Finding work as your travel -- one couple's story.
Making a couple bucks as you travel
My girlfriend and I have been traveling Central America for over a year now. The first six months of our travels we were quite undisciplined, and blew through thousands of dollars needlessly. We've since realized that if we want to continue on this adventure we needed to either; start spending less, start making more, or a combination of the two. For the past 4-6 months we've finally gotten to the point that we're making more than we're spending. That can be quite difficult to do in a foreign country, especially concerning there are laws that forbid foreign workers in most of the countries we've visited. There are legal ways around this though, and it's taken us quite a while to figure out what they are. Hopefully with the knowledge we've gathered on our own, along with that which other long term travelers have shared with us, we can make this a little easier for you.
The first thing you need to do if you plan on traveling is to put yourself out there on social media. We are members of many different expat Facebook pages, and we post to them quite a bit. If you plan on spending more than a couple of weeks in a city, I suggest you find an expat Facebook page for that city, and start introducing yourself to the members. A lot of the work we get comes directly from these Facebook groups. The people there know, and trust, us so they usually contact us first before they even post on the group that they need help. As an example, six months ago we answered an add on a Facebook page for a short term house sitter. Since then we've been house sitting, non-stop, for many different people, all based on that initial contact. While house sitting generally doesn't pay anything, it will put a huge dent in your lodging budget.
A few of the other ways to stretch your traveling dollars are outlined below. Some of them we use ourselves, while other techniques are used by friends of ours. None of the below tips are going to make you rich, but they could keep you traveling indefinitely.
Reaching out to Hostels
One of the first things we did even before we started traveling is we contacted every hostel we could find in, and around, the town we were traveling to. We introduced ourselves, told them all of our qualification, and let them know what dates we would be available to help them. Between the two of us we have years of experience; in customer service, property management, working in commercial kitchens, managing staff, and tending bar. All of these qualifications can be put to good use in a hostel, and all can be traded for either; free rent, free food, free drinks, tips, daily stipends, or a combination of these. Once we arrived in town we went out and personally introduced ourselves to the hostel owners, and told them again how we could be of use to them. In the past year we've spent many a free night, and earned a few bucks in tips, working in hostels. No matter your talents, get to know these hostel owners, and be ready to work on a days notice.
We have friends who have been living in Nicaragua, and making a good living, giving classes on what they know best. One of our friends is a yoga instructor, and has quite a following in town. She has no overhead whatsoever, and a normal class size of between 10-15 people, twice a day. She started out by announcing, on a Facebook expats page, that she would be giving free yoga sessions, on the beach, every day for two weeks. After those two weeks were up she started to charge $3 per thirty minute session. While that might not sound like much, look at it like this; at a minimum she has 20 people paying her $3 a day, for a grand total of one hour of her time doing something she would have been doing anyways. She makes $60 a day living in a country where it's difficult for one person to spend $30 a day, including lodging, food, and drinks. Other friends of ours give painting lessons, fitness boot camps on the beach, personal training sessions at the local gym, boxing lessons, and so forth. None of this costs our friends one penny in overhead, and they make more than enough to support themselves while here.
Use your other talents
There are those of us that may not have any of the above talents in order to give classes. I know I sure don't. That's okay though, everyone has something they're good at. Find out what that is, and exploit it in other ways. Personally, my girlfriend and I enjoy writing, and luckily we've been able to make a decent living while here in Nicaragua doing so. We contract our writing services out on websites like Fivver, Elance, and oDesk. All of these websites are free to join, and you can have pretty much any skill imaginable to make money on them. In addition to these sites we also have our website www.pandtpublishing.com. After six months of marketing ourselves we now have more work than we can handle, and are starting to think about hiring people on to take over new clients. While we might not be getting rich, we're doing quite well, especially considering most of our writing gets done while sitting on the beach and enjoying a sunset.
I touched on this a little earlier, but this is something that has truly been a money saver for us. We went from spending between $200-$400 a month on lodging, to absolutely nothing. Trust me, going from paying $200\mo for a studio with a shared bath, to living in a mansion on the beach for free can be quite a treat. We've been living for free, just by house sitting, for the past six months now. The best thing about house sitting is that once word gets out amongst expats, the work almost never ends. We've gone from one house sitting gig to another without so much a one evening in between gigs. As I type this article I'm sitting in a beautiful house in Granada, Nicaragua. I'm staying here for two weeks, for free, while the owners spend the holidays in the States. All I have to do in exchange for free rent is feed the cat twice a day and run the pool pump once a day. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me. We get these house sitting jobs simply through word of mouth, and will be house sitting for the next nine months for 4 different clients.
In almost every town we've been in there has been a weekly “gringo” farmers market. Basically these are set up in the lobby of a hostel, or in a gringo owned restaurant. These really are a great way to earn a few bucks a week, legally. While setting up a shop, store, or a kiosk in a tourist town to sell your wares may make you better money, the legalities are a nightmare. I have neither the time, money, nor patience to deal with that, and few do. Those of us, both local and foreign, who have something to sell can do so legally in one of the farmers markets. The owners of these establishments have already gone through the process of making their businesses legal. In return for hosting these farmers markets they get a ton of free publicity. I attend our local farmers market every single Saturday I'm in town. I make and bottle hot sauces, salsa, and dressings. All things that are very hard for a gringo to get here (believe it or not). I sell about $150 dollars worth of sauces a week, and it usually costs me $30 for the raw ingredients. Again, that's not a lot of money, but considering where I'm living that will go a long way. Especially when done in conjunction with all of the other little money making, and saving, tips outlined above.