How Do You Make a Living? A Question for All Bike Travellers

For those that cycle for months or even years; how do you make a living? I understand those that are retired but genuinely curious about others my age. I would love to do something like go on months-long trips on my bike. Is it a matter of selling all assets and living minimally...

I work and save for a couple of years then go away for months. Then return and do the same routine again. I find it’s paying bills back home that is the costly part as you can live quite cheaply while away.
That’s how I live. I may have around $500 a month going out in total. Easy to save.
I agree, much cheaper to travel than live at home if you do it right. 
I have lived most of my adult life as a nomad. I work roughly 5 months a year as a tour leader on international tours around the globe. And then I travel the world for fun the rest of the year. I have worked with this in 40 different countries so far. Liechtenstein will be my country #41 to have worked in this year. Between my tours, I go tour cycling or hiking around the parts of the world where I have just worked, or will work next. All that I need, in order to live this lifestyle, is to be online for 20-30 minutes every morning and answer work-related e-mails. So I am cycling with a small Macbook Air. I like the combination of staying in nice hotels and eating in nice restaurants when I work. And then when I am not working I live a more simple life in small motels. I am writing these lines from Ravello, by the Amalfi coast, where I just got back from a 10-hour hike in the mountains. My native Denmark, London and Istanbul will be my next destinations. And either my bike or my hiking boots will travel with me on all trips.
that sounds great. Is there a way to get into it? I would love to do it, I think. 
I got into it by talking to lots of people at travel fairs, trade fairs and so on I. I had already travelled for a few years before I started doing it. So my argument for being hired to do this was that I had a lot of travel experience. If you would like to get into this, then I wish you all the best and hope to see you out there one day.
I cook at a University fraternity house and have summers off. I apply for and receive unemployment benefits without having to report a weekly “job search”. I am “laid off” and returning to the same job, as opposed to being “terminated “.
I work as a barista/coffee roaster in a small tourist town in Florida for a few months while living minimally on a dock. When the slow season hits I leave on my bike but when it gets busy I return. Have funded 5 multi-month tours doing this now. It's not glamorous but it works. 
watercraft, long-distance biking, freedom, and adventure sound amazing. How can I gain that life?
That’s why many of us wait till we are retired.
For long travel, we always stay in tents and most of our cost is food. And where you cycling also can minimize the cost. We worked like a year in Australia and spend 3 years cycling.
I got lucky and was able to retire young, but you can also tour very cheaply if you are OK with camping and cooking yourself. I spend around $20 a day when I camp and less if I can wild camp. This is in South Africa, which is cheaper than Europe for example, but consider that a suggestion to find cheaper countries to tour. You can also find countries like Australia where you can work on the farms for a month and make good money, and then carry on.
Work and save.
this is the way.
It cost us around £7000 for a year per person which will give you approximately £20 a day. We worked on £10 a day but had a back of double for more expensive places. We camped 90% of the time. Very rarely ate out but did depend on the country ie Ecuador was almost cheaper to eat out than buy in the supermarket. When you wild camp and eat very basic foods you can live on next to nothing but as with everything there come high-cost items like bike parts, repairs, clothes and beer. Just like with cycle touring you can carry huge amounts of gear or hardly anything, you can have a very cheap second-hand bike or a bells and whistles bike. The same goes for the food you can live off of beans, rice and even pick from nature but the most important key is to make it fun and not a chore. 
I followed your and Sharon's blog all the way through and always wondered how you were doing after completing your journey. I'm glad to see you're still out there exploring!
7000 for a year! That’s insane.
haha, 'beer'. 
- I met a couple who were on the last leg of their RTW tour and it ended up costing them €7200 a year per person. I was impressed at the figure, but they did seem to miss out on some stuff for budgeting purposes, so I figured I'd want to have close to double so that I don't have to miss out on as much.
in some ways yes it is but when travelling through countries like Norway which are so expensive but in contrast, Poland and far east countries are super cheap. I was questioned at a US border about what countries I had been through. I named 40 countries which was followed by "what do you do for a living? And how can you afford to go to 40 countries?" On reflection, if you travelled to 40 countries separately with insurance, flights, baggage costs, and other travel costs you could average £1000 per country give or take. As a couple over 2 years, we spent £14000 so 3500 per year per person but then travelling on my own costs increased slightly because it's cheaper to cook for 2 than 1 (cost per head) and rooms for 1 aren't much cheaper than for 2. As I've mentioned you need to allow for the unforeseen. Ie tyres rim splitting, frames snapping, warranty exchanges and needing to wait in accommodation for them to arrive and your bike being stolen all of which happened to us.
hi and thank you for following us. It was an incredible journey in so many ways and I long to head back out on the road. Since finishing my trip I have continued to cycle but have not had the chance to do any long tours. I've renovated a house and am in the midst of renovating a large farmhouse while having a little boy. Covid hasn't helped with planning trips but that fire to tour is as bright as ever. Hope all is great with you
Woah, congratulations on the little one and building a home. That's awesome! You'll have to corrupt him into cycling one day as well 😃 And thank you, I'm doing ok right now. Lots of things are in flux right now so who knows where life will take me? Hopefully somewhere with a tailwind!
I think don’t get a mortgage would be the first thing.
hold off on kids probably second...
No wife, no kids, no girlfriend and solo travel. Nothing can go wrong... I work 9 months and travel 3 months annually... And on top of that, I'm a minimalist
It's a question I'm often asked on my tours - I've now done one year-long & two two-year trips - I luckily bought my house in 1995, the peak of the 90's financial recession, so rent my house out which more than covers the cost of being on the road.
Many have trust funds, and wealthy parents, but not all of course…. it’s a fairly Caucasian privileged pursuit or vow of poverty.. haha.
I see a lot of non-trust fund people in this group touring.
I don't appreciate that comment. Many of us work hard at living minimally. We can do long tours because we also work remotely, so we work hard while we play. I hardly think your opinion is based on facts.
it’s an opinion.
I have hosted more than 100 cyclists through warmshowers and have yet to meet a cyclist who lives on a trust fund or the bank of mum and dad.
based on what?
I disagree. Cycle touring may be a generally middle-class pursuit but that’s because of people’s outlook on life, not because they get financial support from family or “investment income”. Most long-distance cycle tourists have to work hard, save hard and live frugally, especially on long trips.
I wish. Let me know if you have any spare 😉
that's a really silly comment and if 10 per cent of cyclists fall into the trustafarian category I would be surprised
We are currently in the midst of cycling through Spain and Portugal (we live in Portugal) and have to work every few days on the road so that we can afford to take trips like this. We are lucky to have remote jobs. But we work hard and carry our computers and tech with us.
Same as most opinions...
I retired, sold my house, sold most of my stuff and put the rest in storage, and then bought a ticket for me and my bicycle to go to Amsterdam. OK, the real story is a bit more complicated than that but I ended up being house-free for six years. No regrets.
I have relatives in Europe with bikes so I don't have to worry about bringing mine. They also provide logistics and will pick me up if needed.
At the moment I just settle down somewhere while on a bike tour for a few weeks or months and do Workaway’s (unpaid but it gives you somewhere to live and free meals too). Then on my days off I’ll look for odd jobs or go busking and that’s how I’ll save up.
Computer work on a contract basis 3 days a week or flexible. All required is a laptop and a stable Internet connection.
this is awesome. More of the path I can probably take in the future.
I have worked freelance in Outdoor Education in Australia where I usually worked Feb-April/May then go overseas to a northern hemisphere summer where I cycle until the end of September before flying back to Australia to work again until Christmas.
what’s outdoor education?
taking school students into the outdoors on various camps, where they can do a variety of activities from hiking to canoeing and sometimes cycling.
is this a formal education that the Australian government introduced to their education system? Am just curious.
it's very common in private schools and many government schools also do this. For most students, it's 5 days away from school a year but for other schools and students for longer. My current full-time role is with a school that sends 50 years 9 students away for 5 weeks at a time
I know a couple from Spain who do the same as you.
oh, that sounds like a great gig!
We worked hard for a long time. We travel to countries that are cheaper to live in than where we live eg, Thailand, South America, and Mexico. We rented our house out and lived off that for 18 months. Savings paid my mortgage while away. We’re about to do another trip. Again worked hard and saved. We will live off the rent of our house. Where we live it is easy to rent our house out. I think it’s about priorities and what you spend your money on.
wait so you make money after mortgage payments and agency fees from renting?! That's amazing, I’ve only heard of folk pretty much breaking even when renting out a mortgaged property.
we get a lot for rent where we live….
Produce money in the richest countries and live off the savings in poor countries, acquire light and low-volume barter goods in poor countries to sell them in rich countries/regions.
that's is business, not cycling!!!! But I loved it.
My daughter is currently cycling alone from Cairo to Capetown and is now in Malawi. She saved up and took 6 months of unpaid leave from work. She camps, and stays in cheap hotels, and hostels. Will return to work in the UK in July.
does she have a page to follow? That's a trip I'd to do and any evidence I can use to encourage my partner would be great
a friend of mine is cycling from Cape Town up and will be in Malawi soon. Just entered Zambia. She has done Africa twice before and many other tours. Tell your daughter if she is interested. She is on fb - name of Leana Niemand
She has written blogs. Not sure how to forward them.
Will message daughter. Perhaps your friend can message her. The daughter is Eilidh Ogden from Scotland.
are they on a website?
it's a day-by-day effort, when you GO, you find out that it is so little you actually need that money or earthly possessions have little or no significance, the moment is everything.
I gave up working in 2015 and have lived on my meagre pension whilst travelling ever since. It's a gamble but nothing can replace the experience of living off-grid.
I envy you. I need to work to keep myself sane and I love my job. But my friend and fellow soldier it's off-grid lol
Take comfort in the fact you have a job mate. I just love the freedom. One day it will all come crashing down around my ears.😃
ill be here to share my tent with you bro.
I've been cycling around the world (not one continuous line, though) for some 11 years now, about 48.000 km, some 38 countries. Sometimes I stay in one place for 3 weeks or even 3 months. Just got back to my "base" in Berlin after 5.5 months in Mexico, where I only did some 2.600 km. I'm always looking for a new client or two. I translate (FR/EN/ES/JP/DE into EN or ES) and I teach Spanish and English via Skype. So my daily routine might be: cycling from wherever I camped for a couple of hours (maybe 3-4 hours?) and then stop at some cafe or restaurant along the road, work online or muck around, or maybe cycle longer and then take a long break under some shade in a park (maybe use my own internet/sim card connection), dry out my gear, take a nap, etc, and in the late afternoon/evening bike another 2-3 hour and find the next camping spot. Recently, though, because of Covid, my business/work has gone down, by 75%!!! So fortunately I am subsisting on the social security benefits (one advantage of growing old, LOL) which almost make up my meagre budget. As a cycling nomad, you normally don't have great needs, and I've always been a minimalist anyway. So all these years my monthly budget has been between 360 and more recently 450 EUR/month. So basically I can get by on 12-14 EUR per day. And that actually includes the occasional flight, bikes, repairs, clothing (haha, maybe 50 EUR a year!), electronics, food and accommodation. 2021 was Portugal, Spain (by bus), France, Germany, Poland and Mexico. 2020 might be Mexico, Germany, Spain, Morocco (or Japan). Now I'm looking to find/create a nomad base for myself and maybe with others (like a cooperative) on the coast between Conil and Tarifa (Cadiz, Spain). Something that 5-6 fellow nomads will take care of while the other 5-6 nomads are away. Is anyone interested?
Thank you all for sharing. Really cool to get all these honest responses. Definitely admire many of you for taking control of life as such.
Piss off the other half. Get busted and lose it all as a deadbeat drunk and then you can start over...
I work at Subway, hospitality, or retail in towns and ski resorts for the winters. I spend all my money getting out of debt from the last tour, and upgrading gear for the next. it really doesn't cost a lot of money. never been one for a career, jobs suit me just five
Once I took a deferred leave to be able to go on a long tour. It involved a 10 % pay reduction over 5 years, resulting in 6 months off work with a paycheque still coming in.
- Great strategy. Congrats.
I was laid off, so no paycheck to save. My husband was able to take unpaid leave. We sold the car, rented the house, I taught a class online, and we went into debt and lived without a car for several years after we got back. I wrote a book about the trip and went into even more debt writing. Oh, and over 143 households put us up and most fed us too. We were on the road for 420 days.
Wild camp and eat cheap grocery food and the budget is low.
A friend of mine owned a small house (she was not rich or middle class) she would rent it out for a year or more while she travelled. Then when she got back to the UK she had a home base. She would work for a bit if she could to top up her finances and live rent-free. Most of her travel costs were covered by the rent.
I hope to do that.
Man, y’all getting me too excited. I get a disability of $1200 a month for the rest of my life and in no way does it affect my riding. Much more talk like this and I’ll quit my job forgoing a retirement pension.
do it. One thing I can guarantee is you won't regret it and will change your life forever.
I taught English all over Asia for years. A short year and some change contracts, just enough time to learn the language, study history, places, plot routes and cycle all over my local spot in all my free time. Travelled as a solo female cyclist in China. Met my husband and kept going, Taiwan, China to Malaysia! Now we have two amazing kids and dogs and we world school! Raising them free, and knowing the real “real world.” My husband is a nurse. Never stop travelling if it’s what lights you up, despite money and family circumstances, you can find a way.
you live my dream. Great to know someone does it.
it’s 💯 for you. You can see it and gather a bit of evidence that others do this too, to bolster your own belief in the possibilities, you’re off to the races!
For my year-long trip, I set a budget, saved up and rented out my apartment. Small things like cooking at home instead of takeaway and not going out drinking will help you achieve your saving goal. Now I have an online job and I will do some test runs to see if I can enjoy bike travel while maintaining my job. All I need is my laptop and phone with data and a dry spot to sit for a few hours every day.
I have been a digital nomad since the late 1980's when black & white laptops and 'bag phones' were the latest thing in mobile communication. It got easier from there. As an early adopter of e-commerce, I found it efficient to work on the road. My latest enterprise has staff in three countries, no front office, and all our infrastructure is in the cloud. Even in developing countries, there is decent 3G or 4G mobile networks along the main roads almost everywhere. Even when on months-long cycling adventures, I'm up at 5 am and spend a few hours working before hitting the road. Then another hour or two of work later in the day. This has worked from Ethiopia to Nebraska, and Mexico to the Kingdom of Jordan. Happy cycling.
Mostly men here, though. Does it have to do with "roughing it"?
I'm a travel nurse. I work my butt of, live like a pauper, and take long breaks in between contracts.
An Anglo/French couple I know cashed out their assets (sold an apartment in London) and stopped awhile somewhere along the way and taught their respective languages to replenish their funds and then continued on their way. They rode from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on their first trip and across Asia and back (plus NZ & Australia) on the second.
Sleep outside and dumpster-dive. Living is easy.
you over-simplified it.
In my neck of the woods, we call those types of bikers "homeless" as I am fairly confident that is what they are.
appearances can be deceiving. I have a home, yet travel like this.
I saved up some money and well, uprooted my life because I decided it wasn’t good enough anymore. I still have no idea what I’m gonna do, but in the meanwhile, I’m living off my savings which includes biking. Hopefully, it will inspire me about my next step, cos I’m lost as hell
being lost can lead one to the most magical of experiences.
hope you work it out. I was pretty lost in my early twenties. It took me 6 months of menial jobs and lots of riding to work it out. I'm sure time in the saddle will help.
it kind of already has! And it’s pretty great to have the means to just take a break. I’m lucky in a way ☺️
thank you so much! Well, I’m in my 30s, still early, but nearing mid-... there’s definitely a lot to figure out. Glad it worked out for you! I’m sure it will help me too ☺️
On sabbatical. Saved for 2 years. Don't need to work for a year while away. I will do the same again in a few years.
Hi , I am self-employed. I have an online business where I can work from anywhere. All I need is a basic internet connection. And the best part is that I can fully automate it so that eventually it works for me, even when I'm cycling or sleeping at night. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm in the right direction. Basically, it's affiliate marketing: I sell other people's products and make a commission on the sales. It allows me to work at my own pace, without having to manage the demands of clients or a boss. It's really great and I've been travelling for 9 months, working from everywhere on my way. If you want, I can give you access to free training that explains in detail how it works. I think you might be interested in it at this point in your research. Just let me know in the comments and I'll send it to you. I wish you good luck in your endeavours. It's really great to be able to just live on your bike!
Thank you . Seems like an awesome gig. In the future, I might take you up on the offer. If I were to move forward, it would be in years to come, currently have a young family... getting ideas on how I could make something like this work in the future.
The best thing is that you can start now, and have your structure ready when the kids are a bit older. If this is something important for you (I mean, your freedom), don't push it forever forward. The "right" timing may never come...
Work your ass off and save up before you play.
It has to be your lifestyle. So you can work from "home" part-time, or be semi truck owner operator during the colder part of the year 😉
I'm a specialist support worker. Look after young ID adults in their own homes. I cycle to all my worksites.
We save for a few years, then store everything and go travelling. I am a baker (not a banker) just watch your spending (never fall into the trap of taking out a loan) and it's possible for everyone.
I budget $100aud a day. Save until I have enough to go for a few months. On my last big trip - I came home after 9months with more than half my cash.
always better to have too much money than not enough. While you can do it for much cheaper, I found I skipped things of interest, which I regret now