Get Paid to Travel

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 19th, 2008

a newspaper filled with travel jobsIf you’re a long-term traveler, I’m willing to bet that one of your recurring fantasies involves some variation of the following scenario:

You wake up one day after years of penny-pinching to the amazing news that your travels will now be fully funded by either (a) a surprise inheritance; (b) a wealthy significant other; (c) a coveted book contract; or (d) an agent or magazine editor who has read your travel blogs and thinks you’re the best thing since Paul Theroux.

But unless you happen to be incredibly lucky — like this travel writer who picked up the phone last week and heard “Hi, this is so and so from Conde Nast” — you’re going to need to find another way to fund your travels.

Now, I’m not advocating that you head back to the corporate cubicle — unless that’s what your heart truly calls you to do. What I am saying is that you can get paid to travel… you just need to be creative about it. Let’s say you’re not the teach-English-abroad type. You’re not diplomat material, and you’ve got no desire to sign up for military service. You’ve still got options! Here are a few ways you can get paid to travel:

Tour guide: As the world tourism industry continues to boom, tour companies and other hospitality industry businesses are always on the search for guides with winning personalities, solid local knowledge, and creative itinerary ideas. There are lots of options here: Hone up on history and become a local licensed guide in your own city. If city and state laws permit you to offer tours as an independent operator, develop a specialized tour. In New York City, for instance, there are hundreds of tours for any interest — walking food tours, ghost tours, immigrant tours, and famous filming location tours are just a few themes that already exist. You can also create experience-based tours.

While living in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, my husband and I proposed offering Caribbean cooking classes to tourists arriving on cruise ships. We contacted a company that offered shore excursions, proposed our idea, and enjoyed entertaining people from all over the world — all from the comfort of our own home. The tour company was thrilled because they had a product that distinguished them from their competitors, who offered the same-old boring city walking tour.

If you want to get out of your home environs, though, check out the possibilities of becoming a tour guide for an educational tourism company. Many of these companies, such as EF Smithsonian, do not require you to be licensed, though they will require training (often at their own expense). As you build up your experience and accumulate positive customer reviews, you’ll be in a competitive position to be sent to more exotic locations. I worked for EF Smithsonian for a couple of years and offered tours not only in my home base of New York City, but also in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Competition at some of these companies can be fierce, but turnover is also pretty high, so new openings become available frequently.

Travel blogger: It’s every blogger’s dream to get paid for writing online, but the success stories are few and far between. Bloggers who do get paid to write may not make enough to begin saving for retirement, but for travelers who are exceptionally frugal, some of these gigs — especially if you patch a few of them together — may be able to pay your travel bills. PlanetEye pays local destination experts $250 USD per month in exchange for three 250-word blogs per week. As of this writing, PlanetEye is seeking a Beijing expert.

Keeping your current job: What? Isn’t the idea to get a job that gets you on the road? Yes, precisely. Examine your current position and determine whether you honestly think you could perform the same duties at the same level from a remote location. If the answer is “yes,” schedule a meeting with your boss and propose long-term telecommuting. Develop a list of reasons why the deal is attractive for the company (here are two: they’ll save on office overhead and they’ll have someone in the field who can collect valuable market information all over the world). Map out for the boss exactly how the idea could work: with Internet phone service, you can have your own local phone number; with online phone conferencing services, you won’t have to miss out on important office conversations. If he or she is resistant, propose a trial period of three months. If it doesn’t work out, back to the cube. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Master Teacher: Make a list of all of your skills. Are you a great cook? Do you play an instrument well, teach yoga, or navigate Class V whitewater rapids like a pro? Do you know how to set up a business, design websites, or provide technical consulting? How can you turn your skills and interests into marketable goods that will be snatched up in another country? What country could use your skills and has the money to pay for them? How can you generate a buzz about your services that will have invitations rolling in from Costa Rica to China? Answer these questions and you’ll be able to accumulate a tidy travel budget.

You don’t have to confine your travel dreams to you two weeks of vacation or wait until retirement to get on the road. Try out one of these suggestions and see how free you’ll feel working while traveling.

Julie Schwietert Collazo is the editor of Matador Pulse as well as a regular contributor to the Matador Community. She runs her own website, Collazo Projects, which she updates daily. She calls Mexico City and New York home, but will be soon be running a hostel in Colombia.

comments 35 Comments

Excellent piece. I fall under the “Keeping your job” category for the time being and have been able to travel far and wide because I can pick up and go telecommute for a couple months!. I feel blessed in that regard.

Conde Nast called you? Very cool!. Or are you referring to nerd’s?

NomadicMatt

@lola: I love how everyone on the blogosphere knows nerd’s eye got called by conde nast. talk about a gossiping community!

@NomadicMatt: It’s a small, small world :) Hung out with her in Seattle and subscribe to the blog.

Fortunately for me part of my job pays me to travel and since it’s not on your list I thought I would add it. I work for a company that sells specialized research equipment. I’m in technical support and one of my duties is installing and training on the use of equipment. I don’t always see a lot of my destination but I get the flavor of the location and almost always have some time to walk around and explore a bit.

This has taken me to Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Canada, Chile, The UK, Taiwan, South Korea and some other places I’m not remembering just quite yet (no coffee yet but I can see it). I’ve also been to many destinations in the US via my job.

Did you mean to link to Nerd’s Eye View? It looks like that was the intention because it says “like this travel writer” but there’s no reference…

This is really interesting and helpful- thanks!

Eva

Also as far as “keeping your current job” goes, I had some success asking for extended unpaid leave to travel. With the right company, after you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable employee, this can be a good way to get some quality travel time in and still have a job waiting for you!

(Of course, I quit halfway through my two month sabbatical… but that’s another story…)

Jimmy

Eva, do you happen to work for that chip company, if so, I also work for them, keyed into the sabbatical, every 7 years, but looking for that travel writing gig like Matt. I have it centered in my bullseye, and working for that goal. By, the way, I went to 4 islands in the Philippines, Hawaii, Seattle, and Vancouver BC last year on mine… Jimmy

Hi all- Thanks for your comments. Yes, I was referring to Pam Mandel of Nerd’s Eye View and my original article had several links, including one to her site, but they didn’t get preserved in the internet ether on their way to Matt, and for that, I apologize.

Thanks for sharing your own experiences– and Lola, I was DEFINITELY thinking of you with the telecommuting bit!

Hi Matt! After a short break but a long absence, I’m finally back to the blogosphere and found some time to enjoy your excellent blog…
Great ideas to make money travelling… ;)
Many thanks for your comments on Blogtrotter, while I was off. It’s now still in Kos on the way to Crete! Hope you enjoy and wish you a great weekend and a nice week ahead!

awesome! i especially appreciate the tour guide info–i think this would be great for some of us natural born teachers/performers who may not want to necessarily stick to the classroom teaching English.

NomadicMatt

Sorry about the lost links. Some issues when putting this up.

@graham: seems like you have a pretty good job!

I would love a job that lets me travel worldwide..

Nice tips, Julie! Giving tours was something I looked into in Paris. They’re always looking for English speakers, and I think that it would be such a fun job!

Hey! I was thinking of doing some traveling in Thailand over Christmas. Any recommendations on must do/see?

Sarah:

Yes, lots of the tour directors who work for EF Smithsonian are or were teachers– it’s a natural transition for them. If you want any other info, just let me know.

Peace,
Julie

NomadicMatt

@tanya: why didn’t you take one of those jobs?

@lakshimi: me 2!

@alicia: I have tons of ideas. I mean I do live here! :) E-mail me and we will talk. My e-mail is in the contact page.

A combination of all the above is the way to go. Diversify. Diversify. Diversify :-)

Unfortunately, travel doesn’t pay (much) for any one travel career choice but add ‘em all up and you never know where you might find yourself with a few euros in your pocket.

NomadicMatt

@beth: That’s very true! having a few income streams definitely helps! Never put all your eggs in one basket as they say.

You forgot international man of mystery. Alas, I don’t know how to apply for this position.

NomadicMatt

@Steve: Next time I see Austin Powers, I will ask.

Brunchie

You didn’t mention mystery shopping! Many mystery shopping companies shop hotels, cruise ships and restaurants. Check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website: http://www.mysteryshop.org.

Just a year or so ago on a scuba diving trip to the Bahamas, I ran into a guy that was getting paid to take vacations with people as a professional group travel organizer. He was basically on vacation with his group. We ended up doing a bunch of dives with his group through out the week, and got to know him and his group pretty well. He was nice enough to show me the ropes on how he does it, and now I’m organizing a couple of groups a year and getting paid really good money for it. It does take a bit of work, but it is a lot of fun. A good resource for this way to get paid to travel is http://www.GroupTravelSchool.com There’s my two cents!

Siiiigh. All of my dreams just came crashing down after reading the first paragraph of this post. It’s ok though, I still have hope. Isn’t the saying…Do what you love and the money will eventually come? Or something like that…maybe I just made it up to reassure myself. At any rate, good post ;)

I have a desire to travel and be paid.My talents are fitness trainer(No weights or machines,two week or less-Low impact workout with High impact results) and nutritionist.Sincerely getting paid to travel is my ideal view.Contact me if there is knowledge of this needed talent.Also self defense is one of my fortes so bouncer or body guard that travels would also be perfect!

jody

how do I do this?

NomadicMatt

Follow the instructions in the post! :)

AnoDutch

Dear Matt and Julie,

Thanks for the information related to getting paid while travelling. I have travelled quite alot already and really love it and am now thinking about making it my day job. Would there be any posibility to getting paid to visit and review clubs? Since me and my friends visit clubs all over the world, just for fun, it would be nice if we could turn this into a profitable business. Even if it was just to pay for our expenses.

Would be happy to hear from you two!

NomadicMatt

Yes, turn into a celebrity like Paris Hilton. Otherwise, you are out of luck.

hi am a tour operator in kenya and would like to have people to work with on one on one tour packages that i keep developing maybe you can help me meet interested young people who want to make some money the fun way( traveling) its quite easy just organize with your friends and i will facilitate the tour want more info please get to me and create more and more fun filled jobs.

Juleigh

How much do you make? I am 13 years old and this seems like a pretty interesting! I have been to a few sites but none of them really tell me WHAT they do. Is it JUST traveling around? I would absouloutly LOVE this job because I love to travel! Please help me answer these questions!!! Just how much money do they make and what they do. Thanks again!

I’ve been researching the best way to make my dream to get paid to travel for a long time. A couple of years ago, I went on a trip to Turkey, and found out that the guy that headed up the trip was a professional group travel organizer. The idea of being able to get paid to take trips with people was an eye-opener for me. I’m not doing it full time yet, but I’m getting close. It has given me the world, literally! I now have a way to get to go to a lot of the places I could only dream about going to. So for all you dreamers out there: where there’s a will, there is a way!

Dear Sherri, is there a possibility to get in a closer contact with you by email? Though I know that most of the people don’t like to share their business secrets I dare asking you, dear Sherri, to put some more info over to me. And maybe we’ll cooperate in future projects. Why not?! Is it possible that you help me out? I am also looking out for a job as a professional group travel organizer, with enough money in the bag I probably will head towards the course of Marc Ewing, whose homepage link was referred to earlier on this site.
But I am about to raise some money with my photography work which I want to use for getting paid while traveling. But aside this I have many ideas of organizing a variety of travels but I need some help. I know how to get credits when organizing group travel. But I don’t know how to get the mentioned FREE Tour conductor tickets. I am writing to you from Germany and would appreciate it very much getting some support in here. Hoping to get an answer. Can we get a closer contact bye EmAil or phone?

BTW, thanks to the Author of this blog as well as to everybody else in here who shares his opinions and gives precious tips for the topic on how to get paid while traveling. Thank you all. I know that there is a possibility to getting paid that way. Willing to make this come true earning good money with it. Hope your aims come true as well. Greets Efkan

Lois Bottomley

Matt: Or Anyone who may have experience:
Can you point me to a Tour Operator who would hire me as an Assistant to senior travelers? I am a senior myself, (female) fit, and in good health. Because of my similar age, Seniors relate to me. I’m ‘free’ as the bird and have all the time in the world.

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