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Vagabond Journey

How Perpetual Travelers Make Money

How to live a life of travel.

The following is a correspondent question for Michael Robert Powell about how he has made the money to travel during his 22+ year journey across planet earth.

“From reading The Candy Trail it is obvious that you know how to make the most out of spending money, but what have been your strategies for making money over your 22 years of travel? What forms of work have you tried? Which have proved most beneficial? Most interesting? Most challenging?”

You’re right; I spend well. I want to enjoy life, and live intensely.

While spending money is a pleasure that most of us can enjoy, my travel life is no exception – but rather than accumulating assets I funnel my cash into life experiences that I crave.

MRP in a Blackhawk helicopter in East Timor, 2000

This can often mean expensive travels. Like to Antarctica, Galapagos, Easter Island or a slow boat down the Niger River to Timbuktu; or more average experiences like steak and beer when the mood demands; or a flash hotel together with 3 women for the night.

But at the same time I am a backpacker (since 1988) and live out of a backpack, still. And mostly, I enjoy simple meals and use local guest-houses and whatever transportation to generally travel on between $20-50+ per day. Yet I will never miss a great travel experience to save money. For me, life is about ‘the now’ and everything I want to do and see is simply following my dreams.

Anyway, so where does my cash come from? (Sorry, no great advice here; but here’s my story).

Well, apart from selling weapons to terrorists, sex-slaves to the US and narcotics to the world … the reality is that I am a man of less exciting employment avenues. And in stark contrast to my travels, my employment history is bland.

I have never had a permanent job, ever.

Teaching English in China. Photo by MRP.

But since 1998, I have relied heavily on teaching English as my main source of income (in England, Bahrain, Indonesia, Korea, China …).

Before that I did a holiday job as a warehouse man in Marks & Spencer’s in Edinburgh and then office & research work in London (for The Good Food Guide @ Consumers Association) in my very early travel days. I also tried working on a moshav in Israel when broke, picking tomatoes – don’t even consider it; I was fired after 12 days – and later I did some random freelance newspaper travel writing in the 90s.

However, English teaching is still the best for me as a carefree, drifting traveler and also allows me time to be an artist.

I now sell occasional travel videos, digital art and travel photography [ 4 of my images are @ the Museum of World Culture in Sweden in the exhibition – Destination X ] and this money-source is something that I want to head further into … at this stage it remains a hobby until I bother marketing myself.

HOWEVER, my most exciting, fulfilling and lucrative job was an “International Instructor” with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in East Timor between 2000-2002, during the upheaval for independence from Indonesia.

UN military East Timor, 2000. Photo by MRP.

I was in the field, conducting courses – mostly intense English language for East Timorese interpreters so they could communicate better with international military and police within the UN mission; living amid the locals in post-war situations, flying about in helicopters, moving districts every 6 weeks for 2 years across East Timor (amid international travel holidays every 12 weeks). Life-changing times for me.

A long, crazy story … (worth a book) but I arrived as a broke illegal traveler and later left with over $100,000 saved and so I shot off to South America for about 2 years of pure travel and partying and then all over the place including Mongolia, Russia & Yemen. I blew it all within 5 years of travel; but no regrets.

Am presently teaching English teaching in China (3+ days a week) and looking towards meandering across the “Stans” soon as my wanderings continue …

As for work – no real challenges; and travel, too easy. Life is fun.

Filed under: Make Money for Travel, Perpetual Travel, Work

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