One of the greatest things about backpacking around the world is that it grants one perspective. It is this perspective, that only a foreigner can posses, that enables those with entrepreneurial eyes to identify potentially lucrative niches.
In other words, backpackers are continually aware of things such as price disparities between neighboring countries, or how a product or service in one country is better or worse than that of another country. In the result, this knowledge, if well understood, can be utilized to create a temporary or even long-term business.
So, if you aren’t into working while abroad, hate having a boss like I do, enjoy embarking on business ventures, and need money to travel, you might want to consider going into business for yourself. In the following guide, you will find list of just a few of the business ventures I have encountered and undertaken while on the road.
1) Sell Jewelry
Selling jewelry while backpacking the world is simple, profitable and something everyone can do to make a quick buck. Jewelry is light, you can sell it on the street or at a hostel, the start up cost is low, and if you sell to westerners, you can charge western prices.
First, you need to know how to weave hemp. If you don’t already know how, you can easily find a guide online. Second, always be on the look out for cool pendent’s or gems in cheap countries. Old antique shops are usually a good bet. I once met a Japanese/Austrian couple in Cairo, who funded their 5 years of backpacking solely through their jewelry briefcase business.
2) Export Clothing
I once met a British girl who produced her own unique skirt in India and then brought them back with her to the UK and sold them. She made enough to continually take trips to her favorite country, India. So, If you have an idea for a cool T-Shirt or pants line, and are in India or Bangladesh, this is your chance to steal some business from the big dogs and ensure that those you employ receive proper pay and treatment.
The way to begin is to contact a local wholesaler, which in India usually isn’t to hard to find. Start out with a decent quantity (the more you order the cheaper they will be), and haggle well. Then, throw your shirts or scarf’s or whatever into you backpack and head to an expensive country. Finally, go around to local retailers and see if they are interested in your product. If not, you can always sell them at fairs or street markets. Note that this venture requires a significant start up cost, so be sure not to blow your last travel funds on it.
3) Sell Fruit
If you are in a fruit abundant country, there is no reason why you can’t pick fruit from trees and sell it on the street. A great country to do this in is Thailand. Thailand is full of coconuts that, if you are able to climb the trees to get them, can be yours for free. You can then sell them to tourists on the beaches and make enough for a delicious pad Thai dinner. Hawaii is also another great place to pick and sell fresh mangos and pineapples. And if you can’t sell them, you can always eat them for dinner. Most recently, I ended up selling sugar cane in Ethiopia. Check out this video post if your interested.
4) Go Busking
If you are a decent musician and have your instrument on you, performing on the street is a great way to make a few bucks. I myself travel with a harmonica and have made quite a bit of change playing it throughout Europe. I have found that if you play those countries national anthem or other traditional songs, it definitely helps increase your coinage. Although the attention is a bit nerve-racking at first, once you get into it and let your ego down, the money will come and you might just start to like it.
5) Transport Drugs
I once met a Norwegian in Nepal who would mail cheap painkillers he had bought at the pharmacy back home to his friend. His friend would then sell them and send him half the profits, which ranged in the thousands of dollars. Although this method is highly profitable and can be done in many developing countries, it is not recommended. It is particularly risky for the sender and receiver, and perpetuates drug use and addiction.
Fortunately, there are legal ways to make money through the transportation of drugs. The easiest, least risky, and most backpacker friendly way is to buy tobacco and alcohol at cheap duty free shops and then sell them in rich countries. Although there is usually a customs limit of two cartons of cigarettes and 1 liter of alcohol, you can usually stretch this a bit without too much risk. However, as my crazy Irish friend once illustrated, if you try and smuggle 100 cartons from Tunisia to Ireland and are caught, you will be detained for quiet a few days and be relieved of all your cigarettes.
6) Sell Anything You Can Find
It is always a good idea to check the dumpsters behind local supermarkets. I once did this is Scotland and found dozens of bouquets of unspoiled flowers. I then sold them on the street and made enough to buy a new pair of boxers at a second hand store, a liter of White Lightening Cider and a meal. The dumpsters of the world are full of unspoiled treasures just waiting to be sold.
Another good method is to ask local bakeries or even Starbucks for their baked goods at the end of the day. Then sell them at discounted prices to drunken pub-crawlers that night.
There are endless ways for the backpacker to make money around the world. As long as you keep your eyes open, each country you visit will inspire a new money making idea. You might want to import Japanese heated toilet seats to Scandinavia or import Thailand’s famous Change beer to the UK. You might have an idea for a backpack and try and have it produced cheap in China and sold in the US. The possibilites are truly endless and when you get broke enough, the ideas and motivation to follow them through will increase ten fold. Basically what I’m trying to say is that once you go backpacking, there are always ways to make money on the road.
Good luck and prosperous travels,