How Do Backpackers Make Money?
Backpacking and traveling other countries is one of the most exciting and spiritually and emotionally rewarding things that a person can do in their lives. It can literally change a person's life and their entire outlook and redefine their meaning of living.
But although backpacking is generally thought to be very cheap, it still requires money most of the time, no matter what country you're in. Some backpackers may be able to survive without any money for a prolonged trip or amount of time, but majority will eventually need to make money or spend money somewhere along the line.
Not all backpackers are rich kids living on trust funds or money sent by their parents. So how exactly do these travelers get by and travel so many places without having a saving up lots of money first or relying on parents or family?
Well while it can be very difficult to make money while you're on the open road or traveling abroad, it's not impossible and here's just a few ways some of them manage to do it.
Making Money Online:
Since we're now living in the digital age, it's not uncommon for many people to be making money from the internet. There are so many "make money online" scams out there that the phrase is almost always associated with the word scam and many people do not believe it's even a legitimate way to make money.
But still, millions of people manage to do it every day and there are so many websites on the internet that do make some type of profit, though they may not all be making billions like Facebook or Microsoft. Many backpackers have failed with online business, but there's still many who have been successful as well.
Lots of the major websites online dedicated to backpacking were created by backpackers themselves who originally started the websites in order to fund their travels.
These larger websites with many members or visitors do usually pull in a decent profit, enough for a person to at least travel regularly with and live off.
Many backpackers make the mistake of starting a blog discussing their travels and focusing all their time on this blog, but then realize that it's not very profitable and give up or simply keep it as a hobby to show their friends and family their travel pictures. The main mistake they make is that they make the websites too personalized to where they may not be very useful to the average traveler.
If a person wants to learn about traveling to a country, they will usually read a website that is straight to the point on how to do things, such as a guide with steps on each procedure or trip, rather than a person talking about what breakfast they ate in India or how nice the people were in Austria.
Some backpackers even maintain eBay businesses or run their own commerce websites where they sell things they pick up along the way when traveling and visiting foreign markets.
But when doing business in a foreign country, you should always be careful to respect their local laws and check to make sure that you are within the law to profit while traveling the country.
Many countries require that you have a business visa if you are doing anything in their country for profit, and this can often mean online business as well.
It's not uncommon to find young backpackers who have some form of passive income from back home that makes them money every month without them having to physically be there to make the money.
I once knew a man who was 25 years old and owned a very small donut shop in the United States with only three other employees, his uncle, a friend, and his girlfriend's mother.
He made a decent income from this shop but didn't have to actually be there to run it, and would let his uncle open the shop in the morning and close it at around noon each day.
Because of this business he received passive income and could leave whenever he wanted and entrusted his uncle to run things while he was away, while his uncle would send him the profits each month by depositing them into his bank account.
So many backpackers who may not have a lot of savings may still have some form of passive income from back home. Real estate or other investments are particularly common ways for backpackers to receive monthly income, though these can be very risky.
For example, a person could purchase sublease or rent out a home or condo and have someone they trust back home manage the collection of the money each month. They may also invest in stocks or daytrade and once they make a profit they transfer the money directly from their stock account or investment account directly into their bank account, then use an ATM card to withdraw the money in whatever country they're in.
But again, this is extremely risky and not recommended unless somebody has some form of backup to fall on in case things don't work out the way they planned, and taxes that will be owed on short-term investments need to be accounted for and taken into consideration.
While it's generally illegal in most countries for a foreigner to take up employment without a business or work visa, it shouldn't be surprising that many backpackers still ignore these rules and look for under the table jobs in whichever country they are traveling in.
Sometimes they will look for short-term tutoring positions where wealthy families will post on job websites or in newspapers that they need a foreigner to tutor their children and teach them English or another language not native to the country they're in.
These jobs aren't usually short-term assignments but they occasionally do pop up every now and then. Sometimes backpackers may even take under the table labor jobs, even those these are usually reserved for local citizens and protected by the country's labor laws.
In Thailand one common scenario I've seen is where backpackers help promote certain bars or clubs by handing out flyers to other foreigners.
While it would be cheaper for these businesses to hire citizens of Thailand most of the time and less risky when it comes to the law, they may employ backpackers for short durations since they may be more effective in promoting things to other backpackers that look and talk like them.
This is still illegal in many ways and both the bar or club and the backpacker helping to promote them are breaking the law and risking jail, fines, or even deportation.
So this is not a recommended way for a person to make money when backpacking in a foreign country, though some people still do it.
Short-Term TEFL Jobs:
There are very few legal ways for a backpacker to make money while traveling, but one of them is by working short-term or temporary TEFL jobs.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and this particular type of certification can come in handy in many countries, especially in the developing world.
It's usually used as a way for native English speakers to teach English to people in countries where English is not the dominant spoken or written language. It's particularly popular in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South America, where English teachers are in high demand.
Anybody can become certified to teach English within a matter of months, or even by taking an intensive one month training course at an accredited TEFL school or company. Once a person has their certification, they can travel to many different countries and check online on forums, craigslist, or job sites to see if there are any temp positions in the areas they are traveling to.
However, some areas or countries require at least some type of college education now, but not all places. So it may be wise to check the requirements of the area you're traveling to. For example, Thailand only required TEFL education a few years ago, but recently their government has stated that anybody who has never taught in Thailand before must have at least a bachelor's degree to teach English now.
Rumor has it that there are still some schools in more rural areas that are willing to bend this rule, but you can get in trouble if this is true and you were to take a job position under these circumstances without a bachelor's degree.
But there are still many countries that don't have similar requirements. Another problem that someone may encounter with this is that temporary jobs do not come around as often as full time permanent positions. So you may have to pick and choose where you travel to depending on where the positions open up.
The pay for this type of job can sometimes be meager but it can also sometimes be very good, depending on which country you're in and whether you're in a large urban city area or a more rural area.
The rural areas can sometimes pay better because fewer foreigners want to travel or live in these areas, so teachers are more in demand since there aren't as many willing to go to these places.
When it comes to criminals around the world, they are usually at least a few here and there in the general population, if not a lot. So it should come as no surprise that there are also criminals in the backpacker community. There may be more or less criminals depending on how you look at.
Backpackers may be more desperate to make money since it's harder to secure employment when you're traveling, especially since they tend to not stay in one place very long.
So this may mean that there are more criminals in the backpacking community than in the average everyday community of people.
But on the other hand, many people are afraid to do things in another country that they would normally do in their home country, out of fear of getting arrested and getting stuck in an unfamiliar place or in a prison or jail that does not have the same standards or security that they would expect to find in a jail or prison back home.
So it's uncertain as to whether backpackers would be more likely to do illegal things than your average person who does not backpack.
But what is certain is that there's at least a few criminals in any group, so there are definitely some in backpacking circles. So just how do these types of people survive and make money when they're on the road or in a foreign country?
Well selling drugs or illegal substances would probably be the first thing that comes to someone's mind. Some may choose to make money by scamming others, either in person or over the internet or on the phone. Some may resort to theft or other similar crimes which are not uncommon when it comes to expats or travelers to foreign countries.
If you travel frequently, then every now and then you'll be in a foreign country and while reading the local newspaper you'll hear a story about a group of travelers that scammed others or broke into hotel rooms to steal things or tried to rip off an ATM machine.
It's very common, but whether this is out of desperation from being stranded or out of income or whether these are the usual acts they'd be committing in their home country is unclear.
But whatever the reason, this form of making money is obviously the most dangerous one and anybody traveling is advised to steer clear from doing anything like this.
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