If you're interested in more on this topic, watch our 3-part video series: How to Fund Travel

2015 update: Over the years, the source of our income source has changed. Currently, our earnings come from my husband's position as a teacher for an online academy, and from his personal mentoring with homeschooled youth. I also earn some from my web design work, although most of my time is spent working as a mom and 'world-school' teacher (which I don't get paid for 😉 )

HFT 16 WAYS"How do you pay for it?" is the thing most people want to know when they discover we've been wandering long-term with our five kids since 2007.

"You must be loaded!" is what many people think.

The truth is, we're not (not yet anyway.) And it really takes less money to travel than you think (probably less than you currently spend living 'at home'.)

Yet since we first started exploring in 2007, we've taken our kids to 12 countries on two continents (as of Nov. 2013 - we're still going!)

Many don't see how it's possible to travel full time, with 5 children (almost six), especially when 'traveling is so expensive.'

But I'm here to tell you that funding travel is really quite simple... and possible! It just takes a little creative thinking.

The first 'secret' to funding travel is learning how to afford it (even with a family). To do this, you need to learn the difference between travel and vacationing (yes, there is a BIG difference).

If you learn how to actually travel than you realize how inexpensive (and affordable) it is. That makes funding it on a long-term basis that much more of a possibility.

The next step is discovering how to earn money. And not just how to earn money, but how to earn money in a way that gives you freedom to travel.

Many people like to ask us what we do, perhaps thinking that they could do it too, and then be able to travel like we do. (That's what I used to think. I was always looking for 'the answer' that would provide the money we needed to travel full time.)

In reality, there is no single way to fund a travel lifestyle. The modus operandi are as varied as the individuals pursing them.

The real key to funding your travel lifestyle is to be creative, to think unconventionally about income sources, and/or find a way to do what you do, but in a more mobile way.

And the critical factor that many people dreaming of travel ignore?

Most of us (people who are traveling) did not have the skills we currently have that are creating the income that gives us the freedom to travel. What we did have was a dream and the determination to learn, discover and do whatever was necessary to make our travel dreams a reality. That is more important than anything else. You can learn whatever you need to learn, you just need to want it bad enough..

how to fund travelIf you can discover a way to work remotely, find a position abroad that uses your skills, or uncover a system for taking periodical 'sabbaticals' throughout the year, then you'll have discovered the freedom to explore this big, beautiful world.

But, below I'm going to share the very specific income sources that we have had or currently have, in an effort to spark some ideas that might help you discover your own mobile financing.

We believe in the principle of 'multiple streams of income', (or 'patchwork income'). Instead of having one source of money, you create many - thus reducing your financial risks, and increasing your financial possibilities.

Below is how we fund (or funded) travel:

#1- Real Estate Investments

This was one of the tools that made travel a possibility for us in the first place. Back in 2006, we were doing really well, and decided to move to Costa Rica, because our income was not dependent on location. That worked great... until the U.S. economic collapse of 2008.

BUT, investing in real estate is how Nancy Vogel (from FamilyonBikes.org) paid for their three-year biking adventure from Alaska to Argentina. (Watch her interview to learn more about how she did it.)

#2- Trading Stock Options

This was another thing my husband did back in 2006 - 2008. He made LOTS of money (he once made $6k one morning on a beach in Mexico... ahh, those were the days.)

Day trading, swing trading, options trading and all of those stock market things give you lots of freedom (we recently interviewed a traveler who is living in Thailand who trades foreign currencies). All you need is a laptop. You can make money when the market goes up, and when it goes down. And you can trade in other markets too. But beware, it's easy to lose your shorts (and a whole lot more), so be well educated before you try this. (I found this guy who might have some good advice on where to get started.)

#3- Seasonal/Temp Work (and Savings)

Once the market crashed in 2008, we returned to the U.S. and my husband got contract jobs here and there. We lived frugally (traded rent for home improvements) and saved, saved, saved (a key ingredient if you want to travel). He was offered a career position with a great company earning over $100k a year... but he would be chained to a cubicle. We decided instead to stick with the temp work, and subsequently took off for the Dominican Republic in 2009.

In an interview with a traveling couple, he told us that he works during the summer doing sales, giving him the rest of the year to do other things... like travel. (We interviewed him in Panajachel, Guatemala as he was passing through. He and his wife were exploring Central America for several months. His wife also worked remotely for her job while they traveled -- see #16.)

This is a strategy that many people use -- working part of the year to save up, and then taking short sabbaticals to explore. (It's how Nancy Vogel got started too, see above, before doing #1).

#4- Sell Your Stuff

Before taking off for the Dominican Republic, we bulked up our savings by selling anything of value that we had left (we'd already sold a lot of things when we took off for Costa Rica in '07). Gone was our expensive treadmill, couches, bookshelves and even my wedding ring... I valued the experiences of travel as a family much more than any possessions. (Our friend Adam Baker has great advice on how to 'Sell Your Crap')

Our good friends the Jensens used this approach, along with cutting back expenses, to save up enough money to move their family of six to Guatemala where they've been living since 2011 (and are currently running our non-profit organization that teaches self reliance to the indigenous people in the highlands of Guatemala.) Greg Jensen recently commented how much closer their family is since moving abroad. He says, " I now understand better the idea of "It doesn't matter where you live, or what your house looks like, or what neighborhood you are in, or school district, etc., as much as how you live."

#5- Freelance Work

When we moved to the Dominican Republic my husband was contracted to do options trading for some investors, and I worked on freelance writing. Eventually the investors backed out, and my husband went back to the states (after six months, this time to Georgia) for more temp work. My writing skills weren't exceptional enough to make very much, but for awhile these two income streams helped pay the bills.

Since then, I have been able to make more as a freelance writer (and it's something I still do.) I've written for travel magazines and online travel sites that pay anywhere from $50 to $150 an article. (You can find freelance work on Elance.com and Odesk.com. If you want to become a paid travel writer, here's a list of sites that pay.

Chris Guillebeau has a great book available that I recommend on getting paid to write.

#6- International Employment

After a stint of temp work in Georgia, my husband was offered a job with a non-profit organization in Southern India. The company covered all of our expenses -- including visas, immunizations, airfare, housing, utilities, etc. PLUS paid him a salary.

Many people have used international employers to help them see the world. During our travels we've met people who've worked for Caterpillar, Fuji, Walmart, Bank of America and more. Before biking from Alaska to Argentina, Nancy Vogel and her husband worked as school teachers in Ethiopia. It's a great gig to be an international teacher, because they cover all your expenses, and you can often earn a tax free salary.

My own sister taught English in Thailand, before landing employment with a T.V. production company in Bangkok handling their social media. (This site has great resources for finding international employment. You can also find some adventurous jobs at ExplorersConnect. If you're interested in teaching jobs, check out TeachAnywhere.com)

#7- Blogging

After living in India, we moved to Alaska where we added child #5 to our family. Once we decided we wanted to drive from Alaska to Argentina, I realized we needed a long-term, mobile solution for funding our adventures.

I chose to focus on blogging as a 'career', something I had been studying for years through sites like Copyblogger.com and Problogger.com. I started treating my blog as a business instead of a hobby, and even though it didn't happen overnight, eventually I began earning income -- through affiliate sales, advertising and text links, and selling our own information products. (If you want to try blogging as a business, I recommend starting with something from Darren Rowse at ProBlogger or Christine Gilbert of AlmostFearless -- you can get 25% off with this link.)

#8- Website Design and Other Online Work

Techy or not, it's easier and easier nowadays to have a real career and earn a great income online. Michelle Dale earns $30k a month as a virtual assistant (and lives on the island of Crete with her family of five.) My Aussie friend Danielle Greason started earning online in just four weeks after moving to Costa Rica with her husband and children... that was in 2011. These are jobs that require just a a little bit of skills training before you can get started. I share what those skills are and how to learn them here.

If you are a techy person, than it's easy to make money as a web or graphic designer and travel. All you need is your computer. I've done website designs on three continents, and it's really helped to pay the bills. (I still do website design, you can view my portfolio here.)

Anything such as graphic design, website design, or social media can be turned into an online, location independent career.

#9- Windfall $$

Anytime we've come across any 'windfalls' of extra cash, it's always gone to pay for our adventures. Whether tax refunds, insurance settlements or inheritances (that hasn't happened yet), we invest the money into unforgettable experiences that will treasure forever as a family. Are you getting a tax refund this year??

#10- Start Your Own Business Abroad

In Costa Rica, you can't work as an employee, but you can start your own business. This is true in many places around the world. So why not? Take your skills and use them to create an income. Teach scuba diving or surfing, open a photography studio, or a trail running company.

Or get involved in local commerce. My kids recently ran a booth at the local expat Farmer's Market where we've been living in Costa Rica. Sell homemade chocolates or soaps, or even meat chickens (an income adventure in Guatemala we tried). The options are truly endless, if you get a little creative.

#11- Coaching/Mentoring

My husband is one of those people who motivates and inspires others. Over the years, he's had the chance to coach and mentor many individuals -- from teens to adults. This is currently the main source of our income. (Check out our websites, GregDenning.com and WorldSchoolAcademy.com)

If you have the ability to help others reach goals or gain a proper perspective on life, or even just skills that others would like to learn, then why not turn them into an income, and mentor others you meet in person, or via today's online technology.

Above are a few of the ways we've been able to fund our family travels.
But we've also met dozens of couples and families who have found their own unique strategies. Here's a few of them:

#12- Foreign Services

Many people have found work with the U.S. Embassy, taking jobs in exotic locations like Costa Rica, Dubai and Afghanistan (all over the world really). They are paid good salaries, housing is often covered, and they receive new assignments on an average of every 3 years. You can find out more about joining the foreign services here.

#13- Online Employment

There are companies emerging who offer paid positions online that can be worked from anywhere in the world. Some of the most common involve teaching English (and other languages) via the internet.

Some organizations we know of our OpenEnglish.com and LanguageLab.com

Along with working for an employer you can also create your own job like my Aussie friend Danielle did (see #8).

#14- Network Marketing

Despite the negative connotation some people attach to network marketing, it's actually a really great business model for funding travel. It gives you the option to control your income, to create residual income, to work from anywhere (especially if you master online marketing). On top of that, you don't have to do everything yourself (product development, payroll, etc.) and you can start for very little.

I know of at least two families (personally) that fund their travels (very comfortably) with network marketing. Don't be close-minded, at least consider it. 😉

#15- Acting/Performing

Yes, people do it! While spending seven splendid weeks on the shores of Laguna Bacalar, Mexico, we met several traveling performers, including our 'pirate' friends (from Europe) who would put on a pirate show at the local historical fort and at restaurants (they eventually opened their own pirate themed restaurant.) If you've got a theatrical bent, why not give it a try?

#16- Working Remotely

As Tim Ferriss talks about in his book, some people have been able to negotiate with their employers to work from 'home' via their laptop -- wherever home might be, we'll never tell. 😉

We've met a couple of families/couples who have done this. We recently interviewed Michael who convinced his employer to let him work from Costa Rica so he could move his family down for an 'international experience'. The company was hesitant, but finally. His advice? It doesn't hurt to ask.

To gain the freedom to travel, discovering flexible income streams is critical. It's not always easy, but it IS possible.

Take the responsibility into your own hands, instead of looking to an employer to provide the money to pay the bills, and you'll be half way to living the life you want to live.

Make sure to check out the rest of our How to Fund Travel interview series!

And for still more information, READ THESE BOOKS:

How will YOU fund your travel? Or how have you? We'd love to know!



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63 Responses

  1. Lisa-Marie

    As you know Rachel we are completely location independent. I think it’s important to note that more traditional business models can be turned in to location independent income as well. Our mobile income is derived from manufacturing and wholesale and retail eCommerce. The location independent part of it comes through the magic of outsourcing.

  2. Loya

    We used the oils late last night when Harrison was sick. He slept through the night & is a new person today!

  3. jen

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I am going to re-read it tonight when I have more time but wanted to say you can sign me up for these guides free or paid… they are great topics!

    Worldschooling – The Un-Official Un-Guide
    The Unconventional Guide to Parenting: How to Make Sure Your Child Never Goes to School, Never Gets a Job, and Grows Up to Change the World
    Family Health on the Road: Essential Oils for Traveling Families

  4. Jen Kelly

    Like you say Rachel, it’s totally possible to create income based on your passions! Our passion is teaching people about natural health care with the potential to decrease and even eliminate over-the-counter and prescriptions meds. The income we receive from sharing doTERRA essential oils with others allows us the freedom to be location independent as well. We love helping people with their health. Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa are two of the greatest women who have walked the earth in my opinion, and I like to feel I’m following that same mission of helping and healing others. We are looking forward to our upcoming trips to Guatemala, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and who knows where else after that! I have to say I am a bit nervous about traveling the world (my husband and I have 6 kids, and our youngest three are 5) because I’ve never done it before, but with the oils, my confidence is greatly increased. I know we can treat challenges (physically/emotionally) that might come our way with the oils, so that gives me more confidence as a new traveler to foreign lands. 🙂
    We are looking forward to seeing the world with our family, and instead of just reading the library books, we will actually be IN the library books, experiencing the world first-hand!

  5. Matt

    Hey Guys,

    I hope your travels continue to be truly amazing and inspiring not only to others but to yourselves as well!
    I just wanted to say great job on this article, so informative.

    Take care and safe travels!

    San Pedro, Belize

  6. Sonia

    You guys are totally inspirational!

    I’ve lived, travelled and worked extensively in Europe in the past and I really miss it. I now need to have a base camp due to family caring commitments … but every chance I get I island hop Oceania, cycle-bike in tow; I LoVe exploring Australia and the South Pacific and it’s an easy “can do” from base camp.

    Keep the stories coming, they brighten my day and inspire me to action.


  7. Clark Vandeventer

    One of the things I love about this is that it is a list of 9 ways you make money. Not, 2 ways, not 3 ways. Love the patchwork income approach and how you just look for opportunities. They’re all around!

    • Rachel

      I like that – patchwork – and it’s definitely a good approach to have when you want to break away from the 9-5 life. Of course we work more hours than that 🙂 but we get to do it anywhere in the world (I’m typing his on my iPhone while we drive through Guatemala)

  8. Stanley Lee


    Thanks for your email replies to my inquiries re: this post. It’s amazing to learn that you have this many income streams. There are two questions I would like to hear your insights to fill in the remaining gaps:

    1) Are there any streams that make up the biggest bulk of the total income? (I’m guessing your products and freelancing would make up the bulk, followed by the affiliate sales)
    2) Which stream(s) are the most active for you? (I’m guessing the freelancing and some product support activities)

    Keep in touch,


    • Rachel

      Hi Stanley,

      I’ve responded to this comment TWICE, and both times it didn’t show up (once from my iPhone, and once when my website hadn’t finished migrating to a new host). I’m going to try it again!

      1. Currently, our income is variable – one month it might come mostly from website design, another from affiliate sales, or the sale of our own product. Because we’re still in the first year of building our online business, the strongest sources of income are still in the process of growing.

      2. As for being the most active, that can really depend on what I’m currently posting or blogging about. If I’m recommending books or products, that income increases. If I’m talking about our product, those sales go up. Again, they are all still growing and establishing themselves, and it’s determined by where we put our focus.

  9. deb

    This is a great post. I quit my job last year so that I could travel more. My friends still don’t understand how I do it, but its rather simple really.

    1. Work as a virtual admin assistant.–instead of going to a brick and mortar office I go to my computer and work via phone and email.

    2. Professional blogger. Paid to write reviews and posts as well as sell advertising on my site.

    3. Social Media work. currently this includes overseeing blog marketing projects. working on expanding this area a bit more.

    Those three keep me very busy, but also keep me in travel money. My husband still works a “regular” job as well. however, he stays home when my daughter and I road trip.

    I’m searching for a couple other income streams as well. Doesn’t hurt to be well diversified 😉

    Happy Travels!

  10. Aly

    I love this post, Rachel! I’m excited to check out some of those recommended reads. My husband and I are in the planning stages of a new business that we are going to launch (we haven’t actually said that out loud to anyone other than ourselves to this point), and need all of the information we can get our hands on to get going. It certainly is exciting when you come up with ideas that will actually work, are unique, and that you are passionate about! Thank you for sharing this and for all of the great suggestions.

  11. Don

    Thanks for outlining all that you are doing in such a frank and honest way. So many people on the internet are doing cloak and dagger. It refreshing and inspiring to see exactly how you are designing your life right now. Ever since I read Chris’s Art of Nonconformity and Tim’s Four Hour Work week, I’ve been looking for guidance on how to break free from my JOB. Your posts and especially this one give me the belief that this is a possibility for me & my family too. Also interesting to note that I’ve read most all of you Recommended books, but as of yet, have not taken action. Now is the time to do so. Thanks!!

    • Rachel

      Glad you enjoyed it Don.

      It also took us years to finally implement all the great stuff we’ve read. I think we first read Four Hour Work Week in 2007 – we’re just applying it now 🙂

  12. Jorge

    I like what are you doing and how you doit o saw your car today good luck

  13. Sandra Burkholder

    We recently took a 2-month work-vation around North America in our used vegetable oil van with our children. We did it over winter so it ended up being more expensive than it would have been had we done it in summer. However, we are both consultants (me a bookkeeper and writer and my husband an engineer who is a whiz at high level computer/network/system design and maintenance). Our clients were awesome and let us work remotely. We packed our laptops and a mobile printer and were able to travel and work a few days a week. We homeschool with a great program in British Columbia, called SelfDesign, which allows families to introduce as little or as much structure into “learning” as they like, so travelling with kids is very much encouraged. We are currently part way through constructing our earthship home but since returning from our trip know that we want to do it again. (But less expensively, and further afield). We also write technical docs to do with our sustainable house – this is where my husband’s scientific/technical expertise really comes into play, but we really need to move forward on about three more books. These bring in fairly passive income once they are completed and posted. Our biggest weakness is lack of marketing through various methods; our blog, YouTube, etc. This is something I’m determined to learn more about. We are looking forward to (maybe) spending several months next winter in Mexico with friends who have a sailboat. We will make their marina our home base and travel outward from there. By winter we hope to have a bit better income stream to support this. Because we are always keeping an eye on our carbon footprint we elected not to sell products that required shipping in the traditional sense. Rachel, we love following stories of your travelling/living!

    • Rachel

      What a great story Sandra. I’ll have to check out your website. Thanks for reading and following and living deliberately!

  14. Frank

    It’s always people that are willing to teach their own children, that are the ones living out life as they please in an adventurous way without bothering anyone else. Way to go.

  15. Frank

    If you all are coming through Ecuador on your journey, you might think about stopping by?

    • Rachel

      Most definitely, can’t wait for Ecuador. How long will you be there…our ‘trip’ is getting slower all the time 😉

  16. Frank

    Have no plans to leave at this point. But you never know, you know how that goes!!! If you’ll give us a head’s up…then we’ll make it a point to wait…

  17. Will

    Love your blog my wife and I just came across it two days ago. We are going to be moving to Pana Jachel at the end of this year. We will be living off of support raising and working for an organization called Solomon’s Porch in Pana. We have two young children and resonate with your desire to not educate them in the industrial way of education. Thanks for writing and inspiring.

  18. Geli Alvarez

    I am really thankfull to have found you guys and all your inputs… truly a most beautyful work you guys are doing…. Me and my wife and our 6 month baby, Atlan, are planning to leave the USa a year from now in a traveling project that could turn into more than 3 years, beggining with central america. thanks for letting us now thats is possible to generate income while moving and experiencing life as it truly moves… am a photographer and writer (spanish mainly) and traveling is my best given gift, as both photo and words paired up in an endless array of oportunities…. thanks again and hopefully we will meet up down the road.. safe travels.

    • Rachel

      Thank you for your comment.

      We actually have a very large section in our book (that will be released this month, September 2012 – fingers crossed xx) about how people fund their dreams.

  19. Jake Chesney

    wow! I think we just found our “soul friends”! My wife and I have been mobile for about 10 years. We have chosen to stay put in Illinois for 8 mths and live elswhere for 4 mths during the winter. We have 3 kids, ages 11, 9, and 5. The “elsewhere” is starting to get more exciting. For 5 years it was Georgia and Florida where my wife’s family resides. But last year we stayed in Scottsdale, AZ. This year we depart to Dominican Republic and if all goes well, we may make that our winter place for a few years.

    You inspire me so much already! I can’t wait to expose all your work here to my wife! Hopefully we can connect at some point on our travels!

  20. Flynn

    Thank you so much for this amazing list of just some of the ways that you creatively make your way in the world and allow for your family to travel, contribute, and live your dreams, while also inspring so many!

  21. Angela222

    I love your site. I have a 16yr old and and 13yr old and we live in spain. That means 3 months off in the summer…will look into travelling elsewhere in those 3 months.. with your help and inspiration. Thanks

  22. Wil

    I’ve complied a list of ways to make money travel in my post <a href=”://www.whereswil.com/2013/01/make-money-traveling-earn-anywhere/”>Make Money Traveling – Earn Anywhere</a>. So far I’ve been pretty successful as a self published author and if I continue to write I’m sure I’ll be earning enough to sustain my travels.

  23. Ashley at The FUN Life

    Wow!  What a great article.  Real-life, practical tips, instead of hypothetical dream-world scenarios 🙂  Just shared with my Twitter followers @thefunlifeblog Thank you for taking the time to share this!

  24. mytreasuredcreations

    Did I miss this article the first time you posted??
    Anyway, for years now, my parents (from Brazil) have been asking us to move to Brazil. Now that we are actually considering and planning to do it they are telling us it’s “too crazy” to leave everything behind and do it. Go figure!!???
    But we have decided… we will be getting rid of stuff this Spring… I already began the decluttering and sorting of stuff… and then we will sell the house and then we will go… Our plans is to fund things with the sell of our stuff and do temporary work here. But things could change easily and we might do some exciting work in Brazil. We have some land there and the possibilities are endless and very adventurous too… so who know?? God does!! We are following His lead.
    PS I love your blog!!!

  25. Saurabh R Bhatt

    @Jen Kelly Exactly in line with your modality I am planning Global Travel through my unique Holistic Health Program based on Nature and my own health experiments. At the age of 63 years, I do not need specs in broad day light, Flat tummy, no health problem, never get tired, weather-proof and what not. I would like to be part of your health program if you consider…. Pl. reply on… [email protected] …. Saurabh R Bhatt – Mobile 91+81735 14987


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