A lot of people ask me how I make money in order to afford my travels. New reader, old reader — doesn’t matter. Do I have a trust fund? (No.) Am I rich? (No.) Won the lottery? (I wish!)
Before I went overseas, I saved up $20,000 USD for my time abroad. I spent that money long ago. For the last 2.5 years, I’ve lived off nothing but the money I make online.
Over the last few weeks, a number of people have emailed me and asked, point blank, if they could have all my books for free because they didn’t have the money to pay for them. I give away other information for free, so can’t I just give them those too? Another person yelled at me because, as some of you might have noticed, I’ve put a few more ads on my website.
So, with all these questions and concerns, I’d like to take a little time to do a short PSA about this website.
I know I give a lot of free travel information away. From the blog, to the travel guides, to the tips section, you can pretty much get most everything for free here. I don’t think there are a lot of ads on my website. I turn down 90% of the ad offers I get because I only advertise products I use myself and can actually vouch for. But these few ads keep all the other information free, and, with all the recent questions, I think now is a good time to address this subject:
Why do you have ads at all?
Many years ago, I quit my day job to travel the world. The money from that job ran out years ago. The ads and books I write pay for my entire life. It’s how I earn a living, pay rent, eat food, go to the movies, and afford the travel that creates the stories you read on this website.
Well, you’re just a sellout then. Nothing is from the heart if you’re just doing it to make money.
I could get a job doing lots of other things, but I do this because I love to travel, and I love to convince other people to travel and prove that you can do it without spending a lot of money. To say that commercializing anything makes it bad is to say that everything people do is sinister. Just like you read magazines with ads, you’ll find blogs with ads. If you think I do this as some sort of insincere way to make money, I think you’ve found the wrong website to read. I love what I do, and the ads help me do it just like the ads help keep National Geographic running.
Don’t you just get all your travel for free anyways?
Actually, I don’t. I could, and I have received free stuff in the past. Sometimes, I may take a free trip or a free hostel bed, but I pay for 99.9% of all my travels. I don’t really take press trips. I find them too constricting. I like having the flexibility to do what I want. Most of the time, if I get something for free, it’s simply a city tourist card for attractions. If I do take a free trip, it is a solo trip, so I can keep the flexibility I love. (My recent trip to Norway was paid for by the tourism board, but I went alone and made my own schedule.) Yet the free trips add up to about three weeks per year. Flights (which I spend a lot per year on), food, accommodation, drinks, etc., for the other 49 weeks are all out-of-pocket expenses.
Why put up more ads? You probably make a lot of money already.
I wish! I make a nice living, but I wouldn’t say it’s “a lot,” especially after paying website and travel expenses, an assistant, and, very recently, an editor to help make the writing better. I put up more widgets and ads to try to better cover all these expenses.
So you just put up anything to make a buck?
No, as I said, I only put ads up for companies I use and like. Every ad you see on this website is for a company I have used or have a lot of respect for. I only recommend companies I would use myself. I know from emails that people use many of the companies I recommend, so I want to be able to vouch for every company on this website. I don’t think of money when I put up ads. I think, “Is this company useful to my readers?” I turn down more ads than I accept. If it were just about money, I’d be making a lot more.
I just like reading your blog. If I need more information, I’ll just Google it for free.
Great. I’m glad you’re reading this blog, and I hope I can help you travel better. That’s the main reason I run this site. But keep this in mind:
For people like me who blog for a living, it’s really hard to make money, and it requires a lot of work. I spend more time trying to put bread on my table than I do anything else, and often it really takes away from being able to just travel and enjoy where I am. I’m the guy in the hostel corner doing work while everyone else is going out to the beach. But the money keeps me traveling, and the traveling keeps this website going, which keeps you informed…for free. So when you think “all information should be free” and get in a huff about me putting ads up or charging for a book, you make it harder for me (and others like me) to provide all the free content that you enjoy and find useful. Because when no one buys the books or uses the companies, there’s no return on investment, the money stops, and then one day I find myself broke and having to get a cubicle job again. And then you suddenly find that there’s no more “free” information.
I want to offer as much information as possible for free. If I simply wanted to do something for a paycheck, I’d find something that was a lot less work. I wish I had a trust fund that could pay my bills and that I never had to worry about money and advertising. But I don’t, and bills need to be paid and plane tickets need to be bought in order for me to keep doing the stuff that brought you to this website in the first place.
The advertising does that. I would love it if my books funded this whole website, but they don’t. The ads help make up the difference, and therefore they’re going to stay.
If you want to help support this website, keep it running, and keep ads off it, head over to my resource page and book your travels via the links on the page. You save money, support good companies, and keep the servers running here. Win-win-win. Don’t purchase anything you don’t feel comfortable using, and if you have questions about any of these companies, you can email me!