How I Get Paid to Travel the World

How I Get Paid to Travel the World

This crazy, unpredictable adventure began with exactly $5,000 in my bank account. I booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 1, 2009.

My goal was to travel for one year.

From there, I would come up with my next business idea, fly home and go back to my normal life.

Fast forward to today – I have been getting paid to travel around the world for the past nine years – all from starting a blog.

As you may know from the My Story video, I do not come from a wealthy family, I do not live off an inheritance, and although I did sell a successful business at an early age, I still need to work for a living. 100% of my expenses are paid from income I’ve earned through travel.

It took me the better part of a year to start earning enough money from this blog to make this my primary source of income.

In the meantime, I was bartending up to six nights a week, taking on marketing consulting projects, and writing 4-5 blog posts per week.

get paid to travel - before making money with the travel blog
I bartended in Buenos Aires before I earned money Travel Blogging

Most people think this is just fun and games (including my grandmother) and while I love doing it – it takes a lot to work to get paid to travel. When I’m not on camera running around the world, I’m writing, editing, planning, pitching and trying to generate income.

Here are the eight ways that I get paid to travel, and make enough money to travel around world full time…

How I Get Paid to Travel: 8 Ways I Make Money

get paid to travel - blog advertising

1. Blog Advertisements & Sponsors

It wasn’t my goal, or even within my knowledge, when I started Tourist2Townie.com in 2009 that I could turn this into a business. I was simply writing for friends and family, and trying to inspire others to travel differently.

My goal was to live in Argentina for one year and use that time to come up with a new business idea and then go home.

As traffic to the site grew, I was able to start monetizing the blog and selling advertisements to travel companies and local Buenos Aires businesses.

Remember: Money follows eyeballs – if you have the audience you can monetize it. Even if it’s just a Facebook page. 

With the ad income from T2T, I purchased a few other travel websites and sold ad space on those as well.

At the beginning I would sell banner ads, text links and sponsored articles. As you can see from a shot of an old T2T blog page above (via Wayback Machine), I used to have advertising banner ads and text links on the internal sidebar pages.

On any given month I would make between $1,000 to $5,000 USD by selling advertising space (not including affiliates).

This type of advertising has since declined due to changes in Google’s algorithm.

Basically, now you have to be careful adding lots of external links to your site.

This method used to make up 80-90% of my income, now its more like 10-20%.

2. Guest Writing & Editorials

get paid to travel - blog writing

When I first started out I would write for other online publications where you get paid per article. It’s a grind, but if you work hard, there’s a lot of blogs and websites that need good content. I was able to ski the French Alps with Club Med thanks to a writing gig with Matador Network (photo above).

I don’t write much anymore as I’ve shifted towards video, but it’s a great way to make money if you’re a proficient writer.

The same can be said if you have other skills as well – See Travel Jobs: Jobs That Pay You to Travel the World

For example, my friend and fellow traveler, Brendan van Son earns a living through travel photography. He explains it all on his travel photography vlog.

Rates and pricing for guest writing range drastically depending on the publication and writer. For example, I make between $100 to $500 per article I write for other publications.

If you’re interested in this, you should plan on writing for free to begin with to build up your portfolio. Starting a blog would help (read: How to Start a Blog).

3. Affiliate Revenue

get paid to travel - affiliate revenue

Affiliate commissions happen when someone buys a product or service that I recommend. I then receive a percentage of said purchase.

This doesn’t happen every time I mention a product or service that I like, but I try to make it mutually beneficial wherever possible (and appropriate).

I only recommend places, services, and products that I have used myself or I believe in.

For example, if you reserve your hostel with Hostelworld.com, book a flight with Booking.com, schedule your first home stay with Airbnb.com, buy my Sony A7ii camera on Amazon, or even sign up for a web host on HostGator, I receive a commission – at NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.

Often times, it actually includes a discount. Check out my Travel Accessories Page for more examples of my Affiliate partnerships.

At the very beginning I went out and designed my own affiliate contracts by partnering with tour companies in Buenos Aires that I liked.

Every time I referred them a new customer they would pay me 10% of the sale. This can be scaled to virtually any business.

After awhile, I learned about other affiliate programs on the internet, such as Commission Junction and  Amazon Affiliates – with Amazon, I earn between 4-6% of each sale.

While some Affiliate programs are based on an approval process, many are not. Meaning, if you want to recommend a camera to your Facebook friends via Amazon Affiliates to earn extra money, do it!

The sky’s the limit with affiliate revenue.

4. YouTube Ad Revenue & Sponsored Content

Get paid to travel - youtube revenue

I make money on the ad revenue share on my YouTube videos. It’s not a ton of money, but when a video goes viral, like Best Beaches in Rio de Janeiro, I’ll make anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per month on that video alone.

Aside from those big hits, on average, with YouTube Ad Revenue, I make between $1,000 to $2,500 per one million views.

That’s why I’m always asking you to like, comment, and SUBSCRIBE – it really helps increase the video engagement, which drives views.

On top of the consistent YouTube Ad Revenue, I also offer sponsored content deals.

This year, I have done a product review for DJI’s new Osmo Mobile 2, Progessive Insurance #RoadtoFirefly Campaign, and an Ireland Tourism feature coming soon!

5. Social Media Campaigns

get paid to travel - influencer marketing

“Influencer Marketing” is the trendy phrase at the moment. It simply means that brands are paying people who can “influence” their audience.

Kylie Jenner promotes crap for girls faces. Fitness models promote “diet teas” and protein supplements. I promote things to help you travel. Same but different.

Between YouTube and Instagram, I say “no” to about 75% of the brands that contact me. I have seen far too many of my peers lose their authenticity by selling out to anyone and everyone with money.

The goal is to keep it as authentic as possible, while still making a living.

In the words of the great Ari Gold (Entourage), “you gotta do one for them, and then one for you.” 

Some recent branded social media campaigns have included SoBe Beverages, Fruit of Loom, Marriott Hotels, Wells Fargo, and Sunglass Warehouse.

This is the fastest growing revenue source for me. I make anywhere between $1,000 and $25,000 on per campaign.

6. Destination Tourism Campaigns

Partnership with Visit Brasil

Destination Tourism Boards like run campaigns where they will pay me to share my experiences at their destination.

Many destinations offer free “press trips” where they will pay for flights, expenses, and activities in exchange for travel bloggers and journalists to write about the particular place. Truth is, I don’t do many of these simple because I don’t usually like to travel in a group with other bloggers. Not much “Travel Deeper” there.

I will however do a “group” trip if it’s a fun and creative campaign like we did in Thailand, Miami, and Curacao.

Most destination tourism campaigns involve multi-platform deliverables, which includes writing blog posts, tweets, creating videos, Instagram posts, and IG Stories.

Destination Tourism Campaigns have included Visit Brasil, Thailand Insider, Visit Ireland, Go Hawaii, and East Coast Tasmania.

This is right there with Social Media campaigns for the potential and growth. Currently, I earn between $5,000 and $15,000 per campaign.

7. Trip Sponsorships

Mt Everest Base Camp Group Photo

This involves the most pitching out of any of the ways I make money. I come up with an idea of where I want to go and what I want to do and then I ask an organization or brand if they want to get involved.

Trip Sponsorships are pretty straight forward, but the key here is; CREATE VALUE for the partner involved – not just expecting a free trip, gear, or payment.

Two Examples:

My friend Clint (of Triphackr.com) and I have worked with Active Adventures to promote their treks to Mt. Everest Base Camp and The Dolomites.

My friend Steve (of Back-packer.org) and I have worked with HomeAway, SadCars, and Marmot on a Iceland Road Trip.

Sometimes it is a comped trip, gear, and/or resources in exchange for content, and other times it’s comped resources plus a set rate.

8. Video Production

Cairns Airport reaches 5 Million Passengers

As I develop my video production skills, I’ve been working with organizations to create videos for them, from behind the lens as well.

For example, I shot a video for Cairns Airport in Cairns, Australia to help them celebrate 5 million passengers for the year (2016).

It ended up winning first place at the Queensland Multimedia Awards in Australia for “Best Digital Video Clip.”

I have also created a video series in Istanbul for Walks of Turkey.

Rates begin at $3,500 per video – a very competitive rate in order to build my portfolio. Have a video you want me to make? Contact me!


These are the eight ways that I have been able to earn a living online and live my dreams.To be able to get paid while traveling is still unbelievable to me.

As I said at the beginning, to work and travel is all about hard work and patience. It’s about constant improvement and education. I didn’t know anything about writing, blogging, or video when I started, but you learn, grow and adapt.

If you have any specific questions regarding how I do this, please don’t hesitate to ask!

If you want to get started on this path to making money while traveling, check out How to Start a Blog

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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