- Tom Grond has been traveling full time since 2012 and sharing his adventures on social media.
- As a content creator, he earns between $1,000 and $10,000 for posts working with brands like Google.
- His goal is to visit every country in the world; so far, he’s been to 159.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Tom Grond, a full-time traveler and content creator from Simpelveld, Netherlands. Insider has verified his income with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I travel full time, and I’ve visited 159 countries, including Vatican City, Kosovo, and Taiwan.
There are four reasons I travel to a new country: I want to see it, I’ve been invited by a brand, I want to create content there, and I have a goal to visit every country in the world.
I went to 62 countries in 2022, 25 of them for the first time. I document my travels on my blog and my social media. Through ad revenue and brand deals, I earn between $15,000 to $20,000 a month. Here’s how I do it.
My first overseas trip was to Aruba for vacation in 2006
I went to Aruba in 2006 and met a lot of different people from the Americas, and I discovered I was keen to learn about other cultures.
After returning home to the Netherlands, I worked as a process analyst for the government’s welfare department and saved up to backpack around 23 countries for all of 2008.
After my big backpacking trip, I went back home and returned to my job, which I liked. But traveling was my love.
I worked again until I saved up enough to quit my job in 2012 with plans to travel by myself for four years.
Instagram started to take off at the same time, which changed everything
I worked temporary jobs in the places I visited to help support myself. When I was working as a dive guide in Ko Tao, Thailand, I started posting pictures of my work on Instagram, which had started getting popular.
The posts gained traction, largely through hashtags. Some of my posts also got reposted on bigger travel accounts, which helped me reach new followers.
My following grew, and hotels around the world started to invite me to stay. At first, one in Bangkok asked me to come and take photos, and I didn’t realize they were offering me free accommodation. I kept telling them I couldn’t afford to stay there.
From there, it snowballed, and I kept getting more and more invites. In 2017, I stayed in three luxury hotels in the Maldives.
I changed my travels to accommodate the demand instead of going to places I wanted to see. After a while, I felt like I was a slave to this new system.
I realized I needed to step up my game
At the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul in January 2017, there were people onstage who talked about making $10,000 a month — they knew who I was and had fewer followers than me. I knew I needed to start making money, as I was still paying for my own flights most of the time.
I started blogging in summer 2016 and realized I could make good money through ad revenue. A year later, I started getting ranked on Google and realized it was the future for me.
I don’t work for exposure anymore — clients have to pay for my time
If I really like a destination and I’m interested, I’m happy to negotiate a deal.
For a photo post on Instagram, I charge a minimum of $1,500. A reel starts at $2,000, and three Instagram stories (my minimum) is $1,000.
Half of my income comes from influencer partnerships. I worked with Google on a Maps campaign and was paid $10,000 for one Instagram reel, but it’s not always that lucrative. The rest of my income comes from affiliate marketing and advertising on my website. My business is based in Dubai for tax purposes.
I spend an average of $4,000 to $5,000 a month traveling. My girlfriend is also a travel influencer, so I can join her on trips as a plus-one sometimes.
I don’t actively search for collaborations on social media
I receive about six inquiries a day. I recently received campaign requests from Mongolia; Colombia; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and Italy in one day.
When this happens, I don’t just choose the offer that pays the most. Mongolia actually paid the least, but because it seemed like a really cool opportunity, that’s the one I chose.
I spend about 4 hours a day making content and engaging with people on Instagram
Blogging takes me about eight hours a week. I tend to be guided by what clients want me to write about.
Understanding Google’s SEO strategy also helps me pick what I’m going to write. For example, a post about the 25 best things to do in a destination is much better for SEO than the four best things. I also spend a lot of time regularly updating old posts rather than writing new ones.
I’ve had a lot of crazy experiences
My favorite places have been Nepal, Argentina, Hawaii, Namibia, Italy, and New Zealand.
Last year, I was almost blown over the edge of a waterfall in Guyana when we got caught in a freak storm.
The most amazing trip that comes to mind was Syria in 2019. Visiting the city of Homs left a huge impression on me. There were apartment buildings reduced to concrete rubble, and it looked like an apocalypse. There wasn’t even a curtain waving or a sofa sitting there — just empty spaces and concrete.
Pakistan, which I’ve now been to many times, rejected my visa applications when I first tried to go because I went to the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir and had a stamp from there on my passport.
What I love about being a creator and influencer is changing perceptions
It’s important to remember that going to a country doesn’t mean you support a regime. When I go to the United States, no one asks me if I support Joe Biden, so when I go to Iran, don’t think that means I support its government.
A lot of people were really blown away by my recent trip to Algeria. Many thought that Algerian women needed to be super conservative, but that’s not always true.
My followers also thought my photos from the mountains in Pakistan looked like Switzerland. It was cool to be able to showcase the beauty and the people of a country that many aren’t familiar with.
I love traveling, but I don’t like to live as a tourist
After 4,000 days of traveling, I don’t need to see every attraction. It’s exhausting — I just want to hang out.
I’ve learned to live in the moment and not miss things about the Netherlands, other than my friends and family sometimes.
As for the future, slower travel is something that I’m looking forward to. One day I’ll settle down, but not in the next year at least. I get offered so many great opportunities. How can I say no?