Never Request Vacation Again: How I Travel Whenever I Want (Without Going Broke)

becoming a digital nomad
how to become a digital nomad

Confetti explosion at Carnaval de Nice

If you’re in the Unsettle Facebook group, you’ll know that last week I booked a one-way flight to Colombia for May.

This is the third long trip I’ll have taken in the past 18 months, starting with Nepal and Bali in September of 2014, and Europe in February and March of 2015.

Because I love to travel (and post a about it on Instagram and Twitter) I tend to attract some travellers to Unsettle. And a lot of people want to know how I do it.

How is it that I’m able to travel for large chunks of time and not go broke?

How can I make just as much money (if not more!) while I’m seeing the world as I do at home?

How can I travel and still pay the mortgage?

I want to share with you today a few things that have made this possible in my own life. If you are serious about making travel a regular occurrence in your life, I would encourage you to try these things out and see if they work for you. If you put what I’ve done into motion now, you could be travelling as much as you want and making money while you’re on the road within a year.

Here’s what has worked for me with how to become a digital nomad…

I Make Travel a Priority

I wouldn’t be able to do a quarter of the amount of travel that I do without making it a huge priority.

See, one of the main reasons I chose not to renew my contract with a role that I absolutely loved was because to me, travel was more important.

  • I was sick of having to ask permission to take vacation
  • I was frustrated with 3-4 weeks of vacation time each year
  • I hated that I would return from my “vacation” only to feel as if I needed another.

The corporate approach to travel wasn’t working for me, so I rejected it.

I made travel a priority by building a business that would allow me to operate it from anywhere, at any time, and without having somebody breathing down my neck or expecting my butt to be in a chair from 8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday.

This is an overly simplistic way of putting it, as the process I went through to build Unsettle was far more complex than it sounds here. However, if there is one skill that all millennials absolutely need if they want to truly be happy and live for themselves, rather than the weekend, is this:

The skill of recognizing their priorities and engineering their lives the feed those priorities.

  • If you have a family and your priority is your children, you need to engineer your life in a way that allows you to spend as much time with them as possible and give them every opportunity you want to.
  • If you love to travel and your priority is seeing the world, you need to engineer your life in a way that allows you to pay the bills from the road and drink in the beautiful cultures and places of the world.
  • If you love to create and your priority is art, you need to engineer your life in a way that allows you to share your art with the world and fill your creative tank.

The best part of this? You are in control. You’re the engineer of your own life. As daunting as this sounds, you are the driver of your life, your career and your values. So get out of the passengers seat.

Assuming you’re reading this because you want to travel, too, here are a few things that have given me the freedom and flexibility to explore.

I Set Up Systems to Make My Business More Passive

I have to admit that it can be logistically difficult to make money when I’m travelling.

I have to take on a very lean number of coaching clients so I’m not rushing back to my guest house in the middle of an adventure every day. I have to keep only the best of the best of my freelancing clients so I don’t find myself handing in work late or worse, work that is not up to par.

So since I cut out a lot of my income streams while I’m travelling, how do I still pay the mortgage? Because yes, Jason and I have one of those.

Well, because I put two things into place:

  1. Systems to streamline my business to make more sense
  2. “Passive income” streams that will help me pay the bills even when I’m travelling, sleeping, or adventuring.

Creating Systems

If there’s something you do regularly, there’s a way to systematize it, and that system will free up time, energy, and reduce decision fatigue like it’s going out of style.

For example, coaching. When I’m on the road, I have a system of letting my clients know when I’m in the air or otherwise unreachable. Because most coaching packages get unlimited email access to me, clients need to know if I’ll be out of reach.

I also have a system for appointment booking (cutting down on the amount of time I need to spend going back and forth in email trying to find a mutually agreeable time), billing and payments, and follow up after the calls.

Systems are necessary if you want to be able to pay the bills and earn money while you travel.

The next point, I suspect, is what you’re waiting for…

Passive Income 

I don’t believe passive income can come from business. Passive income is earned by renting out a suite in your house and investing your money, not your business.

But you can make your income more passive than it was by doing a lot of work up front to benefit in the future.  And that’s how I earn the majority of my income, especially when I’m travelling.

I’ve spent the equivalent of probably months at this point building these “passive” income streams through methods like affiliate marketing and products like the 30-Day Unsettle Challenge.

Affiliate income comes from referring my audience to products that I freakin’ love, that are a completely natural fit for Unsettle, and that I’d recommend to my mom (fun fact: I have recommended a lot of them to my mom!) .

When somebody buys something through my affiliate link (which they usually find on a tutorial or through my tools and resources page), I receive a commission at no extra cost to the person who purchased the product.

Because I’ve done all the (hours and hours) of work up front creating tutorials, writing guides, vetting the products and building rock-solid trust with my wonderful audience, it pays off later. 

An example of this is when Cait and I were in Washington, DC getting ready to go to Shake Shack before settling in our hotel room to watch The Switch (we’re party animals), I received three notifications in five minutes letting me know that Unsettlers had used my affiliate links to start websites with BlueHost (the web hosting service I recommend), earning me $75 each.

I’d written this tutorial on finding an awesome domain name before I’d left on my trip and it was paying me while I was travelling.

No matter how many systems I put in place to make my work more passive, there will always be things I need to do every week, so that’s where the next point comes in.

I Hustle Before I Leave

It’s inevitable.

When you’re travelling, something unforeseen will happen. A flight will be delayed or a storm will knock the Wifi out or you’ll think you booked accommodation but it turns out the booking system was down that day, and you’ll be set back.

That’s why I hustle before I leave.

I use CoSchedule (affiliate link) to schedule social media posts and Facebook group posts. I write and schedule blog posts and podcast episodes. I use Sidekick to schedule emails to clients and Aweber (aff) to schedule emails to my tribe.

I try to write and record as much as possible to set future travelling Sarah up for success.

Then, all of the work that I get done on the road (which is inevitable) is a bonus. Which brings me to the next point…

Getting Stuff Done on the Road

Have you ever wondered whether it’s difficult to find the motivation to work when you’re travelling?

Before I started my business, I definitely wondered that about “digital nomads”. But then, in Europe, I answered my own question:

Travelling is far more motivating than being at home.

As a creative entrepreneur (my work is largely based on writing, both on Unsettle and for clients) and coach, I find that pushing myself out of my comfort zone by travelling to places I haven’t been before and doing things I’ve never done before feeds my creativity.

I do my best writing, brainstorming, and even thinking when I’m on the road.

Pair that with the fact that travel provides constraints which are surprisingly positive for getting shit done, and I hustle when I’m on the road.

When Lisbon’s tram is beckoning to me, or confetti is piling up in the streets without me in the Carnaval de Nice, or there’s gelato to be eaten in Florence, laser focus is not only necessary, but becomes easy.

You Can Do This, Too

Having the freedom and flexibility to travel doesn’t have to be out of reach.

If you start today – if you read this and then start pitching freelancing clients, create your website, and building a community, you can have the freedom to travel whenever you want too within a year.

Sure, you’ll have to hustle.

Some days, you’ll have to burn the midnight oil. You might have to get up earlier or squeeze in an hour of work on your lunch break.

But when you’re eating pizza in Naples or exploring volcanos in Bali, you’ll wish you started sooner.

So just freaking do it, already.

Want to Leave a Comment?Join the conversation in the Free Facebook Group

Hey, don't kill your momentum.

11 Comments on “Never Request Vacation Again: How I Travel Whenever I Want (Without Going Broke)”

  1. This is a very interesting post Sarah,
    Travelling is really one thing I’ve always wanted to get used to because i love it but most time, i can’t afford it at least, for now.

    However, i believe that its all about creating a good system that can be running your business even while you’re away.

  2. This made me LOL.. then cry:

    “I was sick of having to ask permission to take vacation
    I was frustrated with 3-4 weeks of vacation time each year
    I hated that I would return from my “vacation” only to feel as if I needed another.”

    Because I am OUT of vacation at the end of October FOR THE YEAR. Gah.

    But 100% agree you need to engineer your life around your priorities. I’m putting all the systems in place.

    Like, say, using up all my vacation time………….. 😉

  3. Sarah ; this one is very interesting that you must created your duplicate yourself at work to enjoy freedom of time

  4. Hi Sarah, thanks for the actionable and encouraging post. Recently I started hearing this word everywhere: “hustle”. I feel a tinge of guilt because I’m a night owl and it’s super hard for me to wake up early, but I’m working really hard to adjust my circadian rythm. Hustling is my priority right now. I want to book a trip to Switzerland so bad!. Your posts always help me to keep my focus.

  5. Hi Sarah,

    This is such an amazing attitude to your work and travel life. It’s very inspirational.

    It reminds me of the Seth Godin quote… ““Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

    Your article fits perfectly!

    Naomi

  6. I LOVE that quote, Naomi – it totally fits in. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before. Thanks for sharing it!

  7. I’m glad you feel encouraged by it, Liv! Hustle is definitely a buzz word right now. If you’re a night owl, waking up early might not be for you. Don’t feel bad about that. Work with yourself rather than against yourself!

    Why don’t you book a trip to Switzerland? You should!

  8. Love this post! Wondering how you began getting affiliates? I write product and accommodation reviews, but haven’t figured out a way to turn it into an income yet.

  9. Hey Amanda,

    I have a post coming up soon about that, so stay tuned. I think it could be really helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *