How travel makes us money (and no, not through travel blogging)

Unfortunately not THIS much money, but perhaps one day…

We’re not travel bloggers, which means we don’t get paid to endorse certain hotels or tours or restaurants. And we don’t have travel-related adverts (or indeed any adverts) on our website, so we don’t get paid in that way either. But we’re still making money through travelling.

In fact, since quitting our jobs last year and travelling around the world ever since, we’re making more money than we’ve ever made in our lives – even though travel can be bloomin’ expensive. Not only are we making more money, we’re also having way more fun (apart from when we’re at airports or the wifi’s down or we realise there isn’t a kettle in the apartment we’re about to live in).

And the funny thing is, if we were to stay put in the UK, we’re pretty sure we’d actually make less money.

Sound utterly confusing? Here’s an explanation:

Our blog would be astonishingly dull if we didn’t travel – which means we wouldn’t get clients through it

Not many of our blog posts are actually about travelling as such, but most of them are informed by our experiences while out and about around the world. Posts about digital nomad tax, living in the now, standard operating procedures for everyday life, happiness requirements, assumptions about digital nomads… they wouldn’t exist because we wouldn’t think to write them and we wouldn’t have any experiences or viewpoints to make them meaty and useful.

Assuming we lived permanently in London but had escaped corporate hell and were running our own business, what would we write about? We’re very unadventurous people, don’t forget, so our posts would all be about stuff like this:

  • How impressive it is that the Today show presenters can wrap up what they’re saying in time for the pips.
  • The Guardian is still amazingly shit at following the rules laid out in its own style guide.
  • It’s cold and I’m still wearing gloves.
  • The Bakerloo Line really is underrated.
  • That LSE event with Nassim Nicholas Taleb/Nancy Pelosi/Malcolm Rifkind that everyone went to and everyone is tweeting/blogging about? We went to it too, and our opinions of it are quite similar to lots of other people who were in the room.

Yawn-inducing stuff, basically.

We started writing this blog last year – once we’d quit our jobs to live in New York for six months in order to figure out what to do with our lives. We had relatively interesting things to say because we’d both willingly given up our incomes, were living in a new part of NYC every few weeks, and were generally doing something a bit different from the norm.

We never expected the blog to create leads for our writing/web design services, but that’s what happened. In fact, before we’d even launched our writing/web design business Mortified Cow, we were being asked to do writing work for people who’d been reading our blog. We’re pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened if we were writing about the stuff in the bullet points above.

Today, about 30% of new work comes via the blog, 40% comes from recommendations/referrals from clients (clients who’d usually found us through the blog too), 20% comes directly through our Mortified Cow website, and 10% comes through our other website, Undullify Me.

Moving around makes us more creative, which keeps the client work coming 

Believe me, I hated writing that subheading: it just sounds so wanky and artsy fartsy. But it’s true. Moving around a lot, meeting up with other digital nomads and getting to grips with the local culture gives us lots more to notice, think about, then write about for our blog (although we still have the odd case of writers’ block).

But travelling around also makes us more creative in general – not just on the blog. We come up with our best web design/writing ideas for clients when we’re not staying in any one place for too long; we have no idea why or how, but it works.

By being more creative and coming up with better work for our clients, they’re more likely to reuse us and recommend us to others.

London is expensive… which helps make travel more affordable (aka “geographic arbitrage”) 

In London, it costs us approximately £1,400 to get a half-decent flat on Airbnb. Obviously it’s less if you do long-term rents and live permanently in London, but then we get our Airbnb flats fully furnished, and with heating, water and electricity included – which all saves a lot of money. Even so, let’s say it costs £1,000 a month to get a one-bedroom flat in London.

That’s a lot more expensive than most other places in the world.

Yes, long-haul flights are expensive, but we make it work by ensuring we stay in that country long enough for the cheap accommodation to even everything out.

For example, when we went to Thailand earlier this year…

  • x2 return flights to Thailand: £1,500
  • Accommodation for two months in Chiang Mai (with a gym, rooftop pool and weekly cleaning): £360
  • Total cost for two months: £1,860

Compared to:

  • Total rent for two months in London: £2,000 (ish)

And then there’s the issue of general living expenses. In practically all the places we’ve been, our food, drink and essentials have been cheaper than in London. Which means our quality of life can be so much better in those countries too. Heck, we bought mangoes every single day in Thailand, had weekly massages, and – on a mini-break to Bangkok – took a fricking taxi out to dinner.

Our holidays are our travels

For people in regular jobs, travelling is an additional expense to their everyday lives. For us, it’s part of our everyday lives. We don’t need to spend money on going on holiday, because we’re always travelling to new places.

True, we rarely take a fully fledged break from work, but that’s because we’re anal and control-freaky (and because we really really really love what we do). We prefer to mix up each day with an excursion or fun break rather than take a full-on holiday, but if we wanted, we could devote a week or two to pure relaxation while in another country.

We feel no peer pressure to buy stuff

When we opted out of a “traditional” lifestyle, we relinquished the corresponding peer pressure. This is mainly a mindset thing: by doing something unique among our peers, we kind of feel like there’s an unspoken acceptance that we’re just not going to do what other people are doing.

We won’t go to the latest overpriced, queue-for-hours-outside-because-it-makes-the-place-seem-way-cool restaurant unless we really actually want to. And no one expects us to be fashionable or have the latest gadgets, because they know we’re just not into all that.

Actually, we can’t buy stuff

We can’t buy a massive widescreen telly because it won’t fit in our suitcase. Installing a jacuzzi in the bathroom would be wonderful, but we don’t have a permanent bathroom. Those big clompy boots I love the look of… they’ll put us in the “excess baggage” category and do damage to Rob’s already-iffy back.

By the time we get to x country, those fur-lined leopard-print t-shirts will be out of fashion. We’re better off sticking to the men’s section of Uniqlo and buying stuff that’ll last for years and never be fashionable or unfashionable.

—–

This is how we’re able to make money while travelling and having the time of our lives. It’s not the way everyone would do it, but the fact remains that travel really can pay - even if you’re not a travel blogger.

I’ve probably missed out a heap of other ways that travel can pay, so please let me know in the comments if you know of other ways in which travel can help you to make or save money!

  • http://ww.packedbranding.co.uk Tessa Stuart

    Mish and Rob did a totally awesome job on both a new site and a book edit for me while they were in Hammersmith, Paris, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. And the time difference meant all their emails were in my in-box at 6 am, which, given I was an insomniac at the time, really worked out well….

    • Mish

      I have a feeling you sometimes emailed me back at about 5am…!

      Thanks so much Tessa – we loved working with you and can’t wait to work with you on the next project!

  • http://passingthru.com/ Betsy

    It’s true about the stuff, isn’t it? Good finances = proper expense management + steady or growing income. Sometimes it’s hard for people who have taken a conventional path to wrap their heads around the fact that funding the lifestyle is what’s keeping them stuck. Good on you for pointing it out!

    • Mish

      Thanks Betsy!

      It’s so true: when you spend all the money you earn, it’s very hard to get unstuck from that lifestyle.

      I like the equation – might try and borrow that from you some time!

      Mish

  • http://www.freewpinstall.net/ Andy

    Maybe this is an idea to save some money on traveling the world http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2010/12/09/how-to-fly-35000-miles-visit-4-continents-9-countries-and-15-cities-for-418/ haven’t tried so far but will do so asap.

  • http://www.travelandthrive.com Lee OB

    Loved this post, Especially the comments regarding a flat screen fitting in your suitcase or avoiding “the wait outside so it looks hip” venues. Life abroad or on the road carries so many “intangibles” and “inmeasurables” that I think it gives your post even more merit. You gave them explanation.
    “It’s cold and I’m still wearing gloves.”… Classic!! Cheers and stoked to be following

    • Mish @ Making It Anywhere

      You’ve made me insanely happy!

      Sometimes Rob has to remind me that I find myself way funnier than anyone else does, but you’ve given me hope!

      So glad you enjoyed the post, and please do feel free to post more head-expanding comments like that!

      • http://www.travelandthrive.com Lee OB

        Mish- maybe what he considers not funny is just part of your subtle style. The post was laced with it so I figured I would comment, I know how you feel, I am proud of my “24 hour a day sarcasm” (derived from my British/Irish roots) yet many times spend the post joke moments explaining myself.
        Also the “our holidays are our travels” portion is so solid. It is a concept BEYOND people who have spent time away from home. Send Rob my regards, best served in a joking tone of course.

        • Mish @ Making It Anywhere

          Haha! Thanks so much Lee!

  • Sam

    Hey Mish & Rob!
    I was wondering if there are ways to live this nomad lifestyle without actually blogging about anything?
    I want to travel the world and have this kind of lifestyle but im not necessarily interested in writing or blogging myself. Do you have any tips or ideas?