How can I make money while traveling?
August 31, 2007 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I have no money, but can travel for free.....could this work?

Here's the deal.....I have (almost) free worldwide travel for the next year to go pretty much anywhere in the world, bar Africa & Russia. Eg., India, China, Japan, Phillipines, Bali, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuala, Columbia, Equador, Peru, All central America and All of Western Europe with the USA as my hub.

The Problem is I don't have much money. I was thinking that maybe there is a way to make some money by buying stuff in one country and selling it in another, while not getting in trouble with the relative authorities, and traveling on the proceeds. I'm not looking to screw people, but I'd like to travel to these places and this was just an idea I had about financing it.

Would anyone have any suggestions of good products\items to look into? Or a particular item that is cheap in one place and more expensive in another?

Obviously the volume would have it's limits as would the legality......not looking to become a drug mule!

Thanks for any suggestions, I really am looking forward to doing some traveling!
posted by leftfooter to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Levi's probably won't work.
posted by box at 2:27 PM on August 31, 2007

Travel to places where your money goes further: Asia, South America. Avoid western countries. (Yeehaw!) I don't have any recommendations on specific items to buy and sell, but there's a large circuit of travelers wandering the world on the cheap, taking odd jobs here and there to cover their expenses. Here's a book that's dedicated to helping travelers find jobs on the road.
posted by c:\awesome at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2007

How did you come by such a deal, if you don't mind me asking?
posted by dance at 2:42 PM on August 31, 2007

A friend works for an Airline............So I'm very lucky.
posted by leftfooter at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2007

you need to ask your friend - the airline may not be too happy about your little import/export business. Your friend could face some very significant consequences at work
posted by nathan_teske at 3:24 PM on August 31, 2007

The end of Lik Sang has probably left a vacuum that a small time importer could more easily fill.

In an globalized, eBay-everywhere world, though, I'd think that just about every gray market opportunity would already be saturated.
posted by Skwirl at 3:42 PM on August 31, 2007

I've seen some interesting traditional clothing of various cultures that a friend picked up cheaply in what was, at the time, a recently war-torn area. If they had wanted to sell it on ebay I'm sure they could have turned a good profit on it.

It's up to you how you feel about making a profit on things people have sold because they have become refugees, but I'm sure it could be done. You might need to have collector level knowledge of the goods you are dealing in though.
posted by yohko at 3:48 PM on August 31, 2007

Be really careful about buying and selling stuff. A naive grad student recently bought some old Soviet-era medals from a street vendor and is now awaiting trial for attempting to smuggle national treasure out of the country (article here). It's a tricky business, so you have to know the laws regarding commerce and customs in the countries you visit.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:34 PM on August 31, 2007

I had a friend who would do this, bring just a few items at a time to a place where that thing was in demand. I think semiprecious stones in jewelery might have been part of it.

But mainly I remember her one big mistake: she commissioned some kind of embroidered women's shirt in Asia and imported them to Europe and they were all too small.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:36 PM on August 31, 2007

I met a guy once who had started by buying some trinkets on vacation and, some fifteen years later, had turned that into a business with four locations; his "work" was flying to SE Asia twice a year on buying trips. His house was full of amazing furniture, artwork, and so on; he was clearly doing well financially. And millions of small business people around the world make their living doing what you are describing (and do so without the free airfares, as well). But it takes being a real businessperson about it -- buying cheap, knowing your demand very exactly, and supplying it. That sort of thing is all about margins, so your ability to avoid paying import duty, or chisel a supplier down 10%, will make the difference between profit and loss.

So it is totally doable, but you have to have a very clear idea of what you can sell, and for how much, and how fast.
posted by Forktine at 4:42 PM on August 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

You need capital to go into business. That and a knowledge of the markets. You have neither.

Sell a bunch of your possessions, go somewhere ridiculously cheap (some of Asia, some of Latin America) and bum around with the other hippies. It is huge fun!
posted by LarryC at 6:22 AM on September 1, 2007

Here's an idea: take measurements of your friends and colleagues and friends of friends, travel to India or Thailand or China, and have suits and shirts tailored for them. You could make a few hundred dollars per suit while still giving your buddies a great deal on bespoke clothing.
posted by boots at 3:10 PM on September 1, 2007

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