Traveling the world is a dream for many people.
While there are ways to do it cheaper and safer than ever with sharing platforms like Airbnb and Couchsurfing, and more information on budget backpacker travel than could fit an encyclopedia, the cost is still out of reach for most.
But what if you could travel and not spend a dime? What if you could even get paid?
Many would jump at the opportunity to experience new cultures, traverse through beautiful landscapes, and satisfy their insatiable wanderlust.
Luckily there are more ways than ever to travel and get paid. They aren’t easy, most are a lot of work, but the opportunities are out there if you want it bad enough.
We’ve compiled 15 ways for just about anyone to get their golden ticket to spending weeks, or years, in exotic lands while earning some cash.
1. Teach English
If you’re looking for adventure in a foreign land, one of the most accessible and lucrative ways to get there is by taking up a job teaching English. Jobs in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are abundant, and most of them do not require that you speak the native language.
Schools are looking for native English speakers with bachelor degrees who can teach the “direct method,” by which students learn through concepts, pantomiming, and the target language exclusively.
While not all schools require it, a certification for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) can make you a more desirable candidate. Salaries can be as high as $36,000 a year in Japan or $45,000 in the United Arab Emirates.
2. Research for a travel guidebook
There aren’t many professions as romanticized and misunderstood as researching and writing for travel guidebooks such as Lonely Planet and Fodor’s. While the job is exhilarating — jetting you off to hundreds of places to try the local culture, food, and hotels — the reality of the work is a grind.
Most guidebook researchers and writers report having to meet unrealistic deadlines that require them to work 12-to-14-hour days. In addition, seeing the sights is a small part of the job. Researchers and writers must crank out reports and articles, make maps of the areas they visit, and engage in extensive, tedious data entry.
Because of tightening budgets and an abundance of 20-somethings willing to do the job for next to nothing, guide writing is hardly a lucrative profession. But you can earn enough to make a living.
In an illuminating New York Times’ feature about the lives of guidebook writers, Warren St. John reveals the cardinal tenet of the job: “Most who do it quickly learn the one hard-and-fast rule of the trade: travel-guide writing is no vacation.”
3. Become an Instagram influencer
Instagram is flooded with “influencers” trying to grow their reach on the platform, but if you are one of the few lucky enough to build a sizeable following, there are opportunities to turn it into serious income.
Twentysomething travel ‘grammers Jack Morris and Lauren Bullencurrently parlay the more than 3 million Instagram followers under the names of their successful travel blogs into travel around the world and a six-figure salary. Morris told Cosmopolitan last year he once earned $9,000 for a single post on Instagram, while Bullen has received $7,50o for one photo. Typically he and Bullen are paid to promote various brands and locations through their feeds.
Even smaller accounts can get some benefits. David Guenther, who runs the Great North Collective (@greatnorthco), told Rangefinder Magazine in 2014 he received a free press trip to Alberta, Canada provided that he post photographs on Instagram.
Of course, most travel Instagrammers end up stuck at a few thousands followers and burning through their savings before they ever cash a check. Best to start building that following before you leave.
4. Become a flight attendant
If you don’t mind taking your travel with a side of 9-to-5, a great option could be applying to become a flight attendant. Flight attendants make between $45,000 and $100,000 a year, and they get free travel benefits for not just themselves but also their families.
The pay isn’t bad, but consider that the average schedule has attendants working 80 hours a month.
5. Apply for the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go job
Traveling the world and getting to write for one of the most prestigious publications in the world sounds too good to be true right? Wrong.
In October, the New York Times announced the creation of a travel correspondent position for the newspaper’s annual 52 Places to Go feature. The correspondent was to spend a week in each place and write about life on the road.
By the time the application deadline for the 2018 post closed, the jobhad received over 13,000 applicants from all walks of life. The New York Times eventually chose Jada Yuan, a veteran New York magazine editor.
Assuming the experiment goes well, one would think they will hire someone new for 2019. Better start working on that application.
6. Trade specialty, foreign goods
Looking to travel and have a little capital to start with? Consider getting in the import-export trade and head out to exotic countries to find local, specialty, and handmade goods that will appeal to travel-hungry consumers back home.
Pick up goods that areas are known for (examples include Italian leather, Mexican hammocks, and Turkish ceramics) as well as one-of-a-kind pieces that can’t be purchased by the truck full. Once you are back in the U.S., sell them to stores, collectors, or on e-retailers like eBay and Amazon for a handsome profit.
You’ll have to figure out how to navigate customs regulations, but when you can sell goods for many times their original worth, the hassle pays for itself.
7. Start a side-gig and work remotely
If you have a laptop, the internet, and some skills, there are tons of side-gigs you could pick up to earn cash while you travel. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork are built to make it easy for freelancers to pick up work anywhere, whenever they need it.
Of course, it’s a lot easier if you have a track record and marketable skills, like coding, graphic design, writing, translation, or editing.
Start taking on side-gigs on freelance websites before you leave and you should be able to build enough of a reputation that you can pick up steady gigs when you need it on the road. Pretty soon, you’ll be earning cash at a beachside cafe in a foreign country.
8. Work for a cruise line
Working on a cruise ship will send you to exotic locales for pay, yet there are a few key things to remember.
The job comes with long hours for comparably poor pay, but with all expenses paid and free travel. Crew members have their own dining halls, shops, Internet cafes, gyms, party areas, and even organized activities, which creates a fun culture.
There are numerous jobs on a ship, with certain ones better than others. Washing dishes just doesn’t sound as good as chaperoning passengers on exotic excursions.
9. Become a tour guide
Leading tours through some of the world’s most iconic and historic places sounds like a dream come true. It can offer tons of variety, depending on how you approach it.
Do you become a tour guide in one dream place — say, Paris! — and lead hordes of American tourists through the Louvre, the Bastille, and the Eiffel Tower? Or do you lead groups on longer trips that go through a series of destinations?
Either one can be a solid way to make a living and see new cultures. There are a few cons, though. Guides who stay in one location will likely be working freelance, which may mean uneven paydays and a lack of job security. Some guides give free tours and try to use their personalities to get tips from generous tourists.
Longer-term guides may be lucky enough to get a contract or a full-time gig from a touring company, which adds stability but means they will be the one dealing with all the logistics, planning, and headaches that come with trying to manage a group of cranky tourists for weeks at a time.
Be prepared to be extroverted and friendly at all times, even when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
10. Go WWOOF’ing
WWOOF, or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is not a traditional business. Volunteers go for a set period to work on a farm with like-minded travelers in exchange for accommodation and home-cooked meals.
The terms are flexible with WWOOFers staying as long or little as they want, and the opportunities are plentiful. While you’ll have to pay your own way to fly to the farm, once you are there, there are plenty of people who can offer a ride to the next destination.
WWOOF’ing isn’t quite a career choice, but it is an excellent way to see the world while keeping your bank account (mostly) even.
11. Start a travel blog
Being a professional travel blogger is a tough gig. While traveling to every sight imaginable is a tantalizing part of the job, it takes a lot of work to make it happen.
Most travel bloggers spend a year building their sites, churning out several posts a day and building up a following on social-mediabefore they ever see any money from their sites.
Almost all travel bloggers start out by spending their savings just to get up and running. Even once you’ve built a following, a network, and ad partnerships, you are running your own business, which means that in addition to traveling and writing, you must handle all the marketing, site growth, and financials.
As you can imagine, it’s a job that never ends. To make it all work, you have to truly love travel and blogging.
12. Work as an au pair
An au pair, or an extra pair of hands, is an international nanny who lives with a family for a set period, taking care of their children in exchange for travel, room, board, and pocket money.
It can be a fantastic way to see a new culture from the locals’ perspective and make some money. Most au pairs are students or recent graduates, so get in before it’s too late.
Many families don’t require au pairs to speak the native language, and many even prefer it if you speak to their children in English so that they can improve their fluency.
There are websites, such as Au Pair World, that help match people with families.
13. Become a destination wedding photographer
This one requires a bit of skill, but for those with the artistic temperament a wedding-photography business can offer free travel and an outlet for creative expression. It goes without saying that you will have to be a talented photographer, or at least a well-practiced one.
The wedding business is a competitive one with high entry costs (think computer, camera, lenses, editing software, portfolio, website, and, possibly, training), but it pays well.
Many destination wedding photographers charge up to $10,000 a wedding, plus airfare, meals, and incidentals. While you’ll be working hard during the wedding, extend your stay for a few hundred dollars and you are well paid and traveling free.
14. Join the Peace Corps
Joining the Peace Corps is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a 27-month commitment in a developing country with few modern conveniences and not much opportunity to see friends or family.
If you’re still on board, and have a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, the Peace Corps can be a life-changing and rewarding experience.
Few opportunities immerse travelers in a culture as thoroughly as the Peace Corps. Expect to choose from an array of assignments, including teaching English, working in disease prevention, and building infrastructure.
There is also an extensive application and interview process. The Peace Corps pays for travel expenses, living expenses, certain student-loan benefits, and it offers a readjustment allowance of $350 per month accrued upon completing your service.
15. Write a literary account of your travels
If all else fails (or you are an incredible wordsmith), take a crack at writing the next “Green Hills of Africa,” “Homage to Catalonia,” or “The Sun Also Rises.”
If the book does well, you could have a cash cow on your hands in the form of royalties and advance checks.
Of course, most would-be authors will never see a cent from their travels or literary hard work.
If you have the courage to try, you could end up with the traveling lifestyle and your pick of publications to print your essays and stories.