The Best Jobs And Careers
For Long-Term Travel
When it comes to travel jobs, the advice is always the same. Become a blogger. Or YouTuber. Instababe. Boring. And not that helpful these days as the travel industry collapses.
This article was born out of the series of interviews conducted with real people living nomadic, semi-nomadic and location-independent lifestyles. The focus is on jobs, fields and niches that can be turned into careers or at least sustain your adventures for several years. You won’t find the usual backpacker side hustles here. It’s an ongoing project, so keep coming back once in a while as it will be regularly updated.
Where There Is a Will There Is A Way
The main purpose of our inspiring stories is to showcase the great variety of solutions people have found to reclaim more freedom in their lives. And that it doesn’t really matter whether you are a man or a woman. Whether you come from Asia, the Americas, Europe. Or if you are an artist, a construction worker or a scientist.
So what do they all have in common? First, they all have courage. The guts to think, and more importantly, to act independently. And to go against the grain when needed. Second, they all embraced some form of simplicity in their lives. “Less is more” is not just a cheesy fad. And third, they found their own path. No book, website or guru has the universal recipe for your happiness. You need to dedicate the time, effort and energy to create the life you really want.
But where can you get some inspiration? Below is a list of actual jobs that are capable of generating enough income to travel. Permanently. If you have the skill set for more than one paid occupation, even better. That’s true resilience.
(Don't) Start A Travel Blog
One of the most frequent job recommendations for nomads-to-be on the internet is to start a travel blog. That’s an excellent survivorship bias example. Unsurprisingly, if you google travel keywords you will mainly end up with successful travel blogs. Those people (used to) make good money. But what about all those who saw their earnings dry up recently? And the (tens of) thousands before that who tried and failed? The niche will take some time to recover.
I’m not saying that if you have the motivation and/or a good business plan you shouldn’t give it a go. But think twice before committing, and have a backup! Anecdotal evidence: how many professional travel bloggers do you know in real life? Yep, not that many.
A novelty a mere decade ago, digital nomads have become the “classic” career path for perma-travelers. Most are still freelancers, but in a Covid-19 world the home office is becoming the norm where possible, opening up many new opportunities.
Almost everything that only necessitates a computer and/or a phone can be done from anywhere with an internet connection. Programmers, web and software developers are well represented in the digital nomad world. If you already work in the industry, making the transition has never been a more realistic goal.
Writers and translators too are prime candidates. Of course you can offer your skills on online platforms such as Fiverr. But it’s best to find a niche and develop a good relationship with a few clients early on. Most writers and translators I know do exactly that.
The major shortcoming for digital nomads is not just being at the mercy of reliable internet connections. Outsourcing, and in certain cases obsolete skills, can quickly change the game. Choose your niche carefully.
You spent years studying a pointy subject? You have solid experience in academia or industry? The scientists, engineers and analysts out there can consider taking the leap and start their own consulting business.
Most consultants have at least a few years of experience in their respective field. But after that, all you need is a decent network and a few clients and you are good to go. And the word consultant will probably keep your mom happy too.
What used to be a great employer for long-term travelers is now but a shadow of its former self. The tourist industry will probably take years to recover, but it’s not dead. Between domestic demand and travel bubbles, there will still be opportunities for people with languages, problem solving and organization skills. Some tour companies, international organizations and even schools are still hiring, albeit at a much slower pace.
And what about your hobbies? Are you into diving, cycling, skiing, yoga? Again, there are probably still some matching specialized seasonal or short term jobs around the globe, as an instructor, teacher, guide or expert in your field. It’s just not going to be that exotic location you were dreaming of. And you would be hard-pressed to find more insecure employment at the moment. But the travel bug is not dead!
This is an extremely broad term, and easily overlaps with some of the other categories listed here. Starting your own online venture will land you in the digital nomad family. But the possibilities are nearly endless. It’s a risky proposal, but with a lot of upside.
In the interview with Jess from Britain, we chat among other things about how to get started. Outside the digital realm, opportunities abound too. Jess herself successfully founded a small expedition food company. It can be a tough and labor intensive job to begin with. But Jess shows us that it’s possible to sacrifice some growth for more time to travel.
And then there are seasonal businesses. For example, Jess suggests running a food van during festivals if you like cooking. Or what about using your travel expertise to start your own tours?
Finally, it doesn’t have to be a for-profit. Beat from Switzerland discovered early on that he didn’t only want to talk about giving back. He founded an NGO, which while allowing him to keep on the move, also makes a difference to vulnerable refugee youth in Switzerland and Lebanon.
Earning a decent salary and ready to work your current job a few more years? Why not aim for partial or full financial independence. By saving aggressively and investing wisely you could generate a passive income that covers your living expenses.
Some call it early retirement. But acquiring and maintaining your financial knowledge, managing your investments and making sure everything is running smoothly is like a part-time job. It’s certainly not the most time consuming travel job out there though.
Seasonal Agricultural Work
No, I’m not thinking fruit picking in Australia or Canada. Unskilled labor is always available, but poor wages and working conditions don’t make it attractive for the long run. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector has also plenty of demand for seasonal skilled labor. This is a much better niche.
As an example, have a look at Manu from Argentina. Specialized in the wine making process, he works the harvest every year in New Zealand. Sometimes he also does the same job in the Northern hemisphere, usually in Europe. A few months of work basically fund his surfing and snowboarding adventures the rest of the year. With Covid-19, things got significantly more complicated. But skilled seasonal labor is so important that many countries make exceptions to their travel restrictions these days.
The downsides? You might end up being overly reliant on a single industry or country. Governments change, and so does the agricultural sector.
Again, unskilled labor might be where you start, but not where you want to end up. In more and more countries there is a shortage in skilled construction workers. Restrictions might limit your options geographically, but if you can work a few months a year for good wages you are good to go. The advantages are not negligible.
Take Joris from France. A roofer by profession, he works 4 to 5 months every year mostly in Switzerland. He lives stealthily in his van, making saving most of his salary easy. The rest of the year you used to find him in some remote parts of the world touring on his fat bike, but until that’s once more possible he sticks to Europe.
Skilled workers can’t be outsourced cheaply over the internet. Obsolescence is usually not an issue. And no need to spend years studying. But your physical health is everything. The good news is that by working less you should reduce the injury risk significantly. The bad news is that you need to think ahead if you have an accident or illness.
Your creativity can power your travels. Mammad Panda from Iran makes and sells handicrafts in the streets. He might not look like much, but he’s an extremely methodical, successful and generous person. And a shrewed businessman. Even with reduced visa options he still managed to travel regularly. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he prefers staying closer to home until things calm down, but he still manages to keep his head above the water.
In Pokhara I met a Nepali tattoo artist who funded a decade of travels all over the Indian subcontinent with his art. Or a French girl who within a few hours of musical performance in the streets of Zurich pocketed 200 Swiss Francs. Easily enough for a week for a frugal person. Impressive!
And then there are performance artists, musicians, photographs… The possibilities are nearly endless. Some are struggling more than others these days, but if that’s your calling, it shouldn’t stop you.
You might think along the lines of workaway, helpX or woofing. Great idea for a backpacking trip in your early 20s, but not such a good long term travel job, right? Well, you will certainly need the occasional hustle to generate some income. But there are also plenty of opportunities to learn, contribute, give and receive far beyond the traditional relationship based entirely on money.
Deniz from Turkey is a fine example. A dedicated permaculture advocate and environmentalist with a kind heart, serving others is at the center of her wanderings. By giving you too will get a lot back. She is living proof that traveling doesn’t have to revolve around purely hedonistic pursuits. And since the start of the pandemic? She keeps spreading her wisdom and kindness, domestically!
Sounds like hippie mumbo-jumbo? Maybe, but check out Service Space for plenty of inspiration from the gift economy.
Hands off unless you really know what you are doing! Day trading and other trading models require a lot of experience to generate a regular income. The few successful traveling traders I have met either had solid experience working for banks or brokerages and impressive intuition. Or were some savvy physics and math PhDs. And even that is absolutely no guarantee for success.
Short-term you might do very well. But ask yourself, are you just lucky? Are you getting sucked into a bubble? A lot of people lost money trading Bitcoin, forex and “hot” stocks. These days the stock market is again chasing records, fueled by central bank liquidity. Be wary!
On the bright side, if you are interested in teaching yourself a solid base in economics, programming, computer science and behavioral science then a trading gig could be a lot of challenging fun.
Matched Betting And (Online) Gambling
We’re hesitant to include matched betting and something like online poker or sports trading in this article. We’ve met people who finance their travels from such undertakings. But do you really want to spend more than a few months/years depending from that particular source of income?
Having said that, at least matched betting deserves an honorable mention. Unlike poker, it’s risk-free, relatively easy to understand and to execute. It will appeal to a very specific audience though.