(Just so you know, there may be some affiliate links in this post, but we only recommend items that we believe in and think will benefit you on your travels.)
1. Tell us about yourself and sum up your travels for us.
We're Katie and Ben, founders of the travel blog Two Wandering Soles. Like Kara and Nate, we were high school sweethearts, so we’ve kind of grown up together. Shortly after getting married, we quit our jobs as an engineer (Ben) and a graphic designer (Katie) to go on a 3-month backpacking trip in South America. That 3-month trip never really ended, and has since taken us to South Korea where we taught English, then around the world on a year-long trip that included adventures like trekking to the Everest Base Camp and road-tripping around Iceland.
After returning to the United States, we spent a winter season working at a ski resort in Washington state, then spent the following summer traveling around the US in a campervan named “Vinny”!
From living overseas as expats to backpacking around the world to road tripping in a campervan, we’ve had a wide variety of travel experiences through 43 countries and several US states.
2. How have you funded your travels?
The way we’ve funded our travels has changed and evolved over the past three years. We’ll share a few of the ways we have been able to afford a nomadic lifestyle for 3.5 years and counting!
Prior to our travels:
Before even purchasing our one-way flight to Colombia in 2014, we had been strategically saving our money for about a year and a half. We both had good jobs, but with wedding expenses and student loan payments, we had to be really diligent about putting money away. We stopped going out to eat as much and met friends for walks instead of drinks. We started living more simply and found that it wasn’t as difficult to save money as we thought it would be.
Over that year and a half, we came up with tons of creative money-saving hacks, and put together a super detailed article on our website of very specific ways we saved our money prior to quitting our jobs.
Our biggest and fastest money-maker:
Once we really got a taste of long term travel in South America, we decided to figure out how we could financially make it work to keep seeing more of the world. One thing we kept coming back to time and time again was the idea of teaching English overseas. We did tons of research and ended up choosing to teach in South Korea, where the cost of living is low and earnings are high.
We had an incredible opportunity to live in another country for a year and really delve into a culture completely different from our own. Plus, we were able to save more than $22,000 each in just one year! Yes, you read that right. Between the two of us, our savings from one year of teaching English in South Korea was more than $44,000. That doesn’t include all the money we spent while living in Korea and traveling around Asia during our year as expats.
We have several articles on our website that break down exactly how we saved that much money, and we’re happy to help out anyone else who would like to pursue a similar endeavor. Any time people ask us how they can earn money quickly and easily for travel, our number one recommendation is to teach English in South Korea!
How we earn money anywhere in the world:
By saving more than $44,000 by teaching English in South Korea, we were able to spend about a year traveling around the world – from Southeast Asia to India and Nepal, to Eastern and Western Europe. We made sure to stay on top of our budget while traveling so that we could continue to pay our student loans and stretch out our travel for as long as possible.
But we didn’t want to spend all of our savings and come back home completely broke, so we decided we should start earning money on the road.
We each do different things to earn money remotely. Ben teaches English via video chat to students in China through a program called VIPKID. It is an incredibly easy way to earn money, no matter where in the world you may be, and has tons of opportunities for bonuses and pay increases. We put together a complete guide with everything you need to know before applying to VIPKID that you can find on our website.
I (Katie) earn money by doing freelance writing, social media management and graphic design projects. I have used Upwork in the past to find gigs, but now tend to work with clients long term.
Monetizing our website:
We started our website as a passion project because we love sharing about our experiences and advice with readers. We wrote articles for the sheer joy of it, with no intentions to make money.
It wasn’t until about one year ago that we started to monetize our website, and we’ve only really put time and effort into this realm in the last few months. We make some money through advertising and sponsorships, but the main money-maker on our website so far is through affiliate marketing. In short, this means we get a small “kickback” when readers buy a product we have recommended. We are very specific with which companies we work with, and only promote those we actually use and believe in. Being honest, genuine and transparent has always been a higher priority to us than earning money quickly, but it is starting to pay off.
Currently, our website is paying all of our student loan payments (which is a hefty monthly sum!), and it is also covering all of our travel expenses and nomadic lifestyle. Our plan is to spend the next three months working very hard on our website to grow our earnings even more.
3. Tell us about your budget.
In order to sustain a nomadic lifestyle while also paying student loans each month, we are pretty strict about staying on top of a budget.
The magic number we try to stay under each day is $70 for both of us. When traveling in countries in Southeast Asia or India, this is very easy. But in Western Europe and North America, it’s a bit more difficult. We are big believers in balance. Splurging is part of travel and we try not to pass up on once in a lifetime experiences because of money. But if we go way over our budget today, we’ll spend the next couple days being very careful about our purchases to balance it out.
In order to understand how much we are spending and exactly what we’re spending it on, we record all our purchases on an app called Trail Wallet. Developed by other travelers, it converts between currencies seamlessly and allows you to customize your budget completely. It’s important for us to know how much money we have left to spend each day (or how much we’ve gone over budget), so we can hold ourselves accountable. It also breaks down exactly what we’re spending our money on, so we know that types of things we can cut back on, like ice cream, for example. Recording all our purchases felt like a lot of work at first, but now it’s habit and we kind of make it into a game. Plus, it has been the reason we’ve been able to travel for such long periods of time, so it’s totally worth it.
4. What have you learned about money since hitting the road?
We’ve learned not to let money hold us back. Quitting our jobs was a huge risk, and it was made even bigger by the fact that we have sizeable student loans to pay each month. But we didn’t want money to stand in the way of us and our dreams, and we knew that if we worked hard enough and planned ahead, we could control our money instead of letting money control us.
Interestingly enough, we have found that we actually spend less money while traveling than we did while living in an apartment and working full time jobs.
5. What's your top tip for someone trying to figure out how to make long-term travel financially possible?
This is a question we’re asked time and time again. And we have 3 pieces of advice:
- If you are at all interested and it fits into your lifestyle, our number one recommendation would be to consider teaching English in South Korea. The opportunity to explore another country while making (lots) of money is an experience you’ll cherish for your lifetime. Plus, it can set you up to pay off student loans or travel the world long-term. If this is of any interest to you, we have endless resources on helping you get started.
- Keep track of your expenses. All of them! Start keeping track now, while you’re saving up for travel so you can see what costs you can cut. Continue tracking your spending while on the road so you can stretch out your travels. If you don’t know exactly how much you’re spending, it’s easy to blow your bank account before you can buy a return ticket home!
- Rethink the way you vacation. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to think about long-term travel differently than you think about a 2-week vacation. If you want to travel for as long as possible, you might not be able to stay in the 5-star hotels you tend to stay at during a short holiday. And eating at fancy restaurants each night will take a toll on your wallet fast. Traveling in a more sustainable way, more similarly to how you live at home, will help you stretch your money further.
6. If someone wanted to follow in your footsteps, are there any online resources you’d recommend?
There are so many resources out there we’d recommend! We’ll share a few of our favorites:
- VIPKID: This is a fantastic way for any North American (sorry to all other nationalities, they are looking for American and Canadian accents) to earn a great income remotely by teaching English to students in China via video chat. You can work from anywhere in the world – Ben even taught during our 3-month road trip from inside our campervan!
- Upwork: Find freelance jobs for just about any skill you have – from photo editing to technical writing to SEO optimization – you can find tons of job opportunities. Our advice would be to look primarily for those clients who will offer you repeat, long-term work.
- EPIK: This is the program we went through to teach English in South Korea where we were able to save a total of $44,000 in one year!
7. What's some of your favorite travel gear that enables you to do what you do?
Steripen – This handy device sterilizes water to make it safe for drinking. We always travel with our Steripen so we don’t have to constantly buy plastic water bottles and create more waste. Plus, not having to buy water all the time has saved us a ton of money along the way. We’ve used our Steripen for the past 4 years on our travels in countries like Colombia, Myanmar, India and Romania, and have never gotten sick from drinking the water.
Packing cubes – We are obsessed with packing cubes because they keep our clothes and toiletries organized and compressed. We literally don’t know how we ever traveled without these!
Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Debit Card – This debit card allows you to withdraw money from ATMs all over the world and reimburses your ATM fees. It has saved us hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars!
Anker Portable Charger 20000mAh – This external battery pack keeps all our electronics charged and ready to go! We did tons of research before landing on this one, and chose the Anker because it can charge 2 devices at once; plus, and it can charge them 7 times before needing to be charged itself. It was a huge lifesaver during our trek to Everest Base Camp!
8. Where can people follow your travels?
The focus of our website is sharing with others how they can travel responsibly and sustainably on any budget. We’d love to have you on board and learn how you can leave a smaller footprint on your travels without sacrificing adventure. You can travel ethically and adventurously on any budget. Trust us!
Check out our website, Two Wandering Soles, and shoot us a message! We’d love to hear from you!