A few days ago, I was chatting with a niece who is entering college in the coming months. She was confused about what course to take and what kind of career she wanted. She mentioned that one of her life goals is to be paid to travel.
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Today I got a message on facebook saying: "You're my daughter's idol. She wants to be a travel blogger just like you when she grows up."
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Last week, I got an invitation from Belle du Jour to be a speaker for their upcoming event. It read 'We hope that you can join us in this event, for we think you would be most apt to share your knowledge for our career topic: “Explore and Earn”.' (I had to decline because I am currently based in Europe.)
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This month, Cosmopolitan Magazine Philippines featured me along with Sole Sisters Adi and Stephanie, as well as photographer Hannah Reyes as Fun and Fearless Females Who Travel for a Living.
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Now that I've suddenly become an "expert" on Getting Paid to Travel, I feel compelled to clarify a few things. Yes, it sounds glamorous and exciting. I mean who wouldn't want to have a vacation- for the rest of their lives, right? But can someone really get paid to travel? Here's how bloggers sustain their travel lifestyle.

Travel Blogger

Sponsored Trips

Since we've gained a lot of readers after more than 4 years of blogging, we often get invitations to go on trips for tourism agencies, brands, airlines and hotels. They usually organize everything from accommodations, transportation, meals, and sometimes even a daily allowance. In exchange, we provide exposure in the form of blog articles and social media posts.

Examples: We've been invited to tour Disneyland Hong Kong, explored Batanes with GMA's Poptalk, and traveled through Allah Valley in Mindanao with other travel bloggers.

Disclosure: We only accept travel related content for publication on the blog and only support brands and services that we personally believe in. We also reserve the right to express our own opinion in our writing style.

Semi-Sponsored Trips

Sometimes we receive gift vouchers for airlines, hotels, or restaurants. They don't organize or sponsor the entire trip experience. Often, they just give them away for free. Others ask for a review or a feature on the blog. If we accept the offer, we have to shoulder other costs like transportation, meals, and other personal expenses.

Examples: I received some vouchers from Cebu Pacific Air and I chose to fly to South Korea. I also managed to get the accommodations covered. So I only paid for my transportation costs (trains, buses, taxis), meals and shopping. I've also been sponsored by Roomorama in New York. Recently, we got an invitation to review a villa in Bali, Indonesia. Sole Sister Rica took on the assignment and covered for her own airfare and personal expenses.

Do what you love

Sponsorships in Kind 

Another major travel expense is the gear. We're happy that we've always been supported by R.O.X. and other brands for all our needs. We've received backpacks, bags, planners, travel towels, footwear, swimwear, and clothes, just to name a few. In exchange, we write product reviews or give away some items for our readers.

Exchange Deals

I have approached some hotels and companies to offer my services as a social media consultant. My role is to create online strategies or campaigns and provide exposure.

Examples: I've stayed at Turtle Surf Camp Siargao and provided reviews as well as online exposure. In exchange, they have given me several weeks stay as well as free tours. Another example is our luxurious stay at Kalinaw Resort. My husband is a drone pilot and he took some drone footage of the resort in exchange for a few nights' stay. We were also invited as guests at Elephant Nature Camp by the founder, Lek Chailert when we mentioned that we can provide some drone footage of the park.

Personal Trips

What lot of people don't realize is that most travel bloggers pay for their own trips most of the time. A lot of us have similar stories: we worked corporate jobs and have had to save money for years before we launched our escape. More than 80% of my trips are self-funded.

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Photo Source

Donations

If you look at a lot of blogs out there, many of them have a donate button which usually links straight to their paypal account. I'm pretty sure a lot of bloggers can make an income stream from that alone. This works best when your readers get genuine value from your blog or want to support you to make your travel dreams come true. We have tried it before, but we never got a single cent. Nada. Why? I can only guess. Maybe no one is really willing to pay for your vacation. Or perhaps most people think you're loaded since you're already traveling the world.

Earnings from Advertisers

Many blogs create an income stream from advertisers. This comes in the form of sponsored posts, banner ads, affliate sponsors, etc. If you check out this blog for the first time, you will probably think it's almost ad-free. There are no commercial banners, no pesky pop-ups, and no affiliate links. I receive so many offers daily to advertise on the blog. But I have to decline 9 out of 10 offers. Why? Because I want to optimise your reading experience. I value great writing without the intrusive ads as most people do. I've always put our readers first. I also don't want to write or produce information just for the sake of attracting readers. What I hope to build is a community that genuinely keeps the traveler's interest in mind. 

Disclosure: We do accept sponsored posts every now and then. But we practice discretion and only accept travel related content promoting travel related entities.

Travel Writing

Some magazines, websites and other publications contact me regularly to ask me to write some articles for them. They are either interested in our story or in the destinations we've been. Sadly, travel writing does not always pay well. Payments are often delayed and the assignments don't come frequently unless you really make a career out of it.

The Truth About Getting Paid to Travel2

Odd Jobs

Most people ask me: "How were you able to make a career out of traveling?" It was quite accidental. When I came back to Manila from our 6 month trip around Southeast Asia, I was jobless, homeless and nearly peniless. I had no backup plan. But I didn't want to stop traveling. So I thought of finding ways to continue to travel and not have to work at a 9-5 job again. 

This was difficult at first, but I learned new skills and marketed myself to earn money. Since then, I've been a motivational speaker, lifestyle coach, social media specialist, retreat/workshop organizer and facilitator, hostel manager for Secret Spot Baler and Circle Hostel La Union and a lot more.

Non-Monetary Compensation

The greatest benefit I get from blogging, more than anything else, is connecting with people from different backgrounds all over the world. Even when I was traveling solo, I never felt alone. I've been hosted in Thailand, Vietnam,  and Sri Lanka and many other places. Friends of friends have toured me around their town in Cebu (Philippines), Seoul (South Korea), and Nancy (France). For some reason, people have reach out to me when they find out I'm in their area. I always get offers to stay at their place or at least have a coffee or meal with them. I feel that I have a friend in every place I visit.

These are just examples of how a blogger can continue to fund a travel lifestyle. So what have I learned after more than 4 years of "getting paid to travel"?

1 No one is going to pay for your vacation. The truth is, we're not really getting paid to travel. No one will pay us to lie on the sand in some isolated beach and get a tan. No one will donate to our travel fund to see us jump off a cliff or skydive. No one will even pay us to drink scorpion wine or munch on crickets. Believe me, we've tried. If you want to travel, you have to make it happen yourself. You are in charge of your dreams- no one else is responsible in making them come true.

2 Do the big work first. When we took off for our India and Southeast Asia trip in 2011, we paid for the whole thing ourselves. We had no sponsors or advertisers. We started to attract readers because they could relate not just to our dream but to our struggle. We demonstrated our value by going to places on our own accord and our own pace. And that was the most liberating period of our travel blogging experience. No sponsorship deal or brand endorsement can ever take the place of freedom.

3 Nothing great ever comes easy. The reality is, this lifestyle is tough. Ask anyone. We all post pictures of ourselves drinking coconut juice while sitting on a hammock in front of a river. Or partying at a Full Moon Party with an assortment of people straight from a Benetton ad. We all want to show the glamorous, mind-blowing, lust-inducing side of travel.

But what about the parts we edit out? Like the time I missed a flight and had to eat a packet of biscuits for lunch and dinner just to survive? What about sleeping at a crowded train station just to save money on hotels? Or going on a bus ride from hell filled to the brim with bodies, poultry, an assortment of farm produce and luggage just to get to the next country?

We don't always have the good life. But we do live on our own terms. Most of us can choose where we want to be. Most of us can see the open sky or a beautiful sunset- every day!

4 People will help you achieve your dreams. I've always thought I was lucky. The universe has always conspired for me. People have always supported me or cheered me on, one way or the other. Why? Because I was always clear about what I wanted. People knew what I stood for, and most of them helped me achieve my dreams. I've always tried to make travel happen for myself. But I never did it alone. I may not always remember your faces or names. But your acts of kindness are with me forever.

5 Create something of value. If you want to travel for a long, long time, don't hope that someone will pay you to do it. Sure, you can be a travel show host or a writer- someone who sort of gets paid to travel. But what about the rest of us? Can we really travel for a living? My answer is a resounding: YES. How? Learn a skill or create something that people can find useful or valuable. Figure out what problems most people face and invent solutions.

The Truth About Getting Paid to Travel1

The challenge is to find a way to work from anywhere in world

Whether it's branding websites, designing ebooks, teaching yogacreating art, helping others create a freedom-based business, teaching English abroadtaking portraits, or organizing tours, the ways to fund an independent travel lifestyle are limitless. The only things standing between you and your travel dream are your own desire and creativity.

As for me, I have a couple more ideas to launch within the year. I've been busy writing a book to help people answer the question "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" The ebook version will be available this month. Another project I'm working on is Blog Launch Love- a business to help you create a blog to launch you into the lifestyle you love. I'm doing this with a couple of friends, and I'm excited to launch it soon.

Have you always dreamed of a life of travel? How do you plan to do it? Share your dreams in the comments section- and maybe we can all pitch in to make it happen!

Lois has traveled extensively and have lived in Asia, the United States, and Europe. She is currently based in Portugal with her husband and baby girl. She is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of We Are Sole Sisters.

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4 Responses so far.

  1. Potato says:

    I agree with your points Lois, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see Kickstarters for personal vacations, unless it's going to Make-A-Wish (or s/he makes a compelling case) I don't want to pony up the cost for someone else's dream. Also, it's a pet peeve of mine to see so many ads on a blog, and the FB like pop-up box. Gah. #rantover :P

  2. Joann says:

    Love this post Lois!
    I haven't tried long-term travel (still saving up for it) but one common thing I observed with long-term travelers is that make things happen for themselves - it could be doing odd jobs or learning different skills to sustain their travel lifestyle. Making things happen for yourself is hard but liberating.

  3. You're so funny Lauren. Thanks for sharing your rant. Glad we agree on those points.

  4. Totally agree Joann. I wish you all the best for your long term travel plans! Make it happen :)

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