Popping bubbly at 35,000 feet. Free seaweed spa treatments. Automatic suite upgrades.
The life of travel influencers looks deluxe on Instagram and Facebook. Their feeds are full of seemingly-impromptu photo shoots in fall foliage or shots with their legs dangling off bungalows in the Maldives.
Most influencers started out as broke students who caught the travel bug... bad. Here's how they funded their adventures before they were famous on social media.
And while we might know that a lot of work goes into these curated snapshots, what about the work that these influencers did before they were famous? How did they jet around the world, eating spaghetti Bolognese in the world’s oldest university town one day only to grab a drink at the tallest building in the world the next?
Before she was a travel influencer, Canadian Oneika Raymond worked as a teacher in France in order to live abroad and travel.Travel Channel.
I always tell people who are interested in traveling long term to seriously consider teaching abroad. I first broke into the industry of teaching overseas when I participated in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) back in 2005. The pay wasn't great - only about 750 euros a month - but the program gave me the opportunity to live on the French Riviera for a year and travel to neighboring countries.
It was a great introduction to overseas living and my experience teaching ultimately gave me the impetus to get my Master of Education in French teaching. After completing my Master's, I began a decade long career teaching French and Language Arts in overseas schools in Mexico, Hong Kong, and London, England. This is what allowed me to travel the world before becoming a full-time travel journalist, blogger, and host.
2. Don’t be afraid of odd jobs, including whack-a-mole.
While in Nice, I connected with local French families and took on odd babysitting jobs to supplement my meager income. Other wacky jobs I've taken on to fund my travels included key-cutter and engraver, English tutor, piano teacher, data entry clerk at a bank, substitute teacher and bilingual call center representative for a credit card company. I also worked at a whack-a-mole booth at carnival one summer so I could make a few bucks to buy a plane ticket.
Oneika Raymond is a full-time travel journalist, blogger and TV host. In addition to her own content, she is the host of two Travel Channel television shows, including One Bag and You're Out. She's visited over 100 countries. Follow her on Instagram and YouTube.
In order to fund a year of travel, Berna Anat got creative with her personal finances and savvy with budget travel.Berna Anat.
3. Snag free flights… with other people’s big purchases.
Before setting off on a year of travel, I learned that credit card companies offer thousands of reward points that can be used to purchase flights but you have a spend a certain amount on the card first. I did not want to go further into debt, so instead I pulled a few tricks.
I put all my work expenses on my credit card and got reimbursed. I asked friends to let me charge any major purchases for them and had them pay me back via Venmo. Then I used Plastiq to pay off my student loans with my credit card, since I already had the cash for my monthly payments anyway. I earned over 500,000 reward points that way and have flown to seven different countries this year, entirely for free.
4. Get art and craft-sy with your finances.
I whipped out my ol’ Crayola markers and made posters to track my travel savings and student loan payments. Making deposits and payments were cool, but I was secretly more excited to take a fat purple marker to my posters each week. Physically coloring in my achievements was satisfying for both Adult-Me and my inner 7-year-old.
5. Make auto-save your bestie.
I didn’t have great money habits when I first started saving and was worried I’d be tempted to bust into my travel stash. But, since I was blessed with a regular paycheck, I asked my employer and my bank to help me set up automatic savings deposits. That way, a certain amount of my paycheck went straight into a separate travel savings account before I even got to touch it. It felt incredible to see my savings grow without lifting a freaking finger.
By day, Berna Anat is an Annoying Millennial and the creator of a financial advice video series for young people called Felicia's Wallet. By night, she’s... the exact same thing, because she saved up to quit her job in January 2018 and has been traveling the world debt-free ever since. Follow her on Instagram.
When she was in her twenties, Canadian gal Nadine Sykora opted for a Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand in order to see the world.Nadine Sykora.
6. Apply for a working holiday visa.
One of the ways I found to fund my first trip abroad was with the working holiday visa program. I applied for a working holiday visa to New Zealand, which allowed me to work and travel at the same time for up to one year. I didn’t need much savings to begin with: only enough for a round trip ticket and one month of living expenses.
When I arrived in Auckland, my new roommate suggested I apply at a Temp Agency where she worked. I became a part-time temporary worker taking on odd jobs to fund weekend or week-long trips around New Zealand, South East Asia and China. It was the beginning of my travel blogging career.
The best part of temp agencies and temp jobs was there was dozens of other options I could choose from and I didn’t have to commit to anything long term. I could take on more shifts if I needed more money and when I had saved up enough, it was time for travel.
Nadine Sykora is one of the top travel influencers and travel videographers on YouTube where she has made over 800+ videos gaining over 40 million+ views. Nadine’s passion for travel is contagious and she loves to share her experiences and travel expertise via social media, photography, and through her videos. Follow her on Instagram and YouTube.
Liz Carlson used remote work to become an expat before she was an influencer.Liz Carlson.
When I quit my last "real" job in corporate America about five years ago, I saved as much as I could as a cushion since I would be self-employed.
Back then getting paid as an influencer wasn't a thing. It was all about finding remote work. I took as many freelancing and copywriting jobs as I could. I even worked as a virtual assistant for other big bloggers and then would dip into my savings when some months were tight.
Damon and Jo
Before they were paid to travel, the influencers Damon and Jo traveled the world the old fashioned way: hustle.Damon and Jo.
8. Work your way when you are there.
Before we were influencers, we'd reach out to hostels in cities we wanted to visit, asking for free beds in exchange for working at their international hostel. Sure, we'd make no money, but we'd earn international stories and free rent! One summer we made Caipirinhas for three weeks to spend an epic summer in Lisbon.
Known for the multi-lingual videos and wild adventures, Damon and Jo are the duo behind their hit eponymous YouTube channel. They also founded their own digital nomad company: Shut Up and Go. Follow them on Instagram and YouTube.
Before founding her hit travel blog, Lee Litumbe was smart about her personal finances in order to travel the world.Spirited Pursuit.
9. Make a budget… and stick to it.
I saved up the old fashioned way: with discipline and smart personal finance choices. Instead of stressing out about finding new ways to make money, keep and grow the money you already make. Create a budget and really stick to it: that’s how I was first able to save a bit up to be able to travel on my own.
Think about how much money you typically spend on eating at restaurants, shopping for new shoes or clothes, or nights out partying with friends. Then start changing your spending habits. Limit yourself to eating out only once a week, invite friends over to your home instead of going out and opt for thrift stores if you feel the strong desire to shop. You’ll be surprised by how much money you will save simply by paying closer attention to your current spending habits.
As the face and voice behind the creative platform Spirited Pursuit, Lee Litumbe's mission is to publish inspiring and informative travel content. A Cameroonian by birth, an American by upbringing and a nomad at heart, Litumbe is currently traveling long term throughout Africa. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
Erick Prince wasn't a big saver and so instead focused on making big bucks in order to travel the world, before he was an influencer.Erick Prince.
10. Find a high-paying job for a short time.
I never had to "save" for travel in a conventional way. I was in the military for over ten years and traveled quite a bit during my service. When I left I found myself at a crossroads and decided to go into the world of non-profits, starting a small foundation dedicated to teaching low-income kids about travel and photography. Both of these things helped me escape the trappings of a low-income upbringing. However, we had trouble finding funding as many people didn't think it was worthwhile because of the idea that "black people don't travel."
I decided to fight against the narrative and using my degree in occupational education, found a job with the Department of Motor Vehicles in Texas. After my interview, I landed a lucrative job to develop their entire educational training program from scratch.
I'm not a great saver. I prefer to make my money work for me in the form of skill development. I specifically took that job to save money for a year of travel. Over that year, I saved over $11,000 from that job alone.
11. Cut back on your objects.
When I knew I wanted to travel long term, I decided to make extra money by selling some of my objects. I decided what to sell based on a simple formula. Does this item still entertain or educate me? If it hadn't served it's original function in the last 60 days then it was gone. I made around $8,000 this way.
In her early twenties, Kach Howe moved to Iraqi Kurdistan to save enough money in four months to travel South America.Kach Howe.
12. Find a lucrative job in a less than desirable location.
When I first decided that I wanted to travel and see more of the world I was already working in Kuwait, far away from my home in the Philippines. Then on 2012, I took my first big step towards a more exciting life and moved from Kuwait to Iraqi Kurdistan to work for a private security company in the U.S. oil industry. It was this job and its location that allowed me to save over $5,000 USD in just four months. This was my starting travel budget when I finally left the corporate world behind to backpack around Southeast Asia with my brother and sister.
13. Adapt and diversify your business.
The best advice that I could offer to anyone who wants to raise money in order to travel is to always be wiling to adapt and diversify. Once you start to travel, try to see every new place as an opportunity to try new things and learn new skills. Even if you’re not getting paid at first, you could be opening up new doors that you had no idea were there in the first place. Over the past five years we have taught English in Vietnam, been yoga instructors and have even run our own Ayurveda massage therapy business in Arequipa, Peru.
After having travelled the world together, Kach Howe (and her husband) are the writers and online entrepreneurs behind Two Monkeys Travel and Mr and Mrs Howe. Together, they've visited 80 countries and seven continents (including Antarctica!), but they are about to embark on their biggest adventure yet: living and exploring the seas on their 37 foot sailboat, SV Empress. Follow their epic journey on Instagram.