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Vagabonds Travel for Work – Must Diversify Income

I am Tired of Being a Poor Vagabond, I failed at travel blogging, too, must find other work MEXICO CITY, Mexico- There is a rule of long term travel that states that a traveler must eventually find work on the road or go home. Income works best in travel when it comes from a variety [...]

I am Tired of Being a Poor Vagabond, I failed at travel blogging, too, must find other work

MEXICO CITY, Mexico- There is a rule of long term travel that states that a traveler must eventually find work on the road or go home. Income works best in travel when it comes from a variety of sources. A good vagabonding rig will have four or five different ways of making money that can be employed in appropriate succession or in tandem around the world.

As for me, I am an archaeologist, an English teacher, a farm hand, a freelance journalist, a webmaster, a blogger, a hostel receptionist who has also experienced a dozen other professions throughout his travels around the world. Though I must admit that I only like working formally for others — as an employee — where the prospect of taking out a good story, of learning new skills, or of meeting interesting people: route work for a paycheck alone is a slayer of the human spirit.

In point, I have never been much for the grueling, blank faced, “no comment,” endless work day. I am a good worker, but I am not a workingman. I prefer to work for myself, even if that means striving 10 times as hard for a check that is a tenth of what I could otherwise make working for others.

This is the goal, the double dream:

To travel the world while working for myself; to be free to go just about anywhere while being my own boss.


As all travelers should, I need to diversify my income options. As of now, my only independently derived source of income stems from this website. All of my self employment beans are in one sack. But, I must admit here, that I have held down formal employment for only 9 months out of the past three years, the rest of my income has come from VagabondJourney.com. Not bad.

My family has proven that we can travel on $25 a day in total.

But I do not know why we want to.

Kuan Yin in China - A vagabond must have many arms bringing in income from many sources.

This website is founded on the theme of working around the world, on open ended travel, on the traveling lifestyle. But for all too many travelers — myself included — living like this are poor in terms of income. This lifestyle often means having severe financial limitations always brooding over you, it means being a vagabond in the genuine, typical sense.

Vagabonds travel and work, but they don’t need to be derelict. I want a little more success in this life — I want more money.

I am tired of being poor. I am sick of watching my wife break out in tears in the midst of our long and tedious searches for hotel rooms that we can afford, I am sick of eating bare bottom meals that are chosen on a quantity/ nutrition/ price ratio rather than by taste, I am sick of the restrictions that are inherent to traveling as a poor man. I am annoyed with feeling guilty about feeding my family a large pizza for dinner that costs the wopping amount of $8.

I will always be a vagabond, a modern nomad wandering from pasture to pasture setting up shop and making a living on the road, but I need to start living better. I need to start making more money.

Year one of family travel has been good kicks, but year two is going to need a different tune. The income numbers that I put up last year will not going to keep us dancing through this year.

I proudly reported back in San Cristobal de las Casas that I was making more money off of the website than I ever had before. I think readers took this as a sign that I am doing well. All donations outside of subscriptions have just about ceased. I am getting there, but I am still a far way off.

Living off of a website is not cutting it in and of itself: the rate of income gain is not matching my rate of growing expenditures. My fractions are growing ever less constant as I write this.

I need to diversify my independent travel businesses, go back to the drawing board on my income strategy. Our 180 day Mexican visas are just about expired, and nowhere nearby is calling our names, so the following months will see me return to my home country — the USA — and begin new projects, receive fresh tutelage in new trades, and come out with a new set of traveling skills.

You can’t make a living travel blogging

Regardless of what the white collar travel bloggers tell you, there is no longer an adequate way to make a living running a general, multi-country travel blog. These business brats will try to sell travel blogging like it is some sort of get rich quick scheme, but it is not.

The only way to make money from a travel blog seems to be using it as a platform to sell ebooks on how to make money travel blogging: the sick irony of a publishing medium that was quickly sucked dry by too many piglets at the tit.

Too many travelers set out to make money blogging, and now we all go hungry — advertising that once sold for $150 per month now scarcely brings in $10, the dying gurgles of a diluted market. It is time for a change in strategy.

I make money from my website because I worked at it for eight hours a day for six years in a row. VagabondJourney.com currently brings in over 4,000 unique visitors a day, way over 100,000 visitors a month. This traffic brings me in a small amount of cash, but not nearly what I projected six years ago. I estimated that 1,000 visitors would roughly mean $10 of income, derived from various sources. $40 per day would be a clutch amount of money for us to make off of this site at this juncture, but this is not what we bring in.

I spent the better part of a decade chasing a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow just to arrive and find it already looted — with only a few scraps and a stray lint ball or two for the taking.

DO NOT TRY TO MAKE MONEY TRAVEL BLOGGING, you will fail. The people who tell you otherwise are trying to sell you a product. Snakes and vipers. They came into travel blogging on the media hype that they are ex-white collar employees who found personal liberty through ditching their cubicles. They say they found a solid income from nothing other than travel blogging.

“Look at me, look at me, I use to be in a cubicle too but now I’m free,” they proclaim. “Want to know how I did it? Send me money to find out.”

These US and Canadian suburban youths really just brought the business world to online travel writing, leaving little behind. Same old same old. Like so, they are willing to lie to make money:  they will tell you that they make $3,000 a month blogging, they will give you poor advice that could ultimately get your pages dropped hard by search engines.

Snakes and vipers.

I failed at travel blogging too.

I stand before you as a prime example of yet another travel blogging failure. I set out to make money with this website, for six years I worked my fingers to the bone, I focused my mind on the task before me, I toiled hard, and I put up five pages a day site wide. I now have one of the highest traffic independent travel websites on the planet. I don’t make a quarter of what I should from it. Six years of hard work has lead to eventually making $25 a day. With small supplementation and trading work for room and board a couple times a year, my family can live on this income.

But why should we want to?

I set myself an ultimatum at the beginning of 2010:

“If I am not making over $30 per day off of the website by the end of the year, I will give it up and do something else.”

I am not going to give up on VagabondJourney.com (I am still bringing in $25 a day off of this sow), but I am going to refine my focus and branch out into other ways of deriving an independent income.

There are some topics on the site that make money, and others that don’t. Both take time and effort to produce. I need to streamline my work on focus on that which will make money and find other publishing avenues for that which will never make me a dime if published online. The hard travel information, the travel guides, WIKI Vagabond make me money; the stories, cultural anecdotes, travel tips — the interesting banter — has little to no financial value.

New methods are needed. In the coming year, new methods of publishing will come to Vagabond Journey Travel.

The romance of vagabonding is work

I am a traveler, but I live under the same economic pressures as anybody else. I do not have the liberty to have hobbies in this life, if I am going to put a large amount of time into something it needs to bring money in. I have no economic buffer, no reliable check that comes at the end of a 40 hour work week that covers all of my expense and then some, no simple 9 to 5, five day a week schedule that leaves the rest of my time free to relax and work on non-income related projects.


The vagabond life all too often a constant search for income. The trick is to make this search as interesting, enjoyable, and fulfilling as possible: to make work a hobby. The object is to blend what I like doing with what makes me a living. But, at the end of the day, I need to add up the ledger to discover if my fractions are constant: I need to make money.

All too often the traveling life is viewed as a life of leisure, a life removed from the tar pit of work. To say that I work is to kill the romantic notion of life on the road that many people hold. I am a vagabond, I travel for work. This is part of the true romance of the lifestyle. I am not a tourist, travel is not a perpetual exercise in leisure, I am not a king presiding over a revolving lot of vassals.

If this ruins your romantic notion of travel and you leave this page because of it, then good on you — go read some tourist blog that shows a fancy, ass grabbing sort of world, suck in the lies that you want so badly to believe. I have devoted my life to travel, this is my lifestyle, my work.

I need to make a real living.

New ways of making money

I am not going to abandon travel, nor this website. Rather, I am going to optimize my money making strategies. For many years, long term readers — mostly men a couple of decades my senior — give me advice on how to make a living, almost invariably they tell me that I am thinking too small. Making money travel blogging is a dream, but it is a small dream. Many of these readers seem to belive in me, and I am sure they would smile if I reported that I am giving up this life sucking website project and diving into what I could really make a living from.

The shedding of dreams is the functional essence of maturing.

I need to mature. I am now focusing my attention on writing books, articles for the travel sections of newspapers, and on poignant online pieces that will bring in traffic and money. The story of these ventures will still be published on this travelogue daily — the deep value of a large reading audience is worth more than dollars and cents can measure (I also enjoy blogging, another unmeasurable value inherent to the occupation).

I have also started a regimen to learn new skills that can make me a living on the road. I am going beyond writing about the world and am diving into living it. I interviewed many travelers with independent travel businesses for a series that was meant to be both a vagabonding primer for readers, as well as an idea bank for me. I know that some of the income strategies that are included in this series could be better optimized with a few tweaks here and there. I am doing the tweaking and taking a couple of these strategies for myself.

Read through the stories in the Independent travel work series to discover how other vagabonds are making a living.

Must diversify income conclusion

If I can average $25 a day off of three separate ventures, I can make enough money to travel in comfort. $60 a day is more than double what we now spend, $75 per day means living large. I can make $75 a day, I just need a few tweaks in strategy to do so. I need to diversify my independent travel businesses, grow arms like Kuan-Yin, fiddle here, start up small ventures there, and bring in enough money to live and travel well on.

It is either this or the hills.

This entry is delivered in honesty. Though this angle on life is not one that often makes money or leads to success.

I am not a marketing ploy — “Look at me, look at me, I travel the world and live large, I don’t work, I blog, give me money and I will tell you how.” I am a traveler, a vagabond, and this is my story.

Vagabond Journey is the true story of world travel as I see it. It is the story of struggling for money, working, living frugal and simple, failing, and somewhere in the mix of all of this realizing that the stuggles of the open road are an essential part of the joys.

Failure is a fundamental part of success.

Filed under: Travel Lifestyle, Travel Philosophy, Traveling Webmaster, Work

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 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 3367 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Support Wade Shepard’s writing on this blog (please help):

Wade Shepard is currently in: Fish Guts, MontanaMap

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