How can I make spending money while traveling?
January 18, 2006 12:04 PM   Subscribe

How can I make spending money while I travel the world?

I've made up my mind that in the next few months I'm going to take my savings, pack up my camera, and set out to see the country/world before I end up getting tied down by a family or a long-term career. I'm totally psyched, and I have a fair amount of cash saved up, so I think I should be all right for a while, but my question is, how can I make money to keep my trip alive as I go, if I don't plan on spending more than maybe a week in any one place?

Assuming I can get internet access most places, are there employers through which I can do telecommutable odd jobs to earn money as needed? Failing that, what sorts of uber-temporary jobs should I look for in places I stop, keeping in mind that I often won't speak the native language? Any suggestions are much appreciated during this heady brainstorming phrase. Thanks!

P.S. As for my background, I have a degree from a well-known university, can write decently well, and am plenty computer literate, but I don't imagine any of these things will come into play. I'm fine with moving lumber or whatever.
posted by TunnelArmr to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend Work Your Way Around the World by Susan Griffith.
posted by Otis at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2006

Also, check out Transitions Abroad.
posted by Otis at 12:28 PM on January 18, 2006

I know lots of guys who taught english in foreign countries. They seemed to generally contact the embassies in the country or something. This was mostly british folks, aussies, kiwis, etc.

Most of the asians I came across were doing under the table work in restaurants, etc, and getting paid in food and a tiny bit of money.

A good friend of mine lived in israel for a while and did construction work, as a day laborer. You show up in the morning and they ask if you can lay brick. You say yes. If it turns out to be too hard you just leave. He stuck to the easier stuff that he could do, painting, hauling crap, etc. Don't expect to make much...
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2006

Also, when he was in the UK he worked in some kind of hotel and slept (for free) in the boiler room or some such. I think you just have to know where to look.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2006

In most of the world, you wouldn't want to work for the local salary. In the places you would, you'd never get a job.

I taught English in Vietnam for precisely the reason you're describing - you generally need a TEFL certificate, a university degree, or both. I got TEFL certified through this course and got hired pretty easily. I imagine without one you'd probably get a job anyway, but taking the course is definitely a plus if you don't have a background in education. You could probably take it pretty cheaply at a local college or something, too.

Teaching English in places like Western Europe isn't a very viable way to make money, but it certainly is in Asia. More developed countries like South Korea and Japan (and to a certain extent, China) will require a 6-month or year long contract, but in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos etc you won't need one.

I made about $800 a month and spent maybe $250, so you can definitely save some cash that way. Feel free to email me if you'd like to know more.
posted by borkingchikapa at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2006

It may not be directly helpful, but this amazing (and really good) book describes the 1970s experiences of a guy, fresh from his degree, who picks up his stuff and walks across America with his dog. He takes any old jobs -- I remember one in a sawmill in particular -- as he goes, to make spending money. (Nonfiction, by the way.)

Is it traveling the world? No. Is it going to get you a job in Bombay? No. But it's awfully close to what you're looking for, and it's fascinating. It may also get you used to people's reactions to what you're doing, types of jobs it may be possible to find, and so on.

The author did this from 1972 to 1979. He started when he was 22. Now he's doing it again -- he started again in 2004 at 53. Whoa, I say.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:21 PM on January 18, 2006

I knew someone who was a world traveler and had a planned route buying things in one place and taking them to the next to sell.

Not lots of items, like 15 or 20 at a time, things like silk scarves, or carved sculptues.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:54 PM on January 18, 2006

StickyCarpet's idea seems the most easily viable. I know folks who make their living at swap meets, moving around the country trading random stuff. Now, that was domestic. It's probably more difficult if you're confined to a suitcase or two.

Also, you need to realize that this is most probably smuggling. I know that working under the table is probably illegal as well, but smuggling seems to carry a higher risk of discovery. Assuming you're cool with that, it sounds like a pretty neat idea.

If you did this in the EU, you could probably get away with it pretty well. If you travel by train, there doesn't seem to be any problem with carrying whatever you want wherever you want. Buy in at your first stop and cash out at your last stop.

I'd shoot for local goods or luxury goods.

I don't know how tax codes work in Europe, but you might look for countries with various sales-tax-exempt items and resell them in countries with taxes on those goods. You can undercut the local market, and still make a profit. Folks in Jersey and here in Philly both regularly run this scam with stuff purchased in Delaware (no sales tax).

Cigarettes are probably a very profitable item, but bulky. Alcohol has a similar profit margin, but has problems with lossages.

But, your biggest problem is always going to be getting high-profit merchandise through customs. They're looking for this shit. You may be reduced to touristy crap with a low margin.

Oh. And, don't traffic drugs. It's a fucking terrible idea. Many places in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Rim have the death penalty for drug traffickers. And even carrying 10 grams of pot from Amsterdam to Paris could easily get you a couple years getting an excellent tour of the French penal system.
posted by Netzapper at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2006

In Europe, seasonal agricultural jobs such as harvesting fruits and such might work. They don't really pay that well and they're hard work, but if you're willing to work your ass off for a couple of days, you might make semi-decent money. Buying and selling or just transporting cars might at least earn you a free trip from Germany to the balkans, Finland and many eastern european countries and perhaps other places too, this is already an existing business and there are people doing this. If you manage to make contact with such businesses, you might luck out. Of course, you'll also need contacts if you want to transport (allowed amounts) or smuggle (disallowed amounts) alcohol or cigarettes (transporting snus from Sweden or Ă…land to other nordic countries would work too)
posted by insomnus at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2006

I've had a few former Peace Corps volunteer friends who, upon completion of their service, travel with the money in their pockets until it ran out. Most were then able to find employment teaching English in countries like Thailand. They did not have ESL or a teaching degree, or even teaching experience. They were able to earn enough money to continue to travel onwards from that point and had the opportunity to live overseas in yet another country.

Best of luck.
posted by Wolfster at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2006

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