How To Make Money While Traveling
Is traveling long term your goal? Or do you dream of leaving behind your 9-5 for the freedom to pursue your passions full time? A big part of optimizing your life is figuring out the best/happiest/healthiest way to live it, together.
For us, that meant learning how to make money while traveling. It meant having the freedom to travel and create our own business. Here’s our story and how we’ve sustained our lifestyle by making money online while traveling full time.
leaving the 9-5
How One Year Turns Into Many
When we decided to quit our engineering jobs after eight years of climbing the corporate ladder, we planned to travel for one year. During that time, we had a vague business idea that we wanted to pursue. Almost two years later, our business success is fully supporting our traveling lifestyle. We are making enough money to travel full time.
Ryan and I were back in his home state of Minnesota last month between living in Panama and Costa Rica. Like a broken record, we answered a million and one times, “What are you guys doing?” and, “How do you guys keep on traveling?”
So, here’s our story of how we’re making money while we travel.
Our Motivation To Leave
Many dream the big dream: leaving their 9-5 to travel and become their own boss.
Traveling and entrepreneurship aren’t for everyone. You take significant risks, and it is a hard pill to swallow waving two stable incomes “adiós.” The reasons why we chose to leave are personal and center around our health and burnout story. For countless reasons, many people want to do it as well, and the idyllic Instagram feeds of digital nomads taking calls on the beach only adds to the desire.
There are many ways to start traveling, and the cheeky response is simply “Quit your job and buy a one-way plane ticket.” It’s not bad advice, but since we’re engineers, we treated planning as a science.
Our Secret Plan
Our secret plan (kept secret because it was scary) was that travel was not our primary objective. Instead, our goal was to use our new-found free time as an opportunity to learn how to build a profitable business while traveling together.
Traveling with a higher purpose in mind is the secret to taking a break from the 9-5, either temporarily or longterm. It’s important to pursue something fulfilling, especially if your original 9-5 wasn’t filling that space.
This is what my business mentor, Ken, told me in an email days before I left.
“My opinion is that you need to make sure you can show your next employer that the year was taken not as ‘time off’ but as “time invested” in something worthy. That may mean personal development such as an MBA. Or, it could mean you wanted to pause and ‘give back’ through some form of nonprofit/charity work. Simply put, make sure the year is well spent.”
Whether you’re traveling for a year, taking a break, or leaving the rat race indefinitely, make sure you’re always investing in yourself and your future. There’s no better time to do it while traveling.
Preparing to Travel
In December 2017, I gave my official notice to leave my comfortable, secure management job. There was tons of uncertainty around what would come next. We had lived abroad before, but with a steady expat paycheck from our engineering jobs. Now, we were on our own, creating income via our laptops and a (hopefully stable) wifi connection.
After we thoroughly reviewed our finances as a couple, we opened credit cards with no international fees and bank accounts with no worldwide ATM fees and 2% APY interest. We squared away our retirement investments and loaded up our IRA’s. Finally, we purchased health insurance for travelers and boarded our one-way flight to Ecuador.
Was it scary to leave two incomes behind? Absolutely. But do we regret it? Not for a second in the years that would come to pass.
To clarify, we are not scared to go back to a 9-5 because we’d have to work again. We are no strangers to hard work, and the ‘rat race of corporate’ isn’t a terrible thing either. It offers stability and security for many.
Instead, we’re looking for hard work that gives us purpose and a sense of personal accomplishment. On average, we still work 40 hour weeks while we travel, and sometimes a lot more. The difference is that we choose when and where.
With no further ado, let’s talk about the good stuff: how to make money while traveling.
how we make money while traveling
1. Travel Is an Opportunity to Start a Business
Trust me. Numerous self-limiting beliefs ran through our heads when we started. Can we actually build a business to support ourselves? Will anyone be interested in what we have to say? Will we be cleaning toilets one year from now?
At least, if all else failed, we spent the year traveling to new countries, right?
We selected South and Central America because of the low cost of living and the comparable time zones to the US, where most of our clients would reside. In this setting, we also knew that we wouldn’t have to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and maintain our former lifestyles. Moving abroad was a clean slate for us.
As for business ideas, our advice is don’t just start a travel blog unless it’s your passion. Focus on your unique skills. For Ryan and I, the basis for our business, as well as our personal transformation stories, was fitness and nutrition. Therefore, we began by promoting our favorite, tried-and-true tool: Beachbody.
Immediate Income Stream
I joined Ryan, who was already partnered with Team Beachbody as a side-gig, earning a monthly income helping others create healthy lifestyles. Beachbody is an established network marketing company. Its main products being streamed workout videos that we follow daily, as well as our secret weapon for nutrition, Shakeology. Our work through Beachbody is done entirely online, remotely, and paychecks are deposited in US dollars every Thursday.
Many of the full-time travelers we met had similar jobs working for network marketing companies, as web developers, or in remote consulting jobs. However, the remaining majority were spending their budget, getting closer to an expiration date on their travel as their bank accounts dwindled. Many who we met wishfully expressed how they wanted to earn a few hundred bucks a month.
By the sixth month of our travels, our income through Beachbody fully supported our lifestyle and vacations. Therefore, we had time and money to focus on growing the next portion of our business, discussed in our second point…
2. Create a Brand and Find an Audience
With an income coming in from Beachbody, we reallocated time to grow our own brand and create digital products to earn passive income longterm. We followed our skills and passion by focusing on couple’s health. Fortunately, since we had invested significant hours into our website and email list, we had an audience ready to go with our programs, like Just Duo It.
Just Duo It is a fully digital program of emailed daily insights and monthly guides to transform the relationships and health of couples from good to freakin’ amazing. Coming soon, look out for our ebook and other related digital products.
How did we know how to do this? With the help of a friend and marketing mentor who we met fortuitously while traveling. Additionally, through online courses we purchased. We invested in ourselves and kept our eyes peeled for opportunities.
Social media has been an excellent way for us to build our audience, but the foundation of our brand and the home for our digital products is our website. It’s imperative to have a website if you are serious about making money while you travel full time. Which brings us to our third point…
3. Focus On Longterm, Passive Income
We made our website from scratch. Taking this initiative has been essential to growing the website as our business and brand evolved. We write about the topics we are passionate about on our blog and share ideas in a weekly Duo Life Letter sent to our email list on Friday mornings. Making the WordPress website was the easy part. Helping people find us on the web, which has been Ryan’s job, has opened up significant income potential.
Within six months of Ryan learning and implementing Search Engine Optimization (SEO), we have thousands of like-minded people finding us through Google each month. Additionally, those visitors are signing up daily for our programs and offers. In time, this traffic will turn into multiple income streams through ads and product purchases.
In the present, our new website and social media following makes money through affiliate marketing. We partnered with companies like Amazon to create a shop and recommend our favorite products. Also, we are affiliates for TrustedHousesitters, WorldNomads for Travel Insurance, Evernote for managing frog-eating to-do lists, and 1Password for online account security.
Also, when people ask us about how we run our online business, we get paid by referring them to the tools we use. For example, we love ConvertKit for email marketing, SiteGround for website hosting, and Divi by Elegant Themes as a simple, responsive website theme. As our website traffic and following increase, more affiliate opportunities will open up.
Affiliate marketing is a space where anyone can promote their favorite products and earn a “finder’s fee” commission. It’s a significant first step to learning how to make money while you travel. There are no extra costs for using affiliate links and. Instead, there is often a discount. Affiliate marketing commissions range from 5% to 40% on the first time and even recurring orders.
Affiliate marketing helps us spread the word about the things we love, and steadily grows a portion of our income while traveling.
Additionally, we’ve received free products, like swimsuits, bags of gourmet coffee beans, nutritional supplements, and exercise gear in exchange for social media posts. While we enjoy the free stuff, we prioritize cash deals.
4. Stay Connected to Your Former Industry
When you leave your corporate jobs, it doesn’t mean you need to leave the industry. We’ve kept ties to our engineering roots and accept consulting calls organized by agencies specializing in knowledge and professional research.
For example, companies like GLG, AlphaSights, and Guidepoint contact us for consulting gigs monthly. In our industry of plastics and adhesives, typical rates go for $400-500 an hour.
To start with consulting calls, we’ve made sure that our resumés on LinkedIn are up to date and “open to recruiting opportunities.” This is in LinkedIn’s “Job seeking preferences” area in Settings.)
5. Allow New Income Streams to Find You
Finally, after living abroad longterm, we’ve learned to optimize our budget. Things like eating vegetarian, not drinking frequently, learning how to cook well, and walking instead of taking a taxi save us considerable pesos/dollars. Conversely, they make us healthier and more productive.
Additionally, we seem to happen upon random income opportunities. That’s how we found out about TrustedHousesitters, which allows us to live for free while we travel. It’s also how we secured a multi-month paid deal with a skincare company to beta test their products. Or, how I became a paid Adidas model years ago in China.
Additionally, Ryan and I have met other entrepreneurs importing their specialty products to the US. So, wherever we go, we keep a sharp eye out for products and connections that we may want to do the same with. Like that time we came across açaí’s tastier, Amazonian super-fruit cousin, the ungurahui!
There’s Huge Opportunity Out There
In a nutshell, Ryan and I have gotten a lot more creative and intuitive with our income opportunities since leaving home sweet home. When you take a risk, you’re more open to new ways to make money while traveling. Many of these we never would have noticed if we were still on our one-way track in corporate.
Outside of all of these new and unexpected ways to make money traveling full time, none are as important as the extra time we spend together. Or the focus we’re able to put on our health and happiness.
The additional things, like learning to build a website, creating an email marketing campaign, practicing our Spanish, getting published on sites like The Daily Mail and Thought Catalog, writing our first book, and living in seven countries are just perks. But to me, they qualify as the ‘time invested’ that my mentor told me to seek out.
Now, whether or not we want to travel for a few years or indefinitely, we have the knowledge and tools to call the shots without the anxiety of running out of money.
What’s the worst thing that could happen if you took a year to travel and turn your passion project into a business? What’s the best thing that could happen?
If you want to learn more about leaving your 9-5, creating a business idea, or the ins-and-outs of working abroad — like the Wifi speed you really need — reach out to us at in the comments below, or in an email.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “happiness engineers.” After eight years working as corporates engineers internationally, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — leading couples to engineer their best lives. The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.