Long-Term Travel: Does Nationality Play A Role?

Long-Term Travel: Does Nationality Play A Role?

By |2016-07-21T23:48:39+00:00July 19th, 2011|Perspectives, Work & Travel|83 Comments

US Passport
Let me ask. Is it easier for me to travel extensively because I am from the USA?

I personally don’t think so.

However, I tend to receive the occasional email from people who feel that creating a life of travel would be significantly more difficult for someone who is not from a Western, English-speaking country. I certainly understand how that may appear to be the situation but I really believe that, in reality, it isn’t the case.

Usually, the emails I receive about this subject refer to the ability to earn money overseas and the author almost always points to the several methods I’ve used over the years to earn an income. It is then suggested that they, because of their nationality, would not be able to pursue or obtain similar employment, and therefore, not be able to survive out there in the world.

My response to these emails is generally the same. While certain aspects of my lifestyle would indeed present a bigger challenge to some (such as obtaining visas and facing higher expenses based on one’s home currency), I honestly don’t think that earning money while traveling or living overseas is one of those aspects.

Work At Sea

Just look at working on board cruise ships. On the last ship I worked on, there were only 14 Americans out of 1300 crew members. The overwhelming majority of crew were from countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Mexico, Colombia and Romania, which is the case on almost every single cruise ship out there. And while most of these crew members are indeed forced to start off in positions that pay significantly lower than the position I had, every crew member has an opportunity to move up the ladder. Nationality plays little role in this. One’s willingness to work hard, on the other hand, plays a significant role.

If I hadn’t worked hard myself I would never have been given the position of Tour Manager. And the same goes for any of the Tour Staff on my team, many of whom came from countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Poland, Nepal and South Africa. They were all doing quite well for themselves on board once they landed a job in the Tour Department. And as a result of the money they saved, quite a few went on to travel extensively.

Online Income

In terms of earning money online, the answer is simple as well. Anyone can do it, regardless of where they are from. All it takes is some serious dedication, long hours in front of a computer and a willingness to learn a ton of information. If you can manage that, your nationality will not stand in the way of you being able to earn money online. Had I not locked myself in a room for several months and worked non-stop, day and night, on my laptop, I would never have earned a single dollar online. Again, it was the effort that made the difference, not my citizenship.

In The Classroom

Finally, there is teaching English. And yes, it is of course true that as a US citizen, getting such jobs is naturally much easier than if I were from a non-English speaking country. Anyone who is a native English speaker can often just show up in any number of countries and find a teaching job within a short period of time, even if they don’t have any teaching experience whatsoever.

However, it is important to realize that English is not the only language people want to learn. Even here in Mexico I’ve seen signs advertising German, Mandarin, Russian and Arabic classes, all taught by native speakers of those languages who happen to be living or traveling here as well. There are options, you just need some creativity and the confidence to take a few steps into the unknown.

These are just a handful of examples. But even if there is only one way to earn money while traveling available to you, that’s really all you need to make a life of long-term travel a real option, no matter what country you call home.

And I truly believe this because if I spend a few minutes right now thinking of all the people I’ve met on the road who are living lives of travel as well, people from Bulgaria and Serbia and Indonesia and India and China and Turkey and Venezuela and Costa Rica and Argentina and Nigeria and Zimbabwe come to mind, right there alongside people from the Western, English-speaking world.


After some further thought and in light of some of the comments, let me restate my stance. Okay, perhaps this nomadic lifestyle is somewhat easier for me due to my nationality. As I mentioned in one of the comments, perhaps it would have been better for me to state that a life of travel is not easy to sustain at all, not even for me. My point is that everyone, regardless of where they are from, does have an opportunity to make this lifestyle happen. While we each are required to face our own unique set of challenges in order to make it a reality, it doesn’t change the fact that the opportunity to make it happen does exist.

That definitely better explains my thoughts and my apologies for any confusion.

I’d certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts. What do you think?


Sign up for new blog posts, updates from my life of travel and inspiration from around the world. Sent once per week.


  1. Mai May 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Hello Earl ,
    I’m Mai from Egypt and I’m really happy to hear about your blog and sharing such amazing experience that I was always dreamed with , first of all I want to do many appreciations to your journey and very hopeful to do the same in the future .
    2nd I don’t know where to start ?
    I love the sea and love to travel everywhere and everytime and I want to take it as a career too specially I don’t have lot of money to spend in traveling unfortunately but I’m looking forward to work and travel at the same time .
    Thanks Earl

  2. Wasim February 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Well, yes it’s not impossible but the process could get quite lengthy in some cases. For example, in my case, I got the US Visa after 7-8 months of application and there are people who think I’m lucky because their cases have been under “Administrative Processing” for 2 years.

    In some cases, you are totally dependent on diplomatic relations between countries, for example, all kinds of Visas are banned by Kuwait for few countries which includes Pakistan. Neighbouring India doesn’t entertain Pakistani tourists and vice versa.

  3. Wasim February 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I strongly disagree. I’m from Pakistan; ask me how hard it is to get Visas of other countries. There are only 30-odd countries which give Visa-on-arrival to Pakistanis. Most countries don’t give Visas without an invitation.

    I am currently working on a blog where i’ll be addressing these issues.

    • Wandering Earl February 17, 2014 at 4:27 pm - Reply

      Hey Wasim – The point I was trying to make is that it’s not impossible. And if you can get visa upon arrival for 30 countries, that’s 30 countries that you can visit. That’s quite a good number and could keep you traveling for a long time.

  4. Raphael Alexander Zoren February 1, 2014 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Money aside, the biggest obstacle for other nationalities is obtaining the visas required to travel in the first place. Even the upper-class of citizens from countries such as Colombia and Peru (just to name a few) face a lot of obstacles when trying to obtain visas to travel…well..anywhere in the world!

  5. Miaow Jenkins January 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, just discovering your site and great work you’re doing here. I’m thinking of embarking on some nomadic travel myself. With regards to your comment on how you dread going through immigration, what do you usually say to them? I have a wide range of countries I can travel to visa-free. BUT in my one instance of visa denial the immigration officer looked at the wide range of places I’ve visited and used it as a reason why I wouldn’t be a good candidate – with the theory being I guess since I didn’t have ties to one place, I was an intending immigrant. So what do you say to those immigration entry-people? Assuming “I’m a nomad and I want to stay in your country for an indefinite period” wouldn’t go down well 😀

    • Wandering Earl January 13, 2014 at 6:53 am - Reply

      Hey Miaow – I’m rarely asked any questions apart from when I’m returning to the US so while hopping around between countries, I normally don’t have to say too much. If anyone asks anything though, I simply say that I’m traveling for a few weeks and that’s about it. There’s really no reason to deny anyone entry based on that!

  6. […] good read on this issue is Earl’s (WanderingEarl.com) post ‘Long-Term Travel: Does Nationality Play A Role?’ Also skim through the comments for a clearer view of non US […]

  7. Mike June 28, 2012 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Just now reading this great blog. It generated more discussion than any blog I can remember reading on travel. You did an excellent job on responding to all replies. When I was 26 at Mai Tek airport in Hong Kong, I was singled out and searched extensively, because the customs agent thought I looked like a smuggler (My hair was long). I was wearing slacks and a golf shirt and traveling with 10 other buyers from an amusement park chain in the US. I think that you have captured several philosophies that apply regardless:
    1) A person can do anything they set their mind to.
    2) There is prejudice in the world.
    3) Some people are more fortunate than others, as a result of country of origin.
    4) A travel life is not for all persons.
    5) Just because you put words on paper does not mean everyone will interpret it the same way!
    Be safe in your travels and keep putting your thoughts “on paper”!

    • Earl June 30, 2012 at 5:30 am - Reply

      Thanks for that comment Mike! And the points you listed certainly are valid and important to realize. Glad you reached those conclusions as well and I’m also glad they let you go in the end when you entered Hong Kong 🙂

  8. […] stamps on your passport pages. ­A good read on this issue is Earl’s (WanderingEarl.com) post ‘Long-Term Travel: Does Nationality Play A Role?’ Also skim through the comments for a clearer view of non US […]

  9. Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com March 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Glad to read your update. While we all like to believe that anything is possible, it just isn’t so. I’m location independent, I have work online, I have money to travel anywhere. As someone from the Philippines though, I have to go through all these ridiculous hoops just to prove I won’t stay illegally in a developed country. Does nationality play a role? Definitely yes and I’m glad you’ve realized that.

    • Earl March 8, 2012 at 9:05 am - Reply

      Hey Aleah – Thank you for commenting. It may be a little more challenging but it’s definitely not impossible and that was the idea behind this post. If someone really wants to get out there and travel, no matter where they are from, it’s not impossible and there are ways to make it happen.

  10. Tinesh August 31, 2011 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Just an interesting article by the famous travel writer Pico Iyer: https://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/28/we-all-terror-suspects-now

    Somewhere in the article he talks about his experience being Asian and brown skinned. Hey, however, he also talks about complaints of westerners on excessive security checks later in the write up.

    In any case, I hope you enjoy the thoughts of another travel writer.

    “…But the truth of the matter is that, for those of us with darker skins, and from nations not materially privileged, it was ever thus. When I was 18, I was held in custody in Panama’s airport (because of the Indian passport I then carried) and denied formal entry to the nation, while the roguish English friend from high school with whom I was travelling was free to enter with impunity and savour all the dubious pleasures of the Canal Zone. On my way into Hong Kong – a transit lounge of a city if ever there was one, a duty-free zone whose only laws seem to be those of the marketplace – I was hauled into a special cabin for a lengthy interrogation because my face was deemed not to match my (by then British) passport. In Japan I was stripsearched every time I returned to the country, three or four times a year – my lifelong tan moving the authorities to assume that I must be either Saddam Hussein’s cousin or an illegal Iranian (or, worst of all, what I really am, a wandering soul with Indian forebears). Once I was sent to a small room in Tokyo reserved for anyone of South Asian ancestry (where bejewelled women in saris loudly complained in exaggerated Oxbridge accents about being taken for common criminals).

    Another time, long before my Japanese neighbours had heard of Osama bin Laden, I was even detained on my way out of Osaka – and the British Embassy hastily faxed on a Sunday night – as if any male with brown skin, passable English and a look of shabby quasi-respectability must be doing something wrong if he’s crossing a border.”

  11. Torre – Fearful Adventurer August 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    Great post. I think I’m going to have to reply via my own blog post on this topic, because this is a juicy / controversial one. Love it (and BTW, I totally agree with you).

    • Earl August 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      Hey Torre – In that case, I shall look forward to reading your own views on this topic!

  12. […] Long Term Travel: Does Nationality Play a Role? Earl stirs up healthy debate on whether our nationality is an important factor in pursuing our travelling dreams. […]

  13. Luana July 29, 2011 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, I agree regarding nationality playing a role, I am Brazilian and living in Ireland and I am limited to work only 20 hours per week, because of my student visa of course. There are many opportunities involving language skills specially Portuguese , however I cannot take it because I don’t have the proper visa stamp for that, if I had a dual citizenship ( I mean European , it would be easier here), but I managed to earn some money teaching Portuguese as a second language and there is a high demand for that, I also worked in cruise ship and I saw many people from South America as managers as well as Romenians and other nationalities ,the term third world mentioned in the comments in my view is quite outdated, first we live in the same world and economies are integrated specially because of the usage of the internet,it’s proven that all depends in your dedication, if you really want it,you can do it.

    • Earl July 30, 2011 at 12:50 am - Reply

      Hey Luana – I think in many ways nationality does play a role. But even when I studied in Australia, I was only allowed to work 15 hours per week even though the other students from Europe were able to work much more. Everyone faces obstacles but as you have discovered yourself already, you can definitely do it if that is what you really want to achieve.

      Thank you so much for your sharing your thoughts and experiences Luana!

  14. Jose July 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I do think you have it easier if you’re american or from some country of eastern europe, but as you said, everyone has a chance, and if you want it you can have it.

    Nothing in life worth doing will be easy, if someone says they wan’t to have an experience like yours but say they can’t because they are from a third world country, they just don’t want it enough.

    I’m from Chile, and I want to travel around for a couple of time (I don’t know how long, I’ll stick with “untill I don’t want it anymore”) after I graduate from college. I know it won’t be as easy, but hell, I’m sure it’s possible.

    Complete unrelated comment:
    I went to the united states for an exchange student program about three years ago, they gave me an student visa for three months (the exact duration of the course I was taking) and then I had to go back. I met a guy there, he was from Germany, he told me he was planning to stay a month or two after clases and asked me if I wanted to go with him. For the same exact thing, they gave him a year (perhaps more) lasting visa. But hey, did that stop me for not going with him? of course not! after sending a lot of letters, going to the embassy, and spending hours filling paperwork I got an extention.

    • Earl July 30, 2011 at 12:46 am - Reply

      Thank you for your comment Jose! I’m glad to see that you didn’t let some of the rules out there stop you from achieving your goals. Like you said, it might not be easy (and believe me, it’s not easy at times for me as well), but it is definitely possible for those who really want it.

  15. Bluegreen Kirk July 21, 2011 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    As with anything a lot has to do with hard work determination and consistency. You cant stop and stop and change to something else and expect things to be easy. Sometimes people just make excuses and sometimes its just hard. Of sometimes luck does play a part in things but you never know what is easy or difficult for you until you try. Working on a cruise ship and making money online is being done by many…does that mean its easy of course not and it also doesn’t mean that its for everyone.

    • Earl July 22, 2011 at 1:26 am - Reply

      @Bluegreen Kirk: It certainly isn’t for everyone at all. I absolutely agree with that statement. There are many factors involved in making any major life change, regardless of where we live and while certain challenges are harder for certain people, it does come down to the need to just go for it. As you said, this is the only way for someone to really discover what is possible.

  16. Priyank July 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl,

    I don’t have anything particularly intelligent to add other than what has already been said. Long term travel is essentially a state of mind and the destination is merely a choice: it could mean travelling to different countries or simply travelling endlessly in a particular country. I know atleast two folks who have been travelling forever within India… they claim there’s enough to see and learn. They don’t speak good english or write blogs (and I imagine they don’t have a passport either), but neither of these factors are an obstacle.

    Personally, I can never be a long term traveller. So I stick to the old formula: work, and save for a long trip.


    • Earl July 22, 2011 at 1:34 am - Reply

      Hey Priyank – That’s sort of the idea I was aiming for with this post. The nomadic/traveling lifestyle comes in endless forms and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. And as you pointed out, visas and a passport are not necessarily a requirement either for someone wanting to live this way. There are ways to travel. The destination is indeed a choice. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

  17. Osvaldo July 21, 2011 at 2:29 am - Reply

    Hey Earl. I can tell a bunch of words regarding this post, but most people commented before me, so it i’ll be saying the same things.

    In my case, as a panamanian, I don’t have much problem traveling overseas unlike other people, so I’m ok.

    Working on a cruise ship? I just came from an unbearable experience that last two months, so I don’t think i’m going to step on a cruise ship unless I do some gig as a musician (currently working on it).

    Doing business online would be great, but I don’t see myself writing an ebook and selling it, cause I don’t consider myself a hell of a writer. Maybe I’m short of ideas when it comes to do an automated business online.

    I haven’t said anything specific, I’m just putting my two cents to the discussion. Maybe with some replies I can see my situation from a different point of view.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:55 am - Reply

      Hola Osvaldo – I think you understand that the same opportunities are open to you but at the same time, these opportunities are not for everyone. Not everyone wants to work on board a cruise ship or earn money online of course. But for those who are looking for a different lifestyle, such options do exist.

      And I hope the musician gig works out for you on the ships. As you obviously know already, musicians have quite a good deal on board, one that many other crew members are quite jealous of 🙂

  18. Amy July 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    I think the point that so many are making is — it’s easier if you come from a wealthy, developed country. Western Europe, UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand … surely that makes it easier for the citizens of these countries? That said, the EU passport must make it easier for travelling within the EU, but that’s only one part of the world.

    And native English speakers? That’s another example where people from these countries have an advantage.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:25 am - Reply

      Hey Amy – I definitely see that point and I think it is better to state that despite the difficulties, the opportunities that I’ve had (to work on board cruise ships, earn money online and teach) are still available to people from most countries. Yes, it may be harder to achieve but the opportunities are still there nonetheless.

      Thank you for commenting!

  19. Paula @ AffordAnything.org July 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Sorry, but I completely disagree. Traveling on a Nepalese passport sucks. It isn’t just that getting a visa is “harder” — it’s that some countries won’t give you a visa at all. Ever. Or sometimes you have to keep applying, for years and years, going back for interviews again and again, to get a visa.

    And that’s a modern-day problem. When my dad was my age, his problem wasn’t just that he couldn’t get a visa … his problem was that he couldn’t get a PASSPORT. The Nepalese government, in an effort to reduce “brain drain,” refused to issue passports to many college-educated people, so that there was no way they could leave the country.

    Also, you mention online work, but don’t forget … you need access to Internet for that. And in a country like Nepal, which doesn’t even have electricity in many parts, there’s certainly no wi-fi.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:40 am - Reply

      Hey Paula – Thank you for the comment. Again, I think the point of the post was misunderstood. As I mentioned, I do agree that certain aspects are more difficult and I also mentioned that one of those aspects is the ability to obtains visas for certain nationalities. But when it comes to being able to take advantage of the opportunities I have used, even Nepalese have options. In terms of internet, even in Nepal if someone wanted to find a way to earn money online they can find internet. I know it’s not widely available in every town and village but I’ve spent time on my laptop while traveling through Nepal and I know of others who have managed to get their online work done while traveling there as well. The opportunity does exist for those who are motivated enough to make it happen!

  20. The Travel Chica July 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    My comment is not related to how to make a living while doing long term travel, but it is related to making the decision to do it. I think that it is harder from a cultural standpoint to break away. It is simply not a normal thing for Americans to do. Most of the long-term travelers I have met are not from the US.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:11 am - Reply

      @The Travel Chica: That is an interesting topic as well, perhaps one that I will go into further in a future post. The cultural aspect does play a huge role, one that can make it very easy or sometimes very difficult to go ahead with one’s travel goals. Luckily there are enough people from many countries who have made it happen so that others are motivated to follow in their footsteps!

  21. Julia July 20, 2011 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Hi Earl,

    I am glad that you posted this and made it clear to people that anyone can have a life of travel if they are willing to face their challenges in doing it. I guess I just truly believe that if you want something bad enough, you will do anything you have to in order to get it.
    I think that a lot of comments that have been left are in response to being financially successful while traveling and that is not the point here.
    Also, it is obviously easier for someone from US to travel, but there are also people from other countries that have it easier than people from US, so that is life.
    I feel bad for those who don’t have it easy to get a visa and I wish that it wasn’t such an issue for some people to travel. I have a friend here in Costa Rica who just wants to go visit NYC because she has learned so much about it. Because she doesn’t have a “good” job or a business or a family of her own, she will undoubtedly get denied a visa to visit the States. But again, this post is about traveling the world and the US isn’t the only place for others to visit.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:30 am - Reply

      Hey Julia – I should have let you write this post as you did a better job at expressing my thoughts 🙂

      I think that perhaps the title of the post and the way the post was worded were not ideal in the end. It really was my intention to show that the opportunity to travel and earn money overseas, even if it requires facing many challenges, is available to most people. With things such as being a Tour Manager on a cruise ship, I could have still lived this lifestyle if I had stayed a Tour Staff so I think you’re right about the focus being on financial success. And there were also plenty of crew members on board from third world countries who took great delight in showing me photos of the villa they just bought back home, complete with swimming pool, guest quarters and ocean views, all from the wages they earned from their ‘low level’ position on board the ship. So even those cleaning the cabins or busing tables were able to do quite well.

      Also, I feel that the problem is not that the opportunities I’ve had don’t exist for many people but that people don’t know about these opportunities in many parts of the world.

      With the visas, yes, that is a situation that is very unfortunate and presents a bigger challenge than I could ever know. I have seen good, honest people here in Mexico be denied visas to several countries as well. However, I have also seen them obtain visas to some countries too and there are even countries where they don’t need a visa at all. So even if a handful of countries allow them in, that does provide a place to start. I know it’s not terribly easy for many people (nor is it for those from the western world) but I really do want to believe that hard work and determination play the biggest role in whether or not such a goal can be achieved.

      Gracias for your comment!

  22. Mina Sameh July 20, 2011 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    I would repeat what has been said in most of the comments above, I’m an Egypt Passport holder, its really hard to obtain visas to most countries of the world…I’ve been denied to US visa before though I was a student at the time and thats the biggest reason I would return to my country to continue my studies…

    Another thing about saving up for the travels…I’m a fresh Pharmacy graduate…if I work as a pharmacist in Egypt, the best salary I could get is around EGP 2250 per month…so if I work for 6 months (Saving ALL the money I get paid) I will save EGP 13,500 which is good for starting my travels…but thats if I don’t spend a penny during those 6 months:D
    On the other hand if I work as a waiter or a similar job in the US for 6 months, I would save up to USD 8,000 (working 8 hours a day, and spending normally) which is around EGP 46,000 (almost 4 times what I’d do as a Pharmacist :D)

    trust me its not really hard to start a similar life style in terms of visa obtaining and saving up to start…

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:09 am - Reply

      Hey Mina – I appreciate the comment! I do understand the challenges that many nationalities face in terms of obtaining visas and I know that this obviously limits the amount of traveling that some people are able to do. And with saving money to travel, that is another challenge as well even though there are plenty of people out there who started with as little as $500 and plenty of others from the western world who needed to spend 1 or 2 or even 3 years to save enough money to get started.

      But yes, the earning potential in some countries does make it more difficult to begin traveling. On another note, congratulations on your graduation! And I’m completely honored to have a Pharmacist from Egypt as a reader of my blog 🙂

  23. Irina Sazonova July 20, 2011 at 7:09 am - Reply

    I agree with other posters. Nationality and native language play a big role. (This is also reflected in the travel blogging community, how many non-American or non-English-as-a-native-language-speaking successful bloggers do you know?)

    As a Russian a need a visa for a lot of countries of this world, particularly all countries in Europe, North America, about a half of countries in South East Asia and South America, etc. Same with jobs, employers either want native speakers (without actually talking to you and assessing your level of English) or you get a non-skilled job (if at all). I have a hard time believing somebody who’s from the Philippines or Russia had the same chances as you to get promoted on the cruise ship. I haven’t worked on a ship, so it might be a bit of a different environment, but I was once a non-skilled worker in the US and I did not have the same opportunities. In fact, I wasn’t even considered for promotion, I was kind of regarded as mail-order cheap labor.

    It really does pay to American or British or I guess German and some other “elite” nationalities. Sadly and unfortunately for many other people.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:01 am - Reply

      Hey Irina – Thank you so much for joining the conversation. In some ways it does pay to be from the western world but even for Russians, you do have the ability to work on board cruise ships, earn money on the internet and even teach Russian. As I mentioned in the post, there are Russians here in Mexico that are earning a living doing just that. The post was intended to show that people are able to do the same things I’ve done in terms of work. And with the cruise ships, I sent an email today to a friend of mine who works for the cruise line I last worked for asking her to tell me who were the current Tour Managers for the company. One of the Tour Managers is from Ukraine, one from Hungary, one from South Africa and yes, one from the UK.

      I can’t speak for working in the US but I believe you when you say that you didn’t have the same opportunities as others. But in terms of the work that I have done, I do believe those remain options.

  24. Adam @ SitDownDisco July 20, 2011 at 3:45 am - Reply

    Sorry Earl. I don’t agree with you. When you grow up poor, with a poor education in a poor part of a poor country, you will never leave your country. You’ll be lucky to have a job in the ricefields, let alone setting up an online business (lucky to have an old Nokia phone) or being able to afford the school and fees required to work on a cruise ship. In fact, many of the people I speak to in Indonesia can only dream of an entry level job on a cruise ship — it’s just too expensive to get a job on board.

    I do like your comment that we can all strive to live a nomadic lifestyle. I encourage my less fortunate friends to reach for the stars too, but most will just not get the opportunity.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:53 am - Reply

      Hey Adam – I understand what you’re saying but in general, those that grow up poor in a rural area of a third world country are not going to strive for a different lifestyle. It’s the same for those who grow up poor in a rural area of a western country. But for those who, despite growing up in a third world country, are a little luckier in terms of wealth and opportunity and who decide to make a different life for themselves, I do think there are options. And with the cruise ship jobs, any respectable cruise agency normally loans applicants the money to cover the initial fees which the crew member will pay back once on board. But finding a respectable cruise agency in a country such as Indonesia is an entirely different story as the business is incredibly corrupt.

  25. Odysseus July 20, 2011 at 2:34 am - Reply

    Honestly, I’ve always felt very privileged to have been born an American. (And I would have even better international privileges if I’d been born English or Canadian.) I *do* feel irked when another Westerner complains that he/she “can’t” travel. That person has had, more or less, the same opportunities as me and the exact same amount of “luck” as I’ve had. In that situation, it’s just a matter of lifestyle choices.

    But when I consider the inhabitants of third-world countries, I feel so very, very lucky to have been born in a country that, while imperfect in many ways, nonetheless, gives its citizens opportunities that the average person born in, say, rural Cambodia, can never get no matter how hard he works.

    • Odysseus July 20, 2011 at 2:45 am - Reply

      p.s. After reading your article again, I get the sense that you’re a very positive person — and you really WANT everyone to have the opportunity for world-wide travel. You want the world to be fair. That’s an American ideal. I wish you were right.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:49 am - Reply

      Hey Odysseus – In terms of people from the western world having more opportunities in general, I won’t disagree with that. I just think that if there was someone in Cambodia who decided that they wanted to find a way to break free and earn money overseas, they do have that chance. Of course, most likely a person from rural Cambodia is not going to have such a goal but for the person in Cambodia who is fortunate enough to have a few more opportunities in life and who decides that they do want a different lifestyle, there are opportunities available.

      And I certainly do wish that life was more fair 🙂

  26. Forest July 20, 2011 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Wow this really got the comments going! I don’t know for sure as I have never tried to be a non-english speaking UK born traveller however I have met plenty who seem to be doing just fine. Of course your passport can limit you to some countries but it can always be worked around.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:43 am - Reply

      Hey Forest – There are definitely limitations for some nationalities but I really do think that in terms of the job opportunities I’ve had, most people could take advantage of them if they wanted to as well. And yes, this one did get the comments flowing. It’s excellent to hear from so many people from around the world and to read their points of view!

  27. Lavanya July 20, 2011 at 2:18 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, Interesting post.
    As an Indian about to start her RTW trip herself, topmost on my mind among all kinds of jitters are the visa hassles I’m gonna face on the way.
    The 2 main reasons for most travelers being from the western world are: money/higher income and ease of travel. I think this is why most Indians (who can afford to) prefer to travel overseas via package tours and cruises rather than independently, as it requires a certain amount of spontaneity and flexibility which is not easy with the strenuous process of obtaining a visa in almost every country!
    Ironically my Polish boyfriend will have a much easier time finding an TESOL job, even though English is my first language and not his.
    The fact that in spite of all this I am in fact going on my rtw trip with an Indian passport in hand, does prove that its possible but just not as easy. 🙂

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:40 am - Reply

      Hey Lavanya – First, I must say congratulations on the upcoming start of your RTW trip! Clearly you’re an example that a determination to succeed is the most important factor in being able to get out there into the world and do some traveling. And I just read your posts on Syria, a country that I visited at the end of last year. I didn’t make it up to Mar Musa but hearing your story, I guess I need to visit that site the next time around!

      Back to the topic of the post….that is interesting about your boyfriend being able to get an English teaching job easier than you. I have heard from a few people that this can happen but hopefully you’ll still be able to find a position in the end. Maybe if you manage to convince a school to let you do a test class they will see that there is no reason not to hire you.

      I honestly wish you the best of luck with your journey and I’ll be sure to follow along. As an India addict, any site with the world ‘chai’ in the title automatically grabs my attention.

  28. Jeremy Branham July 20, 2011 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Earl, I’ve read some of the comments but not all of them so forgive me if I am repeating something. I think another aspect that is easier for you is taxes. You would get taxed a lot more if you were from European countries. As much as we complain about taxes here in the US, they are pretty low overall. So that’s a benefit of being an American as well.

    I do think being an American has to be easier. I just think it’s easier to get in and out of countries. Another aspect to this is just how powerful American embassies can be at helping travelers who are stuck or need help.

    • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:47 am - Reply

      Hey Jeremy – The taxes issue is interesting. Actually, as an American who spends most of the year outside of the US, I get taxed more than people from almost any other country who also lives and travels away from home year round. Many countries have tax rules in place which allow citizens who spend 6 or more months per year working and living outside the country, to avoid paying taxes for that year. In the US, you need to spend at least 330 days of the year outside of the country in order to have the first $90,000 of income tax free.

      When I worked on board cruise ships, I was taxed due to US tax law. Just about every other nationality on board was not taxed under their home country’s tax rules. So it’s really not much of a benefit to be American in regards to taxes, at least for those who are permanent nomads 🙂

  29. penny July 20, 2011 at 12:42 am - Reply

    sorry I got lost in translation E.U. = USA (but in Spanish) lol, you probably know that but just in case and to share it with everybody else 🙂

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:56 am - Reply

      I wasn’t sure actually. But that does make sense that it was USA 🙂

  30. Nomadic Samuel July 20, 2011 at 12:41 am - Reply

    Earl, I think that you’ve raised some solid points about the necessity of being versatile & having a strong work ethic to pursue a location independent lifestyle abroad. I think the biggest obstacle (as mentioned by others) would be the restrictions and difficulty obtaining visas for certain passport holders; however, I also think some individuals use these as excuses for not pursuing things more seriously. It may be harder or nearly impossible in some cases but if one wants it bad enough they’ll keep going until they get it.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 1:00 am - Reply

      @Nomadic Samuel – You definitely provided quite a good summary of what I was trying to say. This lifestyle, as you know yourself, is not super-easy for anyone to achieve. We all face challenges and in the end, no matter where we call home, it all depends on how bad we want to achieve our goals.

      Visas are obviously a bigger problem for some nationalities, I don’t deny that at all. But in terms of finding ways to earn money, there are certainly opportunities available to all of us. I think the issue may be that many people simply aren’t aware of what opportunities truly do exist out there.

  31. penny July 20, 2011 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, you probably see things in an easier way because as you said is your experience, but I can tell you nationality is important when you are speaking about traveling and is way more important if you want to get a job in a different country. I’m mexican and for me there is not even one country where I can work without a work permit, I worked in Canada during one year, to get my work permit I had to pay 2500 dlls only for the job offer (even when according to Canadian law companies shouldn’t have to charge anything to the employee for the job offer) after that I had to spend 8 months in job interviews, including one at the embassy where the visa officer told me they would not issue a visa for my husband, why? only because my job offer was not in a skilled category, but at that point I already had a contract, and I had invested a lot of money, so I took the opportunity, then my husband tried to get a visitor visa to spend with me the last month of my contract before me coming back home and the answer from Canada was NO. Surprisly for one of my Mexican friends who has E.U. citizen wife and kids was very easy to get the visa for them, less than 2 weeks and they were all together. I know is possible and maybe you see a lot of people working overseas, but you don’t know what these people is letting behind and all that they went through to get that simple job.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:54 am - Reply

      Hola Penny – Thank you for sharing your experience. Sounds like a nightmare what you had to go through to get into Canada with a work permit.

      What I was trying to say in the post is that the opportunities I’ve had are available to other people. So while working in Canada is extremely difficult, other opportunities, such as working on board cruise ships or earning money online, are possible to achieve. It is important to point out that I’ve never obtained a work permit for any of my jobs. I taught English ‘under the table’ in Thailand and a permit was not needed to work on cruise ships or earn money online.

      In fact, the person sitting at the table with me right now in my apartment here in Playa del Carmen is Mexican. And she has lived a similar lifestyle by traveling to and working in a variety of countries, working on board cruise ships and now, she earns a full-time income (in USD) working online. Recently she spent four months traveling throughout Asia and Australia. Each day she would work online for a few hours and spend the rest of the day exploring.

      So while Canada might have been a tough experience (which it clearly seems to have been), there are options out there that are not nearly as difficult. I guess the key is learning which options are easier than others!

  32. [email protected] July 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    It’s a tough one. It is easier for an American, of which I am one. But it easy for a bulk of people from other countries as well.

    In the end it does come down to effort and creativity. In China people got visas and passports based primarily on wealth. So people started a business, worked hard, and traveled. It ain’t an “easy” life anywhere, but it is doable in most places.

    Sure a guy from China can’t teach English. But I can’t travel around giving $200 lessons on making Chinese dumplings either. You find a way!

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Hey Justin – In the end, I do see how certain aspects are easier for Americans. I guess I was really trying to say that the opportunity to live this lifestyle does exist for everyone and that we all have to face our own challenges to make it happen.

      And that’s a shame about the dumplings. I was about to start looking for a class!

  33. ken stanphill July 19, 2011 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    I have know doctors in the Philippines that were denied Visa’s to the US so you aren’t getting into the US unless you are a very wealthy person.She could have gotten a work Visa as a doctor but not a travel Visa to visit her family.Cruse Ships are looking for the cheapest help the can find and are the lower positions allowed off the ship at ports I don’t think so.As a US citizen I can go almost anywhere in the world with no problem getting into the US requires white rich countries only.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:26 am - Reply

      Hey Ken – I don’t doubt that is the case about being denied visas to the US but what I’m talking about here doesn’t really involve visiting the US. And with cruise ships, as I mentioned already, many people do have to start off in lower positions but even so, they do have the opportunity to rise through the ranks if they put in the necessary effort, just like I had to do in order to move up as well.

      On a side note, even the lower positions are allowed off the ship in ports during their free time. Nobody is restricted from leaving the vessel 🙂

  34. Cristine Tabing July 19, 2011 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Dearl!
    I think the biggest challenge for me as a Philippine passport holder is getting visas. While we there are countries where visa is not required for us, majority of the countries I’d love to explore requires me to get one and the list of requirements is just long. Also, a lot of people from my country has experienced what they term as ‘racial profiling’ even in countries here in Asia. I’ve heard stories about being held and questioned upon arrival in countries, despite having complete documents, return tickets and such. I haven’t personally experienced this but that creates a certain sense of fear in me especially that I am traveling alone .

    I especially envy my friends from EU who can go from one country to another without much hassle. I was traveling with a girl from Italy a month ago and in Malaysia, while she got a 3-month visa-on-arrival stamp on her passport, I only had a month. It’s a hassle but it won’t stop be from going there. And it would definitely be a huge setback if I do apply for a visa and then get rejected.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:35 am - Reply

      Hey Cristine – First of all, how are you??? It’s so good to hear from you and I hope you’ve been well over the past six months or so!

      And I can see how it is a bit more of a hassle for you to travel, although considering that I met you in Thailand, it’s clearly not impossible. In terms of the racial profiling, I think I can understand that fear. In fact, I’ve been held, questioned and harassed in a few countries myself because of all the traveling I’ve done and the fact that I almost always fly on a one-way ticket. Going through immigration is never fun for me and I always dread it.

      I’ve gone ahead and updated the post so that I better express my thoughts. Clearly it is somewhat easier for me to live this lifestyle but I do think (and you’re a good example) that it is an option for everyone. It might require a tough road to get there but it is possible.

      Thank you for commenting!

  35. Usha July 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    I know that being a Singaporean helps! Besides India, I don’t need a visa to travel to any other nation. (At least for the first 30 days and 90 days in Japan) :D. Thats probably cos we don’t have our troops in any part of the world. lol.

    However, teaching English in China can be a problem cos I look Asian and they just don’t trust me when I say I am a native English speaker. Its weird. :S

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Hey Usha – There you go…being from Singapore seems to have even more advantages! I can’t imagine what it would be like to not require visas when traveling. That is a bonus that I’m sure you enjoy 🙂

  36. Vishal July 19, 2011 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    The visa is certainly an issue for me. There are less than 10 countries that will allow me traveling there without a visa or a visa on arrival. You also can’t be spontaneous on your trip since you already had to have a return ticket. Even coming back to America, the immigration and airline officers ask you too many stupid questions. They asked me to show an Amex card so that they could confirm I have been living in America! What the heck. Also the Italian consulate was a pain in the ass for issuing me a Schengen visa. But definitely it can be done. Certainly not as easy as being from some other country.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:38 am - Reply

      Hey Vishal – You’re right in both regards. It can be done but it’s not as easy for some. And if it makes you feel any better, coming back to the US is always a nightmare for me as well. Not only do they ask me endless questions but they have also taken my laptop and gone through all of my photos and files. It is never a pleasant experience.

      • Vishal July 20, 2011 at 12:45 am - Reply


        May be you should try Global Entry since you’re a frequent flyer and the process I’ve heard is quite fast.

        • Earl July 20, 2011 at 1:02 am - Reply

          Hey Vishal – I thought about that but the problem is that it’s only available in a few airports I believe at the moment. And I’m not too sure they would accept me once they do a thorough check of the places I’ve been and the interrogations I’ve been subjected to at Customs and Immigration 🙂

          • Vishal July 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm

            Hey Earl,

            Your point seems valid. Anyways, on an irrelevant note, I just started using credit card bonuses as a means to accumulate lots of airline miles. Have you looked into these?

          • Earl July 21, 2011 at 2:15 am

            Hey Vishal – I do use airline credit cards actually. They have helped me to fly many places for practically free over the years 🙂 And I am often on the lookout for new deals that offer a large amount of bonus miles just for signing up and making one purchase. If you’ve found a good one lately please do let me know!

          • Vishal July 21, 2011 at 1:47 pm

            There’s no reply button on your last comment! Anyways, so the best deal right now is the 50K points for Chase Sapphire Preferred. I use http://www.thepointsguy.com. Check it out; it’s quite useful. Let me know how it goes. I was denied because of too many recent inquiries.

          • Earl July 22, 2011 at 1:27 am

            Thanks for that Vishal! I’ll have a look right now…

  37. Andrew July 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    A great post and definitely a good discussion point.

    I agree with the comments above, but would also like to throw in in the mix how you earn your money (some of it) now. Making money online via your guides or eBooks, this market is dominated by people from the US. Sure anyone has an internet connection and can print & sell and eBook, but the marketing (affiliate) and promotion is greatly assisted by team america.

    I’m not discounting the work on cruise ships etc, and glad someone chipped in with passports, visa availability and the english as a native tongue.

    Great discussion.

    • Earl July 20, 2011 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Hey Andrew – Thank you for sharing your thoughts! With the marketing of eBooks, the US does dominate the market. But actually, I do zero promotion at all with my biggest selling eBook. I simply listed it on a site called Clickbank.com and let affiliates promote it for me. At the moment, Clickbank accepts affiliates and vendors from over 150 countries so this is definitely an option for people interested in selling products online, no matter where they are from.

      With that said, after reading through some of the comments, I can see how my initial stance might have been a little off 🙂 I’ve made an update to the post now in order to reflect this.

  38. flipnomad July 19, 2011 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    nationality does help man… im a filipino and as most people breeze thru immigration… i get stucked and get questioned a lot… ugh… economics play a huge part as well… saving money for travel is also difficult… in a country where the minimum wage is $250 for degree holders… saving even as much as 50% is just $125… when we travel to nearby countries such as singapore or thailand that amount will just pffft!!! sometimes im dumbfounded when I met one european and an american who told me that they work in their countries for 6 months as waiter and save their money and then travel to southeast asia for another 6 months using the money that they saved… waiter in poorer countries wouldnt be able to do that… the situation when it comes to working as you travel is also different, ive met teachers in china from different countries and the earnings of asian is lower compare to their western counterparts in the same school… just sharing my thoughts 🙂

    • Earl July 19, 2011 at 11:48 pm - Reply

      @flipnomad: Thank you for sharing your thoughts! In terms of living a nomadic lifestyle though, you do have the opportunity to work on board cruise ships as well and even to earn money online. When I began my travels I had $1500 to my name and while that may appear to be a good amount, there are other travelers out there who began with less than $500.

      As for teaching in a school, I can’t speak for that since I never did that myself. This post was only about my experiences and how others could take advantage of similar opportunities as what I’ve used. So if you were to try and teach a language independently, just as I did, then you could charge the same rate as I did (which by the way was very low!).

      Okay, I’ll admit that perhaps it is somewhat easier for me, but the opportunity still exists for someone from the Philippines to make it happen as well 🙂

  39. Leif aka The Runaway Guide July 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, nice article. If you were Albanian, this article would be a lot different lol. If I remember correctly, Albanians can only travel to Macedonia and Greece on their passports. Being American definitely helps.

    • Earl July 19, 2011 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      Hey Leif – If that’s the case then yes, Albanians would have a very difficult time living this lifestyle. Although I’m not sure if that’s right because a friend of a friend is Albanian and the last I heard about him he was traveling around the world on the profits from his internet business 🙂

    • Andrea July 20, 2011 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Actually, Albanians are now free to travel in Europe (in the Schengen Zone) without a visa but even before that they could freely travel to many countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Even for an Albanian on a limited budget, travelling around the world is possible.

      • Earl July 21, 2011 at 1:55 am - Reply

        Thank you for that information Andrea 🙂 And that’s good news as that would be a tough situation if they weren’t allowed to travel anywhere!

  40. Wouter July 19, 2011 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    You’re thinking a bit too easy about things. I can see some clear advantages that you enjoy whilst travelling, that others won’t:

    1) You’re a native English speaker. Finding a job teaching languages is easiest when you’re a native English speaker. Nobody wants to learn Dutch in Mexico, so I would have to apply for a job teaching English. But when you and I both apply for the same job, they’ll choose you because you’re a native speaker (and I won’t even blame them for that :-)).

    2) You have a good passport. A US passport ranks 7th on the list of ‘ease of travel’. A UK passport would be even better (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/8058576/British-citizens-top-list-for-visa-free-travel.html). Travelling with for example an Indian passport is very very very difficult, many countries will simply deny your visa request out of fear of settlement.

    3) Your options for online income are much broader because as an American you can easily setup a Merchant Account / Payment Gateway. Even in Europe, Canada and Australia this is way more difficult. Most people are forced to work with paypal, and that’s just not as professional as a real Merchant Account.

    4) The only reason you find so many people from third world countries on ships is because they accept (un-western) low wages. Those people do not have the same oppotunities as you do. They have to start at the bottom, and for most of them, that is as high up as they’re gonna get. It’s nice to believe everybody has the same opportunities, but that’s really not the case.

    I agree that for many things are not as difficult as they look like, but you cannot deny things are much easier for you than they are for others. That’s just how the world works.

    • Earl July 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm - Reply

      Hey Wouter – I can see what your saying so perhaps I should clarify. A life of travel is not easy to sustain at all, not even for me. My point I guess is that everyone, regardless of where they are from, has an opportunity to make this lifestyle happen. While we each are required to face our own unique set of challenges in order to make it a reality, it doesn’t change the fact that the opportunity to make it happen does exist.

      In response to your points…

      1) As I mentioned in the post, finding a job teaching English is of course easier for me. However, I think you’re underestimating the opportunity to teach other languages. In many places I’ve been around the world, there is a demand for many other languages, and after all, you would only need a small demand as chances are you would be one of the only people offering to teach Dutch. I never taught at an official language school. I went out and posted signs at a university in Thailand and recruited students on my own. And then I created classes that I held in the middle of a park or in a cafe. At this university there were students studying and wanting to practice dozens of different languages and there is nothing stopping anyone from doing the same thing I did but with a different language.

      2) As for my passport, again, as I stated, there are some non-work aspects of my lifestyle that would be more difficult for other nationalities, with visas being one of them. But I have met Indians who are permanent nomads as well. They might not be a able to obtain a visa to certain countries but then again, I can’t either or I have to pay significantly higher fees to obtain my visas than other people have to pay. And even though it is difficult for some nationalities to obtain visas, there are plenty of places where they can travel as well.

      3) With the online income, I don’t think the ability to open a Merchant account is all that necessary. I have friends from here in Mexico and in places such as Thailand and the Philippines who work full time through sites such as Elance.com, earning enough money to travel around the world as they wish. All they have is a laptop, internet connection and a Paypal account. One could always use a site like eJunkie.com as a payment processor for any products they might want to sell as well. Sure, if they want to create a major online business then they might have some difficulties, but a major business is not needed to live a life of travel. I certainly don’t have one! I might have been thinking too easy about things, but I think you may have been thinking too hard about things as well 🙂

      4) With the cruise ships, I have to disagree. I worked on ships for almost 5 years and again, the majority of crew members are not from the western world. Yes, these crew members often have to start in positions that offer low wages, however, cruise lines ALWAYS prefer to promote from within as opposed to hiring new people. With that said, you’re right, most of them will never advance beyond the bottom, but in reality, that’s the case with most people in any job sector, anywhere in the world. But for those who are willing to put in the extra time and effort, there are opportunities to advance. This post was about how someone could make a life of travel a reality despite their nationality. So if such a person landed a job on cruise ships, it is up to them to prove themselves (just as I had to) and move up the ladder. I wasn’t lying when I said that members of my Tour team came from third world countries.

      Maybe the wording in the post wasn’t as clear as I had intended, but I do really think that if someone puts in the same amount of effort I’ve had to put in in order to live this lifestyle, they can make it happen, whether they are from the US, Estonia, Sri Lanka or Peru.

    • Julia July 20, 2011 at 9:52 am - Reply

      Hi Wouter,

      I think your comment about working in cruise ships is not really valid here because this post isn’t about “how to be most successful while traveling” it is simply about the opportunities people have TO travel.
      If we start talking about who can be more successful in the shortest amount of time, we start discussing a whole other issue.
      I agree with what you say, but I also agree that with Earl when he says that anyone can make a life of travel – that doesn’t necessarily mean staying in nice hotels and eating expensive dinners. I am traveler right now and trust me, I have met many other travelers (from India, Argentina, Australia, Switzerland, Venezuela, New Zealand, just to name a few) and their lives are just as mine, trying to survive day by day just so we can see more of the world. That is what I have experienced from traveling.
      I know there is a group of jet setter, millionaires out there, but that is not what we are discussing here. We are discussing how to make a life of travel possible.

Leave A Comment