Quick Downpour: Around four years ago, the setting sun in the concrete jungle, unforgiving schedules, boring corporate meetings and calendar deadlines that stared right into my face—urged me to wrap up everything and head on the travel trail. However, I am not here to endorse the “Quit—Your—Job—and—Travel—the—World” tribe. Quite on the contrary—
This blog is a crash course in sponsored travel:
- How I have been travelling, without spending a dime
- Earn while travelling
- How to get sponsors
- Penniless travel is NOT about sleeping on a park bench in a misty night
Breaking the myth: You need money to travel
When I started, I knew that travelling is a luxury, many of us cannot afford. Here’ what I did:
1. Make an elaborate Excel Sheet
This is how I started. I simply flap opened my laptop and rampantly started making a list of tour operators in locations I wanted to work in. The idea was to create an elaborate excel sheet about all the tour operators and the work they do. This is not as difficult as it may seem. With the whole world waking up to wanderlust, we have a plethora of tour operators. It’s a montage of new and old players, and everyone is striving to make it better. For example, if you are more inclined towards adventure travel then create a specific list. Once the list is made, you know your potential employers.
2. You are useful, well, hopefully
Since now you’ve made the list, what next? Think of any skill that you can offer to fit in the dynamic travel industry. We all have skills that can be used and applied to different setups: from website designers to software engineers, sales to writing, basically anything that fits in the travel world. Try to discover the services that you can offer to tour operators and spam them with your CV.
3. Skills and Services:
- Writing: I started as a content writer with an adventure tour operator. My initial projects were about dreaming and writing descriptions for places I had never been to. Frequent travel wasn’t a part of my job; however, it helped me understand adventure travel as an industry, network better, and I gradually developed a flare for writing. This, in turn, helped me heaps in future. So even if your first travel job doesn’t make you Instagram famous, take it. At a later stage, you can start writing for travel websites, magazines and other portals. But the idea is to find somewhere, or rather any ground to set foot in the travel realm. Once you are there, extending your branches further is the next step.
- Travel photography and videography: This has nothing to do with the romanticised version that Bollywood paints. You will shoot in all sorts of weather/time/places/hardships and spend some sweet time with patience—testing editing softwares. However, this will really place you be ahead in the game. All the travel companies are on a lookout for people who can document experiences. In the world we live in, sadly videos are more appealing than books and write-ups. Thus travel photography and videography can help you kickstart a career in travel. Take the initial few projects, even if they don’t pay well or at all. Keep building your portfolio, and you’ll get there.
- Blogging: Once you have enough travel content to display, get your website. There are several ways such as advertising and affiliating to barter or even earn through blogging.
- Trip leader: He isn’t the cool tattooed guy. This could be anyone who knows a place well enough to lead a trip and manage folks. For those who are more inclined towards mountains, a certification from mountaineering schools will definitely be a big plus.
- Sales: Several travel companies, will be happy to sponsor your trip if you bring more people on the table. For instance, I wanted to trek to the Kanchendzonga Base Camp, rather than spending a whopping sum of amount, I contacted the local tour operators and offered them, ten clients, in return, they sponsored my trip. Last year, I organised a trip and sponsored two folks who helped me with more clients.
4. More skills
This traveller friend, handpicks homestays or resorts, based on the location he wants to travel. For instance, he wanted to spend his last summer in Nepal. He picked up the job of a lodge manager and jolly well fulfilled his dream. What’s more, he even earned some for his upcoming adventures. Another inspiring example— this fellow traveller I met in Goa. She is a graffiti artist. She reaches out to resorts and homestays with her cool graffiti samples and travels all around the world painting it even more beautiful.
5. Audience matters
Apart from trading skills, it is advisable to network well and create an engaging client and audience base. One does not become a travel influencer overnight. So while you are travelling, create social media profiles that help your work reach a greater audience. It takes time, but this is exactly what helps you build your brand and be the king of networking. Once you have a decent following on social media, it is easy to approach travel operators to sponsor your trips. One of the most effective ways of building an audience is travel documentation and creating a regular hullabaloo about your travel stories and real-life experiences.
6. Barter and the rise of Volunteer Tourism in India
I have this wonderful friend, who loves farming and travelling. She explores off the grid locations by working in farms and living with locals. For income, she runs an active Instagram page that deals in organic farm products. Think about this; there are two important things happening here— One, she is travelling and being hosted by farmers. Two, she is promoting local farmers by helping them sell their products.
So I am saying, you don’t need money to travel. You need contacts. For now, these are some of the ways, to enjoy the perks of sponsored travel and even earn while on the go. I am sure there are more. Let’s keep exploring them and keep travelling.