How to Travel the World for Free
Yes, I have traveled the world for free. I don’t have a trust fund and I wasn’t involved in any sketchy businesses. I’m not a genius and I’m surely not alone among the growing number of travelers figuring out easy ways to travel for free, or at least free-ish, around the world.
When people tell me they’re jealous of my travels, or that they love “looking at my awesome life via social media” (which – for the record, only shows half the story for everyone. A happy life has nothing to do with travel and everything to do with excitement, challenge, quality friends and family, financial freedom, respect, love, etc…), I like to tell them that they should come join me!
“But I’m broke,” responds the friend paying $2,000 plus in rent and related expenses per month, dropping my monthly expenses abroad any given night in the city. I too was breaking even as a young professional in Manhattan. As I settled into a “great job” at a Big Four firm in NYC, I also settled into spending everything I made, tricking myself into believing I was “broke” and “locked into” my situation.
Ironically, the first time I built a savings over a thousand dollars or so was while traveling the world, working a few hours a week and leading the life I only dreamed of while stuck in a stuffy cubicle, feeling uninspired and lost. Surrounded by people who didn’t care about accumulating wealth, hoarding savings and securing promotions, I managed quite effortlessly to save almost 100% of the income I received freelancing, returning all and more of the investment I put into my yoga teacher training on the beaches of Goa, India.
Since these options require varying degrees of work, effort, and often money generated from those pursuits (my chosen freelance digital nomad path), a title for this blog may be “How to Travel Without a Savings.”
If your full time job doesn’t give you the flexibility to try out remote work (more do than we’d expect – why not ask!), find a side gig and build it out. Side hustles usually involve more passion and garner our genuine interest, so it’s often easier and more gratifying to cultivate it into a reality.
When I found writing, I never thought I’d be hired to publish on a top 100 website on matters that I had just a baseline of expertise in. But when you’re passionate about something, especially about turning your life around and finding freedom, you can learn almost anything. If I produced quality content, why did it matter if I had an internship in journalism? In days when your college major, and even a college diploma for that matter, carry less weight than tangible skills, it’s empowering to know that if you put in the time, you can learn almost anything, from guitar to language, web design and back-end coding.
As for myself, I watched hours of YouTube videos on designing a website, started writing on what interested me and blasted emails and applications to platforms that I wanted to be a part of. I became an expert on my subjects. I wrote for free to bolster my portfolio. Finding opportunities is not rocket science. I googled “freelance writing jobs,” to land what is now my full-time occupation.
Ok, still feeling like you’re not sure about the whole freelance thing? Need time to sharpen your skills and land a part-time gig online? There’s countless organizations, from eco-farms to hostels, language schools, luxury resorts and surf camps looking for short-term workers in exchange for food and accommodation. If you can throw in a trade such as teaching yoga, language classes, selling art, or instructing surf lessons, you might even be able to make money.
Most opportunities found on WorkAway.info call for about 20 hours of “work” a week, while the job responsibilities vary widely. You can search by world region, country, or term such as “yoga teacher,” which I did to get in touch with my work trade positions at Palmar Tent Lodge in Panama, Surfing Turtle Lodge in Nicaragua and the Yoga Forest in Guatemala. My friend Rocky from Snap Free Life explains here how he traveled in Spain and had an absolute blast for 3 months, zero expenses, while working at a “job” he found on WorkAway.
Another great resource is WWOOF International, where you can find information and contacts for working on organic farms around the world.
Budget and consider local cost of living
Want to travel without any type of job responsibilities? It’s tough to spend $0, but it’s possible to see the world, have a ton of fun, and spend $10 to $30 a day, depending on where you are. In Dharamsala, India, I remember going to bed with an unshakable smile on my face, recounting my day. I had spent time with new friends from over five different countries, practiced Reiki, Acro Yoga, had a jam session and watched the moon fall against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountains on the roof of my hotel. I ate delicious (refillable) meals, volunteered an hour or two of my time teaching conversational English classes to Tibetan monks and wrote a solid chunk in my journal. I had spent $8 without even trying to budget.
When traveling, especially with limited resources, it’s important to look at the cost of living in different regions of the world, and be smart about spending money once you’re there. I cooked meals often with friends in the hostel (where I usually chose a less expensive dorm bed since I was a solo traveler). I enjoyed public transportation, since I wasn’t in a rush, and was able to meet more people and practice the language when doing so.
Be smart, have fun, save the worrying for a never time and prove them wrong 😉