We know that there are many of you out there, dreaming of traveling the world, crippled by the big scary question, “How could I ever afford it?” No matter how much you save, no matter how cheap you travel, eventually the funds will run out and you’ll find yourself on the plane back home. But what if we didn’t have to take that flight back home?
Welcome to the “Work and Travel Abroad“ Series! In this series, we feature stories from travelers who have managed to find ways to earn money while traveling by working jobs that are nothing like your typical 9-5 routine. They’ll be sharing their experiences, giving their advice, and hopefully inspiring many of you to believe that paying your bills and saving for the future while traveling the world IS POSSIBLE!
Today, I’m excited to share my Q&A with Kach from Two Monkeys Travel, who shares her experience working as a Massage Therapist.
Q: Who is the Kach? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I’m Kach but my real name is Katrina! I’m a 26 year old Filipina who worked in the Middle East for 4 years starting when I was 20 until I quit my corporate job to travel at the age of 24. While backpacking in Laos, I met the best travel buddy and partner in life that I could ask for, Jonathan.
Q: What was your life like before you started traveling? Where did you work? What did you do?
A: I grew up and studied Economics in the Philippines until the age of 20 when my father, who was working in Kuwait (Middle East), brought me there to visit him and I eventually found a job that kept me working there for 4 years. I moved to Kuwait in 2009 but I took my first leisurely trip in 2011 and from there I started travelling more often – I was much more of a luxury traveler before I discovered backpacking.
I worked in the Quality Assurance Department of a Dental Company in Kuwait before moving to Kurdistan, Iraq for a career change and worked there in the Security Department of an Oil Company. But after 5 months, I resigned to pursue my dream of backpacking around the world.
Q: What inspired you to start traveling? How long have you been traveling for?
A: I was travelling locally when I was younger and I loved going on road-trips when I still had a car in University, but if you mean travel long term, then I really started this trip last April 2013. I decided to travel because no matter how well I performed in my career, I was never satisfied, no level of success was ever good enough. When I realized this it just made sense to look towards what I really loved instead!
Q: How do you afford to keep traveling?
A: We work while we travel! Before pursuing this long term trip (and even before meeting Jon), I had my savings from 10% of my salary during my final year in the Middle East.
Now that I’m with Jon, we both work in between – we will stop in a place and replenish our funds, we will teach English, we do donation only yoga classes and Ayurveda Massage Therapy. We also volunteer sometimes when we decide that we want to stretch our budget a bit! However, since November 2014, we have already started to monetize our Two Monkeys Travel website!
Q: How did you get into Massage Therapy as a means of earning money abroad? Did you have any formal training/education?
A: We were already in Vietnam and had planned to go to India to study and become a certified yoga teachers! I really wanted to learn how to do massages for personal practice until we met travelling hippies who were making enough money to thrive from massages alone. We learned Ayurveda – authentic Indian healing, it’s completely different and it sounds more exotic than any other Asian massages, plus we really liked it! That’s when we finally decided to go to Rishikesh and study to become certified massage therapists, the training was very comprehensive but you need to practice to perfect your practice with real customers!
Q: How much did the certification cost?
We paid USD $200 each for 1 week intensive course in Rishikesh, India. We were already in India fro 3 months and asked around where is the best and we found Ayuskama Rishikesh as a good one when we arrived in the area.
We had to practice though on each other before we started accepting paid services
Q: How do you find clients while on the road?
A: While in Cuzco, Peru – where the Machu Picchu is, there are a lot of tourists. We volunteered in a lodge and during our free time, Jon would push our wheelbarrow and we went to different hotels to offer our services! We also made friends with Hotel/ Hostel owners and we gave them a 10% commission for every client referral. We then moved to Arequipa, the second biggest city in Peru, we then targeted the expatriates community and some locals who worked for the mining industry. Actually, it was a word of mouth that brought most of our clients. We started to gain good reputation and that’s when we had more clients up to 2 to 5 clients in a day.
Q: What are some highs and lows of being a massage therapist?
A: Lows – Firstly this kind of profession is not seen as ideal in my own country. Some of my family members are upset with what I’m doing due to the mentality of having a degree and a good career then trading it to a nomadic lifestyle and doing massages to earn money – they think it’s a stupid decision.
But this profession makes me super happy and I feel more relaxed after doing each Ayurveda treatment especially when you see the glow from your client’s aura after each therapy!
Q: Is the pay enough to cover your living expenses? Are you able to save anything to continue traveling
A: We charge 40 to 50 USD per session so if we have 3 or 4 clients in a day then we can easily earn $120 to $200! And oh, it’s both of us who are doing this therapy – so there are days when we have 2 or 3 clients each day!
Aside from being a Massage Therapist, Jon and I also have other sources of income – we sold coconut oils, we teach private English classes and we are also earning money from our website. So, we have a diverse source of income and we are also able to add to our savings!
Q: Have you visited any countries where demand for massages wasn’t high? Or maybe wasn’t allowed at all? What about countries where you made the most money from it?
A: We were in the UK and I was on a tourist visa so we didn’t do any massage therapy there, although we’ve heard that one massage can cost USD $150 and more! We’ve found that there is always a demand, but the local prices can vary drastically. In Vietnam we wouldn’t even consider it as it’s just too cheap for us to compete with the locals.
We earned a lot of money doing Massage Therapy in Peru and we’re actually planning to apply for a long–term work visa but Jon and I have decided to continue our travels and moved to Central America.
Q: Would you recommend massage therapy to someone who wants to quit their 9-5 routine and explore the world? What advice would you give them?
A: Yes, I would recommend it but they should also have other sources of income aside from this. There are days that you’ll have a lot of clients but there are days that no one is interested. It’s quite hard to get clients at the beginning so what we highly suggest is to make friends with locals or maybe Expats who live in a place for a quite a while, then from there you can know your target market!
Q: Where would one start if they wanted to follow your path of becoming a massage therapist?
A: First of all, choose which massage you want to practice; a good sign is to think about which massage you like to receive and start from there. Usually getting certified in the US or Europe is more complicated and costly, but if you plan to practice and travel in Asia or South America then look for courses in those countries or somewhere like India where it’s a lot cheaper and the therapies are very authentic.
Q: What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to in 2015?
A: We’re now heading to Central America and will be there for few months, maybe doing massages on the beach while Jonathan is enjoying his surfing! We are actually saving for a big trip to Antarctica this year, so we really have to work smart before that!
Huge thanks to Kach for taking the time to answer my questions and share her experience with us! Follow Kach and Jonathan’s adventures on their blog Two Monkeys Travel, their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Does being a Massage Therapist sound like something you might want to do to help you travel the world? If not, come check out other posts in the “Work and Travel Abroad” Series
Have any other questions for Kach or want to share your own experience working while traveling abroad? Leave your comments below!
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