Insider Tips: How to Get Paid to Travel the World in 2024!

getting paid to travel

The world of travel storytelling seems to be going through a weird flux. On the one hand, my explore tab on Instagram is full of wannabe-viral videos on how creators are getting paid to travel. But on the other, I’m constantly meeting or interacting with travel ‘influencers’ with thousands and sometimes millions of followers, who still work on barter collaborations – getting hosted but not paid to travel.

I recently discussed this with a travel blogger friend, and we both felt sorry that good creators with powerful storytelling prowess are being taken for a ride. So I decided to write this post, lifting the veil one more time on how I make a living from travelling – and how you can do it in 2024 too.

*NEW* A free 5-day email course on the biggest mistake travel creators make

1. How I fund my travel adventures

travel writing
Always trying to remember the fine balance between travel as a passion, and as a source of income.

If you read my blog or follow me on Instagram, you know that my travels have never been funded by a ‘daddy-fund.’ I grew up in a middle class family, borrowed a massive amount of money for my education, scored a corporate job at the Singapore Tourism Board and quit two years later – to chase my dream of travelling the world. Except for some savings, I had no idea how I’d make it work.

I worked part time with a social enterprise, took on social media management work, and freelanced as a travel writer. Whatever I earned, I saved to travel.

Gradually, I built an audience on this blog you’re reading (almost 13 years old now!) – and learnt how to make money as a travel blogger. Then Instagram exploded, and I had to relearn the tricks of the trade. In 2023, I made my highest income ever – and over 50% of it came directly or indirectly via Instagram.

Related: This Month, 11 Years Ago, I Quit My Job to Travel

2. My current sources of income (aka how I make money while travelling)

  • Brand collaborations: I work with travel and sustainability-focused brands to create outreach about their destinations or work, both on Instagram and this blog. While some brands still understand the value of long-tail blogging content, many are stuck on the Instagram bandwagon alone. Their loss!
  • Courses: In 2023, I launched my first course at The Shooting Star Academy, teaching folks how to get paid to travel the world with purpose. It is designed for bloggers, content creators and influencers, who aspire to turn their wanderlust into a meaningful career. The course is now my second biggest income generator.
  • Consulting: In 2022, I formalized my sustainable tourism consulting work, over at Climate Conscious Travel. While it felt quite fulfilling to influence sustainable practices within the industry, it was also a lot to manage with my writing work. Even with little marketing effort, it became my third largest source of income.
  • Freelance travel writing, book royalties and speaking: After a long break from freelance travel writing, I began to enjoy the pitching-writing-editing-publishing process again, this time well aware that the effort is never commensurate with the pay, but the feeling of putting my work out there is worth it nonetheless! Same with speaking and book publishing. These contributed only a tiny bit to my total income though.
My income chart that takes me in surprising directly every year!

Related: 6 Tips to Break Into Freelance Travel Writing

3. How long it took me to get paid to travel

The world of travel storytelling changes every few years. When I first started in 2011, it was hard to imagine that anyone could monetize their travel blogs or social media. But as tourism boards and travel businesses understood the value of organic content, things changed quickly.

In 2012 or 2013, nearly two years after starting this blog, I scored my first paid travel blogging assignment. That means not only were my travel expenses (flights, accommodations, meals) covered but I also earned a fee – and dared to dream of a future as a professional travel storyteller!

The truth is that it takes time to build a strong personal brand, attract the right audience, and monetize in a way that is sustainable. Don’t be fooled by all the 5-tips-to-get-paid-to-travel-overnight type of bullsh*t out there. Quality and consistency can’t be faked. Real audience building takes time. And in the end, it’s worth the time, energy and effort – both financially and mentally!

Related: Learning to Walk Away

4. How you can stand out as a travel creator in 2024

travel blogger
Before trying to stand out from the clutter, evaluate what the clutter consists of.

I know what you’re thinking. The world is completely different than a decade ago. There are thousands of people trying to make it (or fake it) as travel influencers or content creators. How can you stand out in 2024? Here’s my best advice, based on watching, evolving and ‘cracking’ this space for over 10 years:

4.1 Develop a strong strategy to stand out from the clutter

Most aspiring travel creators and storytellers make a fundamental mistake. They start posting on social media with no concrete strategy. Doing that just makes you one of the herd, no different from the next person posting pretty photos and videos. Unless by a stroke of sheer luck, it’s impossible to distinguish yourself this way.

If you really want to stand out, start with brainstorming a strategy. Think about these questions: What are you good at? What do you feel passionate about? What does the world need that you don’t see enough of? What will you still want to do ten years from now? Dwelling on these questions will gradually guide you through the process of working out your unique niche and voice – which is the starting point of setting your work apart from the thousands of others.

4.2 Figure out your travel and storytelling style

Have a quick look at the posts and reels created by your favorite travel influencers and creators on Instagram. Chances are, each one’s content merges into the next person’s. Most Instagrammers travel in a similar vein, and create similar kinds of stories. If we removed them from their photos and videos, could you guess who created that video, or wrote that caption?

Once you’ve thought long and hard about your focus area and evolution strategy, focus your attention on your travel and storytelling style. Ask what is different about the way you travel, and therefore the way you tell stories.

4.3 Don’t focus only on social media

Instagram is quick money for me, but I always try to upsell my blog because I want tourism boards and travel businesses to derive the most value out of collaborating with me. But unfortunately, most don’t understand the value of long tail content.

The idea is simple. What I post on Instagram might reach a 100,000 people today, but it’s lifetime value is only a couple of days. No one can really search for it or make decisions based on it in the near future.

On the other hand, stories I wrote on my blog even pre-2020 can still be found and influence travel decisions. Travel is not an impulse buy. When people actually plan their travels, they are far more likely to search on google, than look for ideas on Instagram.

So my point is, don’t focus on fast-moving social media alone. Create greater value for brands and your audience through a long form channel. That’ll also allow you more space to grow as a creative soul.

Truly standing out as a travel storyteller in 2024 needs courage and creativity. Instead of following trends and jumping on the next new shiny bandwagon, ask what aligns with your brand and values. What strengthens your credibility? Besides living out your own dream, what role do you play in the multifaceted challenges facing our world today? Because anyone with influence has a responsibility too.

I know it sounds old school to talk about values in the age of meaningless trending content, but from my vantage point, the tide is about to turn. In 2023, I’ve already seen more brands than ever before wanting to align with creators who might not reach a million people but have a strong commitment towards environmental or social impact. I constantly see influencers being called out for geotagging, or ignorantly accentuating other irresponsible travel practices. Building your values into your content strategy is the best way to ensure your stories will still matter, even tens of years from now!

Related: What No One Tells You About Publishing a Book in India

5. Beyond social media: How to earn as a travel storyteller

lofoten islands
Always worth mulling: Are we controlling social media or being controlled by it?

I know some people absolutely hate Instagram and Tik Tok – and let go off their dream to travel the world and tell stories that matter. If that’s you, know that social media is only part of the storytelling puzzle. While it’ll certainly help to mend your relationship with these platforms to let them do some of the hard work for you, you don’t have to rely on these alone to build an income

Here are ways beyond social media, that travel storytellers can monetize their stories in 2024:

  • Affiliate marketing: Depending on your niche, you might be able to drive sales through hotel and product recommendations. Amanda of A Dangerous Business has long been an affiliate marketing pro, even teaching travel bloggers to monetize their blog with affiliate partnerships.
  • Selling photos: If you love photography and have become really skilled at it, you could consider selling your work on platforms like Getty Images and Unsplash. Alex of Lost With Purpose is an awesome photographer, and earns part of her income by selling her photography!
  • Advertising: That’s a no brainer – but it does take SEO skills to build up enough traffic to make your advertising revenue count. Sharon of Digital Nomad Wannabe holds bootcamps on how to build advertising revenue through traffic, and also sell niche websites.
  • Offline storytelling / Public speaking: I was surprised to learn this was a thing, until Shane of The Travel Camel told me about his cruise ship gigs where he travels as the storyteller on board. How creative!
  • Run a paid newsletter: I tried my hand at this during the pandemic, when my income had all but dried up, and was surprised at how well it worked. I no longer run a paid newsletter, but Stuart of TravelFish has been at it for a long time now!

Related: What I’ve Learnt on the Way to 60,000+ Organic Followers on Instagram

6. How much can one earn as a travel storyteller

Good question! While there are no official scorecards, travel storytellers can earn as little as peanuts, all the way up to 5,000-20,000 US$ a month. My monthly figure varies quite a bit, but I also say no to a lot of things that simply don’t align with my values. Quality and fulfilment over quantity!

7. Other ways to earn money while travelling

Here’s another truth – you don’t have to be a storyteller AT ALL to earn money while travelling. Some people detest social media, writing and/or photography, and that’s okay. Here’s a bunch of other way to earn on the road:

  • Remote corporate jobs: The most obvious is to take your current job on the road, partially or fully! Unfortunately many companies that encouraged remote work during the pandemic now want employees to come back to office. But if you can negotiate a workaround – or find a new remote position altogether – you can have the security of a monthly paycheck as you travel.
  • Freelance work: On platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, freelancers make a substantial amount of money doing everything from logo design to website development to content writing. I always encourage freelancers to create an active profile on Instagram and/or Linkedin to showcase their work too. If there’s something you’re really good at, you can take it on the road with you!
  • Lead a trip: A great way to travel and connect with a wide range of travellers is to lead trips, either independently or for a travel company. Ideal for extroverts, those who love researching and being organized, and those who flourish in a group setting.
  • Teach on the go: I’ve met so many slow travellers who offer their skills wherever they are, and earn off them. Yoga teachers, hairdressers, travelling musicians, DJs, fitness experts, you name it. If you have a skill you (can) teach at home, you can certainly teach it on the road.

Related: How Croatia compelled me to rethink travel blogging

8. Resources to get paid to travel the world

A creative soul ain’t no content factory 😉

8.1 A free 5-day email series on the biggest mistakes travel creators make

In this crash course, I offer behind-the-scenes insights into the five biggest mistakes travel creators make, and share five simple frameworks to fix them. This offers the tools you need to start or reset your journey to become an authentic, impactful travel creator – so you don’t have to be that travel influencer who mindlessly follows trends!

8.2 An in-depth course for travel bloggers, content creators and influencers

10 years, 60+ countries, and hundreds of brand collaborations later, I launched my first course – Get paid to travel the world with purpose. I take (aspiring) creators behind the scenes of being a travel storyteller, and go in-depth into how to build a strong personal brand, attract a loyal audience, get paid to travel to dream destinations, negotiate contracts and deliverables, and have a positive impact on the world in the process. 

Since the launch of the course a few months ago, I’m amazed by what course participants have already achieved! Six have received hosted travel storytelling opportunities in Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Uttarakhand, and two more are in the pipeline. One proved that going ‘viral’ through meaningful storytelling is very much possible – a reel she posted on Instagram has received over 28 million views! One has been approached by a group of published scientists and an indigenous community to manage the digital presence of their conservation forest. Yet another has rekindled her passion for travel journalism, and been invited on a press trip to Japan and Vietnam!

8.3 A whatsapp newsletter with weekly tips

Nearly 10 weeks ago, we launched a Whatsapp Newsletter – Wanderlust & Storytelling – at The Shooting Star Academy. It features bite sized storytelling tips, travel opportunities, polls to help uncover your creative blocks, a glimpse of what course learners are achieving, and exclusive course offers.

8.4 Other resources

9. FAQs

91. How do travel bloggers get paid?

Through a mix of income streams. These include brand collaborations, affiliate marketing, display ads, books and e-books, speaking, consulting and freelance writing.

9.2 Is it possible to become a travel content creator in 2024?

Only if you’re strategic about it. It’s more important ever to have a defined niche, build a strong personal brand, attract a loyal audience, create meaningful content, and know your worth as you develop your income streams. And maybe stop calling yourself a content creator – that sounds like you’re running some sort of content factory 😉

9.3 How to become a travel photographer and get paid?

Travel photographers were once commissioned by magazines and tourism boards to travel the globe and produce photos to support marketing efforts. But the lines are pretty blurred now, with more brands trying to merge photography and influencing. It’s no surprise that they’re choosing travel bloggers or Instagrammers who not only take stunning travel photos but also have a wide reach and good engagement – shooting two birds with one stone!

9.4 How to get paid to travel and review hotels?

That’s very much in the gamut of brand collaborations as a travel creator. There are no shortcuts. You need to find your voice, differentiate yourself from the next creator, and prove your worth to accommodations in your niche.

9.5 Are there jobs where you get paid to travel?

Besides becoming a travel storyteller, here are a couple of examples of jobs that’ll let you earn a living as you travel:

  • Trip leader: Manage trips for a travel company, get to meet new people and experience new places, and get paid in the process. Best for extroverts and those who love to geek out on logistics!
  • Travelling teacher: Master a skill, take it on the road with you, and get paid to teach it. From teaching English to yoga to tarot card reading, find what you feel passionate about and let it sustain you on the go.

9.6 Do travel influencers really get paid to travel?

I hate the term influencer, but for the past decade I’ve made the majority of my income through travel storytelling, primarily on my blog and Instagram. So I guess the answer is YES – especially if you can learn to navigate this space as a creative soul with a business head!

Do you dream of getting paid to travel the world? What are your biggest obstacles?

The Shooting Star Academy

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  1. Hi Shivya, I have been following you for over a decade now.Its so intersting to see how you have adapted as well to the changing scenarios of the travel industry and social media.Thank you so much for sharing these practical tips.Indeed it’s a question which everyone might have on how to stand out and how to have a USP and as you have rightly stated to this one strategizing is critical for this.Wishing more power to you and lots of sustainable travels for future.

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