I know all of us are dreaming to travel. But behind these dreams, there are also fears. ‘What if I don’t want to come back to my so-called home?’ ‘What if I run out of money?’ ‘What if I end up leaving everything and come home to nothing?’. These thoughts are like monsters chasing that dream away. It causes fear and anxiety to the point that it will get you nowhere.
I too had these monsters especially when I started blogging. I’m not here to tell you to pack your bags and leave. There’s no way I’m gonna say that haha. We need financial stability, we all do. So what I’m here to tell you is that you can earn money while traveling-- one way is to be a Travel Massage Therapist. We’ve been there, done that. For this post, I’ll tell you about our journey on being a Massage Therapist and how you can become one too ♡
My Life Before Traveling
Before traveling long-term, 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. Somehow, my life still felt incomplete. 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 me-- I should do what I really loved instead, and that’s traveling.
My Life While Backpacking
I was living on my savings at first but I realized that I needed to earn money while I was at it. Money flies so fast I didn’t even notice how much I was spending in a day especially when I’m having fun. Anyway, while I was traveling around Laos, I met Jonathan. We became a couple and started traveling together. We were inseparable since then. He’s now my husband, by the way :p
What Is A Massage Therapist?
A Massage Therapist is a person trained and licensed to perform a massage therapy. Massage is a complex practice and one needs to be trained to be licensed.
How We Learned About Massage Therapy
We were based in Vietnam around that time when we had planned to go to India to study and become 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.
When we were in India, we learned about Ayurveda – an authentic Indian healing. It’s completely different and it sounds more exotic than any other Asian massages and we really liked it! That’s when we finally decided to go to Rishikesh and study to become certified massage therapists. We paid 200 USD each for a one-week intensive course. It was an amazing experience. The training was very comprehensive but we needed to practice to perfect the craft with real customers.
How You Can Get Certified As A Massage Therapist
Ask yourself about what kind of massage you want to give yourself and start from there. There are different types of massage and I suggest you focus on one or two so you can market it as your ‘specialty’. This includes Ayurveda, Thai, Swedish, Hot Stone, Deep Tissue, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Hot Stone, and Shiatsu.
If you have the luxury of time and some extra cash for flights, then I suggest you head to India to get your certification like we did or probably Thailand where it’s a lot cheaper and more authentic. It can be costly to get a certification in western countries.
For Filipinos who can’t afford that, worry not! TESDA offers a free Massage Therapy NCII Course. The best part is it can be done online and you can learn at your own phase and own time. All you have to do is to create a TESDA account to get access to all the free courses. (I love TESDA for giving opportunities like this!!)
How We Found Our Clients (And How They Found Us)
Getting a client could be difficult at first. Like every business, you need to market yourself well. It takes time to get client’s trust and good reputation as not everyone will be satisfied with your service but once you earn it, your hard work will definitely pay off! Here are some ways on how you can market your services :)
Invest in a portable massage bed- While we were in Cusco, Peru – where the Machu Picchu is, there are a lot of tourists wanting a massage after a long day of tour. We volunteered in a lodge and during our free time, Jon would push our portable massage bed in a wheelbarrow to different hotels to offer our services. Just seeing a white guy pushing a portable massage bed is a good marketing strategy! :)
Make friends with hotel/hostel owners- This is a very good way to get clients. We 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. There’s a very good market in Peru!
- Make print ads!- We know no shame. We made a poster with our faces on it together with the services we offer which include yoga sessions and massage and posted it on hotels.
Make a facebook page- Do not underestimate the power of social media. Make a facebook page with something like ‘Massage in *wherever you are* and you could get yourself a lot of clients.
- By word of mouth- This is what brought us most of our clients. We made sure that we do our best for every client. That’s how we started to gain good reputation and that’s when we stopped looking for clients because they were the one who come looking for us. Haha! Around this time, we get 2 to 5 clients in a day for each of us! :)
How Much You Could Earn As A Massage Therapist
When we did this in Peru, we charge 40-50 USD/client and we get an average of 2-3 clients a day. It really differs depending on where you are. In some Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam, I don’t really think it’s a good profession since spas and locals offer it for as low as 4 USD. How can you even compete with that?? But in the UK, I’ve heard that they even charge a minimum of 150 USD! So this could really be a good source of income depending on where you are.
Will I Recommend You To Do It?
Yes! But I suggest that you only do this on the side. You should still have other sources of income aside from it. Sure you can earn a lot but there are some days (or even weeks) that you will get no client at all.
In our case, we were also selling coconut oils and teaching English at that time. We were also starting to earn from our new website.
You Need A Working Visa To Do It Abroad
Just a friendly reminder, depending on where you are, you might need a working visa if you’re planning to do it abroad. You can't do it in the United States, Europe, Australia or Canada without an insurance and working visa. Western countries have stringent requirements as they consider it as a controlled profession. Sure you can get away with a few clients while on your tourist visa but I suggest you not to risk getting it revoked if you’re caught doing this illegally. We've never done it there!
I know you could partner with local hotels or yoga studios to help you with Business visa and maybe you can only organize or partner with yoga teachers organizing retreats where you can offer your services. There are different ways but just make sure you do it without getting into trouble!
That’s all for this post! Hope this helps you in your backpacking journey wherever you may be. Remember, being a Massage Therapist is a noble profession. People may think otherwise but by being one, you know you’re doing something good to someone ♡