The number one question we’re asked is, “How do you afford to travel full-time?”
We get it. For most people, lack of money is the biggest hurdle to accomplishing that big dream in life, whether traveling full-time or something else. We’ve been there ourselves, though our financial revolution happened before we were thinking about full-time travel.
In this article, we explain how we afford to travel full-time. We’ll break the topic down into four sections:
- How we could afford to get started as full-time travelers in 2014
- How we could afford to stay on the road (for almost eight years now!)
- What our income streams look like now
- Resources you can use to dig into this topic for yourself
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If you’d like to learn about our personal journey over the past decade, as we started traveling full-time and eventually decided to drive around the world, then you should watch The Long Game on YouTube. Though we talk about the broad arc of our businesses, we don’t go into detail. For the details, keep reading this article!
How we could afford to get started as full-time travelers in 2014
For us, the question at first had nothing to do with full-time travel, and everything to do with the freedom of self-employment. For years, Eric and I dreamed of owning our own business together, being together every day, and working towards a common goal. Especially after his 20 years in the military, Eric was tired of having others control his comings and goings. Maybe you can relate.
Online marketing agency
On January 17, 2011, when we lived in Seattle, we founded a limited liability company called Knektion, LLC. It was founded in Wyoming, a business-friendly state with strong privacy laws. Knektion (pronounced “connection”) was a boutique online marketing agency that provided several services, with our focus changing over the years. (We highly recommend the book Limited Liability Companies for Dummies, which taught us everything we needed to know to found and manage an LLC for a decade.)
At first, we focused a lot on search engine optimization, optimizing our clients’ business websites and blogs to rank well in search engine results. Later, our main recurring monthly services were social media management and reputation management.
With social media management, we ran Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for clients. We crafted all posts for them, using current best practices and speaking in each company’s unique “voice.” We also fielded comments and questions from customers.
Our reputation management services took place on websites like Google and Yelp. We monitored these platforms for new reviews from customers, and had the responsibility of putting virtual fires out, in collaboration with our clients.
Blog about Austin
For the first year, Knektion was a side hustle. Eric and I were still working regular jobs in Seattle. We had one client in 2011, for an hour-long consulting session about social media. Off to a strong start, right?
When we moved to Austin at the end of 2011, Eric decided to start a blog about the city. We wanted to implement everything we knew about search engine optimization and social media, showing our expertise to prospective clients.
The Austinot, which was the name of this blog, was never supposed to be its “own thing.” But within a few weeks, the blog took off. We started to receive tens of thousands of pageviews a month in early 2012, with 25% or even 50% growth month over month.
We actually didn’t monetize The Austinot for quite some time, so hold tight and we’ll circle back to it.
At the time, you couldn’t learn about search engine optimization (SEO) or social media management through any college program. We were self-taught. I learned about SEO from 2008-2010, managing a side hustle Eric co-owned in Albuquerque.
We also learned about utilizing social media for business during this time. Eric had used social media in his role as a professional boxing promoter, in the era of MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger. Those were different times! Everyone was learning through experimentation, ourselves included.
So how much money were we actually making, as we got serious about full-time travel and finally got under way on February 21, 2014?
In 2012, when we got our first clients, we were charging them around $300/month per social media platform. We were working with small businesses and startups, so this was an affordable amount for them. For our part, we were grateful to have any monthly clients we could count on to cover our bills. Maybe this self-employment thing could actually work!
In March 2014, our first full month of full-time travel, our net income from Knektion was $990. We were starting our third year in business at this point.
We had Eric’s military retirement and military disability to bridge the gap. Though, at the time, more than the amount he earned in retirement was given to help support our four older children (mine through marriage), who were all school-age at the time and living with their mother for most of the year.
I say all this because A) I know you’re curious, and B) it’s important you understand we weren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we were sticking to a strict budget and practically counting pennies, so our dream of full-time travel could become a reality.
How we could afford to stay on the road (for almost eight years now!)
Okay, so it’s February 21, 2014, and we live in an RV full-time. Once we figured out our travel rhythm, we were moving every two weeks on Saturday morning and driving no farther than 250 miles between destinations.
For context on what our big-picture life looked like, you can read Top 10 Life Lessons Learned in Our First Year of RVing. Also in 2015, we wrote What It’s Like to Work on the Road as a Full-time RVer.
Over our first six years of full-time travel, we built a total of five business projects that supported us on the road (and collectively drove us to the brink of sanity):
- Knektion, LLC (online marketing agency)
- The Austinot (blog about Austin)
- RV Wanderlust (blog about RV travel)
- Jeepsies (blog about off-roading and Jeeping, and eventually overlanding)
- Coast Guard Jeep Club (membership-based club with merchandise)
We had a lot of ideas we wanted to pursue. And we knew Knektion clients would come and go, leaving us with sudden drops in income we needed to compensate for. So it made sense to diversify our income.
Diversifying income as a business owner is well and good, if you do it right. We didn’t do it right. Our big mistakes centered on failing to develop systems and processes, failing to outsource, and failing to spend money to make money. At the end of the day, we were holding multiple businesses that weren’t living up to their potential because we were out of bandwidth.
I could write a whole article about the business mistakes we made. But for now, we should get back to our main topic. As far as income was concerned, we achieved the highest level of financial stability we’d ever had. Let’s dive into our income sources.
Knektion, LLC income
Through all our years of full-time travel, Knektion was our primary source of income, by far. As long as we nurtured our client relationships and did quality work, our social media management income was recurring.
Our greatest success was managing the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for a Fortune 500 company in the travel industry, which we did for one year. By this point, our company wasn’t charging $300/month anymore to manage one social media platform. Instead, we were charging $1,000-2,000 per platform each month.
In addition to our recurring social media and reputation management work, we had projects come and go. We designed and launched several small business websites on WordPress, provided one-on-one consulting sessions, and wrote copy and blog articles for clients.
The Austinot blog
The Austinot, our blog about Austin, grew to be our second largest source of income. We delayed monetizing it because we were doing well with Knektion, but eventually we realized we were leaving money on the table.
In May 2016, when The Austinot was four years old, we launched simple Google ads. We started making a few hundred dollars a month, which we used to cover our hosting plan with WP Engine.
In early 2017, we found out we qualified for an ad network called AdThrive (a blog must have 100,000 pageviews/month to qualify). Switching to AdThrive was a gamechanger, more than doubling our ad income, then tripling it. This income continued to grow, and we didn’t have to do anything other than take care of our blog–which we were doing anyway.
We also sold direct ads to local businesses in Austin, though this income didn’t account to much in the big scheme of things. Because of time limitations, we didn’t proactively go after advertisers. They found us.
RV Wanderlust was intended to be an online journal of sorts, documenting our life as full-time RVers. Because there were so few working-age RVers in 2014, and even fewer sharing their life online, RV Wanderlust earned a following.
When we started to make money, we classified RV Wanderlust as a sole proprietorship under my name. These were our income sources:
- Amazon affiliate program
- Harvest Hosts affiliate program
- Paypal donations
Everything good we know about affiliate marketing, we learned through the course by Making Sense of Cents. We highly recommend you go through Michelle’s course if you have any interest in making money with a blog. Through affiliate marketing, you earn a small fee when your readers purchase products or services through your affiliate links.
Now, when we say “small fee,” it can be very small. Amazon is particularly stingy. With RV Wanderlust, I don’t think we ever earned more from Amazon in a month than the cost of a dinner out.
However, there are many affiliate programs out there. We were very successful as Harvest Hosts affiliates. Harvest Hosts currently pays affiliates $15 for each signup, which is a huge referral fee. Our article, Is Harvest Hosts Worth It? ranked near the top of the first page of Google at the same time Harvest Hosts was putting a ton of money into marketing. So people were searching Google for “harvest hosts,” finding us, and signing up through our affiliate link. There was one month in 2020 that we earned over $1,200 in affiliate income from Harvest Hosts!
Everything You Need to Know About Affiliate Marketing
Our favorite course about affiliate marketing!
Our final income source through RV Wanderlust was Paypal donations, so our readers could say thank you for the information we were providing.
There’s no such thing as having too many blogs, right? Jeepsies was the third blog we built. When Eric started it in 2016, it was about off-roading and Jeeping. In 2018, we started writing about overlanding, as well.
We treated Jeepsies as a business venture from the beginning (sole proprietorship under Eric’s name), but we didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
In addition to Amazon affiliate income and Paypal donations, Jeepsies qualified for an ad network called Ezoic. Ezoic requires a minimum of 10,000 pageviews/month and we signed up in mid-2019. Our first payment was around $130 and that grew to $250 after 15 months. We had fewer than 100 articles, so we were satisfied. Jeepsies had basically no overhead costs, so everything we earned was income.
Coast Guard Jeep Club
More than any of our other business ventures, Coast Guard Jeep Club was created because we saw a need that wasn’t being filled. Among Jeepers, clubs are a big thing. And while there were and are many Jeep clubs for military veterans, Coast Guard veterans are hard to find (the Coast Guard is about the same size as the NYPD).
So Eric decided to create Coast Guard Jeep Club, specifically for Coast Guard veterans and their family members. Originally a Facebook group, the club quickly mushroomed to 1,000 members in 49 U.S. states and other countries.
We felt like we were on to something, so we chose to establish Coast Guard Jeep Club as a sole proprietorship. We started offering an optional annual membership, with special perks for those who decided to contribute the $20 fee every year. We also launched a store through WooCommerce, with t-shirts, hoodies, and stickers.
Coast Guard Jeep Club had a ton of potential as a business, but we struggled to give it the time it deserved with everything else we had going on.
What our income streams look like now
At the end of 2019, Eric and I sequestered ourselves for a couple of days and did a major life regroup. We were really burnt out. And more importantly, we planned to begin driving around the world in 2021, and knew we couldn’t continue running all these Internet-dependent businesses.
So in 2020, we burned it all down. We sold The Austinot, handed off our remaining Knektion clients, and gave control of Coast Guard Jeep Club to one of the club’s members who we trusted.
We combined our content from RV Wanderlust and Jeepsies into a new brand: Hourless Life. Hourless Life is our only business now and sole source of income, other than Eric’s military retirement and disability. This is huge for us because it means we can focus on one thing, which is intrinsically connected to our family’s daily life as full-time overlanders.
Hourless Life income comes from several sources:
- Ezoic ad network
- YouTube ad income
- Affiliate income
- Freelance travel writing
- Paypal donations
- Instagram ad income
- Online store
These income sources are ranked from most income to least income.
I’ve already explained how most of these income sources work, but let’s dig into the new ones.
Patreon is modeled on the patronage system from centuries ago, when wealthy patrons financially supported artists and enabled them to accomplish their creative work (think Michelangelo and Pope Julius II).
Patreon was created to solve a modern-day problem: many bloggers and YouTubers are working the equivalent of a full-time job, but not earning a full-time income (or anything close to it). They are providing consistent value to their communities, but not being adequately compensated for it.
Before we launched Hourless Life in November 2020, we were already talking about Patreon. Would it be a good fit for us? We labored over this question and ultimately decided to go for it at the end of September 2021, just a few days before we left the United States and started driving around the world.
Our big struggle was deciding which benefits to offer patrons that we could fulfill with limited Internet connectivity as we travel internationally. The brainstorming process took time and creativity, but we ultimately landed on valuable benefits that don’t weigh heavily on us.
We have almost 100 patrons now. Their monthly contributions, which start at only $5/month, combine to quadruple what we normally earn through Ezoic in a month.
Join Our Journey on Patreon
Behind-the-scenes access and unique benefits as we drive around the world
For the first time since becoming full-time travelers in 2014, we have a YouTube channel (read: Why We Finally Decided to Start a YouTube Channel). We shared our first video at the end of February 2021, as we were beginning our full-time overlanding journey. After a popular YouTuber shared our story on his channel in May 2021, we attained 10,000 subscribers and–not too long after–the 4,000 hours of watch-time required to monetize our channel.
Not that we’re surprised, but it’s humorous/tragic how little one earns through YouTube in relation to the time it takes to produce videos. We have nearly 20,000 subscribers and our monthly income is in the very low three figures. This is why Patreon is so key to keeping us going.
Freelance Travel Writing
Remember that life regroup Eric and I did at the end of 2019? On my personal list of long-term goals, I had only one work-related line item: write. For me, writing doesn’t feel like work; it’s a creative and mental activity that puts wind in my sails. But for so many years, writing had gone on the back-burner, sacrificed to the demands of our five businesses.
Now I have time and mental space to write! I’m forever grateful to the team at Overland International for publishing my freelance work and empowering me to grow as a writer. My first Expedition Portal article was published in June 2020 and a little birdie said my first Overland Journal magazine article will publish in a 2022 issue. Talk about dreams coming true.
We launched our Hourless Life online store in November 2021. We started with branded products, like apparel and Hourless Life stickers. But we have fun ideas for other product lines in the future. Our store hasn’t generated much income to speak of, but it feels good to have the infrastructure there to build on.
Resources you can use to dig into this topic for yourself
I truly hope you’ve found value in learning how we can afford to travel full-time. Maybe now you have a better understanding of how to earn money through a blog, or maybe our story has given you some ideas to pursue.
But the reality is there are SO MANY WAYS to be location independent nowadays, earning money while traveling full- or part-time. This final section of my article will provide ideas and resources you can look into.
What jobs can you do while traveling full-time?
To give you an idea of the opportunities out there, here’s a quick list of jobs you can do while traveling full-time:
- Fulfill orders in an Amazon warehouse
- RV inspector
- “Workamp” at a campground, helping in the office, maintaining the grounds, or doing other jobs
- Mobile mechanic
- Travel nurse
- Ask your current boss if you can do your work remotely
While being a travel nurse requires the appropriate training, other jobs require very little training, like Amazon fulfillment or workamping. Other jobs, like becoming an RV inspector, require a few weeks of training.
I’ve only listed half a dozen job ideas. Want more? Check out The RV Entrepreneur Podcast, where our friend Heath Padgett spends over 200 episodes interviewing people who earn income that allows them to travel full-time.
What if none of the ideas sound right?
Maybe you’ve been researching, trying to figure out how YOU can afford to travel full-time…but none of the ideas seem to fit. In that case, I have a resource you should know about.
Remote Work School was founded by our friend, Camille Atell. Camille’s expertise is enabling people to “work, live, and travel where you want.” She has a course and several other resources with actionable information to help people figure out how to work remotely!
What if Internet connectivity is the big stumbling block?
Maybe you already have an income stream you can take on the road, but your questions about Internet access are keeping you from a life of travel. What is the best mobile Internet setup for you?
Don’t pass Go. Don’t collect $200. Instead, check out Mobile Internet Resource Center, founded by our friends Chris and Cherie. They are THE experts on mobile Internet, and have been since before we started traveling full-time in 2014. They have a ton of free content available, as well as a membership program with more customizable resources. We can’t recommend them highly enough. Anyone who tries to design a mobile Internet solution without them is wasting time reinventing the wheel.
We’re Grateful We Can Afford to Travel Full-time
So there you have it. In great detail, we’ve discussed the income that got us on the road in 2014, kept us on the road for years, and is now supporting our drive around the world. We also provided resources you can pursue, as you choose your own adventure.
If you have any questions, just let us know. We want to inspire, empower, and encourage you to pursue your dreams–whatever they are.