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How to Travel Full-Time by Working Online & Living in Airbnbs

Everything my husband and I own fits into the trunk of our car (except our dog, she fits in the back seat). We currently travel full-time by working online while living in Airbnbs (and we do it with student debt), but it wasn’t always like this.

Nine months ago, in a move shocking to my boss, our parents, and even ourselves, we decided to quit our jobs, get rid of nearly all our earthly possessions, and spend our savings to travel anywhere our car could take us.

Couple on beach in Isla Holbox Mexico

Which, it turns out, is quite far. Especially if you have a cute Prius for savings on gas and a cute dog for moral support and a cute husband to make you tea and take care of everything besides making money (because, well, you are the one who works online and is now the sole income-earner) and a cute college degree and/or skill set that enables you to work online. But only at least one of you needs that cute English degree, if the other one can make tea (and, to be supremely honest, a cute credit card because traveling always throws curve balls).

We first lived in Merida, Mexico for 6 months where we explored the Yucatan peninsula, tried very hard to improve our Spanish and communicate with the city’s residents, learn about a beautiful and vibrant culture, and experience the fascinating history of an extremely lovely area. After such a wonderful taste of the traveling life, we decided to keep it going and explore our own home country (United States) by taking an extended road trip to the East Coast to visit family and friends.

Girl in Ancient Mayan City of Uxmal in Mexico
Ancient Mayan City of Uxmal in Mexico

The decision to change our lifestyle was easy – control of our own schedule! Work in pajamas from home! Free time! Traveling and exploring new places! Working on creative projects!

Figuring out how to afford it? Not so easy, as any non-millionaire knows, ESPECIALLY if there is only one income earner (who is a non-millionaire), BUT after 9 months, we have discovered many strategies to working online and staying in affordable places, which makes this lifestyle sustainable for those interested in traveling for an extended amount of time.

I want to note that our bills are fairly high due to my student loans and some credit card debt incurred from random unexpected life stuff like a vet visit or new tires, so I work 8 hours a day and usually 4 hours on weekends. People with less financial difficulty and with 2 income earners would probably have to work wayyyy less to make this lifestyle feasible. Additionally, traveling in the U.S.A. is much more expensive than another country where the American dollar goes much further.


Working Online


Girl working online in an airbnb

Most every person in their 30s that I have met who is traveling for an extended time or living in another country works online – professional bloggers, software managers, etc – which is how they maintain this lifestyle. I personally have two online jobs that allow me to travel full-time by helping to sustain a remote income.

Job 1: VIPKid

VIPKid is where I teach English to Chinese students (aged 4-12) online. I make $9.50 per 25-minute class ($19.00/hour). You can make anywhere from $14-22/hr though depending on your qualifications.

Teaching English with VIPKID is a relatively flexible online job since you can teach anywhere in the world where there is reliable internet.

The hours are a bit rough depending on your time zone because you cater to Beijing time. In Mexico, I worked 4:00 am – 8:00 am, and I know some teachers work overnight shifts on the weekends, so there are various options.

Luckily, there are also tons of online resources for VIPKid traveling teachers across Facebook (I like VIPKID Teachers Who Travel), Reddit and countless articles and YouTube videos as well. Maybe too many, but that’s because there is a tremendous referral bonus for teachers (speaking of which, use this link if you’re interested in applying for VIPKID. I’m super helpful, so let me know at chelsea.burk1@gmail.com if you need any help at all. I’m here for you. And for that referral money :).

The qualifications, application, and equipment are all minimal and can be highly conducive to a traveling lifestyle.

I have a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in English Literature and 5-years teaching experience, but this job requires much less than all that.

Job Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree (any field)
  • Eligibility to teach in U.S.A. or Canada
  • 1 year teaching experience (can also be coaching, tutoring, mentoring, etc.)

Interview Process:

The interview process varies by individual, but is generally very quick and typically done online. I was lucky to attend a workshop “fast pass” event when I lived in Phoenix, where we got to eat free snacks and practice with camera/timing/set up/props/what to expect. However, most teacher applicants will have to complete an online interview or record a mock lesson via VIPKIDs video portal. Don’t worry though, they give you access to plenty of prep materials once you apply.

Required Equipment:

VIP KID online classroom setup
  • Laptop
  • Headset
  • Reliable internet connection
  • Light source
  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Whatever props you want to use (flash cards, stuffed animals, etc.)

More specific device and system requirements here.

I have truly enjoyed working for VIPKid and I would still say that even if the referral bonus wasn’t super good.

Job Pros:

  • Students are overall respectful, focused, and adorable
  • Lessons (slides) are already created and very easy to teach
  • Online platform and app are very user-friendly
  • You set your own hours and there is no minimum amount
  • The pay is great considering I work in yoga pants and a comfy shirt from my own home

I believe the pros vastly outweigh the cons, but of course, there are cons as well.

Job Cons:

  • The hours can be rough (because you are working on Beijing time), but you can figure out what works for you (and how much coffee you can make and how fast). I generally work as much as I can, which is around 100 classes (25 minutes each) which is about $1,000 a month. I have made as much as $1800 a month, and many teachers do this as their full-time job successfully.
  • If you do put in the bigger hours, it can get REALLY monotonous REALLY fast, so you want to come up with a lot of ways to break it up and figure out what works for you (I have to take 30 minute breaks every 4 classes and stare at Facebook at 5:00 am to reset my head)
  • Because you are an independent contractor to the company, you have to set aside money for taxes with each paycheck, you do not receive any benefits or insurance, and the cancellation/sick policy is very strict (you are only allowed 6 cancellations per 6 month contract).

Overall, the low amount of stress and worry and preparation definitely makes these cons manageable, and I feel lucky that I am able to have a job I can do anywhere so I can support the lifestyle I have currently chosen.

Don’t forget to use this link if you are interested in applying to VIPKID and email me at chelsea.burk1@gmail.com if you have any questions at all!

Job 2: Freelance Editing/Submitting

My second job is being a freelance editor and submissions manager. I have done this on the side ever since college, where I gained a lot of experience as the editor in chief of a literary magazine. I have built a great client list over time, and I continue to pick up new clients by word of mouth. This job is pretty specific to my personal skill sets, but there are many other skills that can be turned into super niche freelance opportunities, such as a submissions manager (which I didn’t know existed until I realized that was something people were interested in paying me for). You can learn more about what I do at my website.

The trick to freelance is to start as soon as possible because so much of freelance work depends on experience, word of mouth, and reviews/referrals.

My ultimate goal is to work 100% freelance so I can stop waking up at 3:30 AM and truly be my own boss, but it has been nice to have the steady income from VIPKid, since freelance pay can be inconsistent.


Living in Airbnbs


Because I am the sole income earner, my cute husband does everything else to help with our general living. One of these responsibilities was to develop a system of living in Airbnbs while we travel.

We work with a budget around $1000 – 1200 per place, after all the fees are calculated in, which is less than we paid renting a house in Phoenix.

Airbnbs come with internet and utilities, so there is no worry about any of those usual life costs. Additionally, they usually have kitchens so you can save a lot by making your own meals instead of having to eat out as is inevitable when staying in hotels.

Because our money isn’t the most consistent with the freelance, we put the Airbnbs on our credit card so that we can pay off the amount at the end of the month when we have more idea about our finances that month.

Tip: Check out my favorite travel credit card on the Travel Resources Page.

Tricks to finding affordable Airbnbs

  • Stay in one spot for at least a month! Most places give big discounts if you stay for over 28 days.
  • Don’t go to “cool” states or cities. Airbnbs in the U.S.A. are pretty pricey, especially in “cool” places. It sounds sad, but its true, and we have found its actually really fun to find places that you wouldn’t think to go. For example, we are currently finishing up a month-long stay in Arkansas. While I was just as dubious as you may be, my husband and I found a wonderfully adorable house nestled in the beautiful Ozarks with extremely sweet hosts who live across the field from the property. We hiked the amazing mountains around us, and the hosts’ chickens meandered around the yard and their dog LOVED playing with ours. This experience exposed my husband and I to a more rural life that we are now actively pursuing for ourselves!
Girl and dog in the Ozarks

Setting the filters on the Airbnb website

  • Search “United States” in search bar (or whatever country you are using)
  • Set dates – try to set date range to at least 28 days (to get a long-term stay discount)
  • Set remaining filters as needed (pets, number of guests, house type, etc.) – a fun option is the “unique homes” filter if you are interested in staying in places like boats or farms or campsites

From there, you can move all over the map to see the available listings by state or country to compare prices. You will notice that rural areas are the most affordable and offer very unique experiences.

If you are interested in signing up for an Airbnb account, use this coupon to get $40 off your first trip!

Finally, you will want to contact the host about any questions as soon as you are interested. For example, I have specific internet requirements necessary for my work, so I ask them for their internet speeds, the location of router in case I need to plug in, etc. A good host will respond quickly and thoroughly, and may often offer to get what you require. If the host does not respond quickly or thoroughly, be very wary, as this is a good indication of the quality of experience you will get at that location. A good host is also happy to recommend local places and experiences and give more of an insight into the area.

Overall, traveling full-time across the United States while working online can be a very fulfilling lifestyle and an interesting experience. It is still a lot of work but it can definitely be done!

For other remote income ideas, check out 5 Ways I Make A Remote Income (And You Can Too) or the Travel Jobs on the Travel Resources Page.

Chelsea Burk

Chelsea Burk

Chelsea currently travels the United States with her cute husband and her cute dog. She works as an online English teacher and freelance editor, and writes and reads and hangs out with cute husband and cute dog in her free time. You can find her (and a picture of her cute dog) at chelseaburkedits.format.com/

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