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How to earn money while travelling without getting a 'job'

Alia Parker's picture
Earn money on holiday without getting a proper job. Cycle Traveller

The other day I watched a man walking around a camp site with a metal detector. The machine seemed to work very well, taking him straight to the desired object in next to no time, following which he would dig, very precisely, into the ground to retrieve his little treasures. At first I found it amusing, but the more times he bent down to dig, the more intrigued I became. Could this actually be a handy way of earning a few bucks while bicycle touring? Could you buy travel-sized metal detectors?

Just as I started to come round to the idea, imagining discoveries of coins, gold wedding rings and other jewellery that could be turned into cash, he walked past with a very large loot of, well, tent pegs. Hmmm, maybe not.

I'm sure there are some people out there who do actually find valuables with a metal detector, but it got me thinking of ways to earn a few bucks while staying on the move. Personally, I always have a few freelance writing gigs up my sleeve while travelling and this has really helped me fund my time on the road – I can do this from anywhere in the world without a work permit.

As many bicycle tourers like the flexibility of staying on the move and not having to worry about work visas, these are a few of the most common ways to earn a buck without getting a proper 'job'.

Where to find online work

The internet really has changed the way the world works and these days it's possible to pick up all sorts of online work, especially if you are a writer, SEO and social media specialist, web or app developer, programmer, graphic designer, virtual assistant, or are in sales and marketing, data entry or public relations. The shift to online means you can find work from wherever you are in the world where there is internet connection. for finding work while travelling. Cycle TravellerDon't expect to rake in the millions. Generally, these sites tap a global talent pool, meaning there are skilled workers in developing countries often willing to work for a lot less than you normally would want to. However, if you're travelling in a developing country yourself, you won't mind.

If you are an established professional with many connections, approach prospective clients directly rather than use the freelance websites listed below as you'll find you'll get paid a much better rate.

Tip: develop a strong profile, market yourself well and build up a good list of referees.

Where to look: FreelanceroDeskeLance, Guru, People Per Hour, 99 Designs, Design Crowd, Project 4 Hire, Get A CoderFiverr, Craigs List.

Sell your handy skills is a website where people advertise for help with one-off odd jobs for a small fee. Some things may be as simple as washing the dishes after someone's dinner party, mowing the lawn or putting together IKEA furniture. You'll be amazed what you can find.

Airtasker for earning money while travelling. Cycle Traveller

Of course, if you have a trade, such as a builder, plumber, electrician, hairdresser, massage therapist, cook, dress maker, just to name a few, you can pretty much sell your skills anywhere for some cash in hand.

For instance, a hairdresser can offer other travellers at hostels or camp grounds affordable haircuts. Or a chef may tempt guests with a budget banquet feast that still yields a bit of profit. A builder or painter may be able to do some cheap odd jobs for the hostel, etc. Put yourself out there and you never know what may happen.

FYI, rules for earning cash in hand differ from country to country. In Australia, for instance, these sorts of odd jobs that deal with small amounts of money are generally considered hobbies.

Arts, crafts and music

If you are an artist, photographer, jewellery maker, crafts person or musician, you can try to sell your wares as you ride. Keep an eye on local laws if you plan to set up in the streets with a small market or as a busker as you may not always be welcome. You may even consider approaching existing market stalls to see if they would like to purchase some of your wares for resale.

The online world has also opened up a huge new market for musicians and artists, with many websites that will allow you to set up your own online shop, or use a community to upload music for sale or art or crafts for purchase.

Etsy for selling your crafts. Cycle TravellerMany web hosts offer packages that come with budget hosting, website and eStore, so if you want to run your own shop, check out a few to see what suits your needs. Just a couple of examples of what's out there are Shopify and GoDaddy Online Store

Whether you're selling through your own store or through a third party, it will be a good idea to set up some social media sites and a blog to promote your wares.

Some popular third party sites: Etsy (art + craft), Made It (art + craft), Art Web (art), TuneCore (music), CD Baby (music), The orchard (music), Pitchi (craft + design), Shutterstock (photography), iStockPhoto (photography), Big Cartel (custom platform).


Money is nice, for sure. But sometimes it's not money you need – often it's food, a place to sleep, or a ride somewhere.

There are many wonderful people around the world who are willing to offer help to cycle travellers (I've written in the past about how cyclists help each other out through WarmShowers). However, if you're in a situation where you need to approach someone to ask for help, it is often nice to offer to do something for them in return. They may refuse, of course, but you may actually be very useful to them. Small things count, like doing some gardening or cleaning. Or perhaps you've got some other skills that may be of use to them in exchange for what you need. For instance, Italian cook Michele Tomasini was hugely popular when he cycled through eastern Europe offering Italian cooking classes to his hosts. You never know until you ask.

Bartering is best done face-to-face, but there are a few websites out there too that support it, like SwapAce and Craigslist.

Final note

Whatever you do to earn money on long travels, you need to be dedicated. Nothing comes easy and you will need to promote yourself to get noticed. You may find you also need to experiment to find what works best for you. Whatever you do, make sure you do it well. Good luck!

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