I work while traveling.
Much as it might sound fun to go where I wish without worrying about money, I’m glad I have to work. There are quite a few benefits to working while cruising.
Benefits Of Working While Traveling
As I write this, much of the world is on some degree of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
For now, both my husband and I are lucky to be working. And many others working from home, who don’t travel full time, are seeing the same benefits we see working as we travel.
Connecting to others
Many are attracted to cruising or traveling by RV because they want to “get away from it all.” They have an independent streak. Or they are looking for solitude they haven’t experienced in a conventional life.
But day after day, week after week, of living and traveling alone or solely with your family can lead to a feeling of disconnection with the greater world.
To fight that, some cruisers participate in rituals like sundowners. Full-time travelers might participate in charitable projects.
Work can provide something similar–a way to connect with others.
Way to structure time
When we were traveling the Intracoastal Waterway, our travel schedule necessitated a lot of structure.
Shallow water and bridge opening schedules set when we woke, pulled anchor, and how fast we traveled.
But not all types of travel provide that structure. And it can be challenging to make your own.
If you’re subject solely to the weather or your own whims, you can start to feel unmoored. Work is one way of providing structure to what can be an amorphous, nomadic life.
Contrast life with a vacation
You can’t participate in social media for long without seeing the following guidance:
Create the life you don’t need to take a vacation from.
To outsiders, it may seem like a life of full-time travel is nothing but one long vacation (at least the outsiders who have never seen you working on a diesel engine or pumping out your black water tank).
Heck, the daydreamer in you may think that too. But if you’re always on vacation, won’t it stop feeling special?
However, if you work (whether paid or unpaid) while traveling, you can create a special place in your life for unique and interesting activities you don’t do every day.
Of course, you’ll also need a way to pay for them–
We started cruising with a nest egg that came from selling our house. It got us started. But it didn’t last long.
I can’t say we’ll ever become wealthy from our work. But it does even out the financial pressures that come from trying to keep a 30-year-old boat afloat.
We know many cruisers who rely on passive income from investments or real estate (although I’d argue that if you’re doing it right, being a landlord is not a passive exercise).
But looking at the second, major economic decline in less than two decades, I wouldn’t want to rely on any one source of income. It can go away all too easily.
Work is satisfying
I like to work. There, I said it.
I feel more content and happier when I’m working. While a therapist would probably tell me to learn how to enjoy a life without working all the time, I still experience a great deal of satisfaction from my work.
And I especially like working collaboratively with other people. It’s fascinating to create something more interesting than you could do on your own thanks to the strengths of other people.
Did I convince you that working ain’t so bad if you want to enjoy a life of travel? Then let’s look at some of the different ways you might earn money while traveling.
Ways To Work While Traveling
Thanks to the marvelous world of technology, there are many ways for nomads to work.
Some require you to give up traveling for a time. While others can fit right into your travel schedule.
What are some of the ways full-time nomads work?
Stop to do physical work
Several cruisers I’ve met make most of their money in foodservice.
Yep. They land in a touristy area during high season. Save up their tips. And take off again with their replenished cruising kitty.
People who can cut hair and diesel technicians are always in high demand in popular cruiser hangouts. And some RVers travel between Amazon fulfillment centers or follow the harvest picking fruits and vegetables.
Dockmaster or campground host
While similar to stopping to do physical work, this kind of work is a little different because part of your pay may come in the form of parking or dockage.
Most of these jobs are seasonal. You’ll find many listings and groups that share information about campground host and caretaker jobs.
But cruisers looking for temporary dock master positions usually have to contact individual marinas to find their work.
Yes, this was an actual conversation I had with a cruiser in a marina laundry room.
“I’m earning so much more consulting part-time than I did working full time that I don’t know what to do with the money.”
I can’t relate. But if you’re experienced in a field that regularly uses consultants (nomadic consultants I’ve met worked in engineering and health care) this can be quite profitable.
Virtual assistant work
I work as a virtual assistant for a few different sites–sometimes ongoing work. Other times for discrete projects.
Basically, I do work for other websites similar to what I’ve been doing on my own for a decade.
But there are other virtual tasks you can do for work while traveling–research, bookkeeping, transcription, etc.
Some of the following links may be affiliate links. If you buy something after following them, I may earn a small fee but you will not pay more.
Ask any freelancer, writing is not an easy way to make a living. But if your stationary life involves writing, you may be able to continue it while traveling.
Michelle Segrest combined her experiences as a journalist and as a world cruiser with two beagles to write How to Sail with Dogs. (Amazon)
Michael Robertson, now the editor of Good Old Boat Magazine, has even written a guide to writing for boating and other niche magazines. (Amazon)
Sell a product
Are you handy? Some cruisers make jewelry to sell.
One savvy cruiser creates beautiful and useful logbooks to help you track your journey. Or even to just keep up with maintenance tasks.
I can think of many products I’d be happy to buy from fellow nomads: cloth organizers for hanging near my bed, crocheted netting for fruit, fun hairbands to keep the wind from creating havoc.
So if you’re crafty and can work out the logistics by either dropshipping products you make or doing it on a small scale, you may have a regular source of income.
Provide a service
I’ve met riggers and sailmakers who provide their services while cruising full time. Some work as delivery captains for other people’s boats.
Someone handy with DC electrical systems would probably be a real find in any RV park or anchorage.
Heck, if I wanted to increase my income tenfold, I’d probably sign up for diesel mechanics classes yesterday.
Maybe you have the money you need to support your travels. You can still get many of the benefits of working while traveling by doing volunteer work.
The ability to travel gives you many opportunities to help others.
I’ve met cruisers who delivered medical supplies to remote islands. And some RVers have been self-contained sources of help to communities cleaning up after storms or other disasters.
Practical Issues Working While Traveling
Working while traveling is absolutely harder than working from a stationary home.
You won’t have unlimited access to supplies. You need to think about generating power. And just daily living tasks take longer if you’re a nomad in an RV or onboard a boat.
So before you decide to work while traveling, just be aware of the extra considerations you’ll need to keep in mind.
Fitting work into your travel schedule
What schedule? Well, unless you want to end up buried in snow in Colorado or facing down a hurricane in the Bahamas, you’ll need to plan where and when you’ll travel.
Much of your schedule will be determined by the weather.
So if you need to be somewhere by a certain date to do physical work, have a backup plan.
We also drastically shorten our travel days so we have the time and energy to work after dropping anchor. And there are times when my husband is facing a deadline that I’ve found myself on the helm all day so he can work below.
Having the power you need to work
You’ll need to invest some money and time into building the power capacity you need to work.
Sure, if you always stay in commercial campgrounds or marinas, you’ll probably have the power you need to work. But not always.
During particularly high tides, one marina shut off the power to my dock to keep from frying their electrical wiring. On a cloudy day, my solar panels didn’t generate enough power to keep up with my usage. So I had to make other arrangements.
If your work depends on it, think carefully about your battery capacity and backups for unexpected problems.
Yes, even on the east coast of the United States there are internet dead zones. If you need the internet to do your work remotely or to line up new work opportunities, you’ll need a plan.
We’ve found pretty reliable internet through our wifi hotspot. But in some parts of North Carolina or the northern neck of Virginia, it isn’t foolproof.
One of the ways I’ve dealt with inconsistent internet is knowing when it’s likely to be less reliable and working ahead so I don’t get caught short.
Keeping income consistent
I bill my clients every month. My husband bills his when he finishes a project. So our income varies wildly.
Having different income streams, saving when you’re flush for lean months, and having a budget can all help you have money available when you need it.
A safe place for your rig or vessel
Will your work require you to travel for meetings? Perform a service elsewhere?
Then you’ll need to think about safe places to leave your rig or vessel behind.
Occasionally, my husband Mike travels to work in the offices of his clients. While I could anchor or even take a mooring ball to save money, it’s much easier to tie up to a dock while he’s away.
But it can cost hundreds of dollars more.
So if you need to leave your traveling home behind, start early to line up places where you can keep it safe. And to find people who can check in on it without you there.
After all, you don’t want to return to the anchorage where you left your boat just to find only the mast sticking up out of the water after your bilge pump failed.
Is it legal
Sure, it sounds sexy to be working on the beach in Thailand. But are you legally allowed to work there? Will you need to apply for permission?
Besides running the risk of getting in trouble with a foreign government for working while on a tourist visa, you don’t want to take work away from others who need it to live.
So when you’re thinking about the legality of where you can work, don’t forget to also consider the ethics.
Back up plan
What if your computer fails? Data recovery is expensive. Don’t ask me how I know.
Besides needing to physically back up data, you’ll want to use the mental flexibility that every full-time nomad learns to consider the best working options for you based on your current circumstances.
Our boat needed major rigging work. Since one of Mike’s clients had work for him to do, we figured it would be more efficient to get off the boat, take an apartment, and work as much as possible.
I miss the boat. But time off it allowed us to get more work done and to pay for it more easily.
We work while traveling. But it’s much easier to work while being still.
Paying taxes is never fun. But even if you’re normally self-employed, travel makes figuring out taxes more complicated.
You may owe income tax for different states you travel through. You probably can’t get a tax credit for using part of your home for business since your home isn’t big enough for a separate office.
So get good advice. And budget your quarterly tax payments so you don’t feel the pain on tax day.
Adjust your mindset
Finally, get your head in the right place to work while traveling.
I’ve already written about that so I won’t repeat it all here. But click the link below for my survival guide for working remotely while traveling.
As you can see, there are many different ways to work while traveling. But your mindset and planning ahead count for a lot in making you successful.
Is it worth it?
Heck, yeah. While I’d rather be snorkeling a coral reef at any given moment than fixing broken web links or editing a guest post, the worst job in the best place is still worth it.
And besides, if you wait until you have enough money to travel without working, it may never happen. So work while you travel. It’s a great (work) life.