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Selling Candy to Fund Travels

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Sell bulk candy in the streets to raise travel funds

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico- “Would you like to buy a sucker?” a friend named Cecilia asked me in Spanish in the streets of San Cristobal. She had a box of suckers and a bulk bag of candy in her hands, which she thrusted out in my general direction. She was surrounded by a group of Maya street vendor kids, I assumed she was trying to help them out by selling their suckers to her friends.

I truly did not want to buy a sucker.  But a friend was doing the selling, so I appeased her. “How much?”

“However much you want to pay.”

I passed over two pesos and stuffed a piece of candy into my pocket.

The night wore on, I saw Cecilia later on still selling candy. I found this curious, as the group of kids that were with her before had long dispersed.

“What are you doing?” I asked in Spanish, “Are you not selling the candy for the kids?”

She looked at me as though I was cracked:

“No! I am selling the candy for me. I want to leave here to travel and I need money.”

It all became clear. The night before, Cecilia — who is a 17 year old Mexican traveler (and more than likely truly broke) — was telling me about how she was going to leave San Cristobal and go to Boca del Cielo with her bother and his girlfriend. On this night, she was making it happen.

“How much money did you make?” I inquired, wondering how lucrative selling suckers in the street could be.

Thirty something pesos.

“I almost have enough for my bus ticket,” Cecilia spoke proudly.

Mexican donuts

Travel strategy: buy candy/ snacks in bulk and then re-sell them in the street.

There is an entire industry built up around doing just this all throughout Latin America. Kids and old men ply the streets with little shelves strapped to their bodies full of candy bars, gum, sweets, and cigarettes. They sell these items to the people they pass, to shopkeepers, or they hang out on a bench and wait for someone to want a cigarette. These people are usually the poorest of the poor, their shear numbers alone ensure that no single one of them makes any more money than what it takes to just barely subsist.

Travelers sometimes ply a version of this trade as well. Walking through streets with baskets of brownies, cookies, truffles, or some other type of sweet in hand, they try to sell their wares to those they pass. Their clientele seems to be, more often than not, other travelers, tourists, or particularly hip Mexicans. Some sell their good for a penance, some make gourmet deserts and sell them for a small fortune.

One Argentinian around San Cristobal has turned his baked goods initiative into a full blown business. He makes some sort of super gourmet Argentinian ice cream pudding cake, individually places them in their own proper fitting plastic container, and carries them over his shoulder in a Styrofoam cooler around to all of the business in downtown San Cristobal. He charges 25 pesos a piece.

—————–

I watched my young Mexican friend carrying around her box of suckers, and realized that she was employing a decent strategy for obtaining a small amount of travel funds. Truly, Cecilia made about as much money selling sweets in the street as most people in this country make in the same amount of time in formal employment.

Though it is my impression that selling bulk sweets in the street is a micro-business strategy that could only be successfully applied in certain places and only for a short durations of time. San Cristobal is a hip place, there are many people here willing to toss a traveler some change for some sweets that they do not really want.  Cecilia was only looking for enough cash to get a bus to her next destination, unlike the gourmet desert making Argentinian or Rebecca, the girls who sells heart shaped cookies in the streets, Cecilia did not seem to be trying to run a lasting business — nor do I think she could with this strategy. In point, I tossed her some cash for a sucker today, but I would probably not do so if she asked me again tomorrow.

Cecilia made enough money to get out of San Cristobal, she made enough money to travel. Given the proper circumstances — a hip place with people willing to toss a traveler some pocket change — I believe that, if in a bind, a traveler could easily get from destination to destination selling bulk purchased sweets in the streets.

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Filed under: Independent Travel Business, Make Money for Travel, Mexico, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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