(guest post by digital nomad Kevin Ellerton)
This morning, I jumped off a cliff high in the Himalayas, flew past some of the most mind-blowingly massive mountains in the world, and landed on the banks of Phewa Lake in Nepal. To say it was “fun” would be an understatement. Awe-inspiring, humbling, life-changing, mind-blowing — those would be better words to describe this experience.
I’ve been traveling around the world for several years now, and somehow — even though I only work for a couple of hours every day — my bank accounts are growing, steadily, year after year. I feel blessed to be in this position, but I didn’t get here by accident.
I’m not a trust-fund kid. I don’t have wealthy relatives backing me up. I’ve just found a real, honest, practical way to make money while traveling.
HOW TO *ACTUALLY* MAKE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING
Getting this kind of financial freedom for yourself is actually a lot easier than you might think.
Google “how to make money online” or “how to make money from home,” and you’ll find lots of scams and get-rich-quick schemes. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a “real,” paying job… something like: “Watch these ads, take this survey, and earn 10,000gc*! (*gold coins only usable in World of Warcraft).” Some of the more prestigious jobs might pay you to send out annoying emails to people, write “fake news” articles, or post spammy links on random peoples’ blogs. If you’re really lucky in your internet search, you might be fortunate enough to find a “lifestyle guru” who can give you the secret to massive wealth and financial freedom — for only $59.99* (*monthly membership fee)!
Joking aside, though… there is, actually, one really effective way to make money online — from home, or while traveling — and honestly, it’s not that big of a secret. You’re not going to have to read through ten pages of marketing copy and then enter your credit card details to find out what it is. In fact, I can tell you right now, in three simple words:
Learn. To. Code.
HOW LEARNING TO CODE CHANGED MY LIFE
PERSONAL BLOGGING IS A REALLY HARD WAY TO MAKE MONEY
I spent a good chunk of my post-college years trying to figure out how to make money while traveling. I tried travel blogging, making documentaries, and blogging about my other interests… which, to be honest with you, have never earned me much money, unfortunately. I started thinking that maybe I was just bad at marketing my work, but after learning to code, I realized that it had more to do with the market itself, than my own marketing abilities.
YOU CAN MAKE MONEY IN TRADITIONAL CAREERS, BUT YOU HAVE TO GIVE UP SOME OF YOUR FREEDOM
In 2011, I actually gave up trying to make money while traveling, and decided to go back to school. I started taking pre-med courses at FIU, where I met a fellow pre-med student named Victor Moreno. Victor was my organic chemistry lab partner, and it quickly became clear to me that he was one of the smartest people I’d ever met in my life. He was getting straight A’s in classes that most of the other students were struggling just to pass. So when Victor decided to quit the pre-med path to go into Web Development, I was a little surprised. But, after talking to him about it, I began to see the logic in his decision.
While I and my fellow pre-meds were studying fourteen hours a day for the MCATs (just for the chance to spend eight years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a doctor), Victor taught himself a bunch of Front-End Web Development languages, and landed an amazing, high-paying job for himself at Florida Vocational Institute.
TECH SKILLS GAVE ME THE FREEDOM TO MAKE MONEY WHILE TRAVELING
It was around that time that I realized that learning to code could be the key for me to be able to make money and travel at the same time. After all, I could work from any place with an internet connection… which, at this point in history, is pretty much everywhere in the world.
As much as hardcore techies (like Victor) extoll the virtues of code-for-code’s sake, the actual code wasn’t the thing that changed my life. The market was. And the money that came with it.
IT’S MUCH EASIER TO MARKET TECH SERVICES THAN, FOR EXAMPLE, A TRAVEL BLOG
Suddenly, instead of having to hustle to market my creative work to people who didn’t care enough to pay for it… people started coming to me, offering to pay me good money for my time.
As soon as I started learning to code, my money problems just, magically, went away. All it took was a few social media posts — simple status-update posts like “Wow, I just learned how to use jQuery! This is so much easier than I thought!” — and suddenly I was drowning in job offers. I was being approached from all sides with friends and relatives (and sometimes friends of friends and relatives of relatives) asking me to help them. Since I was getting offered more work than I wanted, I ended up turning a lot of it down. I still do that, to this day.
By this point in 2017, a couple of years into my “tech career” (if you can call it that), I’ve honed my web design and front-end web development skills enough that I regularly get offered work for $50+ per hour. I get offered so much work that I often find myself in the position of having to turn down jobs that doesn’t reach my $40 hourly minimum. Awkward! But honestly, I feel blessed. Having an overabundance of opportunities is a quality problem to have. First world problems, for sure.
WHAT I ACTUALLY DO, ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS
Starting out with web design and development, I built a few websites for myself. I thought I might be able to make money from my own websites, but I haven’t done much to monetize them yet. However, by building my own sites, I’ve built a portfolio that has attracted me some higher-paying jobs than I’d have gotten if I didn’t have a good portfolio.
Most of what I do nowadays is just take small web-design and development jobs, which I mostly get through my existing social network. So far I’ve had more work than I need, so I don’t often need to look for jobs. When I do need more work, I just reach out to my favorite local businesses, wherever I happen to be traveling in the world. If my favorite restaurant happens to have an outdated website and is lacking in web presence, I offer my services. I get paid, and the restaurant gets more business. It’s a win-win, and it feels good to be of service to the people around me.
On average, I only end up working a couple of hours per day — and often in really beautiful “offices.”
I could easily take on more work if I wanted to, but a couple of hours per day is all I need. This small amount of work sustains my lifestyle, and even pads my savings account. If I’m averaging $40/hour, at two hours per day, I’m making around $80/day on average. That wouldn’t have been nearly enough to live lavishly in Miami or New York, but it’s more than enough to travel luxuriously through places like India and Nepal.
Here in Pokhara, Nepal, a decent hotel room costs around $5/night. For now, my girlfriend and I decided to spring for a really nice room, right on Phewa Lake, for $10/night.
Averaging a couple of work per day easily pays for my expenses, and I end up with money left over. Last year I traveled (relatively luxuriously) through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for 5 months, and ended up arriving back in Miami with more money than I had left with.
Another thing that I do, aside from designing and developing actual websites, is tech blogging and technical writing. Since I know how to code, I am able to write articles about it (like this one), and make money that way as well.
Learning to code has given me the opportunity to do all of these things, and more.
Some people call me a digital nomad. I guess that would be a reasonable classification. To me, though, this career path is just common sense. Who doesn’t want to travel the world? Who doesn’t want to make money wherever/whenever they want, to be his or her own boss, to have the freedom to pick and choose which work to take and which to turn down?
If you want to make money while traveling, the simplest way to do it is to build the internet. If you have access to the internet, you can either be a producer or a consumer. The great majority of the people who use the internet are merely consumers. By becoming a producer, a builder, a developer, you automatically start providing value to the internet. The internet, in its magnanimity, gives value back — often in the form of cold, hard cash. Or, you know, ethereal digital currencies. Whatever floats your boat.
Don’t get scammed by get-rich-quick schemes and marketing ploys that you find online. Do something useful, and you will be well rewarded. Do something good, for yourself and for the world. Learn how to code.
Contact FVI for more information! Call 786-574-3350, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Namaste, from Pokhara, Nepal.
— Kevin Ellerton