Passive income 'is the best-case scenario’ for funding long-term travel: 3 tips from a digital nomad

"Anything you've saved is going to make your life easier."

Trifari in Barcelona, Spain.
Courtesy Rocky Trifari

When Rocky Trifari was graduating from Rutgers in 2017, he knew one of his first ventures would be to take a long-term, solo trip abroad. "People say that right when you finish college, that's a really good time to do one of those trips because you have fewer responsibilities and a little bit more flexibility in your life," he says.

Trifari, who is now 25, ended up taking a six-month trip to Europe beginning in July 2018, which included monthlong visits to Greece, Spain, Croatia, Poland, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He then spent another eight months studying Spanish in Madrid from January to September 2019.

Trifari funded his travels by working for a site called VIPKid, on which tutors teach Chinese students English in 25-minutes-long virtual classes. He'd also started building up his blog as a source of passive income.

"If you can get passive income, that really is the best-case scenario," he says. Collectively, tutoring and the blog brought in up to $5,000 per month, far exceeding the $1,000-$2,000 per month he was spending to travel.

Here are three of his tips for planning a long-term trip.

Find a way to bring in passive income

Trifari knew he wanted to build up his passive income streams to cover some of his travel expenses. He'd started writing a lifestyle blog in high school, and eventually reframed it as a travel blog and built up its moneymaking opportunities. This included adding affiliate links and brand sponsored posts.

"Blogging is a way to create passive income ― you create content once and then if you monetize it, it can create recurring streams," he says. Other ways to add a passive income stream include creating an online course, investing, and real estate.

Trifari's passive income from the blog has varied widely, ranging from $100 to $2,500 per month.  

'Have a Plan B and a Plan C'

There are plenty of events that could derail your trip, so it's important to take financial precautions. "I would say, definitely have a Plan B and a Plan C" in case anything unexpected happens, he says. Make sure you always have enough money for a ticket home, for example.

For Trifari, in part, this meant ensuring he had travel insurance. He used a policy specifically for digital nomads and remote workers, which at the time cost about $37 per month and covered emergency medical evacuation and trip interruption, among other events.

Rocky Trifari in Valencia, Spain.
Courtesy Rocky Trifari

'Anything you've saved is going to make your life easier'

Though he only saved about $1,000 before he took off in 2018, Trifari would recommend long-term travelers take time to save up before they leave.

If you're not planning to work while traveling and don't have passive income streams set up, "I would probably say between $10,000 to $20,000 is a really good cushion," he says. But even $5,000 could give you more flexibility on a long trip. For example, "If you have a day where you're like, 'I don't want a three-leg flight to go to this country, I just want to go direct,' then you can splurge on those things."

Rocky Trifari at the Olympic bobsleigh in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.
Courtesy Rocky Trifari

How much you'll need also depends on where you're going and how long you're going for, but plan your trip far enough in advance that you can save up for a few months ahead of time or pick up an extra side gig to give you that cushion.

"Anything you've saved is going to make your life easier," he says.

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