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Making Money While You Travel – It May Be Easier Than You Think

This post is dedicated to anyone who is feeling trapped in a cubicle somewhere out there, traveling on a shoestring budget, or just hoping to make some extra cash while they travel.

I remember when I first started my highly anticipated trip from Mexico to South America. Ahhh the good old days when I was sitting on a nice little stack of cash that would fund my days on the beach, overnight bus rides, late nights on the town, and adventurous excursions off-the-beaten path. I remembered thinking that I would write articles on my blog every other day and build a massive following of people who loved the stories I told and the travel tips I gave. I would be sponsored by North Face, Columbia Sporting Gear, GoPro or some other company that thought that I personified its spirit of adventure! Money would begin to flow as I developed into a more seasoned traveler. I would let things take their natural course.

Money Dollar Bills

I also remember six months later looking at my rapidly dwindling bank account and feeling extremely nervous that the day would soon come when I would have to choose one of three options – return home to find a job, work in a hostel or bar for less than minimum wage, or find a good way to make money to extend my travel time. Although I would like to say otherwise, I didn’t update my blog half as much as I had envisioned, so that loyal following of readers never came, nor did the sponsors. At that time extending my time abroad was my only goal. I guess that I figured if I could make enough money I could delay having to go back to the daily grind in Canada.

Weighing the Options

Working in a hostel or a bar for peanuts while watching other happy travellers come and go just didn’t have any appeal to me. I was already beyond that stage in my life. Been there, done that and no thank you, not again!

I decided that whatever I chose to do would have be something that I loved doing or I would be heading back home. My rationale was that if I were going to give up a pretty nice pay-check in Canada for a life of fun, freedom and travel, I’d better be having fun and feeling free while doing it. In basic terms, traveling the world, taking photos and writing about the places I was visiting and things I was doing made me very happy.  I just needed to figure out how to get paid from it.

The dreaded day continued to draw closer and later I would discover that going home to look for a job would not be an option.

Making Money From Photography – The birth of interior photography and 

My first moneymaking idea gave birth to itself one fine day while I was searching online for a hostel in Belize. I usually use to search for affordable places to stay when I travel. Once I make a short list of the places I think best suit my budget and taste, I then go to directly to each hostel’s website to look at the property in more detail. This is how I realized that most of the hostels had horrible photos of their rooms and facilities. Some hostels would describe themselves as a 5-star hostel yet the photos they used made their rooms look more like a half-star crack house from Train Spotting.

The bells in my head began to go off. I though that if the ugly photos made me want to throw up, close the browser, and search for somewhere else to stay, tons of other travelers were probably feeling the same way. What this meant was that if I could somehow convince hostel owners that they could get more customers by fixing up their photo galleries, then I could probably make some money.

I started to send short emails to the management of the hostels where I wanted to stay. These emails went something like this:

“Hello – My name is Joel Duncan. I am a travel writer and photographer and I will be coming to (insert city) in a few days. I am really excited about staying at your hostel and about writing a little review of your property for my blog While researching your hostel I tried to find photos of the rooms and I noticed that you only have a few photos that were taken with a smart phone or point-and-click camera. As mentioned, I am a professional photographer and I think that I can help you to get more customers with a nice gallery of images that shows the true beauty of your property…”

The response rate was incredible. About one in three hostels would respond saying that they were interested in the photos. However, they didn’t have much money so instead we could do an exchange – photos for accommodation. I jumped on the opportunity since I could stay free for a few nights by working for just two to three hours. I wasn’t making cash but I was definitely saving cash.

As the weeks went by the deals I was able to make got sweeter. Accommodation plus food; accommodation plus food and bar tab; accommodation and a bit cash.

So why did I discover that going home wouldn’t be an option? Well, I fell deeply in love. Not with a woman as you are probably thinking, but with a country that I couldn’t have predicted in a million years – Colombia.  Before I knew it, a week led to a month, and a month led to moving in together. It’s the same sort of sick irrational behaviour that happens when you’re in love with a woman. I chose to give everything I had to be with her and did what any love sick puppy would do,  I rented a furnished apartment.

I was forced to turn things up a notch, so I decided to put together an online portfolio of all of the hostels that I had photographed so I could send potential customers a link with information and photos that I had taken. So was born – professional photography for hospitality companies! Today this is one of my primary sources of income.

I confess that the path I chose wasn’t the easiest and isn’t for everyone since we all have different skill sets and things that we love doing. We also have different risk thresholds and definitions of what it means to be happy and successful. Regardless of which path you choose, rest assured that there are countless options for making money while you travel. The great thing is that all you need is a laptop, an imagination and the belief that there is more out there and just sitting in an air-conditioned office for 8-12 hours a day.


Luxury Apartment Medellin Colombia

A beautiful apartment I photographed in Medellin Colombia

If you are a photographer or you have a DSLR and you want to take a shot at photographing hostels and hotels while you travel let me know? Perhaps you’re bilingual in Spanish and English and you can help companies to make their websites and promotional materials completely bilingual. Or maybe you know website design and you can build simple inexpensive websites for hostels and hotels who need help getting online.


Making Money From Housesitting While You Travel

Brittnay and Jayden from The Travelling House Sitters, also fund their travels from working on platforms like Upwork; however, they also do longterm house sitting. They have looked after everything from chihuahuas to whippets – even turtles. They even had Bono as a neighbour at one point in Dublin. Becoming house sitters in Dublin has allowed them to save €4000 in the last three months. Check them out if you want to know how they’re doing it.


Making Money From Travel Blogs and Other Online Alternatives

I started this blog a few weeks before I started traveling. I didn’t know much about blogging and I didn’t have a clue how to make a penny from it. I started like most people do with a desire to share my travels with family and friends, and with a dream that the money would someone present itself in the future. I didn’t know anything about SEO, keyword analysis, meta descriptions, link building, image alt texts, and all the things that go into building a strong blog that gets noticed.  I was just writing about things that I thought were cool and thought could help other travelers like myself.

It wasn’t until I arrived to Colombia where I met my now really good friends Jasmine from  and Dwayne from that I understood that I could still write about cool things, help fellow travelers AND earn money while doing it. What I also learned is that although you will hear bloggers say that the most important thing is to write good content, even good content has a formula. I will do a separate blog post about writing effective blog posts for beginners.

Jasmine Stephenson and Dwyane Golden Jr.

Dwayne and Jasmine

Jasmine had been traveling for 5 YEARS earning money by working from her laptop and Dwayne was living between the US and Colombia, coming and going as he saw fit. What I admired about these two is that they weren’t staying in shared rooms at grubby hostels or scouring the town in search of cheap meals under a dollar. They rented apartments, went out for real dinners, partied at nice clubs, and still had the time and money to travel. Best of all, their offices were their apartments and they could start and finish working whenever they wanted to. I wanted in, fast!

Virtual Employee Genius – Learning From The Pros

Jasmine and Dwayne confessed that what they were doing wasn’t  really rocket science.  Sure it took work and time for them to figure out how to make the money, but they claim that anyone can use the skills that they already have to make money online.

In the same way that I used photography to offer a service to hostel and hotel owners, there are tons of other ways to turn your skills into a service that you offer online. Instead of having a boss you can have clients.

Whether you are trying to make money from your blog, hustling for some extra cash, traveling through south east asia, or looking for a way out of the typical 9 to 5 lifestyle, check out what Dwayne and Jasmine can teach you. They started a program for regular people like you and I which teaches the skills necessary to work from virtually anywhere in the world. They share the secrets that they have learned and the resources they use.

If you have money making ideas of your own that you want to share, just leave a comment below. If there is some advice you are looking for to help guide your plan, also let me know.

Safe Travels,



  1. Hey Joel,
    reading this makes me miss Colombia so much! Can’t wait to get back!
    It’s great to hear and see how your career as a photographer is growing and what Dwayne and Jasmine are up to with their new online program.
    Wishing you all much luck!

    • Thanks Yamile. I am sure that the next time you visit Colombia, you too will get stuck here. Don’t take too long to get back here.

  2. Hello im Daniel. I would like some help on how to start a business with travel and the Internet from any country. Im also like photography, food industry, hospitality industry, music and I will like to somehow put all these together. I currently live in the us west coast but I would like to visit or possibly live by the ocean, could be Mexico for example. I would appreciate any ideas or guidance. Thank you.

    • Daniel thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have a lot of interests that you want to somehow bring together. For starters I strongly encourage a blog that combines these things. Perhaps you can focus on just those things – food, hospitality (hotels, hostels, etc), and music in each location that you visit. The thing is that if you want to move to the ocean unless you have savings to keep you for a while you will need some form of immediate income. One thing to consider is what you are currently doing to earn money. Think about if there is a way to do it part time right from your computer. If not, think of what you could do a quick little course in that could help you to work from wherever you are. Whether it’s writing, graphic design, translation, copy writing, social media management – you need a source of cash flow while developing your dream business.

  3. Hey Joel, I smiled while reading this because I too started my blog for friends and family and then figured by now I’d be sponsored by multiple travel related companies lol. So a year into it and at the options point with money on the rapid decline I found you while researching making money online.Its either that or go home 🙁

  4. Hey Joel!

    I am living in Medellin & loving it.. but only until mid-October. Then it’s back to travelling for a few months until I head to the states for med school interviews. Your idea of photographing and translating for hotels and hostels seems really interesting- a great way to put my DSLR to use and make some money for visits to the 3 cordilleras brewery without a long term commitment. Do you have any more good tips or contacts you’d be willing to share?

    thanks! kristiana

    • Kristina – It is great that you loving the city. It is pretty hard not to love isn’t it. You have about 2 months left – make the best of it. I remember when I tried to leave to travel after I was here for two months. I went as far as Ecuador and turned around two weeks later. I would definitely pass on contacts if I had any. I suggest just writing the hostels about 2 weeks in advance or a few days before you arrive and ask them if they would be interested in photos. Saving money is basically making money, so if they are willing to give you free room and food why not right? You can even do the first 2-3 for free and then show the hostel owners when you are in person. Do you have a blog? Writing reviews and putting up photos of travel related businesses can definitely get you a lot of free stuff. Depending on your strengths there are many ways of making money online.

  5. Hey Joel, I am able to generate about $1,400 USD right now. Would that be enough to travel South America or live in Columbia? Also, what’s the risk of getting sick and stuff like that down there?


    • *$1,400/monthly ^

    • Austin – $1400 USD per month is definitely enough to live pretty decently down here in South America and Colombia. It just depends on your lifestyle. You can find nice places for about $500USD per month to rent. The rest you can use for other expenses and entertainment. Getting sick. Well I would suggest getting a cheap insurance policy if you are living here. You can also pay an annual fee to a service like Travel Cuts who sells travel insurance. I think I paid about $700 for a year when I started traveling. All in all $1400 should do you just fine.

  6. Good post! Like you said working online isnt rocket science. There are job boards like elance and you can also go the telecommuting route. I turned my regular job into an online gig by simply asking my boss to let me work from home. Havent seen the inside of an office for over 1,5 years now!

  7. Ola!

    I’m a brazillian architect and i must say that i’ve loved to read this post. In the beggining of july i’ve quit my job and with a friend of mine we started to travel around Asia. First of all we’ve got the cheapest flight we could find to Sydney and right now, three months later, i’m on my laptop in a hotel near the beach in Goa, India. I’m loving this kind of life and want to keep with it has much as I can. Funny thing is that exactly today I was talking about how bad the photos and publicity of this hotel are. How easily they can upgrade their webpage with better photos, easy translations and information. And that’s something that most of the hotels around here (and lot of other countries) really don’t pay much attention.
    Anyway, your idea is actually really good! Congratulations!!
    I can’t say i’m a professional photographer but i do take it as a serious hobby, I am travelling and I do speak English, Spanish and Portuguese. So, if you need help, let me know! =))

    Lucas Costa

  8. Excellent article and some food for thought perfect for any aspiring lifestyle designer! Gotta share it with my peeps:)
    All the best!

  9. Hi Joel, I am actually a professional photographer currently based in The Bahamas. However I will be doing a 4 week TEFL course in May in Guadalajara so I that I will be able to teach English in Mexico and elsewhere, if I so desire. I hope to still be able to use my camera as Photography after traveling is my passion. So, I am open to anything you might propose.

  10. Loved your article. Yeah, I miss Colombia a lot. I’ve been in the states now for a year and I am home sick. I’m American but fell in Love with Colombia. I work 4 days a week in FL and I’m thinking of just maybe traveling on my 3 day weekends. I’m really familiar with Bogota and am a Professional Photographer as well. I want to do what you do! Help me!

  11. This is great! Very inspiring, thank you! It is hard to believe that people can actually do what they love and survive (sometimes very comfortably). I am currently saving up money to travel Colombia with a friend (I am actually clocked in at my 9-5 desk job at this current moment XD!). Photography is one of my hobbies, and I have recently started doing some video editing with my new GoPro. That is really cool how you thought of helping people with your photography skills! I will keep that as a possible option when I finally get off my first plane, into my first traveling adventure! What I really want to do is perform… I have been teaching myself to play the guitar for close to 8 years and the ukulele for around 5 years now. I am starting to get a lot of complements towards my musical abilities, and I want to try to use my passion as a service to fund my other passion. Do you have any idea about how I could perform to cover my expenses? I love you said about “saving money is basically making money.” Do you think that I could perform for hostels for accommodation + food? Or maybe restaurants? I was thinking about street performance as well. If you don’t really know, then do you have any people/references/links/anything that could help me out? This post almost brought me to tears because I feel like I’m stuck in the grind (that and it doesn’t help that the whole idea of traveling without money terrifies me)! Screw the grind! Screw making money just to acquire more useless stuff that just costs more money! Baby, I wanna LIVE!!

  12. Hi. My name is Luis. I’m bilingual and I’m living in Medellin. I’m a photographer(beginner), I have a DSLR (Nikon D3200) and I really want (need) to make extra money. I’m from Venezuela, but I live here in Belen, Medellin.

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