may be hard to believe especially if you’re from the same background as I do — but it’s the TRUTH.
Now, a part of you might think that I got to where I am today because I was lucky… but I beg to differ. “Luck” had NOTHING to do with what I did. I worked hard and sacrificed a TON to get to where I am today, so saying that I was “lucky” sort of invalidates all of what I’ve been through.
Even if there were random but perfect opportunities that came my way, think about it: those opportunities would have just been ‘missed’ if I haven’t responded well enough. So it’s not really all about luck.
Basically, I know that it can be very easy to forget or ignore the process that I went through whenever you see the life that I have now… but I urge you to please remember my struggle because by remembering such, you will be reminded at the same time of the fact that YOU can easily follow my footsteps.
For starters, I’ve already presented gazillions of travel resources and tips on this blog in order to give you ideas for how to start your own dreams of traveling around the world — as such, it’s all up to you now to ACT on it.
It’s really not that impossible as long as you make the conscious effort to persevere and strive. Tons of people even think that a life of travel is unachievable or extremely costly, but like I always say: such is NOT true! It can be easily achieved if you make it a priority. And though travel involves money, it will ONLY be costly if you choose to lead adventures that are extravagant.
Without further ado, I will discuss in detail below how I made (and still make) money for my traveling lifestyle as I also present other resources and tips on how you can do the same.
If in case you are not interested in working in the online realm to fund your travels, I will also be discussing other things that you can do.
How I Afford to Travel the World
1. I work online
In my opinion, this is an ideal profession to do when traveling around the world because the internet provides MILLIONS of possibilities for earning while giving anyone the ability to work whenever and wherever they want.
RELATED READ: The Best Travel Jobs
That being said, it follows that I worked as a digital nomad when I quit my job in 2013 (also because the skills I had were a perfect fit for it). Besides, it was through my online work that I was truly able to compete with my global peers and avoid being paid a “developing-world salary” (e.g. my first online job paid me double than what I was earning in my office work; a number that I wouldn’t have earned even if I were to be promoted twice).
Now, ‘working online’ can be such a vague statement, so to be more precise about what I did…
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APRIL 2013: This was the month that I quit my job in the investment bank that I previously worked for. My total life savings at that time was probably just around $600 or Php 30K… which was pathetic since I have been working for them for over 2 years.
This fact really aggravated me because no matter how I was leading a frugal life, I can’t seem to save more! (I was paid only $300 or Php 15K a month anyway, so that was expected.) When I talked to them about quitting, my job tried to make me stay by offering a promotion with an increased final salary of $380+ or Php 20K and I almost scoffed when they told me that…
For all the contributions that I was putting for the team (even being awarded as the ‘Employee of the Month’ for my accomplishments), I still remained to be the most underpaid employee in our department — just because I was a fresh graduate. That kind of system was frustrating, so… I quit.
I told myself: “ENOUGH.” I believed that my time and effort could be better rewarded someplace else; and such was true.
Months before I left the company though, I did all the necessary steps to prepare myself for the digital nomad life. I looked for online jobs WHILE I was still working in the office (so I was practically doing 2 jobs at once) as I did graphic design, web design, SEO, and marketing — skills that were all self-learned. I didn’t learn these in school anyway because I held a business degree and graphic design in particular used to be just a fun hobby that I did.
Later on, it was only when I scored a stable online employer — who was willing to employ me for an indefinite amount of time and who paid more than double of what I was earning — that I handed in my resignation because by then, I was secured of the fact that I will have a steady stream of cashflow after I quit. (See how the online realm can pay more for as long as you have the skills and that you can ‘deliver’?).
That employer was a Swedish online brand and I first started as their Customer Service Staff. After a while, I advanced to being their Product Line Supervisor and eventually their Head Marketing and Social Media Manager (my pay increased after every ‘promotion’ that took about only 2 months each).
While I was working for that Swedish brand, I was also still working on other projects on the side so that I can further earn and save money. That was my daily grind and it was vicious; nevertheless, it was something that I loved doing and which I was passionate about. (If you want to see samples of my past work, you can go to my portfolio page).
TRIVIA: As you may know, I quit my job at the age of 21. Some people said that I didn’t have enough office experience to just suddenly declare that the corporate life didn’t fit me… but that’s only because they assumed that I only started working at 21.
Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve already worked for the investment bank for 2 years and I even had a previous 1 year experience (I finished my 4-year business degree in university at the age of 19 and that course enabled me to go through 3 different internships in 3 different multinational companies for a year). At the same year that I graduated — still at the age of 19 — I snagged the job at the aforementioned investment bank. As you may have noticed, even with my experience and credentials, the Philippine job market was really tough: I was paid very low even for a fresh graduate.
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May 2014: At this point in time, I have already been traveling around Asia and Europe while working online for the Swedish brand — and I still continued to do so.
However, after learning most of how the business worked, I was suddenly inspired by the idea of implementing a similar business — especially after I saw how it was absolutely achievable AND profitable!
What followed was the 2nd resignation of my life: I discussed my plans to the CEO of the Swedish brand and he regretted to see me go, but he was more than happy to provide guidance — and so came the very first online business that I’ve run called as Adalid Gear. (Adalid is my last name and it means “champion” in Spanish!)
UPDATE: As of 2020, I’ve sold this business and I’ve since had other online businesses that I handle.
I’ll spare you the gritty details of my start-up journey, so to sum it all up: after 2 months of setting up the business and releasing our first two products, we had great sales! Ever since then, I slowly stopped providing my digital services and focused on Adalid Gear and I’ve earned amounts that I never thought I’d earn in my early 20s.
Rest assured, given how I always preach to you guys my life mantra of: “thinking long-term“, I have surely been putting my earnings to good use. I don’t spend it ALL on travel because I’m saving and reinvesting portions of it; besides, I’m always thinking of my future — and you should too!
With all that said, I know that setting up a business is NOT easy and it will take time, BUT at the very least, this should give you the important idea and life tip that you should always think of opportunities like this that will make you lead a far more sustainable lifestyle!
I may have already had the luxury of traveling the world before I even started up Adalid Gear (as I worked as a freelancer online); but for sure, making my online business a success has helped secure my future even MORE and that’s the kind of situation that you should always strive for: stable security.
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2. I run this travel blog
For the top 2nd reason on how I afford to travel, naturally, it’s all thanks to this travel blog!
September 2014: I only started travel blogging AFTER my online business was stable and I initially launched this blog with the simple aim of making it my online diary.
I simply love writing down my thoughts and life experiences so I can have something to look back to when I’m old. For sure I had a humble beginning and I wasn’t aspiring for anything more; however… when two of my articles   suddenly went viral online sometime in late 2014, I was surprised with the sudden attention that I received!
What followed then were magazine and newspaper interviews, features, press invitations, etc. (notable ones were BBC Travel, National Geographic, Cosmopolitan — AND never in my wildest dreams did I think that my name will be in these publications!)
Because of these exposures and more, this blog garnered a dedicated audience worldwide (you guys!), thereby making it attractive to PR agencies from various industries who have provided me (and are still providing) the following opportunities:
- Invitations to all-expenses-paid press trips WITH payment to destinations in exchange for articles and social media promotion
- Passive income through advertisements, affiliate partnerships, photo, video sales, and more
That being said, THESE are the main perks that I get from travel blogging that help me travel around the world more — and yes, it’s super cool. You can definitely do the same and here is a guide on how to start a travel blog.
But first, here are some disclaimers:
- Firstly, even if I get involved with any sort of partnership from time to time, please know that I only write and promote brands that I recommend and have personally tried. If I didn’t like the experience or the product, I always state it for total disclosure.
- Secondly, starting up a blog and making it into some sort of money-making machine is NOT a walk in the park. You must know that bloggers do a LOT of things behind the scenes (SEO, promotions, etc.) in order to make their platforms successful; that’s why you must be prepared for a tough road ahead.
- Lastly, a lot of bloggers recommend blogging for starting travelers and I do that too — BUT I don’t recommend it as the main medium of funding a travel lifestyle because it can be a difficult start-up endeavour. I rather recommend setting up a blog AFTER or WHILE also starting up your remote profession (ex: as a digital nomad, a traveling English teacher, etc.) as you gear up for your ’round the world trip’. Through this way, you’ll have a safety net in place.
3. I do money & travel hacks
I’m not a big spender and it’s a habit that I’ve developed ever since I started living separately from my parents. As I’ve pointed out previously, I was earning a meager income back in my corporate job; so naturally, I always had to make ends meet. That constant struggle surely made me appreciate the concept of money and budgeting — and I still do.
Therefore, even if I already earn a lot more now, I still make it a point to aim for the cheapest and best-for-value finds… (unless of course, I am in a splurging mood!)
So now that you know this 3rd top reason on how I afford to travel, here are some of the ways to save and make more money, as well as ways to spend less:
- Reduce your expenses or exercise money-saving and money-generating tips. I have discussed in excruciating detail below the different ways that you can save money as well as the different kinds of remote jobs that you can do as you travel around the world — I hope it helps!
- Grab every chance of scoring FREE things! A lot of people think that travel is expensive but that’s only because they don’t look hard enough for free opportunities and possibilities. You’re in luck though because I’m already saving you the trouble of doing hours of research by reading these articles below.
- Travel to visa-free countries. Say ‘goodbye’ to expensive visa fees! As an added plus, these countries often have low cost of living — if not the same cost of living (if you’re living in a similar 3rd world country) so you better take advantage of them in order to save more on your travel fund.
(If in case you want the full-on guide to starting a travel lifestyle, come read my “5 Steps to Start a Life of Travel“)
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I hope this article helped explain in detail how I afford to travel indefinitely.
As you can see, traveling around the world is a concept that is NOT only for the rich, the retirees, nor the privileged — after all, I was able to do it and I’m someone who is neither of those that are aforementioned.
…Well of course I am privileged too in a sense since I did come from a family that was able to give me a good educational background. However, I am also ‘not privileged’ if compared to a certain person who has a better circumstance (like those from a 1st world country).
You have to remember that I started from square one to jumpstart this lifestyle as I self-learned various skills to start off as a digital nomad. I also had my own life circumstances and limitations that I managed to get past through proper networking, research, and planning — and I really sacrificed a LOT in order to get to where I am today!
As such, what I’m just trying to say is: I had my own set of challenges and I bet YOU have yours as well.
You see, we may differ in several aspects but the fact remains that there could be several things that I didn’t have, whereas you have those — and then vice versa.
So what this all boils down to is the fact that we each have our own unique mix of privileges and restrictions — we are each dealt with a ‘set of cards’ in this life, and it is up to us to turn those odds and put it to our favor.
(*cue Hunger Games music*)
I hope you understand what I’m getting at. Surely there are far more underprivileged individuals than us like the poverty-sticken and whatnot; but right now, I’m writing this message to people like YOU and me who are at least able to access the internet or any piece of technology — a vast area where we can gain a LOT of opportunities to uplift our life’s situation (like what I did where I gained a better job that’s not based on third-world pay standards).
This fact alone should show you the reality that with such kind of ‘privilege’, you CAN already turn your life around. We really have it good so let’s use that collective privilege and make the most of it. And probably, as we advance to a better life, we can eventually help give back to communities or individuals who have it worse than we do and help them aspire for their own dreams too.
Overall, just remember that no matter what your situation may be, your dreams and aspirations are always valid and possible to attain. You just have make it a priority, do everything in your power to make it happen, be artful and resourceful, and then above all: believe in all your struggle. Embrace it. Persevere.
Don’t you ever give up because you WILL get there!
…I’ve already managed to put my ‘life cards’ in my favor.
Now, I think it’s your turn ;)