Running short of money is a familiar problem for anyone who has been on a long travelling trip. No doubt, before you left you spent many hours back home working, saving and carefully budgeting the exact amount of money you’d need to afford to be away for several months.
Once on the road, though, everything inevitably changes. You may get overexcited in the first weeks away and massively overspend, or perhaps you come to decide that six months is not nearly enough to see all that you want to.
Either way, you’re going to need to find some extra money to survive. So what are your options?
1. Teach English
As a native speaker, there’s bound to be loads of locals who are just begging to throw money at you for your language skills, right? Well, sort of.
Native speakers are particularly sought after and can command a premium over their Latin American counterparts
With English being the dominant world language, there will always be demand for teachers. Native speakers are particularly sought after for this work and can command a premium over their local Latin American counterparts. However, speaking the language fluently is not the only requirement for obtaining such work.
The most formal (and well paid) teaching positions are generally found within bilingual schools, university language centers and specialist language learning centers. Getting a job in these places is a serious business: they do not just give out positions to any dread-locked backpacker who happens to grace their door.
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In most cases, you will need either a qualification in teaching or extensive experience in providing English language tuition. Some schools require both. In many such centers you will need to commit to work for an extended period (e.g. a semester, academic year or longer), which will obviously restrict your ability to keep travelling around.
For jobs in most formal language centers, you need either a qualification in teaching or extensive experience
If this option doesn’t appeal or isn’t appropriate, you can try going it alone and finding your own students. Put a bit of effort into advertising your services and you’re unlikely to find it too difficult to get a few clients, especially from among the university student community and from Latin companies with an international focus.
Bear in mind though that it can take a bit of time for word of mouth about your teaching to spread, so you’re unlikely to immediately have a solid client base. If you haven’t got any teaching experience, you’ll also need to brush up on your English grammar and put a decent amount of time into preparing lessons.
Without an official center from which to give your classes, you will probably have to spend a lot of time travelling around the city to meet your students. And don’t be surprised if an alarming proportion of them cancel at the last minute, or simply don’t turn up. All these difficulties mean that, in the early days at least, you are likely to waste quite a lot of time, which will limit your earning potential.
The longer you stick around in one destination, the less likely this is to happen and the more you will eventually earn.
2. Work in a Hostel
Another popular work option for travelers is to seek work in hostels. Quite a few backpacker places, especially the larger ones, are open to former guests working at the hostel. Prior experience and qualifications are invariably not needed and the nature of the work is generally pretty flexible and informal.
While a few hostels do pay staff, the most common arrangement is an exchange: work for discounted / free board. A typical deal might involve working around 20 hours a week in the hostel (cleaning or manning the reception, say) in exchange for free dorm room accommodation and some discount on food and drink.
This will reduce your expenses and can therefore allow you to eke out an existence for longer on your limited remaining funds. However, given the lack of salary, hostel work will not provide a real solution to your financial woes.
3. Start a Travel Blog
Many people travel with their laptop these days and, coupled with the free Wi-Fi available in most hostels, this provides some additional opportunities for earning an income while travelling.
One such option is to set up a travel blog – perhaps a bit like this one – on which you can write about your travels and try to make money from adverts, affiliate programs etc. This sounds like an ideal solution, in theory, and quite a few people have made it work for them in reality too.
The down side to this plan is that it takes a long time (months or even years) for site traffic to reach a level where you can start to generate a reasonable amount of income. If you do not have much pre-existing knowledge of search engine optimization and digital marketing techniques, or are unable to commit much time to the project, it is likely to take longer.
The reality is that the overwhelmingly majority of such travel blogs are not and never become profitable
The reality is that the overwhelmingly majority of such travel blogs are not and never become profitable. After a couple of months of writing without making an income, most get frustrated and give up on the project before the money starts coming through. If you keep going, however, it is entirely possible to make at least some money from your site. This can potentially be enough to help keep you on the road a bit longer.
4. Earn Money Online
There are other ways of earning money online which offer more immediate returns. One such alternative is to investigate some of the online trading and investment platforms. Most of these require some prior expertise and involve a degree of risk. Some, such as eToro, have developed models which are reportedly less risky and more accessible to a layman.
Other ways of earning money online offer more immediate returns
An additional possibility available to UK residents is an activity known as ‘matched betting’. This is a technique by which you play two bookmakers off against each other in order to convert promotional free bets into hard cash. Providing you work the system correctly, there is no risk of losing money as you will win at one of the bookmakers, whatever the outcome of a particular sporting event.
Admittedly, matched betting can be a little tricky to get your head round at first and you should definitely make sure you fully understand the technique before betting. Some companies offer detailed information and support to those wishing to engage in this activity, as well as providing details of all the latest bookmaker promotions. While it’s not the most exciting of pastimes, it can potentially earn you upwards of £1,000 a month, which should be more than enough to fund a few more adventures.
5. Go Home, Save and Come Back
I’d imagine this option is the absolute last one you’d like to consider; after all, the whole point of extending your travels is to prolong the return to reality for as long as possible. But don’t be too quick to rule it out altogether as, in some cases, it may be the quickest and most effective way to earn the money you need to finance your travels.
As you will no doubt be aware, salaries in your home country will almost certainly be far in excess of what you can hope to gain in Latin America. Provided that you can stay with friends or relatives rent-free in your home country, you should be able to save quite a bit in a short space of time. A couple of months’ hard work there could be enough to pay for the return plane ticket, plus several months of budget travel.
Depending on your area of work, going home to search out new work opportunities could provide you with additional income when you get back out on the road again. Companies increasingly allow employees to work remotely and give freelance and contract work to former employees. These types of position would allow you to earn money on an ongoing basis whilst you are away, meaning you could stay out in Latin America on an ongoing basis.
Not the most immediately attractive option perhaps, but it could well be the most lucrative.