In February 2008, Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift returned home to Canada from an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico.
“We felt like we got a taste of the tropics, living the dream,” Swift remembers. “We did a day trip and took these ATVs out and went through the jungle and the local villages. and it was so different from home that it kind of triggered something.”
That something came to a head about a month later. “Nick had a brutal day at work and said, ‘That’s it,'” Swift recalls. When he asked where she’d go if she could travel for a year, she was quick to answer: Southeast Asia.
Only nine months later, they sold their house, car, and most of their possessions, set off for Southeast Asia, and have been figuring out how to support their adventures as they travel ever since.
Now 30-year-old Wharton and 31-year-old Swift detail their adventures on their website, Goats on the Road, and here, they explain how they make it work.
Once they decided to leave Canada, Wharton and Swift spent the next nine months saving up about $30,000 to finance their year in Asia. Wharton, who was working as a printing press operator and on the Canadian oil rigs, and Swift, who was a real estate paralegal, were earning over $100,000 CAD a year, combined.”
They stayed in Southeast Asia for 13 months, travelling through 11 countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Loas, Malaysia, Borneo, and Indonesia. They then returned to Canada for a year, working 80-hour weeks to shore up their savings for another trip abroad.”
“Our mindset had changed,” says Wharton. “We weren’t making money, we were making travel experiences. I would work an hour and think, ‘This hour is buying me a day in Thailand.'”
They headed off again for a 16-month trip through Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. In 2012, they went to China to spend a year earning about $1,300 a month teaching English.”
After reading articles about how other travellers supported themselves through blogging on the road, they decided to set up their own site. “Neither of us have degrees, and we don’t have experience with computers or blogging,” says Wharton. “We started it then, and for the year in China we started working at it.”
Next, Wharton and Swift took the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian railroads through Mongolia, Russia, and the “stan” countries. “Since we left China, our only source of income has been through our blog,” Swift says.
“Definitely with travel blogging, you have to put in the time,” says Wharton. “We put in a year and didn’t make any money. In June 2013 we made $550 from advertising.” Over the course of the year, they earned $500-$1,500 a month, and every year since then their income has doubled.
Currently, their blog, Goats on the Road, earns them about $3,500 a month. In a strong month, they earn over $5,000.
They’ve also begun exploring other ways to generate income as they travel: freelance writing, an ebook in the works, and video production for local hotels and attractions, using footage from the drone they recently purchased.
Wharton says that although their earnings “don’t sound like much” compared to their wage in Canada, “If you calculate what we were spending in Canada, we calculated that we were spending $3,500 a month on things that didn’t bring us any happiness.” They currently work no more than four hours a day, five days a week.
Along with earning money on the road, the other piece of Wharton and Swift’s strategy is to cut their expenses. One of the major ways they do this is by never paying for accommodation, instead taking gigs as house and pet-sitters.
After filling out a profile on TrustedHouseSitters.com a few years ago, they say they get offers for stays nearly every day. “The more you do it, the more chances you have,” Wharton says. In between gigs, they use the money they’ve saved to take shorter-term trips through nearby countries.
Currently, they’re house and pet-sitting in Grenada, where they’ve been for a few months. “The best part is you’re really living like a local, in someone’s house in a neighborhood,” says Swift.
“Our neighbours are Grenadian and we have Grenadian friends,” adds Wharton. ‘Usually the people that offer the house introduce you to their friends, so you kind of immerse yourself right away.”
Because of their website, they’re sometimes also invited to stay at hotels and resorts for free, and Wharton is offered complimentary opportunities to scuba dive.
Wharton says that the best thing people who want to travel long-term can do is “just jump. And once you jump, just ask. We find if you have the courage to ask for what you want, you might get rejected 100 times, but the one time it pays off, those things snowball and you end up getting way more opportunities.”
“Anyone can do it,” he continues. “We have no prior experience. Don’t think about how much money you need — just that it’s possible to travel and live the life you want.”
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