The one question I get asked alot these days is “how do you afford to travel so much?”

Well the simple answer to this is I work my ass off to afford this backpacking life!

funding backpacker travel RTW trip

Life On The Road Isn’t Cheap…

I don’t have rich parents filling my bank account up every month, I haven’t won the lottery…it’s just a culmination of a mixture of jobs, saving, tactical decisions and a constant drive to open up new forms of work.

And if you’ve been paying attention to my monthly budget and summary posts you can see exactly what it’s costing me!

Sure I’m now lucky enough to have an income stream through my blog – but believe me it’s taken heaps of work to get any dollar based reward from running this site (in fact in nearly 4 years I’ve been blogging only in the last 18 months have I seen any solid reward!) but it’s far from my only work.

So I thought I’d put together a list of all jobs I’ve done over the years (both in the UK and on the road) that have funded my backpacking travel dream, kept the sun on my back and lead me on this crazy adventure.

Hopefully it will illustrate how taking the time to gain random qualifications and being flexible can reap rewards in the long term…


How The Hell Do I Afford All This Travel?!

First off lets start with what qualifications I have in my back pocket to use;

  • Degree in Documentary Photography
  • ISA Surf Coach
  • Beach Lifeguard Certification
  • PADI Rescue Diver

…now those are a mixture of education and random qualifications I’ve done on the road both for fun (like the diving) and as an extension of my passions (like the surfing)

Everyone will have a different bag of qualifications – but it’s what you do with them or what you’re willing to do that will see you living the dream. In the past 4 years of travel here’s whats’s earned me some cold, hard dollar (including some links to some more posts on them);


In the UK;

  • Wedding Photographer
  • Portrait Photographer
  • STA Travel RTW Planner
  • Surf Coaching
  • Head of Sales and Marketing (Surf Travel Company)

And Out on the Road;

  • Freelance Photography (Australia, Swizterland, Thailand)
  • Hostel Bus Driver (Australia)
  • Bar Worker (Australia)
  • Movie Extra (Australia)
  • Assistant Surf Coach (Ecuador, Portugal)
  • Dive Master trainee (Thailand)
  • Head Surf Coach (Morocco)
  • Dishwasher (Australia)
  • Hostel Entertainment Organiser (Australia)
  • Freelance Journalism (Various)
  • Head of Social Media (Australia)


…and of course most recently travel blogging alongside my travel agencies Epic Gap Year and RTW Backpackers!

surf coaching instructing lessons ecuador montanita

I didn’t just stumble into being a surf coach – I took the time to sort the qualifications out.

As you can see I’ve lent my hand at a good variety of work along the way – from the VIP Press treatment of covering festivals and events or the sun and fun of surf coaching through to rolling up my sleeves and mucking in for a spot of dish washing.

If it pays the bills and helps me travel for longer I’m open to everything.

Hell I even ended up in a nudist movie at one point – I couldn’t pass up $100 an hour!

That’s what I think is most peoples issues when trying to travel, they simply dismiss opportunities and think some jobs are beneath them. But you need to look harder at the bigger picture and the avenues jobs open up.

For example when I was working as a hostel bus driver I didn’t get paid much. However along with the job came a free evening meal each night, free bar tabs and tour discounts – so although I wasn’t earning much I was saving heaps on everyday expenses.

Through that job I also made some great contacts which led to extra work. In the world of backpacker jobs alot of it is about who you know, not what you know – so play nice!


Don’t Aim For $$$

Something I’ve touched on before is how too many travellers are obsessed with making cash.

backpacker job dishy

Dishwashing – The Job Wasn’t Glamorous But The Location Was!

Lets face it unless your really spontaneous or just plain stupid you’ve left home with some savings to fund the first part of your travels.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you all is to do everything in your power to not eat into it.

I left the UK with just over £5k in my bank account when I landed in Australia back in 2009 – and I managed to make that last me for nearly 8 months before I picked up any paid work.

Things like work for accommodation or trading your skills for things you need is an amazing way to prolong your time on the road. You may not see money go into your bank account – but it’ll stop money going out of it, which is just as good!

Cash is not always king!

If you want to travel long term you have to be prepared to do that hard graft to get you started and be sensible enough to embrace ways to save as you go.

But of course you can make pretty good bank on the road doing jobs like teaching English abroad – an amazing way to work and travel!

And failing that you can always pencil in a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand mid way on a RTW trip to help top up your funds – just don’t waste it as you only get one in a lifetime!


Utilise Your Time And Passions

scuba dive thailand divemaster work abroad

Like Diving?! Why Not Turn It Into a Job?!

Along my journey I’ve also extended some of my backpacker experiences into things that can help make me some cash. When I was back in the UK for a few months I took the time to book in a Beach Lifeguard and Surf Instructor Course. I love surfing so why not use it to fund my travels?!

In fact I didn’t actually use it for nearly a year, but it was there on the back burner to use later down the line.

And there’s heaps of career paths you can combine with your travels – why not spend 3 month becoming a surf or snowboard instructor? Why not sit on an island in Thailand and become a dive master?

The cost?!

Simply look at it as an investment. If it’s something you enjoy doing it’ll never feel like work – surely that’s the way you want to live? Even if you don’t end up pursuing it as a career it’s a great addition to your CV and more productive than simply drinking your cash away.

One thing I can promise you though is despite the hard work you might have to do and the rubbish, demeaning jobs you might have to tackle – it’s all totally worth it for all the crazy and amazing experiences it will afford you, the new buddies you’ll make along the way and the life skills it will teach you.


As my Dad always says to me – “you’ll reap what you sow”.


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14 Responses

  1. Robyn

    I’m open to doing any sort of job on the road, my boyfriend (with 6 years university) not so much. It’s very difficult for him to even consider working anything minimum wage, which can be very frustrating. Extra money is extra money as far as I’m concerned. That’s something he and I will have to work on while were on the road.

    • Chris

      It’s a hard mindset to crack – but if you want to travel long term it’s something you have to get around. Hopefully you can convince him soon enough!

  2. Jonny Sweet

    Nice blog buddy, good to see you’re keeping the travel dreams aflame! Where are you currently? I’m bumming around South America at the moment, just spent 6 months in Santiago earning some more moolah for more travels… Glad you’re blog is bringing in the greens for you too! Keep in touch mate.

    • Chris

      Hey Jonny Boy! Glad to see you’re still living the dream too! South America is heaps of fun hey?! I’m currently back in Byron Bay, bouncing to Indo next month for some more surfing fun! You heading to Ecuador at all?

    • Liz Nichols

      Are you American then Johnny? Because us Aussies can only get a 90 day visa for USA cant we? Does that mean South America is different? I really cant work out the visa thingy..Its a huge world out there and i want to see it all..cheers happy travels

  3. Leonard CHAMPNESS

    Have just read one of your stories, the one about how you afford it. Very good!!!! I have been travelling since April 2010, don’t have rich parents, but do have a modest income stream, so haven’t done any work til recently, when I started teaching English in Thailand which is really a whole lot of fun. I want more money so can do more travel. I don’t write a blog like yours, but I do have an email mailing list which I send out to quiet a few folks about my continuing adventures, as I suspect my life is very exotic for a lot of people. A lot say I should sell my stories. So, quick question or maybe long question. How does a person make money with a blog? Last comment thank you for writing this piece “How the hell do I afford it?” And if you could give me any advice on making money on blogging would much appreciate it. Yours in adventuring. Lenny aka Leonard Champness

  4. Tina

    Oh, man. I love this. I have done all kinds of crazy jobs on the road, from hula hooping at stop lights to wearing atrocious trashy costumes in bars and dancing on stage. Whatever feeds you, whatever keeps you moving forward! I’ve also got an international TEFL certification to fall back on for when I get really desperate and need to stay in one place for a longer period of time to replenish my funds. Let me know if you are interested in guest writing/having guest writers! I love your site and totally dig your perspective :)

    • Chris

      Hey Tina – stoked that it’s not just me getting by on a patchwork of jobs on the road!haha! Hula Hoops at stop lights?! Now that’s a new one!
      Yeah I could be keen on a guts post, ping me an email!

  5. Whitney

    I know I may sound dumb asking this…but I’m new to the entire ‘backpacking’ concept, and all I know is that I was to travel the world, and I don’t mind having to do knitty gritty jobs in order to do so! But anyway, quite a few years ago my parents almost immigrated from the states to Australia, and as far as I’m aware, it is very hard to stay in Australia long term, and even harder to get a job and a visa. How do you go about getting into a country legally and getting a job? Is there a special visa or am I missing something? Like I said, I just started doing my research, so sorry if this was a dumb question! ;)

    • Chris

      Hey Whitney,
      There’s a visa called a ‘working holiday’ visa which is the easiest way to get over there and work legally – from a British perspective anyway. If you’re looking to stay longer I’m not too sure about the via you’d need. Check out for all the visa types :)

  6. Georgina

    I know you wrote this ages ago but this has reinspired me to travel after my UK visa finishes. I moved to London in March 2014 but soon found out how expensive it is to live in London so I couldn’t travel as much as I wanted to. I then found a full time job that I love.
    BUT when my visa finishes in March next year I am defiantly going to spend this time in Europe road tripping around like I wanted to!
    Georgina recently posted..Craft Beer Brewery’s LondonMy Profile

    • Chris

      hahahah anything to keep the sun on my back and my feet on the beach!


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