A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu
The Old Days Of Travel
In the past, world travel was seen as something only for the wealthy and privileged.
My oh my, how times have changed.
What if I told you that you can travel the world, long term, spending no money at all?
Yes, that’s right, you can have great, memorable, life changing experiences without spending any money whatsoever.
And not only that, you can even get paid.
About 3 years ago, without a penny to my name (I was -£5,000 overdrawn from University), I lent off a friend and jumped on a plane to Australia, where I begun what turned into a 3 year adventure across 35 countries and 4 continents.
Along the way, I worked, volunteered and found creative ways to travel the world on little, if not any money, while creating some memorable experiences.
Now I want to share my knowledge and techniques with you so that you can do the same.
(I’ve split the article into the following 3 sections for easy reading: Travel/Accommodation, Food and Making Money).
Hitchhiking is a great way to eliminate transport costs, meet local people and have a spontaneous adventure you’ll never forget.
Society labels hitchhiking as perhaps something that’s dangerous and risky but here’s a bit of empirical evidence from my experiences to calm the nerves. In 3 years hitchhiking about 40,000km in over 1,000 vehicles across 20+ countries and 4 continents, I’ve never ever run into a serious problem.
In fact, some of my best stories from travel, including being dropped off at the valet of a Las Vegas casino in an 18-wheeler truck, have come from the good old thumb out at the side of the road.
2. Hospitality Exchange Sites – Couchsurfing, BeWelcome, Trustroots.
There’s a lot of really amazing people out there who are happy to offer you a place to crash for a night or two. Not only that, you’ll also get to understand the place you are visiting from the perspective of a local.
Couchsurfing is the largest and most popular hospitality exchange on the internet, boasting around 10 million users. However, since it’s corporate takeover and many debatable changes to the site, new and more organic sites such as Trustroots and BeWelcome have popped up.
I’ve made some great friends and had some great experiences using hospitality exchange sites, including my very first time CouchSurfing with a nudist in Montreal, Canada.
3. Work Exchange – Workaway, HelpX, WWOOF
Ever fancied helping out in a hostel in Mexico, volunteering on an eco project in Jordan or working in a vineyard in the South of France?
Well, you can, and there are lots of novel opportunities out there.
Timeframes can range from one week to over a year, meaning you can pretty much live for free by totally eliminating food and accommodation costs.
To name a few memorable work exchanges, I’ve helped out in hostels in USA, Albania and Romania, volunteered on a farm that produced over 400 varieties of tomato, and even help built electric fences at a livestock farm in the Canadian Prairies.
I can’t think of a better feeling than unzipping that tent door as the sun rises on a fresh morning in the wilderness.
It costs to pitch your tent in a campground, but it doesn’t need to if you’re fine with no shower and drifting out of sight to find somewhere quiet to pitch your tent for the evening.
When finding a place to pitch your tent, stay away from populated areas. I usually head to the edge of a town and find a forest or a quiet park.
Also, if you have trouble I usually have trouble sleeping on flat ground like me, then a Self-Inflating Matt like this one is ideal for a great night’s sleep.
Some of the most memorable places I’ve camped: A beautiful secluded beach to myself in rural Tasmania, an abandoned building in Canada and an olive oil plantation in Greece.
5. Dumpster Diving
Rummaging in bins for food is one of the best ways to eat on the road for free.
Go to places where food is thrown out on a daily basis – think supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.
Remember though, timing is crucial. Head to the dumpsters just after closing time and the food will still be pretty fresh.
But cautious and remember it’s been binned for a reason, so use intuition to judge whether it’s safe to eat or not.
Disclaimer: Dumpster diving may be considered theft or trespassing, so only do so at your own risk!
6. Local Markets, Bakeries & Fruit Shops
If you’re really out there, hit local markets, bakeries and fruit shops an hour before closing time and you’ll find a lot of great produce is being given away for free which would be otherwise binned.
All that’s needed is a friendly smile and the courage to ASK. It will surprise you how kind and giving other human beings can be.
Finding wild fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs and edible plants is a nutritious and fun way to eat for free.
Being a pro forager comes in pretty handy too when trekking, or camping in the wilderness.
Falling Fruit has a super useful wild food foraging map, showing thousands of locations across the world where delicious wild food is free for the taking.
When I first travelled to Australia I was really short on money for the first couple of weeks so pretty much lived off naval orange trees until I sorted my financial position.
8. Community Kitchens
How well do you know your city?
It’s likely that there are a few community kitchens in your neighbourhood.
I live in Germany, and community kitchens, known as Volxküche” are very popular here.
Here you’ll find great food and the chance to socialisise with like-minded individuals. They are usually based on a “whatever you can donate” basis but sometimes they are completely free.
Run a quick Google search to see what community kitchens you can find in your area.
9. Working Holiday Visa
If you want to earn money while you are travelling then why not get a working holiday visa?
To name several places, there is great schemes set up in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan and Canada, often for people under the age of 30. Check out this link to find much more information on a country-by-country basis.
This is the strategy I used when I first started travelling. I figured that rather than saving up at home in a job that didn’t excite me, I wanted to travel and work at the same time doing something completely new.
I threw myself in the deep end by taking on a job as a grain labourer which involved working up to 15 hours a day in the baking 40 degrees heat of outback Australia.
I also planted pumpkins, washed trucks, made ice-lollies and wine to save and fund the start of my world travels.
10. Become a digital nomad
Got a skill to share and want the freedom to work from your laptop anywhere around the world?
Why not join try location independence a nomadic community of bloggers, designers, IT specialists, engineers and everything in between?
By avoiding high rent, bills and the other costs of living in western society, digital nomads are creating sustainable, location independent lifestyles. Beyond food and shelter, all they need is a laptop and a reliable Internet connection.
As a digital nomad you’ll be able to build your life around your own schedule, while exploring and experiencing all the world has to offer.
You can connect with the digital nomad community here, and this is also a great resource for digital nomads to compare different locations based on criteria such as quality of wifi, weather, and cost of living.
11. Busking, Magician, or Street Artist
Are you pretty nifty on a ukulele or have a hidden talent of juggling?
Get creative and go try some busking on the streets.
All you need is a friendly smile and a container (hat, guitar cover etc etc) to collect donations.
I have a friend who travels the world with her ukulele and harmonica and manages to fund her lifestyle by busking.
12. Hospitality – Ski Resorts, Cruise Ships, Rep Work/Travel Agency, Teach English, Work in a Hostel.
There’s a whole world of opportunities out there to earn money working in hospitality while having fun and meeting interesting people.
Not only will you get paid, but it’s also typical that you’ll get food and accommodation too.
Here’s a few helpful resources to get you going:
Jobs on Yachts – Find work on a boat.
Hostelmanagement – Find work in a hostel.
Skiing – Find work at a ski resort.
Teach English – Find work teaching English abroad.
13. CrowdFund Your Travel Idea/Trip/Project
Got a great idea that will benefit other people?
Well how about this… The sharing economy is in full swing and Crowdfunding platforms such as Trevolta can now help you fund your entire travel dream.
And it’s simple process too. Create a video, design a landing page that summarises your idea, and you’re ready to start sharing your project with your community.
When I speak to people about travel, money is pretty much always the number one issue holding them back from packing their bags and going to see the world.
I hope this article has shown you that with a bit of creativeness, you don’t actually need money to have a really great experience travelling.
Opportunities are abundant and there’s no better time than NOW.
Get up, embrace the fear and go and create some great experiences that are worth telling your grandkids about (let me know about them too).
Thanks for reading and all the best,
Daniel Beaumont, Sunday 13th March 2016
About the Author
Hello everyone, I’m Dan – a 28-year-old social entrepreneur and writer from the north of England, living in Bucharest, Romania. I’m currently writing my first book about my 4-year journey around the world seeking wisdom and life-lessons from everyday people I met hitchhiking and Couchsurfing.
I discovered that travel, if approached with the right mindset, can be life-changing, and a trip combining travel, purpose and introspection is a great way to learn, challenge oneself and change for the better. Now my mission in life is to share what I’ve learned to inspire others to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and use travel, entrepreneurship and technology as a means to make the world a better place.
I’m also the founder of Podstel – a vision to help humanity belong and grow by creating a worldwide network of ‘homes’ that bring locals and travellers together to share their stories, passions and skills. The first two Podstels are open and thriving in Bucharest, so if you’re passing through, be sure to come and say hi, or stay the night with us.
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