In my mind, the biggest roadblock to taking the year-long travel plunge is a financial one. When I tell my friends about our plans to travel, that’s one of the first things I hear: “how will you afford a year-long trip?” Well, how do you afford your current life? You have to eat and feed your family right? You have to have a roof over your head? The truth is your daily life here in the US costs money too! Inherent in this topic is the fact that in the US you have a clear way to pay for your lifestyle–your job. When you travel, you won’t have that 9-5 job (feel the stress leave as you read that). But, if there are ways to create passive income streams while you travel, that is the proverbial “icing on the cake.”
How to pay for your time abroad – Passive income streams
So the issue is clear: you need a way to bring in passive income through a side hustle and earn money while you travel. This may be for a few hours a day, or maybe just a few hours a week depending on how much investment income you have coming in. If you are into real estate like we are, you may have a few thousand dollars in passive income already. If you aren’t there yet, that’s ok, you just may have to be a little more scrappy about picking up these side jobs. You might be thinking why is he calling it a passive income stream when it’s actually more of an active side hustle? I consider a passive income stream to be any easy-ish way to make a smaller amount of money while devoting minimal time. This is in contrast to a career that usually imposes a rigid schedule, has far less freedom, but produces a predictable income stream over a period of time. Taking a look at some options, I’ve narrowed down to some that seem interesting and lucrative (relatively speaking)
I have to believe there are literally millions of travel bloggers. The idea sounds simple enough. You just go cool places, share your story, and you’re all set? Of course it’s far more complicated. The internet today is almost a different world than what I started on in the early 2000s. Back then I was backpacking Central Europe and reviewing bars and beach towns on Virtual Tourist. These days, the industry is booming with millions of blogs. Digital marketing and SEO are infinitely complex it seems. You need an edge. Just writing down your travel adventures is probably not the way to go for a truly reliable income stream.
Fortunately, there are places that can help. You can hone your skills on websites like Skillshare. I would like to give them a shout out because I was watching classes on this site even before hatching this family gap-year plan. If nothing else, you can take that first step Lao Tzu is famous for.
Seek The Guidance of Experts
You can dig deeper on this. If you have any friends or know anyone in your community who is an expert in digital marketing, seek out their advice. The number one rule of getting a mentor in any area of expertise: Don’t add work to their plate! In other words, these experts won’t just give you the keys, they don’t have time. You need to offer to do something for them, even if it’s buying them a coffee if they’re local or sending a bottle of wine and asking for a quick chat over the phone. I mentored an attorney years ago and when we’d meet up he’d just buy lunch. He could write it off on his taxes as education. This approach made me far more willing to help, of course. I like lunch; especially when it’s free.
You will need to be thinking about what audience you want to reach, and how to get there using organic SEO optimization at first. This area seems really esoteric at times to me. I’m going to need some help. We are lining up some meetings with my wife’s former business colleagues on the marketing team. If you have to do it without mentorship, then I highly recommend a Skillshare boot camp. I continue to watch the same classes after I’m done. Once you get started you will need to go back to various parts of the class that are clearer now with a bit of practical experience.
Virtual customer service
My quick glance at the search results in this area are encouraging. Many reputable companies are hiring for part-time roles. The application can be done through Glass Door and Indeed. These are the major online job search companies going in the US. I have never used these as an applicant. I have, however, used these companies as a manager and it’s a good way to apply I think. I don’t know if it’s a gig role where you just log in and the calls start coming in. Perhaps you could do this role if you have a quiet office in one of the places you are staying for a month or more. My other thought here is if you are only keyboarding (i.e. a chat function), this may be totally doable while you relax in a coffee shop in Laos. Think about that for a Monday morning, not bad!
Real Estate Investment Income
This should be a plan for anyone who wants financial freedom. You should put your US properties under management if you self-manage any properties. If you have the initiative, your primary residence can turn into a cash-flowing property. Rule number one: take all steps necessary to do this responsibly. You don’t want to piss off your neighbors with a house full of partyers. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, you need to declutter your things and ensure your house is ready to rend. You should have a keypad entry and lock off door for any personal items. We lock off our basement and a closet in our room, otherwise the guests have full access. Our family has had some bad experience doing this, but mostly good. The bad experiences have led us to want to give up on this journey, but stay strong! If you have any questions in this area let us know and we’ll try to help out.
Can You Sell Your Car?
We plan to sell our cars. That, frankly, is what my friends find the craziest. I agree, it seems insane. But we are Americans, we look at the world as if a car is guaranteed. A car should get you from point A to point B. And if you are skiers like us, we need four-wheel drive and a comfortable place for our family to chill on long road trips to Telluride and Crested Butte. We plan to keep at least one of our cars through the ski season. Once we sell both cars, especially in this used car market, we should have plenty of proceeds–non-taxable money as there is no capital gain on a vehicle. It lost value the minute it drove off the lot. After securing this chunk of money, you can use it for your day-to-day travel needs, or you could put it into some sort of investment.
Our site has a disclaimer that we don’t offer investment advice, and I’ll repeat that here. I am not a financial planner in any way shape or form. But my thought is if you can invest this chunk of money into something that offers a return right away–such as a dividend-paying stock–you could use the gains to offset some of the costs and preserve more of the principle than if you just draw it from a bank account in the US. On that note, check out our post on foreign bank accounts. In general, anyway you can preserve your principle and get the money to have fun on the road, you are winning the game.
UPDATE: After writing this post, I did some digging into dividend-paying mutual funds. The results were somewhat sobering, and it appeared that a $20,000 investment might only make about $83 extra dollars per month. But hey, that’s laundry money right? Perhaps that $83 is a conservative projection and you could do better. The Citibank in Singapore appeared to offer 3% money market rates, so that is something to consider. Again, I’m not offering any financial advice.
Choosing You Locations Carefully
On our trip, I already know we’ll have some pretty expensive plane flights, especially when multiplied by four family members. You can minimize this cost by having plenty of flexibility in your travel schedule thereby allowing for “flight picking.” I’ve always envied those that can do that, and if you are on the road with your family you’ll be able to as well. But choosing your location can be equally important. London, for instance, is very expensive. We will not be able to afford a month in Central London. But I used to live there and taking my family there is a dream of mine, so we’re going. But we will be staying only about four nights. This allows us to cross it off the list, but be in a good area so each day there is usefully spent. It’s sort of a vacation within a vacation approach.
Something a little cheaper would be Czech Republic where we can get a flat rental in central Prague for a very reasonable price. Food prices, likewise, are good in Czech Republic, as well as Montenegro. If Prague becomes the “roughing it” part of our adventure, I’ll take it! I know next to nothing about Southeast Asia but it appears as budget friendly as you can get these days. When you find one of these gems you need to stay there a long time to stretch the budget (assuming it’s fun for you and your family).
Outside the box ideas
Above all else, be creative about this process. If you can’t rent out your entire house, do you have a basement you could rent? Or even a storage shed? Is it time to sell the house? We talked about that but I can’t bring myself to even consider it, so I don’t blame you if you’re the same way. Find networks where reputable companies are looking for copy editing, or even freelance writing contributions. Again, anything you can do with just a keyboard and internet access should be explored, and I’m not talking about just day trading stocks. Although…..