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We’ve all heard the saying that the best things in life are always free. But most people assume this rule only applies to life’s little pleasures like smelling flowers, a walk in the park, or laughing with friends. And sure, those are great, but what about those bigger pleasures, like jetting off across the world? Can you do that for free too?
Well, if not for free, then for very cheap. If you’re looking for an international experience but don’t have the cash to pay for, this article is for you. Much to many peoples disbelief, you don’t need thousands of dollars to get yourself on the road. In fact, all you need is a little originality, some guts and enthusiasm, good planning, and some ideas to get you started.
Remember, travel isn’t just for the wealthy; anyone can travel, even if they have little money to fund their trip. If you dream of travelling to far-off lands, here are 6 ways I have found to travel the world for free; Or at the very least, almost free.
You can find several house swap sites online that put people, who are interested in house swapping, in touch with each other. Many of these sites charge a registration fee, which in some cases, is quite high. However, by using such a company, you do have some protection against being harassed by non-genuine people. You can also find home swapping opportunities on websites like Gumtree, Craigslist , Home Exchange, or Loquo.
You need to be comfortable with total strangers living in your home for this to work for you though. To help break the ice, try to get to know your prospective house swapper by exchanging emails and photos before you commit to an arrangement. It also helps to look to swap with someone in a similar lifestyle or stage of life. If you’re a young couple, you’re probably more likely to find a good fit at the apartment of another young couple than at the home of an older, retired gentleman.
When people go on vacation, they may not want to leave their home unattended. This is where the opportunity to house sit comes in. This is a great opportunity to live rent-free in another part of the country or across the world. There will probably be some jobs that you need to do in the house however, like weeding and watering the garden, feeding and walking the dog etc, as well as generally looking after the house so take note of this and decide if this is for you. Not everyone wants to do chores on their vacation. If this option interests you, check out websites such as housesitworld.com and caretaker.org to find house sit opportunities in the areas you want to travel. You can also talk to relatives and friends that live in other places. I have house sat for numerous family members and it has worked out great. They get away, I get away, and the house is looked after.
Get a Job
There are always job opportunities in most countries. Once you are living and working overseas, it is a simple matter to explore the surrounding area and even neighboring countries. You are being paid, so you have funds but you won’t have to pay expensive air fares to get overseas; you are already there. Some large corporations have exchange programs in which you go to work in the office in another city or country. I have had friends who have done this and have really enjoyed the experience.
Teaching jobs are available overseas, in American or UK schools that cater for the children of expats living there. These positions often come with attractive packages that include rent, health benefits and travel expenses. Engineers, accountants, electricians and builders are also among other positions that are often available overseas. This is something my husband and I are actually looking into right now. We might work overseas for year or two. I will keep you posted as to what we decide.
There are also summer camp in the US and Canada where you can work. A working holiday is a great way to see the world without dipping into your savings or running up a huge credit card bill. You basically get paid to go on vacation.
The opportunities for volunteering overseas are numerous. You might like to offer your work talents in third world countries, volunteer in wildlife sanctuaries that are working to protect endangered species, help build houses or community projects in poor areas, teach English or life skills to the underprivileged, join the Peace Corps or be a WWOOFer on an organic farm somewhere. Volunteering is a great way to see the world and help those less fortunate at the same time. Indulge a passion or use a talent for the good of mankind while you travel. Projects Abroad has some very detailed information about this if you want to take a read.
Travel as a Companion
There are people who need a companion to travel with them. Positions include being a nanny, guide or companion. You will usually get to travel and stay for free in return for various duties, depending on the type of position you have. A great place to start is connecting with someone at your local senior centre.
Hitch Hiking and Couch Surfing
There are lots of opportunities for free or low-cost travel. Hitchhiking is safe in many countries but check it out before you travel. Be friendly to the locals you meet and trust in your instincts to find people everywhere who are happy to offer you a meal or a bed for the night. Look for opportunities to do odd jobs, especially in the country areas, in return for a meal and a place to sleep. Check out CouchSurfing.com or Global Freeloaders to find members around the world who are prepared to give tourists a ’couch’ for the night.
As you can see there are numerous ways you can save money on travel and live your dream of exploring other cultures and lands. You don’t need to have a fat wallet to make this possible.
Need some inspiration to get you started in fulfilling this dream? Here are some memorable quotes I love:
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
So, are you a travel bug like me? How have you saved on travel? Or, if your dream is to travel and you haven’t done so, what is holding you back?
I travel a lot for work so it is kind of free (except that I am without my family and there is work ot be done). Otherwise, have not managed to save a lot on travel in imaginative ways – the ususal: get cheap flights, book things separately and chop around.
Have been considering house swap for sometime now – but unfortunately the other members of the family are not convinced.
You should make a deal with them to at least try it. Then they can form an opinion on experience.
I think they key for these tactics are definitely motivation and enthusiasm. They’re great ideas !
You’re welcome. Let me know if try any of them out.
I like the travel companion or house sitting idea. That’s a great way to save some cash on hotels and/or travel expenses. I really need to travel more. 😉
I love house sitting. You get more space than you ever would in an apartment and you get a kitchen to cook in. This helps save more money because you can buy groceries and cook instead of dining out.
I wouldn’t mind the house swapping but my problem would be coming up with the $2k for a flight over to Europe or Switzerland. I could make it happen but it would be nice if somebody just wanted to put me in the luggage compartment of the airplane and allow me to hop over the pond for free!
If we could only pay for those kinds of seats. I would be right there with you. Watch for airline deals. If you can go last minute you can usually get some pretty great deals.
I’d love to couch surf to the Bahammas for the summer, I’m gonna check that out 😀 Thanks!
If you go let me know how you like it.
Back in the 80s, I was a volunteer in the Southwest of France. It involved working restoration project that included students from all over the world. All of my expenses were paid (including room and board), and it also allow me the opportunity to practice my French with the natives.
Very cool. I love travel like this. It is a great way to give back and still tickle your travel bug. It must have been great since you still remember it today.
I’ve heard awesome things about couchsurfing…I love the housesitting idea, too! I have friends who have taught English in China, traveled to Indonesia with Peace Corps, and spent a cost-effective gap year in New Zealand by working on local farms in return for room and board. I’m a little more settled making it slightly more difficult, but I’d love to follow in their footsteps!
I think we are in the same boat as you and are more settled. What we do as a compromise is travel for a month each year to somewhere exotic. We get to volunteer and do things and still keep our jobs.
We tried couch surfing but in the end decided that hostels were the best option. We did pickup a gig to tutor for 2 weeks in spain so that was great as we had extra income, and a way to kill time midday in the heat.
Very cool. I would love to get a 2 week gig somewhere.
We also are a fan of hostels. Hostelworld.com is our favourite site.
These are great ideas. I’m not sure if we would do a house swap though. I’m not “sold” on it yet, but I definitely see much value in it.
Sometimes you just have to give things a try.
These are great ideas!
I have still considered teaching somewhere overseas to experience more of life…. but I am starting to get settled where we are living. Sad (in a way), but true.
We are there too. As a compromise we travel for one month to somewhere overseas every year. It tickles that itch and we can still maintain our life here.
I traveled the world for free and back several times as a dancer. I have to pay now but the teaching abroad seems cool.
You should look into seeing if you can get dancing teacher contracts for different time frames. Would make a cool family vacation.
House swapping sounds interesting though I don’t live in a popular vacation spot
If you look there is always someone visiting. I am sure you could still swap.
You could still go and rent out your house and hire a pet sitter. Or you could take your pets with you. There are ways.
We want to check out house swapping. Sounds like a great way to travel on the cheap!
It works really well. I definitely recommend it. Let me know if you decide to try it out.
The number one way that I travelled for free is that I got a job that required travel. In the last few years I’ve been to Chicago, Orlando, Toronto, London, Birmingham, Paris and Angers, all for free. Yes I’m working while I’m there but I usually get at least one day to explore.
That sounds pretty awesome to me. I don’t get to do this kind of travel for my job. Being in the public sector money is tight. I am glad you have been able to see some great sites. I haven’t made it to Birmingham yet.
Great list Miss T! I’ve taught English abroad when I was younger and it was a fabulous experience for all. I’m sure it’s safer in other countries, but not sure if hitchhiking should be recommended. Perhaps I’m jaded by watching the evening news too much. Where are you off to next?
Traveling abroad has always interested me, but of course I don’t have the funds to do this. So like mentioned…get a job. I have seriously thought about getting a job aboard a cruise ship. I love sailing and I know I would enjoy seeing the world on a cruise ship.
That woudl be fun. There are numerous cruise line companies too look into. I am sure there are some job openings available. You should check them out. Let me know if you find one that fits.
Has anyone tried Airbnb? It seems like a lot of fun to stay at someone’s place instead of the hotel. Granted it’s not free, but I’m curious if anyone has had experience with it anyway? – V
I haven’t but know a few who have couchsurfed and quite like it.
I’m Wwoofing right now and having a great time in NZ. It’s interesting living with families and seeing the real locals here instead of just being on the tourist trail… I’ve written a few posts about my experiences so far (feel free to delete these self promo links!!!!).
It is totally possible!
Thanks for sharing. I am glad it has been a reality for you.