If you weren’t lucky enough to be born with a trust fund or win the lottery, chances are you have to take money and finances into account when travel planning. Our travel budget often determines how far we go, where we go and how long we go for.
What if we don’t have much (or any) money? How can we travel for free in 2020 and beyond?
In an age of travel glamorization via Instagram and Youtube, we are often led to think that it takes a small fortune in order to go experience life abroad or visit a dream destination. The truth is, with some creativity, outside-the-box thinking and a willingness to be flexible, we can travel abroad for little to no money. This article will be exploring nine of these ideas – starting from what I believe to be the easiest down to the most difficult options to achieve.
Volunteer at a Hostel
This is a classic option for young people looking to travel cheaply. As accommodations represent a fair chunk of most people’s travel budgets, volunteering at a hostel can be a great way to reduce these expenses. In exchange for a certain number of working hours to order to maintain everyday hostel operations (checking visitors in and out, preparing breakfast, minding the bar, etc), volunteers receive a free room and meal. Arrangements usually vary depending on each hostel. This is a great way to save money in places with a high cost of living, such as Sydney, London or New York.
Most hostels have a high turnover, so the demand for new volunteers is typically high. However, travellers should be willing to commit a longer time frame in the city (usually a minimum of 1-2 months), as most hostels don’t want to train someone on how to do the job, only to have them depart soon after.
There are many rewards to volunteering at a hostel, such as; making deeper connection with your fellow staff members and locals, constantly meeting new travellers, and more time to scratch beyond the surface in a place! That said, this option will not cover 100% of your travel costs, so you will have to find other ways to fund the other expenses.
Work on a Farm (WOOF)
If you’re able bodied, willing to get your hands dirty and have an interest in learning more about sustainable agriculture, then the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farm (WOOF) may be the right for you. Developed in 1971, WOOF is an organization that connects farmer hosts across the world with volunteers abroad who want to experience life on a farm in a foreign country while learning about organic farming.
There is no exchange of money, and the hosts usually provide the guest with free room & board, as well as food and mentorship in exchange for their time and energy. Typically, the volunteer is responsible for any Visa and transportation costs in getting there.
There are opportunities in numerous countries across six continents, each with a different set of opportunities available. From sheering sheep in New Zealand to making cheese in the E.U, WOOFers will participate in variety of hands-on activities and chores necessary to run an organic farm. For people who value sustainability and organic practices, WOOF provides a unique travel experience that may be worth pursuing.
Housesit for Vacationing Homeowners
Housesitting is becoming a more common practice with the rise of online platforms that connect potential house sitters with homeowners who need someone to watch and maintain their home while they’re away. House sitters get the benefit of rent-free living in a potentially cozy, well-furnished home while homeowners get the peace of mind knowing their place, pet or plants are looked after.
Depending on the host, some arrangements will also pay the house sitter an extra $25-50 per diem on top of the free rent!
If you’re interested in a longer, more immersive local experience that provides rent-free living, house sitting may be something that’s right for you. It goes without saying that you should be respectful, responsible and trustworthy as someone else is entrusting you with their homes and worldly possessions! With a great profile and a willingness to be flexible, you will be able to pursue more offers as desirable opportunities and locations get filled very quickly.
Popular housesitting platforms include TrustedHouseSitters, Nomador, and MindMyHouse. Most of these websites require registration and an annual membership fee in order to create a profile to view housesitting opportunities around the globe. Similar to Airbnb and other platforms, there is often a review-based system to promote good behaviour and feedback for both sides.
Become a Walking Tour or Moving Tour Guide
If you’re willing to stay in one place for an extended period of time, to spend time researching and learning about the history behind it, as well as passionately sharing that knowledge with visitors every day, a job as a walking tour guide may be right for you.
Some companies, such as Sandeman’s New Europe tours, work on a tips-only basis. This means if you provide great customer service and an above average experience, you will be compensated accordingly. Although earnings can vary greatly depending on seasonality and group size, you can definitely earn 100-200 Euros for a few hours of work each day – not bad!
The other option for more nomadic explorers is to become a group tour guide with companies which offer packages ranging from a few days to a month in a country or region of the world. These jobs can be considered career options and may require a longer commitment or work on a contract basis. Large, reputable employers include Intrepid Travel, G-Adventures and Contiki.
Volunteer to speak English with Diverbo
This is a less known option than teaching English, but also one that requires less commitment and no certification. Essentially, native speakers from English speaking countries sign up for a one-week, intensive language retreat where they chat for hours each day with Germans and Spaniards who want to improve their proficiency. Conversations take both in one-on-one, group-settings and other immersive activities.
The programs take place in stunning locations around Germany and Spain, in 3-4-star hotels located in country-side resort type settings. Volunteers are responsible for paying for their own way there, but meals and accommodations are included once they are on site.
For chatty adults and teenagers who want to go on a cultural exchange and make new international friends, Diverbo is a unique opportunity they should explore.
Teach English Abroad
This one is a time-tested, tried and true option for fluent or native English speakers. As the world continues to become more integrated and English becomes the dominant language of international business and travel, the worldwide demand to learn it should continue to increase. Although the time and money investments are greater up front, the potentially more reliable sources of income it can provide make it worthwhile.
The first step to teaching English abroad is to obtain your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL certifications (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Once that is completed, the second step would be to actually look for a job. Search online for reputable and established international schools or private language academies that offer contract employment and better yet – signing bonuses and perks such as free housing or travel reimbursement.
If a higher salary is something that’s important to you, some of the highest paying countries for English teachers include: South Korean, Japan, China and the wealthy Gulf Arab States.
Lastly, consider teaching English online as a freelancer! The demand for this is particularly high in China as parents want their children to have an edge in the competitive society. The benefits of teaching online include geographic freedom and a more flexible working schedule, with the downsides being less job security and benefits such as housing and health care.
Work on a Cruise Ship
Similar to becoming a tour guide, working on a cruise ship should be considered a career option requiring more commitment versus a short-term job but it also comes with greater rewards. It offers a fantastic, all-inclusive way to see the world while paying you a salary for the duration of the contract.
Since room and food are included onboard, crews rarely have to spend money out of their own pockets while working out at sea. However, prospective employees should be prepared to work long hours, often 7 days a week and be “on” while the customers are around.
Since cruise ships are like a mini floating city, job opportunities onboard are numerous: from kitchen and bar staff, to customer service and medical personnel, to activities instructors and naval staff – the positions are wide and varied. Depending on your education, job experience and training, cruise line companies are always looking for qualified people to join the crew.
From Alaska to South America, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, #ShipLife provides an opportunity for travel lovers to explore exotic regions of the world while building meaningful relationships with their coworkers. For those who are prepared to embark on a career in the cruise line industry, companies such as Celebrity, Norwegian and Princess are always hiring.
Start Your Own YouTube Channel
What better way to go on adventures in faraway lands, experience its culture, taste its foods and then sharing it for the whole world to see? The rise of social media and content distribution platforms such as YouTube has made this a viable yet risky way to make a living.
There are plenty of travel related channels full of successful influencers who make money with their content and seemingly sexy globetrotting lifestyles. However, like anything else worth doing in life, it takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes in order to succeed.
It takes a large subscriber base and ridiculous amount of video views to generate any sort of meaningful income from YouTube ad revenue. Aside from constantly having to produce new content, edit video footage and promoting it to their audience, content creators also have to compete with each other for the viewers’ attention. You are also at the mercy of YouTube, which can shut down your channel and source of income with one decision. Despite these drawbacks, those who are able to turn this passion into a way of paying for their travels are rewarded handsomely.
Become a Travel Writer
From the ancient accounts of Marco Polo reporting on his journey to China in the 12th century, to more modern-day writers like Rolf Potts, intrepid souls have used travel writing both as a way to make a living while documenting their adventures.
However, in an age of travel bloggers, online magazines and self-publishing, it can be a fiercely competitive endeavour for someone to get paid to travel and write about it. It takes time to learn the craft of travel writing; to observe things about a place that few people see, to turn it into a compelling narrative and then to describe it in a way that captivates your reader.
Those who are successful at it inevitably rise to the top and reap the rewards. From sponsored trips paid for by travel companies to countries promoting their tourism, writers often travel for free in order to write about their experiences.
With a little creativity, imagination and focused effort, anyone can travel the world cheaply, for free or even while getting paid. It may take some flexibility and dedication to pursue, but the globe-trotting dream can be realized through volunteer or work opportunities abroad.
Hopefully this article gave you some ideas on ways to travel the world for free in 2020. They are by no means exhaustive but provides some ways to start. Once you decide where you want to go and how to do it, all that remains is taking massive action to make that travel dream a reality!
Good luck and bon voyage!
Until next time,