Dropping everything to see the world: that’s the dream, right? Whether it’s for a week, a month, or a year, we all want to explore this big ol’ planet of ours and meet the wonderful people who inhabit it. But for many of us it’s just a dream. We can come up with all kinds of reasons why travel isn’t feasible, but probably the biggest reason of all is the cost. Traveling is just so darn expensive! *le sigh*
But from someone who felt the pinch and did it anyway, here are a few tips to make that dream of globe-trotting a reality, and may even improve your experience along the way!
Hostels are a great, affordable way to keep your independence while traveling and, if you stay somewhere that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit the jackpot! With a bit of sneaky pre-loading and Ocean’s Eleven-esque sleight of hand, you’ll never have to buy more than one meal a day.
For added security, make sure you bring a padlock (there are always lockers, but often you have to pay for the lock). And if you’re a woman traveling alone and don’t like the idea of bunking with a bunch of strangers, you can usually find a girl’s only dorm. Then you’ll avoid waking up to a drunk Australian pissing on the floor at 3am (true story).
I. Love. Couchsurfing.
Sign up, trawl through the hosts, and fire off some requests. This is particularly great for solo travelers as you immediately have a buddy to see the sights with. Plus, a local’s perspective is always invaluable as they know all the cool places off the beaten track… which are often cheaper and far more authentic than the touristy spots! And, unlike a hostel, you’ll get to vet who you stay with before you get there.
In exchange for a free couch you can cook your host a meal, bring some gifty things from home, or treat them to something fun!
If you’re wanting to get away for a longer period of time, you can’t beat Workaway. The way it works is that you volunteer for a person/ family/ organisation and, in exchange for six hours of work, five days a week, you get free room and board. Brilliant! Especially if you don’t have a work visa but want to stay somewhere for a month or more. Just think about the skills you can offer (language teaching, gardening, IT, child-minding) and find a host to match. You’ll instantly become part of a family or community, which is an invaluable support system to a lonely traveler, and get to live like a local. You might even pick up a new language or skill while you’re there.
After accommodation, the next priciest thing you’ll encounter is the transport. But, depending on where you’re staying, you can usually weed out a cost effective mode of getting from A to B. If you know far in advance where you’ll be, then book your trains early. You can get some absolute steals a couple of months before your travel date. Otherwise, you can switch out trains for buses at a fraction of the cost (and even take an overnight bus and save on a night’s accommodation!). Staying in and around France? Why not sign up to Blablacar, an incredible ride-sharing scheme.
Feeling more adventurous and traveling with a secure group? There are many countries where hitch-hiking is a great alternative (Belgium and the Netherlands for example). Check out Hitchwiki for the best spots recommended by other travelers.
I understand that not all of these methods will work for everyone, chose the ones you feel most comfortable with, and never do something which doesn’t feel safe. It’s all well and good to shave off some pounds, but don’t do it at the expense of your safety and peace of mind. At the same time, relax and have fun! I’ve used one or all of these methods throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, and had an absolute blast doing it.
Traveling is an adventure, and you don’t know what you can achieve until you go out and do it. So, what are you waiting for?! Get wanderlust-y and search out that horizon!