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Making Money While Traveling, Part 2: Volunteering & Odd Jobs

A man sitting on a cliff

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Wanna learn more about making money while traveling? Read first article in the series – Seasonal Jobs!

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat if you go broke while traveling the world with no certain option to fill up your bank account? Actually your credit card might get stolen as well. One fifth of all the travelers I have met during my travels have experienced this highly unpleasant situation at least once. Unless you are born under a lucky star it can happen to you as well, regardless of how professional you are as a traveler. You simply can’t predict the future. A couple of unplanned events and you may be broke already.

You could knock on wood to avoid these situations. But if superstition is not your cup of tea, or, if predictable and stable income is not hippie enough for you, then this article is for you!

Here we gonna talk about alternative working – living options, while being on the road.

1. Volunteer Jobs

No, no, I don’t mean those volunteer jobs, where you pay a fee of several thousand euros to do an animal rescue work in some exotic country. No doubt, this could also be a highlight of your lifetime, but personally I find it ridiculous, that a person, who is willing to help, actually must pay for the job.

The experience I want to talk about can be both fun and lifesaving in many ways. You can find volunteering job in almost every country on the planet and the only fee you must pay is the yearly subscription fee to be allowed to take part in the program (around 30 EUR).

When? Where? How?

There is no season and no particular country. Simply visit one of the volunteering websites (the most popular ones are, and, check out the participation rules and find the project. Apply online and wait for the response. Most likely you will get the job very soon.

There are various options of what you could be doing, but the most popular positions are – job on a farm, children care and hospitality. Find the option, what suits you the best and give it a go. The project duration varies between 2 weeks and a few months, but therefore this is a contribution of a free will, it is up to you to decide for how long you want to stay there.

Be sure about the offered conditions. Most will provide a bed and at least a few basic meals per day, but please negotiate about the details with your future “employer”, because the experience proves that standards vary from a place to place.

Kaspars with a chainsaw - Volunteering in Malaysia

Kaspars cleaning the jungle with a chainsaw – Volunteering in Malaysia

Kaspars, an experienced volunteers:

If there is one thing I have learned about volunteering and work exchange then it’s this – ask as many questions as you have until it’s clear that you really want to be there and doing that what you are applying for. Always. Don’t just assume that it will be OK. If they haven’t mentioned anything about food – ask! If you would prefer to work on the first half of the day not the second – ask about it!

Karlis, an experienced volunteer:

A short summary about one of my volunteering experiences – in Serbia.

In Serbia it was hardcore schedule-wise. I was waking up at 7 AM and working till 9 PM. Three meals were provided and we had some breaks in between. I did all kinds of work – plowing the field, picking strawberries, milking goats, feeding goats, taking hay bales from the field and stacking them in a barn. I slept in their guest camper on my own.

We were singing a little song saying “Bon Appetit” in the mother tongues of all the people present before every meal.

The couple, who owned the place were from Germany and the Netherlands, and there were also some local Serbian helpers around too. Atmosphere there was constantly changing, sometimes we had good vibes, but sometimes the owners were really fighting with each other and screaming.

And after about 10 days spent working this hard, for about 14 hours a day – there was this breakfast, when the woman, the owner the place, told me that I’m waking up at 7, not at 6:30. I’m eating too much. And that men generally do easier jobs than women in farming and that I’m using this place as a hotel… So, be ready that it can end also like this.


  • No money involved – exchanging time for food and accommodation instead of money makes a connection between people different.
  • You get to meet people in their homes, see how they live, learn from them, and give them what you can.
  • Meeting new people. Which can be a lot of fun!


  • You never know, how people really are from the description, how they work, communicate and live – and that can bring up surprises.
  • You can have a feeling of not contributing enough or not being sure if you’re doing enough. Sometimes it can be hard to understand how to keep the balance between giving and receiving.

Anyways, even if you don’t know, if you are contributing too much or too little, take your good will as the best measurement and give it a try. People say it is an unforgettable experience.

Read more about Workaway here.

Hostel job - Making Money While Traveling

2. Hostel Jobs

It’s a rainy day in Marseille or Brussels, you walk along the streets and feel the last pennies unhappy clinging in your pocket. Your backpack is heavy and slightly stinks.  You don’t remember, when and where was that last laundry pitstop. Your couchsurf host hasn’t responded to your last request, and you start to worry, that this might be the night, when you will congratulate yourself as the newcomer in the community of the overnight sleepers on the bench in the city park.

I hope, this situation is not that familiar to you. But if it is, next time just try to knock on the door of the nearest hostel and ask, if they by accident don’t need a happy and thankful volunteer.

When? Where? How?

Let me tell you a secret – most of hostels have volunteers working there. They simply can not, or don’t want to afford a permanent staff, so they gladly use poor travellers as an extra pair of hands.

Avoid super popular cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam or Paris. These places normally are packed and the rent in these cities is so high, that some people would work and pay a little fee just to be able to stay in someone’s else house.

Nevertheless, if the first hostel rejects you, don’t lose hope. Because volunteers come and go, so very soon you will be able to get the desired place and position.

The conditions might vary. Some hostels will offer a free accommodation and even a meal in exchange for 2-3 working shifts per week, but some hostels might ask you to work much more in exchange for a bed in the dorm, and only on those days, when there is a spare place for you. On other days you you’ll be asked to sleep on the floor.

Of course, be reliable and if possible, have some experience in the pocket. The duration can vary between a week and a whole season.

Elina, an experienced hostel worker in Buenos Aires:

I usually stay at one place for several weeks or even more, so hostels jobs are great for that. I like to work as a receptionist, but to do that hostels usually require experience with their booking systems, plus, you have to know the place. That’s what I do in Buenos Aires, where I partly live.

Still, there are many other things you can be doing in a hostel – preparing the breakfast, making some wall art, organising fiestas, changing bed linens, cleaning etc. Normally, it’s a 20 hour work per week for a free bed in a shared dorm.

Could be less, but if it’s more – they are trying to rip you off.

I have tried to send my CV by email to many hostels, usually maybe 2 reply. So the best option is to just walk around and leave your CV in all the hostels you like.

It’s easier to get a job in a campsite, because they usually have a lot of stuff to do. For example, in Florianopolis, in Brazil, in a huge campsite I was offered a free 3-day stay in an exchange for a yoga class.


  • You work at a place where you live, so it doesn’t really feel like a work and you don’t waste time commuting.
  • It’s often an easy job, which doesn’t require much knowledge and can really be a lifesaver in an extreme situation.
  • If you decide to stay in the town, you can secretly look for another, maybe even a real job, meanwhile using all the goodies and benefits of staying in the hostel for free.


  • You feel like home, yet you always must remember, that you are not just a customer in the house. So you are forced to be polite and communicate with everybody, also with those people, who don’t sympathise you.
  • If volunteering philosophy doesn’t suit to you, you might start to feel unmotivated and used, especially, if the hostel owner turns out to be a prick.

Special tip from Gundega, worked in a hostel in Tbilisi:

Simply open your mouth and start a conversation, and you may land a job a moment later. I had lived in one hostel for 3 days when I noticed that one of the hostel workers is leaving the town. Immediately I asked, if I can replace him and got a confirmation. I could have asked even sooner!

Selling handcrafts - Making Money While Traveling

Open Up Your Potential!

Sounds inspiring? Well, life has proven, that boredom and real troubles stimulate our creativity. Of course, not everyone can be an artist, dancer or musician (I will write about street arts in one of the next articles), but maybe you are good at handcrafts, cooking or drawing? Maybe you simply are good-looking, or exotic and unusual? So here are some ideas, what can save your back in some challenging life situations.

1. Bake pancakes, cookies or pies and sell them on the street or in the park!

Anna, an experienced moneyless traveler:

When I was traveling in Guadeloupe, I met a guy, who was living in a converted truck, near the pier. He had a small boat. So every morning we would bake a bunch of pancakes and ride the boat along the yachts selling them to people living on those luxury yachts (in exchange for donations). Sometimes we offered dinners as well.

There were days when we got 50 euro just from pancakes. In the end this allowed me to earn money for my next travel destination.

2. Do some handcrafts, like macramé, interesting jewellery or clothing and sell it on the streets!

Elina, an experienced traveler:

In Latin America, literally every backpacker is doing macramé to finance their trips. So, even if the competition is enormous, it still works out pretty well. You can sell macramé in the main squares, but if it’s not allowed – offer it to people directly. You can’t earn much of it, but will cover at least your food expenses.

Sometimes it’s easier to exchange directly some macramé wristlet for a food in the market.

3. If you happen to be on the beach, learn to be a masseur or henna artist.

Gundega, an experienced traveler:

Once me and my friend got bored on the beach in Croatia, so we decided to earn some money by simple pretending to be masseurs. We found a piece of cardboard and wrote: Massage! 10 min – 5 EUR. Needless to say, that very soon we got our first customers.

We performed a very simple back or neck massages and within an hour earned 40 EUR. Then the beach guard kicked us out, because it turned out that we were selling our cheap massage services on a private beach of a hotel, where people pay at least 100 EUR for a massage. But it was fun! Next time we will try a public beach.

4. Apply at local casting agencies or film studios. Sometimes they need people for mass scenes or advertisements.

Elina, traveler:

My greatest unplanned job experience was in La Paz, Bolivia. We, a bunch of people, got hired, while walking on the street, to dance in a real Bolivian carnival. We had to rehearse for one week, got a free hotel, free food and free drinks, not even to mention the experience of a lifetime!

Anna, traveler:

I was in Mexico and knew a few girls, who brought me into this business. One job lead to another. At the beginning I got a small job as a presenter in a big event. Later I got more interesting jobs, like presenter and model for various advertising and fashion events. Mostly it’s all about luck. If you have the right look and situation is the right one – you will get the job.

Preparing for acting - Making Money While Traveling

Whichever option from all above described ones you will choose remember one thing – keep your eyes, your head and heart open! Simply follow your curiosity and you will see – the exit is right there, behind the corner. Good luck!

Photos used in this article have been provided by Gundega and Elina.

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