A reader named Ysabella asks a question about how to make money while traveling with a baby:
Hi! I’m currently pregnant with my first child & my boyfriend and I want to travel the world with our baby after he or she is born. We plan to save up as much money as possible, within the next year and a half or so, but after we depart, we’re worried about making money after that. How do you continue to have an income while traveling to a new location every month? Thank you so much! Your blog is so inspiring!
First of all, good on you for taking the initiative to travel while raising a child. It’s really an incredible way to raise a family. All too often we receive letters from people who say they can’t travel because they have kids, as though the act of reproduction inherently plants roots beneath their feet. It doesn’t. Though fear, trepidation, a lack of confidence, and the pursuit of a false sense of security does. I will not say that it’s easy traveling with a child, but if you structure life appropriately it isn’t particularly difficult either, and the benefits of traveling through foreign lands as a family are overwhelming. In some ways, particularly financially, it’s my impression that it’s actually easier to live better traveling abroad than in expensive regions like the USA or Western Europe.
This leads me to your question, which is probably the biggest one a traveler can ask: how to make money?
Working through the world with a baby is not the challenge that it may at first seem to be. Sure, you’re not going to be able to do some of the jobs you otherwise could, and your work schedule is going to have to take your baby and your boyfriend into account. While it’s true that having a baby is one more mouth to feed, the actual expenses up to the age of two (when they need their own airline ticket) are pretty negligible.
In the end, the disadvantages of family are almost made up for by the advantages. In point, being a family means that there are two capable bread winners, and expenses, food, and resources can all be shared. This group oriented travel often actually makes traveling families more able to face the financial and other challenges of traveling.
Having the baby is probably going to mean that you’re going to want to travel slow, which will not only save you a lot of money but make you more able to find work. Though it is possible to stride into a town, pick up work for a couple of days, and then leave, this isn’t a very likely long term scenario. Working means being in places for months on end. Not only is staying places for extended periods of time necessary for making enough money and satisfying your commitment to your employers but also to make the contacts necessary for finding work in the first place. In point, the longer you stay somewhere the more people you’re likely to meet, the more people you meet the more likely it’s going to be for you to find jobs. So when you head out on the road, try to find places to use as hubs for three+ months at a time. I’ve found that traveling in shifts works best.
As far as work goes, there are too many options to count. I say write out all of your skills on a piece of paper, and keep that piece of paper with you when you’re traveling. Whenever you get stuck somewhere without employment look at it and try to figure out how you can optimize or reinterpret those skills to use in your current context. Example:
If you’re a good baker you can make brownies and sell them in the street.
If you’re a musician then make money playing music.
If you can dance, learn certain forms of busking compatible dancing or teach it.
If you have a mind for business, then open up a mobile shop.
If you’ve studied massage, then doing massages independently can be rather lucrative on the road.
If you want to learn to make jewelry, then you can have a livelihood almost anywhere.
If you’re good with your hands then find something that people would like to buy and make it.
If you have English teaching creds, then the opportunities are almost endless.
On top of this having some form of digitally derived income would also be clutch, as you can do this work from anywhere there’s an internet connection (which is quickly becoming almost everywhere). If this is within your skill set, doing a little freelance writing, web design, or other types of digital nomad work could really help out in times when the finances get low and it’s slim pickings for finding work where you are.
These are not fantasy suggestions, but real lines of work that people do on the road. You mentioned that you’re saving up money now, but what is perhaps even more important than savings is having a skill set that you can employ on the road. I say learn as many job skills that can be interpreted in the travel context as you can before striking out. If you learn five or six travel work skills it is my impression that you will be able to find a livelihood pretty much anywhere.
My daughter is now over three years old, and our situation is a little different from how your’s is going to be, but we started traveling with her when she was eight weeks old so we’ve covered that road before. At the start of our travels with the kid I was working as an archaeologist in the southwest of the United States. This isn’t a job that you can just walk into, so I won’t go into it in much detail here, but it did set the course that we would follow for the first part of our family travels. This model was simple: I would work and my wife would work when she could.
Dividing up the work responsibility is essential when you’re on the road with a baby. You’re going to pretty much be without the support network of your family and community, so taking care of your baby is going to completely be the responsibility of you and your boyfriend. Though myself and my wife have both worked at the same time (more on this later), we’ve found it better early on for one parent to work and the other be with the baby. So when you first start out it may be impractical for both of you to try finding jobs, so figure out ways to maximize each other’s potential and go to places where at least one of you can work while the other plays a support role. This is another place where having some online income could come in handy, as you could watch the baby and work at the same time from within your hotel room.
After working on archaeology projects for a while in the southwest, we went to the Caribbean and Central America. It was here that we were living off of this website completely. I took on the main role here while my wife would help out when she could.
After doing this for a while we found ourselves with an offer to work at a hotel in the jungle of Guatemala. We got a free place to stay and food for handling the guests. Our baby, who was about a year old at this point, would just crawl around playing with bugs and trying not to fall in the mud while we worked.
This brings me to a main point of working on the road: sometimes not having to spend money is just as good as making money. So look for work-trade opportunities too, as they can put you in amazing places and keep money in your pocket.
From Guatemala we went to Mexico, and relied on the earnings from this website again. My wife would supplement our income a little by teaching English in a school and to private students.
From here, my wife and kid went back to the USA for a visit and I went to Iceland. My wife worked a decent job there for a couple of months at a preschool. Then we went to Colombia and both worked on this site. From there, we returned to Mexico, and my wife taught English and I continued ticking out these words.
We are now in China, my wife works at a kindergarten for 25 hours a week and I travel around collecting things to write about.
To sum up how we generally make money:
My wife is a teacher.
I am a blogger.
We are always open to other streams of income.
Somehow it works.
One major piece of advice that I have to share is to make sure you select your destinations wisely, as making up a livelihood in some places is easier and more realistic than others. Central America and Mexico is probably the working traveler’s epicenter of the world. Southeast Asia is also good. Eastern Europe is alright if you’re looking for work-trade arrangements or short duration gigs. Western Europe is too expensive to make it worth working there (you’ll spend all that you make in a flash). East Asia is excellent if you’re a native English speaker with a university degree. South America is good if you’re a hippie and engage in the hippie economy, for others it can be real hit and miss.
Main types of jobs that travelers do
- English teaching
- Jewelry making and selling
- Busking (music, dance, juggling etc . . .)
- Digital nomad work (blogging, journalism, web construction, consulting etc . . .)
- Working for business/ trading firms
- International standards/ quality control
- Farm work
- Fisheries work
- Hotel/ hostel work
- Bar work
- Restaurant work
- Tour guiding
- Translating/ interpreting