My life confuses people and I get why. I used to work as a teacher. I had a pokey little flat in London, a gym membership and an annual big holiday. The usual stuff. Then, suddenly, that all disappeared. Out of the blue, I quit my job, left London and hit the road. One month I was posting pictures of travelling through Europe and the next I was hiking across Israel. Then I was back home in the UK just in time for Christmas dinner.
That was a year ago now and still, my life is a mixture of travel, adventure and time at home. My friends keep asking me ‘how long do you plan to travel‘. My answer; indefinitely! Because I’m not travelling. I’m working.
I’ve found a way to earn enough money that will allow me to go on expeditions, fit in adventure travel and still afford to come home once in a while to re-group, stock up on fry-ups and see my loved ones.
It’s a dream life (or at least my dream life)!
I’m an adventurer!
I never call myself an adventurer…it’s way too cheesy and a little pretentious (apologies to all the adventurers out there). And in truth, it doesn’t really sum up what I do. Adventure is actually just a platform that I use that provides content.
What I have actually done is built a brand for myself. By making myself known as an adventurer and by having a following, I have been able to use different avenues to make money.
That’s why I don’t think ‘adventurer’ really fits the bill. In actual fact, I’m a writer, photographer, marketing manager, website developer, public speaker and blogger all rolled into one.
I guess you could compare it to being an actor. Most of their time is spent training, learning lines, going to castings, rehearsing and marketing themselves. Although the actual acting part is what it is all about, it just takes up a fraction of their time.
How do I make a living as an adventurer?
For all you nosy folk out there (I know most of my friends will be reading this!) I want to clarify exactly how I make money. There is a point to me sharing this beyond just saving myself the hassle of constantly trying to explain my job….I want to show that this lifestyle is very accessible. And not just specifically to adventuring.
If you find something you love and are passionate about and can build a brand for yourself, then most of what I do could also work for you too.
Note: my cheap life
This is an important note to start on and a step that many will have to make when pursuing their dreams. You need to change your lifestyle and spending habits. By that, I mostly just mean stop spending money! We live in a consumerist society that is all about ‘spend spend spend’. Once you step back from that you realise you actually need very little.
I got rid of my luxuries and gave up the rat race and my ideal of living in London and still owning a flashy car. As soon as I did this, I was able to save a load of money and eventually had a safety net so I could quit my job and become a nomad. Life on the road is simpler and cheaper. Most of my time is spent abroad and in cheap countries where I can get by on very little. Even more so when I am on an adventure and living out of a tent!
With my expenses considerably less than what they used to be, it now means my monthly income only needs to be modest to maintain this lifestyle. I wrote in detail about this in How I afford to travel the world.
It started with a blog
No matter what the industry, there are big bloggers in the steering seat – from music, fashion, science to news. Blogs are big business!
It took me a long time to set up this blog and to get it looking semi-alright (I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with it!). I put a lot of time and effort into the Ordinary Adventurer. Blogging is probably a lot harder and time-consuming than you think but it has been key to everything I have done.
The truth is I don’t actually make that much money directly from my site. But through having a blog and a social media presence, I have created a brand for myself. It’s through that online presence that I have been able to grow everything else so, ultimately, I view my blog as my most valuable asset.
If you are wanting to set up a blog or want to grow an existing website, check out 11 Smart things I did to build my adventure brand.
Sponsorship has played an important role the last yer. Currently, I don’t earn money from sponsorship (although many people do) but what I do get is a load of free stuff. As soon as you create a brand for yourself and become a public figure, you have a platform to work with companies. You can offer exposure to a specific audience who follow what you do. That’s powerful advertising.
What this means for me is that I can get sponsorship for gear I need for adventures. When I travel I get invited to stay in adventure hotels for free in exchange for blogging about them and their activities. So money that I would have been spending anyway is now removed from my monthly expenses. Of course, I do have to work for this – there are commitments involved with partnerships – but often these agreements benefit me twofold as it also provides content for my blog.
It goes back to that simple equation which helps make all this possible:
CHEAP LIFESTYLE + LOTS OF FREE STUFF = VERY LOW MONTHLY EXPENSES
Want to know how to get companies to give you free stuff? Check out How to get sponsorship.
Advertising and affiliates
On my website, I often use links. This could be to suggest a book I like or to share an activity provider I used who were good. 90% of these links are affiliate. That means that anyone who clicks on that link and makes a purchase earns me a small percentage. This is at no extra cost to the buyer…it’s just that I get a cut for sending them that way.
This doesn’t earn me a significant amount at the moment but I predict this will change. As my following grows and I continue to write more blogs, the traffic to my site is only increasing. The more people to my site, the more people use my links and the more money I can make.
Lots of adventurers who make a living through being a public speaker. From corporate events, school assemblies to festivals. It’s a big market! Talks can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour and the great thing about them is once you’ve done one, the hard work is over because you can just repeat it next time (with a few improvements). They are also very well paid!
I started out giving a few free talks at casual events and from those started to get bookings. More recently I have moved into schools which I really enjoy (inspiring young minds…it’s what I thought teaching would be like!). Currently, I have had sporadic bookings through word of mouth. For now, the ad hoc speaking engagements work well as I am doing so much travelling, but down the line I see this becoming a stable earner.
As well as starting my blog last year, I also co-founded Love Her Wild, a community for female adventurers. I never imagined that less than 1 year on I would have over 1,700 members!!
I’m not the first adventurer to of created this kind of group or community (or tribe as some call it…I’m not so keen on this word!). There are lots of examples…Danny Bent and Project Awesome , Sarah Williams and the Tough Girl Tribe and Dave Cornwaithe and the Yes Tribe.
Having a community rather than followers creates an active group of like-minded people. That’s a powerful tool as so much of business is about engagement.
Through Love Her Wild I have started to organise events. Things from social hike meet ups, retreat weekends to female adventure talk evenings. I’m using this year to trial lots of different ideas so I can work out what the group responds to so I can hone in on this next year.
There’s a lot of leg work and organising that goes into events but it provides a good income.
As well as organising my own independent events, I also work with other companies and adventurers that I trust to put together activities and expeditions. In most cases, they deliver the event side of things, while I do the marketing legwork.
I take a small percentage of what they make for my time. Although it earns me less than putting on the event myself, it removes a lot of the stress and frees up my time to work on different things.
Last year I passed my Mountain Leader Award Assessment. I’m quite proud of that certificate! Since getting this qualification under my belt, it has opened up a world of adventure opportunity to me. There’s a lot I could be doing such as assessing DofE groups, leading groups on daily activities or organising hikes. One thing I have started doing is leading children’s expeditions overseas.
There are lots of companies that offer this kind of work; Outlook Expeditions, British Explorers or, my employers, World Challenge. A school group will book an expedition abroad and I will be assigned as their leader. As well as providing a great way to see the world, while also paying the bills, I like that I get to work with young people in an adventurous setting.
Expedition Leading for other companies is a bit of a sideline project for me and I see it as my fall back. It doesn’t fit in the same category as the brand I have built for myself, although it does provide me with some credit as an adventurer.
If you are interested in other ways you can make money as an adventurer check out: Different ways you can make money from adventuring
Breakdown of my income for 2017
These figures a rough projection to give you an idea of what I spend and earn, looking at the year 2017. It’s easy for me to estimate this as I know from October – December I will be abroad so only earning from affiliate links which are pretty consistent.
This year I will be about £1,400 short. This is partly out of choice! I feel that growing a brand is a bit of a balance and I have put more effort and time aside this year to pursue things that don’t make money but that should grow my blog and business…something that will benefit me down the line.
I have some savings which mean I can absorb a shortfall on this scale for a few years before it becomes a problem although my aim is to have some savings left over in 2018!
2017 Spending: £7,700
2017 earnings: £6,300
Have any questions that I haven’t answered? Let me know in the comments box below.