There is a large misconception that in order to travel the world, you need to be either rich or retired.
That’s not really true. In order to travel, you just need to have keen research skills and the courage to leave.
When you travel there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong, so it’s easy to justify settling for the cozy, routine life that we have built for ourselves in partnership with societal expectations. Once you settle, it’s easy to dismiss the idea simply by using the excuse that traveling is expensive.
The hardest part usually isn’t finding funds; it’s making the decision to, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, “buy the ticket, and take the ride.” There are ways to travel on a limited budget, and there are even ways to travel for free.
So go on. Make it a priority. Find a way. Do your research. There is nothing in this world that can stop you other than your own doubts and the limitations you put on your life.
Step 1: Finding Food and Board
There are literally thousands of opportunities to volunteer abroad. Not only will you receive food and a free place to sleep, but also you have the chance to stay with the locals and learn about the culture. You’re only expense is getting there.
WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, lets you offer a helping hand on a farm virtually anywhere around the world in exchange for some hospitality. The only cost is the membership fee to become a WOOFER, which varies by country but is almost always below $50. Once you set up your account, you are able to search through different farms and contact anyone you’re interested in helping.
Helpx, is a very similar set up but expands past organic farms and gives people the chance to work in hostels and resorts. This site works the same in every country and the membership fee is around $30. Also with Helpx, on top of being able to contact different hosts, the hosts are actually able to contact you if your profile fits their job requirements.
Stay for Free
Thanks to an online community of travelers and resources, finding great, free accommodations is surprisingly easy and requires little to no work.
Try couch surfing if you’re staying somewhere for a short period of time. It’s literally what it sounds like—you stay on someone’s couch for the night or for the weekend and the host will often give you an inside look at the city, feed you, introduce you to people and get drunk with you. Making a couch surfing account is free and it’s the perfect way to meet the locals anywhere you go.
Housesitting is also a very practical way to stay somewhere for free with minimal work involved. When people leave for vacations, you get to stay in their homes and make sure nothing goes wrong. Basically, you’re living there temporarily. If you want someone to look after your house, signing up is free. For the house-sitters, there is a $20 registration fee as well as the cost of getting to the house.
Step 2: Finding a Source of Income on the Road
You don’t have to be a brilliant writer or photographer in order to enjoy working abroad.
Sign up for “Au Pair.” This is essentially being a nanny, but you get to be a nanny practically anywhere you want. There’s usually some housework involved and childcare, but in return you receive a free place to stay and food. By using AuPairWorld, you cut out the use of an agency by finding your host family completely on your own. Your only cost is the $50 membership fee and the transportation to get to your host family.
Work at a seasonal ski resort. For anyone prone to adventure and the outdoors with an aptitude for skiing or snowboarding, take your expertise overseas and help out at one of the many ski resorts around the world. This option is popular in places like Australia and New Zealand, but it does require a little more planning since you’ll most likely need to get a working visa.
Teach English in Asia. There is a surprisingly high demand for English teachers, especially in places like South Korea and Japan. You don’t need a teaching degree and you don’t need to speak the language of whatever country you’re going to. However, you do need to take a training course to receive proper certification. Training can be done online starting at $227.50.
Step 3: Paying for Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Discounted and Free Traveling
Now that you’ve gotten your living expenses handled, there’s still a matter of actually buying the ticket to get there.
Round tickets to Europe and Asia can often times be well over $1000, but there are always ways around that cost if you’re willing to look.
If you’re flexible, take a look at Sky Scanner, a website that allows you to search the cheapest flight prices for an entire month, and set your destination to ‘Everywhere’, giving you a list of the cheapest flights going in all directions across the world.
The best way, though, is to get yourself a credit card that gives you free travel miles with every purchase like the American Express card. It’s the simplest way to rack up free miles without really having to change anything in your life.
If a credit card isn’t an option, try simply getting a rewards card. You can scan the card with each purchase and the points add up similarly to the credit card; however, not every purchase you make will get you free miles.
If you’re traveling by train, sign up for rail passes. It’s simple and it can save you hundreds of dollars.
Of course, if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to travel, hitch-hiking is still a viable option to get from point A to point B. It sounds dangerous, but for the most part the only people who pick you up are kind spirits or retired travelers looking to stick a toe vicariously back into their glory years. Just use common sense and stay patient. Hitch-hiking will often bring you your greatest memories and some incredible unforeseen adventures.