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Cheap and Easy Travel Throughout the World: How to Support Yourself Whilst Abroad

Updated on December 26, 2007

With travelers, who are prone to zipping about the planet for months or years at a time, money to sustain one’s lifestyle is a necessity. Yet how does one make money abroad?

This question can be especially daunting when on a rapid tour of, say, Europe or Africa. The first thing to ask yourself is: “What can I offer the world?” For many people the obvious answer is “entertainment.” Entertainment comes in many forms. Street musicians, for instance, are all around the world for a reason: many of them are traveling, and its easy, tax-free money. Of course, being able to play an instrument well is extremely positive, though not entirely necessary. The great thing about busquing is that as you earn money, you are also practicing and growing stronger in your playing technique while also expanding your repertoire, a must when you busque.

A special note on playing street music. Everyone loves a guitar, especially if the musician can sing along to his music. However, to really stimulate interest in your music, consider playing an instrument that is not only easy to carry along on your travel, but also is unique, as this will garner attention and thus more money. Some examples would be a xylophone, lute, mandolin, violin (not really so uncommon, but always loved), and homemade instruments.

Other forms of entertainment that one can do include juggling, fire eating, balancing acts (often to great success when more than one person is involved), feats of strength, magic, and street drama. This final consideration is a great way to raise money, though can be difficult if you don’t speak the local language, though non-spoken, music-driven theatre, much as is seen in Circue du Soleil-type drama or simply pantomime, can be extremely effective at raising immediate revenue.

As a means to persuading the passers-by to donate some of their hard-earned money, consider implementing the following two tidbits of advice. One, “seed” the hat, can, guitar case lid, or whatever vessel you use for receiving money. This means put a dollar and some large coins into your treasure trove, as this will stimulate people to believe that you are good enough that someone else would pay as much as a dollar for your performance, and so should they; and two, it reminds them that this is your job, that you’re not doing it for free. Along the same lines, if you have some friends, either long-time friends, or those you’ve just met, get your friends to act as an audience, entranced by your performance. Have a few of them intermittently throw some money into the pot. This will lend other eyes and ears to what you have to show, and thus more revenue for you.

Begging. This I highly recommend you avoid doing. Consider most of the types of people who beg: drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, those who have no other recourse but to beg, and the extremely lazy. With the exception of the penultimate type of beggar listed here, there are few redeeming characteristics in all the others named. If you are young and healthy and begging for money –save for those rare occasions where you’ve been robbed or otherwise are stranded in a foreign nation, to beg is extremely shameful. And besides, you might be cutting into the action of someone who really has no other possibilities within life but to beg, as with people who are severely disabled and extreme cases of the Untouchable class within India (though this last matter is quickly changing).

If you teach yoga, dance, or some other interesting steady sensation, or if you do massage, as you travel check in at the local hotels and spas. Provide a card to make yourself look more professional. Explain to the manager that you’ll be in town and are open to teaching classes or doing massage on the premises, which the establishment will also profit from, of course. Present yourself in clean, nice clothing with an air of professionalism and importance. This will woo many a manager your way, and money into your pockets.

Some travelers are different and don’t venture about to so many countries or cities, preferring to remain in one place to soak up the local scene, the specific culture of one place. Even if they remain stationary outside of their motherland in a singular country, they find the experience rewarding beyond compare. For this branch of homo travelot the rewards are easier had. Not only can the above techniques be put into practice with a faster learning curve at hand, but also more money can be earned.

First, illegal versus legal work. I do not recommend working illegally, but it is not impossible to find employers who will hire you, especially if you hold a skill that is valuable yet in short supply. I myself have taught English as a Second Language in 2 schools for a year, illegally, and I worked in a restaurant as a cook and dishwasher in La Bufadora, Mexico, also illegally. While I regret neither experience, the reality is that I could have been ejected from either of these countries, and heavily fined. Worse yet, a new European Union law that is about to take effect will make it impossible for anyone kicked out of an EU country to return –to any country that is part of this economic union. Simply put, it’s always better to have documentation (plus this way your government can tax you for monies earned while abroad –isn’t that a nice trick?).

Teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL for short, is a great way to make some money whilst living in a foreign land. You needn’t have any prior experience, though this always helps, nor do you have to speak a foreign language. Let me say that again: not only do you not have to speak another language, in the classroom you’re ONLY allowed to speak English. In many countries in Asia a degree is not required, though in Japan and also most European countries, having a baccalaureate (in any subject) is required. In some countries, as with China, in addition to your salary, you may even be given an apartment.

A note or two of caution. First, if you want to be rich, ESL will not aid you, unless you open your own school, and even then it can be difficult to find great success. Secondly and most importantly, research the school you’re going to work with. There are online ESL chat rooms, blogs, websites, and the full gamut of research tools to help you avoid getting taken to the cleaners, which happens A LOT in ESL. I knew, per example, a Briton who taught ESL yet wasn’t paid for it for 3 months due to excuses made by the school owners. When all was said and done, he went back to England penniless while being owed 3,000 euros that he will never see. Had he talked to others about schools to apply to and those to avoid, he would have had a much more pleasant experience.

Of course, as you travel, keep your eyes open for any job opportunity that might come your way, some often unexpectedly. An old friend was skipping about through India when one day he simply asked if there was an opening in a bakery, and landed a job as a baker, which he’d no prior experience in. Somewhere out there might be a job waiting for you.

If you’ve liked this hub, hated this hub, or simply have some further ideas you’d like to share, please do drop me a message. Many thanks and happy travels.


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