Here are some things that I know about:
How to eat epic amounts of cheese in one sitting
How to dress like Dolly Parton
How to travel the world on $2
Okay. Maybe not $2. Maybe $4.
In 2006 I did a five-month world-ticket, with stops in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Greece, Italy, Germany, Scotland, Wales and NYC to the tune of $4,000. This included all of my flights, lodging, all the halloumi a girl could want and some wicked harem pants. Quite a deal, right?
Want to travel cheap? Here are my secrets:
Go somewhere cheap
We all grow up fantasizing about seeing Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, but Western Europe’s expensive, yo! And there’s a lot more excitement to found outside of the EU. There are heaps of lovely, amazing, culturally significant, safe countries just aching to be included in your itinerary. The Czech Republic, Mongolia, Tunisia all get high marks. You can find other suggestions here and here.
Now that you’re there, stay there for awhile
The biggest expense of most trips is the transportation to and from your destination. So get the most out of that $1,600 ticket to Saigon and hang out for a bit! The feeling of really staying in a city, getting to know all its nooks and crannies, having that little cafe you always get coffee at … well, it’s a lot better than changing hostels every night and spending every day standing in lines for various Important Landmarks. You will have a much deeper relationship with your host country … and save a chunk o’ change as well!
Public transportation is you friend
Sure, taking the bus through downtown Bangkok can be pretty intimidating. So if you’re in a non-English speaking country and you’re only in cities for a few days at a time, I’ll give you a pass on this. But if you’re planning on kicking it in Berlin all summer, you have no excuse for avoiding that subway. Even in places where the taxis are cheap (compared to what you’re used to paying) all those rides add up.
The added bonuses of taking public transport are a) meeting locals b) seeing parts of the city you’d miss on that air-conditioned tour c) feeling quite chuffed that you’ve figured it out on your own! One of my favorite memories of our three weeks in Fiji are the 70-cent, open-air buses full of babies and families and clanking hip hop music.
Volunteer in exchange for your lodging
For realz, this is the way to go. Not only will it significantly cut the cost of your trip, you’ll meet heaps of people and contribute something to your host country. The trick here is to find a volunteer program that is free and will cover your housing. Many volunteer program require that you cover your own costs and, thus, are actually really expensive. But free programs do exist. I had an amazing time
volunteering on a tiny island in Greece with The Aegean Wildlife Hospital
. In exchange for two hours of water-bowl filling and corn scattering I got my own bedroom in a sweet little Greek farmhouse and the rest of the day was free for sun-bathing, ouzo
drinking and cliff diving.
A sure bet for a volunteer/lodging exchange is WWOOF
, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFers volunteer on organic farms in exchange for room and board, often living as a member of their host’s family. There are WWOOF farms on every continent except Antarctica. You just choose a country and farm that you’re interested in, email them and go! Amazing, right?
Work while you travel
If you’d like to include a few more expensive countries in your itinerary, you can always work a bit to offset the costs. Most hostels/backpackers hire guests to clean the building in exchange for their board. If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, fruit picking jobs are huge in New Zealand and Australia and hospitality jobs are usually easy to come by in most tourist ports. Proper employment calls for a working holiday visa, but it’s often easy to find cash-in-hand casual work, too.
If you’re a Virgo like me and have to plan everything out ahead of time, please allow me to sing the praises of Italy’s ACLE program. You teach English to Italian kiddos for six hours a day, for 250 Euros a week. And! You stay with an Italian family so you get all the gnocchi and gelato you could ever want without spending a cent. Nice, eh?
Check out part 2 here!
P.S. If you want to quit your job and travel for months at a time, this
will help. And if you’re a woman and you want to do it alone, this