25 ways to earn money when you’re broke on the road
YOU REACH INTO you wallet to pay for your hostel bed for the night, and come up empty. You dig deeper, finding only receipts and pocket lint.
You realize you’re out of money.
Nervous, you excuse yourself from the hostel clerk and rip open your backpack, in search of a secret stash of cash. Nothing. Not even a few coins.
All you have left are some smelly socks, an overdrawn bank account and an unquenchable thirst for adventure.
What do you do? Pack up your gear, hang your head in shame as you call your friends/parents to send the money for a ticket home? Or do you consider these innovative options for funding a life on the road:
1. Travel Writer
Considered by many as the ultimate travel job, writing for online publications can help you buy your next mug of beer. Work your way to becoming the next Hunter S. Thomson by learning about the craft and querying your next inspired idea.
2. Wield that camera
National Geographic may not be knocking your door down, but that doesn’t mean that your photos don’t deserve an audience. Try selling your landscape and portrait shots to travel publications or submit it to a stock photography company such as Shutterpoint.com, Andes Press Agency and Getty Images.
3. Video journalism
If you’re talented (or even if you aren’t), this is a great way to earn money. Just make sure you’re not taking someone else’s “spot” and check the legalities of performing in a certain area. Or if the police come, you could just run away really fast.
5. Work an a Bookstore
It’s a great way to show-off your “intellectual” side whilst devouring the latest books. Keep in mind that most may require a work permit before they hire you. A great alternative is to bunk in Paris’ famed Shakespeare and Company where the owner offers free beds and work in exchange that you promise to read at least one book a day.
6. Online Poker
This is the perfect money-making means for risk takers. Many travelers who have funded their trips from their winnings on Online Poker. Make sure to weigh the risks of wiping out your bank account and developing a gambling problem.
Have you been known to make your dates swoon with your suave massage moves? Maybe it’s time you put your seduction skills to good use by working as a freelance masseuse. Find willing clients on the beach or a location where people are looking to relaaaaxxxx. Invest in some scented oil, clean nails and your most disarming smile and you’ll have enough funds for your own spa treatment.
8. Farm Work
Fruit picking and farm work is one of the favorite possibilities for hippies, idealists and masochists. Though it is literally hard labor, it’s a paying job with invaluable perks, like meeting new people, enjoying the outdoors and having a unique experience.
If you’d like to fatten your wallet whilst trimming your waistline, then take on some short-term construction work. Who knows, with your newly sculpted abs and beefy biceps, you may find other uses for that tool belt.
10. Work in a hostel
Many hostels hire part-time workers in exchange for cheaper rates on rooms. Cleaning up after travelers may seem pretty disgusting, but it’s an opportunity for quick cash, a free bed and some new friends.
You don’t have to cut off your ear to get a painting gig, but you can put your artistic abilities to good use by offering your services for home, office or building refurbishments.
12. Dishwasher or Kitchen Staff
Grab some leftovers without having to resort to dumpster diving. Experience the stress, camaraderie and craziness of working in a restaurant’s kitchen. It may even open your eyes to a new career path like it did for bad-ass chef extraordinaire, Anthony Bourdain.
13. For the love of science…or some cash
If you were the type of kid that purposely ignores the expiration date on milk cartons just to “see what would happen,” then this is the job for you. Get prodded and poked by nervous science students in the UK, US and in Europe with Get Paid to Guinea Pig.
14. Donate Blood
So what if you feel a bit woozy? A train to Russia is not cheap. Sissy. Plus, you’re helping save lives.
Do you enjoy staring at your reflection on train windows and hostel mirrors? Then throw down that backpack for a few hours and head off to the glamorous world of commercial and print modeling. Often found in the gigs section of craigslist ads and city job sites, these opportunities require little more than a few cheesy poses.
16. Movie Extra
Run through the streets of Berlin with Jason Bourne or flee Godzilla’s rampage in Tokyo by working as a movie extra. You can check out casting agencies, local job posts or even the local couchsurfing group where independent film makers often post openings. It’s a great way to rub elbows with international celebrities (or at least tell your friends you did), earn some fast cash and possibly get discovered.
Yes, saving the environment does pay. In most European cities, you can get cash back for the bottles you collect. Scour the hostel lounge and trash cans for some empty containers which you can take to the local supermarket where you’ll be given enough change to finally buy that banana you’ve been eyeing.
18. Sports events
Run after wayward golf balls or mop up the latest spillage from the Tae Kwon Do championships. For sports enthusiasts, it’s a great way to earn some money whilst gaining insight on the local games.
19. Trim some bushes
No, not those, pervert. Knock on a few doors and ask if they need any cleaning, yard work or repairs done. Though you may be chased off by Rover (or Ganesh if you’re in India), with a rumbling stomach, anything is worth a try.
If you consider yourself a master of setting up tents, then challenge yourself by working at an exposition. Find these jobs on the city classified pages and help put up the displays, tarps and booths for a quick and easy buck.
21. Write Content
If you’ve been annoying your friends and family back home with your lengthy emails, then maybe its time to get paid by writing about other things than yourself. Work for a site that pays per hits such as blogit.com, helium.com and Associatedcontent.com.
22. Resell stuff
Don’t quite know what to do with that weird doll you got in Romania? Then sell it in your next location. From convincing your bunkmate to buy your lucky charms to auctioning fleamarket finds on ebay, reselling unusual travel goods can turn into quite the lucrative on-the-road business.
If you’ve got a knack for crochet or can weave a basket at hyper speed, then selling some of your crafts can be used towards funding your next bus ticket. At the very least, you could make yourself something warm for those homeless evenings.
24. Festival Stalking
One of the best ways to combine a crazy cultural adventure, lots of drinking and enough dough for your next hangover spot is to work the festival circuit. You could either apply for a gig in one of the stands or push your own agenda by selling homemade space cakes, jell-o shots or setting up a kissing booth.
25. Sail Away
Sail off towards the sunset by working on a yacht or a cruise ship. You can find work by perusing crew job sites or simply asking people by the harbor if they have any leads. It provides a sense of freedom, a means to sustain to yourself and a way to get to your next stop.
Being on the road with very little or no cash may seem daunting at first, but the challenge of using your imagination to provide for yourself will make the experience all the more exciting and valuable.
Face the fear! There are always opportunities for the resourceful and intrepid traveler.
Any money-making ideas we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Want to learn the craft of travel writing?
Sign up for Matador’s new Travel Writing School and get the skills you need.