How can I make money while traveling for a year?
January 30, 2005 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Through rather fortuitous circumstances, it seems I have about a year and a half to do nothing but travel. How can I make money while doing this? [the inside is filled with more]

I'll be flying into Bangkok in May of this year, and leaving in September of 2006. The problem is, there's no way I'm going to have enough money to support myself the entire time, though I should have enough for five or six months. How can I make money along the way in places like Thailand, Laos, China, etc? Is it possible to just pick up odd jobs? I'll have a TEFL certificate, but I'm not sure if it's possible to get teaching jobs that only last for a month or so (I don't really want to tie myself down).
posted by borkingchikapa to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
You might try advertising yourself as an English tutor. More institutional teaching positions would definitely want to tie you down.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:18 AM on January 30, 2005

'Odd jobs' in SE Asia outside the TEFL sector are few & far between. Visa restrictions in Thailand preclude working as a tour guide, for instance.

How much money do you have for the 15 months away?
posted by the cuban at 11:33 AM on January 30, 2005

Thailand is very cheap, depending on where you are and what you wanna do. YOu might do better than you think.
posted by konolia at 11:37 AM on January 30, 2005

Back in '95, I spent a 6 weeks in Bolivia doing those hair braids wrapped in thread ("trenzas bahianas" we called them) on the street. I got like U$1.5 per braid, which is what my hotel cost per night. Another braid paid for my food for the day. Anything over that was pure profit or transportation money.
Plus it was a kick ass time.
posted by signal at 11:46 AM on January 30, 2005

If you are able to, working as much as possible here, until May. It ma seem like a pain, but depending on what you do, it's amazing far one *day's* wages in the west will stretch in places like Thailand.

Also, whatever you do, budget for basic emergency medical evacuation insurance for the whole period.
posted by carter at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2005

I highly recommend Work Your Way Around The World as a starting point for suggestions - it proves that working and earning a decent amount of money (in some cases even saving money) is totally possible and it's updated annually, so most of the info is very reliable.
posted by eatcherry at 12:13 PM on January 30, 2005

Sorry, that was the Amazon UK link - here's the US link.
posted by eatcherry at 12:15 PM on January 30, 2005

Travel writing?
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:23 PM on January 30, 2005

I spent November and December traveling through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Here's the advice I can give you:

1. If you're doing it backpacking style, you can live very comfortably on $15-25US a day. That includes 3 meals in restaurants, lodging at a guest house in a private room with your own washroom, any related transportation and a couple of beers. Some days will cost more, but if you have lots of time to travel and end up staying in places you like for a week or even a month at a time then $20US a day is very reasonable.

2. If you do decided to go backpacking style, I can't say enough about how you'll want to avoid the Lonely Planet crowd. Most of these people aren't able to think for themselves, they all tend to congregate in the same places (making it impossible to appreciate local culture) and there's always a bunch who are rowdy, rude and sometimes hostile to the locals.

My suggested alternative? Get yourself South-East Asia: The Graphic Guide by Mark Elliott (might not be easy to find, but definitely worth it, and the 2003 first edition is still very relevant and accurate). This guide is very different from any Lonely Planet, Foddors or similar guide. It consists of 216 hand drawn maps that makes traveling feel more like they are exploring a treasure map. All the useful and necessary information is in it, but none of the useless crap that LP includes (e.g. if you can't find a restaurant, you don't have eyes or a nose),. The hand drawn and highly annotated maps can appear daunting at first, but I never felt I missed out on anything, and I strongly believe that I had a more local experience because of this book. Also, it's quite thin (230 pages).

3. It's probably not worth it to work in any of these countries unless you are being paid by an international firm. Labour in these countries is DIRT CHEAP. Let me say that again to impress this on you: labour in these countries is DIRT CHEAP! A police officer in Thailand, who is highly skilled and highly respected only makes 100baht a day. That's less than $100US a month. I was paying about 100baht for a meal and 200baht for a room in Thailand.

People (including me) tend to think that cheap labour is restricted to rice fields and sweat shops, but it really isn't, people don't even bother building walls on buildings and instead of security systems they just have people paid to lounge about over night to make sure nothing gets stolen. As a farang (Thai for foreigner), you cannot survive on a Thai salary unless you have a house and a kitchen and are willing to learn how to make thai budget food (no french fried for you).

Now, there are a few exceptions to this... if you run your own business, if you work as a dive master, if you teach english you can get around this, but forget about bussing tables or working a cash register.

That may come as a disappointment to you, but the good news is that because labour is dirt cheap, so are costs. Food costs so little because it is all local, and the labour preparing it really doesn't cost the business very much.

4. It's very hot there, find the lightest pair of hiking shoes you can, and even then expect to wear sandals 95% of the time. You might need a light sweater in Laos, but I never did. Also, you'll be traveling during rainy season and hot season in most of these prepare to get wet, and deal with daily +30c weather.

5. Places to see:

a) Bangkok is great and I don't need to tell you about it.

b) Laos was way better than I ever imagined it could be (it wasn't really on the radar for me when I got there. You haven't lived until you've inner-tubed down the rivers of Vang Vieng and because tourism is relatively new to Laos, the people don't push you to buy as much as they do in neighbouring countries, and prices are ridiculously cheap (In the markets of Louang-Prabang I was paying $0.50 (5000 kip) for a full meal and I never paid more than $2 for a room (20000 kip). You money goes a very long way in Laos. They are also very laid back (the PDR stands for Pretty Damn Relaxed) and some of the friendliest people I ever met.

c) Siem Reap in Cambodia just as important as the pyramids of Egypt, and possibly more impressive. When you're in SE Asia you'll see more temples than you can shake a stick at, and you'll see ruins in places such as Ayutthaya (an hour north of Bangkok, worth a day trip and nothing more) but nothing will impress you as much as Siem Reap, which spread over hundreds of square miles and must not be missed. Buy the three day pass because one day isn't enough and seven is too much unless you're a ruin freak. Don't fall for any of the scams of cambodian "english students". Pay a moto driver between $6 and $7 a day to drive you around through the ruins as it is the most effective way of doing it, he'll wait for you in the shade as you spend hours climbing stone temples. To avoid all the people who will beg you for money (those people who say they are there to learn english and need a bit of money to pay for their studies are being pimped) buy a bunch of bananas at the beginning of each day and offer them a banana instead.

d) When you make it to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, don't go on a trek to hilltribes that takes anything less than six days, or you'll be fed commercial pablum.

e) Thai massages are excellent, and the two week course given in Chiang Mai is worth every penny. Cooking classes in Thailand are also worth every penny.

I can give you tons of advice on prices, where to stay, what to do, what to avoid, cultural tips, feel free to email me. But one things for sure, you'll have a great time there.
posted by furtive at 4:58 PM on January 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

ikkyu2: The Seven Myths of Being a Travel Writer (via Gadling)
posted by exhilaration at 5:43 PM on January 30, 2005

You might do better than you think.
If you're doing it backpacking style, you can live very comfortably on $15-25US a day.

You could probably live for even cheaper ($5-$10) if you know you're going to be in one place for a while. May-September isn't exactly the high-months for SEA travel. I'd bet there'll be a lot of empty guesthouse rooms in some of the smaller towns. The tsunami has probably frightened away a good number of tourists as well. If you arranged to stay for a month at one place, you could probably get reduced room rates. Using this method, you could jump around to a different citiy every month, but still stay long enough in one place to "get a feel for it."

Just as an additional data point, I stayed in a very sturdy bamboo guesthouse in Indonesia, right on a black sand beach, across a dusty street from a sailor/restaurant owner who would catch fresh shark and tuna to sell us for dinner at $0.30 a plate. It wasn't the grandest digs in the world, but the view was awesome and the rate was all of $1.25 a day. You can get by for nothing in Asia if you want.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 PM on January 30, 2005

I've done some travel writing. You can't make a lot of money at it but it's hardly hardship work. It's fun.

You do have to be a good writer - thinking you're a good writer isn't enough, unless you're right.

But you can do it anywhere, there's very little overhead, and parts of the trip suddenly become tax-deductible.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:52 PM on January 30, 2005

No idea how old you are, but if you are under 29 there are loads of 'youth' internship and volunteering opportunities out there on the interwebs. Many volunteering positions pay for your room and board, so while you won't EARN money doing them, you also won't deplete your savings.

If you play guitar or another portable instrument you could busk.

If you think you'd enjoy the lifestyle, youth hostels often hire travellers who are willing to stay put for a while.

Bar tending/waitering.
posted by Kololo at 2:07 AM on January 31, 2005

i've waited til this topic is old, and i'm aware that this is off-topic, but... the phrasng of the question puzzled me. it seems like you have 1.5 years free, but there's no compelling reason to spend it travelling the world. maybe i'm unable to recognise the changes in me because they're too profound, but as someone who has travelled a bit more than average, i just wanted to suggest that you look at alternatives. you could do an awful lot in 18 months if you put your mind to it - produce great art, learn/make something, do charity work that would make a huge difference for others, etc etc. in contrast, after 18 months travelling you're going to have a lot of photos, some memories of "strange things" and a growing realisation that people are pretty much the same everywhere, with a surface dressing that's based on local conventions/society. while the last of those is an important lesson, it's one you can learn just from reading my previous sentence. living in one hostel after another doing pissy jobs isn't all it's cracked up to be.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:12 AM on January 31, 2005 [1 favorite]

Andrew Cooke is sort of right, sort of wrong. Living in one hostel after another doing pissy jobs is definitely not the way to go. But to skip out on the chance to roam at your own leisure, experience new cultures, new sights, new sounds new foods, simply because you can read about someone else's experiences about them is plain foolishness.

But I would agree that this time can also be used to be productive. If you're a coder, bring a technical book that will turn your skills up a notch, and bring a moleskin journal to jot down stuff. If you're a writer, set yourself some goals to help further getting that book published. You know what I mean.
posted by furtive at 6:04 AM on January 31, 2005

after 18 months travelling you're going to have a lot of photos, some memories of "strange things" and a growing realisation that people are pretty much the same everywhere, with a surface dressing that's based on local conventions/society

Some people need to find that out for themselves, ac. Anyway, there's no greater knowledge than what comes from direct experience.

living in one hostel after another doing pissy jobs isn't all it's cracked up to be

One person's hike is another's aimlessly long walk.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:54 PM on January 31, 2005

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