Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkdin
Hide Buttons

How To Travel The World On Any Budget – The Only Travel Hacking Guide You’ll Ever Need

by AJ Walton

How to Travel the World

Horseback Riding off the shore of Grand Cayman

>Why don’t you travel more?

If you’re anything like my newsletter subscribers who email me daily about their biggest travel challenges, the near-universal reason is, “but Andrew, I don’t have any money to travel!

In most people, the desire certainly isn’t lacking – I mean, who wouldn’t love to travel more? For most, the problem is the perceived lack of opportunity – especially regarding money. What can the hard-working 9-5 employee do to make their dream of world travel real?

That’s what I’m going to show you today.

Be warned, this is a long one. Just under 18,000 words in fact.

Why?

Because that what it takes to completely dismantle the money myth – that travel is expensive and unobtainable except for those blessed with trust funds, rich parents, luck, or other forms of immense wealth you and I can only aspire to.

Nay! I say. Not so!
So in the fllowing 16 bite-sized sections, I’ll give you the tools you need to make world travel a reality – on your budget.

Want to make your travel budget bigger? Grab our free download: 101 Ways to Make Money While Traveling

The Definitive Guide To Traveling The World

andrew hitchhike

Where will your road take you?

The first thing you’ll notice when planning a world travel adventure is the overwhelming amount of options.

Some people like the idea of a round-the-world trip lasting about 1 year, others opt for the 2-week all-inclusive in Bermuda.

Some people decide to bike from London, England to Sydney, Australia.

Others choose to visit every country on the planet, like Guinness World Record setter Graham Hughes, who traveled to 203 nations/territories – all without flying.

And others, like me – leave without any plans of coming back. For example, guys like Karol Gajda and Benny Lewis who often “travel slowly” by living in a new place for 3 months or more at a time.

So naturally, the particulars of planning an itinerary, budgeting, finding work and so on will change from person to person.

That’s why I’ve made it easy to navigate to the sections that apply most directly to your needs. You can think of this as your travel-hacking table of contents. Feel free to link to a particular section or detailed sub-section to immediately jump to what you’ll find most useful.

Table of Contents

Part 1: You Do Not Need To Be Rich To Travel The World

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/

Photo credit: James Cridland

But we don’t believe it. Not at first. We think that we need suitcases loaded with cash to make long term travel a reality.

One reason we think travel is expensive is we’re conditioned to believe it. The big players in the trillion dollar and growing travel industry have enormous advertising budgets with which to tickle our fancy.

Cheap and free options generally don’t.

Kind of like you’ll find millions of dollars being poured into convincing children (and parents) that Frosted Flakes somehow qualifies as breakfast food. You’ll never see such money backing up poor ol’ broccoli.

As a result we as a society eat far too much sugar and don’t travel nearly enough.

I think when it comes to the money question, New York Times best-selling author Chris Guillibeau put it best:

chris guillibeau“…it would be better to say, ‘I’ve chosen to spend money on a lot of other things, so now I don’t have money to travel’.”

-Chris Guillibeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup

The average American household has $7,630 worth of personal debt – that’s not counting things like mortgages, student loans, and car loans. The median household income is $51,939.

It’s a matter of what we value, and what we spend our money on.

I happen to be one member of a group who invests their money in the experience of travel.

  • Instead of student loans, I went biking in the gorgeous hills, valleys, and vineyards of southern France.
  • Instead of car payments, I rented a car and a guest house in the foothills of Sicily for 4 days.
  • Instead of shopping and partying like most 20-somethings, I spent a month backpacking in Thailand.
  • Instead of a mortgage, I’ve invested the last half a year to learn Russian in Saint Petersburg.

Get the picture?

AJ Walton ziplining

Ziplining in Belgium

It’s probably important to note that, in financial terms I am far from rich.

In fact, when I started traveling permanently in July of 2013, I was coming off 2.5 years of unemployment due to a muscular condition that made me unable to speak and use my hands. I was not in debt, but I had hardly any money even to get started. Under $2,500.

I’ve hacked Ibiza in Spain: 7 days for $75. Two weeks in Kuala Lumpur for another $75.

Along my way I’ve had the inglorious distinction of being broke on 3 different continents.

But I’ve also snorkeled in Hawaii, gone horseback riding along and in the ocean in Grand Cayman (see that pretty picture at the top), and lived for 3 months in both Malaysia and Thailand.

AJ Walton biking in France

Biking in S. France, August 2013

So to me, the money excuse doesn’t fly. Neither is the idea that we can travel well OR travel cheap.

We’re not living in the 1950’s, using travel agents to book us expensive hotels, flights, and excursions.

This is the digital era, and there are hundreds of resources we can use to get everything we need to travel for cheap or free. Transportation, lodging, food, activities, insurance, anything.

I know, because not only am I living proof, I’ve also met thousands of travelers and read hundreds of travel blogs, and you know what - almost nobody who chooses long term travel starts out rich.

In fact, a lot of the stories start with the same 9 words, “I sold all my stuff to travel the world…”

You don’t have to be this extreme to make long term travel a reality. But you do have to be willing to be a little bit brave and accept a bit of discomfort getting started.

But none of it will matter if you’re unwilling to tackle the real roadblock: Fear.

The Biggest Roadblock: Fear

Fear, far more than money, is what prevents people from taking the proverbial leap into travel.

  • We don’t want to “leave it all behind” – the job, house, car etc. All the “stuff” that we’ve accumulated on our culturally-acceptable path to self fulfillment.
  • We’re afraid of going alone for a long period of time
  • We’re afraid of the unknown
  • We’re afraid of diseases, terror attacks, civil unrest, and other physical threats
  • We’re afraid of running out of money

One of my absolute top reasons to travel is the fact that it emancipates us from the fear the 24-hour news cycle and adversarial governments impart in us (particularly, I think, for my fellow North Americans).

anarchy in Russia

Anarchy in Russia?

Before I started this trip I never would have imagined traveling to big, scary Russia, and I would have thought you mad had you suggested I live there for a year.

Now it’s one of my favorite places on earth. Even during a horrible financial crisis that’s crippeled the economy and cur the value of the Ruble in half.

Here’s the thing – almost all our fears about travel are unjustified. No, you probably shouldn’t try smuggling yourself into Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass, but most of the world is a safe, friendly place just waiting for you to explore.

Just like you should get your yellow fever vaccination before visiting Western Africa, it’s probably high time to take the rest of your Anti-Fear Inoculations:

The rest of this guide won’t just show you how to travel the world on the money you have, but together with numerous case studies, success stories and expert opinions, to show you that it’s totally worth it to reject fear and start travelling.

As professional traveler Matt Long from LandLopers.com put it in 6 Realistic Reasons Why Travel Is Important:

matt long“I think that in the quest for meaningful experiences and promoting fake ‘undiscovered’ places, most travel outlets lose sight of the real reason why many folks travel, because it’s fun.

-Matt Long, LandLopers.com

So let’s have some fun, shall we?

Part 2: Financing World Travel

For most people this is the critical moment of trip planning. It’s where the dreams we built while reading our favorite travel blogs, checking out photos on Pinterest or Instagram, and holding longing discussions with family and friends come to die.

Or in some cases – come true.

aj walton snorkel

Snorkeling – one of the world’s many simple pleasures

Here’s the thing: Anyone can change their money habits.

Right now you may be broke, in debt, unemployed – it’s all changeable. When I left home to travel the world all I had was a 1-way plane ticket and about $2,000 in the bank.

And you know what? Most people who decide to travel the world are exactly like me in this regard.

People who have a ton of money tend to be too concerned about their money to do something like this. It’s normal people with normal jobs and lives who are looking for something new and exciting who take the steps to make it happen.

As Nomadic Matt Kepnes has said, “What is your savings priority? Is it travel? If it is travel, what is keeping you from saving money? What are you spending it on?

So if we want to travel, it’s our responsibility to make travel a priority.

It’s really that simple. If our priority is to go out on weekends and drop $200 on alcohol and chicken wings, that’s what we’ll do. Or we could take that same $200 and rent a one room house near the beach in Thailand for 6 weeks like Katia and I did.

Nobody is forcing you to do one or the other. But the choice is yours. I can tell you from experience, that the money I’ve spent on travel is the best investing I’ve done in my life.

In order to successfully budget for a trip, we need to know the following things:

  • Monthly trip expenses and length of trip
  • Whether we will be making an income on the road
  • Amount we need to save monthly in order to meet our trip budgeting goal

If we’re not going to find overseas work or freelance work online, then all of our budgeting has to be done in advance. If, on the other hand, you’re going to pick up and leave like I did, you can get away with no budget if you’re confident about your ability to support yourself along the way.

How Much Money Do You Really Need To Travel The World?

AJW & Katia in Pai, Thailand

In Pai, Northern Thailand

Now, by the time you finish this guide, I fully expect the amount of money you’ll need to budget for your trip will be half of what it was before, but we still need some tools for estimating.

Nomadic Matt wrote an Amazon Bestseller about how to travel the world on $50 a day, and this daily budget seems to be normal for a lot of “round the world” sort of trips.

$1,500 per month per person is a very reasonable estimate, Though this will vary according to your travel style. I do it on much less, but I take fewer flights than most and stay in 1 spot for longer.

For another example BootsNAll compared the cost of 11 RTW trips, where the average cost-per-day, per-person ranged from $34 to $116.

For those of us that don’t really know where to start in terms of cost estimation, Christine from Almost Fearless has a nice hack for estimating her daily budget. She searches for hostels in her destination cities on Hostel Bookers and multiplies this by 3 to cover her expenses for food, entertainment, and activities.

Ultimately, you have to be a bit of an artist with this. Eating out 3 times and staying at a hostel day obviously will be more expensive than buying fresh produce at a market and cooking at your CouchSurfing host’s place.

I can’t tell you what’s best for you – but I will give you as many options as you need in order to invest your travel budget consciously.

In any case, it’s always better to overestimate how much you’ll spend than underestimate it and find yourself with 3 days left in a vacation – but no money left.

Case Study: Shannon O’Donnell

shannon o'donnellThat probably seems like a lot of work, right? Well it is. But the payoff is well worth it.

Just consider this real life example of Shannon O’Donnell, a former actress from Florida, who traveled to 15 countries during 11 months of travel back in 2008 and hasn’t stopped since.

Since then she’s been a prolific writer, speaker, and has even started a charity.

RTW-Budget-by-categoryShannon, who writes at ALittleAdrift.com meticulously tracked every dollar spent over her 328 days (11 months) of travel, which came to a total of $18,558.39.

A total of $56.58 per day.

The great thing about Shannon’s work is that she’s broken down her expenses by country too, so we can see the difference between her budget of almost $55/day in Australia vs about half of that in Laos. Amsterdam shows the power of finding free accommodation, where her budget comes in at under $20 a day. In Europe!

budget - shannon o'donnellHow she did it? By saving up a perfectly-reasonable $7k and earning another $12k on the road.

And there’s plenty of room for further savings if that’s your goal. For example, using land transport instead of flying, using free accommodation such as CouchSurfing, or choosing cheaper outings and excursions to take part in (such as free walking tours).

For you the breakdown might be different, but it doesn’t matter. Some people save up 100% of their budget before leaving, others make 100% on the road.

I asked Shannon what additional advice she could share with my readers, and had this to say:

“Be open to the unexpected, even if it means adjusting the budget. Don’t stay so tightly to your budget that you miss the unplanned experiences that may very well shape your best memories.

Sometimes it’s easy for your brain to get stuck in the local currency, or the need to stick to a budget and you miss out on the chance to pay that extra bit of money for a sunrise summit hike, or a special homestay.”

-Shannon O’Donnell, ALittleAdrift.com


Additional Resources:

Saving Up Made Simple

Piggy_bank2This section could fill an entire bookshelf with advice. Saving, sadly, is something most North Americans are failing miserably at, with the average household spending more than it earns.

But no savings means no way of meeting our budget goals, so what can we do?

One way is to follow the example of Matthew Karsten – pro traveller at TheExpertVagabond – who sold his car, canceled his car insurance, gym membership, and Netflix subscription. He bought a bike and a bus pass. Sold most of his valuable possessions, went out less, cooked at home more. He saved about $7k in 1 year doing this.

He’s been traveling nonstop for the last 4 years. All because he made the decision to do what it takes and not look back.

This is a great strategy if you have no plans on coming back. I also sold most of my stuff and took off. It can work.

But maybe you don’t want to go all-out like Mathew and myself. Maybe you just want “more” travel in your life. What can you do to save up while keeping your lifestyle more-or-less the same?

I’ll tell you what most people do, try to cut down on small expenses – like a daily latte at Starbucks, like this article from MarketWatch suggests. The expected return for doing this: $3,000 per year.

This approach is doomed to failure.

Why? Because it’s relying on our limited cache of willpower. Not only do we have to make the daily decision not to spend our $3.67 (or whatever), we have to put that money aside and not spend it on something else.

Let me repeat. If our travel dreams hinge on our ability to cut back on things every day for the next 6-12 months, we are Doomed. To. Failure.

If you want to really create a sustainable savings plan, what we need is automation and big wins that we only need to have one time – such as renegotiating our mortgage, bank fees, insurance, and other large, reoccurring expenses.

For instance, a 1-time refinancing of your mortgage could save you hundreds of bucks over the course of a year. Compare that to the number of small things you’d have to painfully give up to save that same amount.

Let the man when it comes to money, Ramit Sethi, spell it out:

For further strategies about sound saving, I also recommend his excellent article: How to Save Money.

The great thing is that sound financial principles work whether we’re a minimum wage worker, pulling a 6-figure salary, or anywhere in between.

Here are 4 more examples – 3 solo travelers and 1 couple, who used sound financial principles to make their dreams of travel come true.

Travel Banking 101

travel bankingFor travelers (and soon-to-be travelers), banking is about more than having a place to hold your hard-earned funds. It’s also about keeping those funds safe. Unfortunately, ATM fraud is sufficiently popular that it behooves us to take preventative measures against it.

I’ve heard some travelers sing the virtues of creating a separate bank account for travel funds. But Matthew Karsten’s 3-bank system is much more robust:

#1: Personal Checking Account: This account is for personal reasons unrelated to travel – such as mortgage payments. It can also replenish one’s Travel Checking Account in an emergency. Matthew keeps the bank card for this account in his hotel at all time – that is, not on his person where it could be stolen.

#2: Travel Checking Account: An account for travel expenses, including cash withdrawals. Matthew recommends a $1,000 limit in this account, as it will be the most active one and the most likely to be compromised by scammers or thieves.

#3: Travel Savings Account: This account has NO bank cards in Matthew’s case. He uses it to transfer funds electronically to his Travel Checking Account when funds get low. Otherwise it sits there accumulating interest.

I use a similar system myself, though I also have a business bank account and a PayPal account that add some complexity to things.

Best Bank Choices

Ultimately, we only want a few things in a bank: security, easy access to our funds from different points around the globe, and no/low ATM fees. Also – the ability to freely transfer money between different banks and bank accounts is really handy.

For US citizens, a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account will eliminate all ATM fees worldwide. All the more reason for me to get dual citizenship.

For non US citizens, the most popular choice seems to be an HSBC Checking Account because they’re an international player with ATMs all around the globe. However, ATM fees still apply.

Protecting Your Cash

walletTravelers are prime targets for pickpockets, and protecting your cash is almost as important as protecting your bank info. Here are some top techniques for making sure your funds stay safe in most situations.

A decoy wallet: For some lucky reason, when I started travelling I had channeled my inner hoarder – a rare thing for me – and kept my old driver’s license, credit card, and other IDs as a young adult. This became perfect material for a “decoy wallet” that I used to throw off would-be pickpockets.

Fortunately, I never needed this, but it’s a solid tactic to keep your real ID/cards/cash hidden and a decoy in a more tempting pocket.

Money belt/hidden pocket: I’ll admit 2 things. One: I use a money belt some of the time. Two: I hate money belts! I find them horribly uncomfortable. An internal pocket is a much friendlier choice in my opinion.

If we want it, we make it a priority, and we follow solid financial principles along the way, there is no reason we can’t save enough money to travel.

A hidden spot in your bag: A hidden spot in your bag, such as in your dirty laundry, won’t do much good if your bag gets stolen or it’s left unattended for a long time, but it will make a “hit and run” much less lucrative for a thief.

At the end of the day, the number 1 money safety tool is your brain. Don’t assume your money is safe because you have a lock, a hidden pocket, or anything else. In Malaysia a fellow backpacker showed me numerous ways to break into supposedly “secure” bags within a matter of seconds, and any thief that knows their stuff could do the same.

That doesn’t mean travel afraid. I’ve never had any problems in the “notorious” subways in Russia, in SE Asia, or Europe for that matter. Take precautions, set up systems like you’ve seen in this section, use common sense, and then go enjoy yourself.

Money: The Final Word

Later, we’ll also look at ways to make extra money on the road, but for now, you can breathe easy knowing that you have all the tools necessary to make your travel dreams come true.

Now it’s just a matter of execution. Use the resources in this section if you ever need a reminder of what steps you need to be taking.

And now – on to the fun stuff!

Part 3: Planning

AJ Walton Eiffel Tower

By the Eiffel Tower – my first time in Paris, Feb 2011

The most exciting part of the planning process – deciding where to go! The world is such a big place and there’s so much to discover, that one of the most difficult challenges is narrowing down all those opportunities into an itinerary.

When it comes to itinerary planning, I have a rather short list of questions I want answered and information I want to know about a location:

Is it safe, how’s the weather, is it polluted, what to do, and how to get a visa.

Let’s dive into each question for a closer look.

Is it safe? Wars, crime, civil unrest, hazardous weather patterns this time of year, rampant diseases etc. We “Westerners” often take the political stability and relative safety of our home nations, but unfortunately this isn’t the case everywhere.

That being said, the world is far, far safer and friendlier than the news would have us believe. While I wouldn’t automatically cross Afghanistan, Somalia, or Iraq off my list, I would educate myself about the actual situations on the ground before deciding to go.

It’s important to remember that even if a country has a “travel advisory,” there’s a big difference between the anti-government rallies in Egypt during the “Arab Spring” and the specific targeting of tourists in Yemen in recent years.

Climate & Weather – what will I need to wear, will I be comfortable? This affects both what we pack and what we can expect to do in our destination. The Philippines is a beautiful country, but you don’t want to get caught in a tropical storm there!

This is easy – just pop over to Wikipedia, type in your city of interest, and look for the Geography & Climate section. Here’s an example for Dakar, Senegal:

dakar climate

Pollution – I never thought of this in great detail before looking at Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital city, which has incredibly toxic smog during the winter months. No joke, it is a veritable health hazard!

You can pop over to AQICN.org to check their worldwide air pollution tracking.

What to do/see/eat: This part I rarely plan intensively because I’m a laid-back, go with the flow sort of guy who likes to let things unfold. However, I will do research beforehand to get to know a bit about the culture and history of my destination.

For destination researching I tend to lean on the following sources:

WikiTravel: Like Wikipedia for travel. Has detailed information about every country and most major cities, as well as its fair share of smaller gems as well. You can find visa info, tips for staying safe, what to see & do, and much more.

TripAdvisor: Has a huge library of user reviews for hotels, sightseeing opportunities, restaurants, and more.

LonelyPlanet: The world’s leading travel website for good reason. You can find almost anything on LP, plus the Thorn Tree forum is the haunting ground for many veteran and newbie travelers alike, exchanging ideas, experiences, and wisdom.

Expat-Blog: Contains a nice forum where expats (or travellers) can discuss their destinations, exchange tips, plan meetups. Also contains articles relating to expat lifestyle.

Don’t Over-Plan!

ajw in Thailand

Good fortune strikes in Thailand

One of the wonderful things about travel is the opportunity for spontaneity.

As much as we may want to be in control of every aspect of our travel, part of the freedom is in letting go of this need for control.

Things like taking care of our health are nonnegotiable, but as far as I’m concerned, the rest is up for grabs.

Take, for example, when Katia and I were hitchhiking across the entirety of Thailand in 2014.

We were in a difficult stretch off the main highways when we got an unexpected ride from a military man – who spoke no English. Instead of taking us to the main road, he took us to his place, even more off the beaten path, where he and his wonderful wife insisted we eat with them and stay the night.

We ended up staying several, going to the market and relaxing after some rough days on the road. They were so welcoming we could probably still be there. Katia and I sent them a New Years card and we still keep in touch via Facebook (courtesy of Google translate).

All made possible by an open mind and the spirit of adventure.

Visas

The fastest way to find out visa information is through Wikipedia, which for each nationality, has an article about the visa requirements for travel, as well as a handy map for visualizing potential routes (or visa runs). Just Google “Wikipedia visa requirements for [your nationality] citizens”

For example, the Canadian result:

visa info

source: Wikipedia.com

Of course, you’ll want to double check with the embassies themselves to ensure that the information you find is accurate and up to date. But Wiki usually helps here too, sourcing their information from the embassy websites, linked to in the resources section at the bottom.

Another good alternative is VisaMapper, but it’s less clear where the data is sourced from.

Part 4: Travel Insurance

One of the operative questions about world travel: What type of insurance should I get – if any?

For electronics purchases, insurance is a financially poor decision, as statistically, for every problem that occurs outside warranty, we’ll save far more by replacing this item than we would buying an extended warranty for every gadget.

Health is different. Screw that up, and there’s no 2nd chance.

In the confusing world of travel insurance there’s one standout company I use and wholeheartedly endorse: WorldNomads.

They’re also the only travel insurance recommended by Lonely Planet. Now there’s high praise.

Why is WorldNomads the best? First and foremost – they’re one of the only providers I’ve found who let you extend your insurance (or purchase some for the first time) while outside your country of residence.

This was ideal for me. I had 6 months of coverage courtesy of my provincial government, but when that was expiring I was in Asia.

Most of the insurance providers I found would have required me to fly home in order to get new insurance. Bollocks.

This is not an issue for most conventional, short term travelers, or for people who might go and stay in a single country for a predetermined amount of time. If that’s you, you can likely find a decent option locally (though I’d still check it against WN to be sure).

Which brings me to the second point. World Nomads is by far the most accessible insurance provider I’ve found – you can get insured even if you’re NOT a citizen of the United States or Great Britain (meaning your favorite Canuck is using it!).

And you’re covered for basically the entire globe – minus conflict zones.

Cost & Coverage

World Nomads is amongst the cheapest private insurance providers you’ll find. If your government doesn’t cover for you, I’d check out WN.

When it comes to bureaucratic stuff like visas and insurance, I’m a complete moron. So I was glad to find that they’re system is so easy to use that anyone capable of reading and writing can do it. No searching through 100s of bloated policies and analyzing minutiae!

insurance2

Simple. Praise the gods.

For example: As a Pakistani citizen traveling across 4 continents over 5 months, the premium comes to $532, or $3.54 per day.

Health insurance for under $4 a day? I’d call that a win.

insurance

Travel insurance for $3.54/day?

Generally, the longer you purchase the insurance for, the lower the cost.

It’s easy to do. And for something as boring and annoying as insurance, this is wonderful.

Pop on over to their site and bookmark it for when you need it. Here’s the link. This is one resource you won’t want to risk forgetting.

Part 5: Packing

packingTravel as a lifestyle is much different than a weekend in Vegas or spring break in Cancun.

On a short vacation, it’s no problem bringing along two mammoth suitcases bursting with all the comforts of home: clothing, toiletries, a hairdryer, books, snorkels, and whatever else “might” come in handy.

But when the road is your home, weight and space are at a premium, and we have to eliminate everything that’s unnecessary – or pay the physical price of holding onto comforting but ultimately unnecessary stuff.

This, for a lot of people, can be a big roadblock. “How could I possibly live with only 6 shirts?” “Travel without my winter coat? But what if there’s a freak blizzard in Ecuador?” “I never go anywhere without my lucky bricks. Nope, can’t do it.”

I reached out to Rolf Potts, arguably the world’s biggest name in minimalist travel, and one of my personal sources of travel inspiration, to get his thoughts on efficient packing. Here’s what he had to say:

rolf pottsMy standard advice, which I include in Vagabonding, is to get a small bag, since a small bag doesn’t allow you to pack a bunch of indulgences.

In general, only pack things you intend to use regularly — as in every day or so. Any thing you don’t use regularly, or anything you can buy along the way, you can leave at home. A small rotation of clothes, some toiletries, and maybe some books or a smartphone, is about all you need.

-Rolf Potts (Vagabonding.com)

Let’s see what this looks like in practice.

What Travel Bag/Backpack Should I Use?

osprey 60L

Vetran travelers have been debating the mertis of wheeled bags for ages…

In general, we are going to fill the amount of space we have, especially if this is our first trip – it’s just human nature.

We want to plan for every situation and make sure we’re covered – I get it. But lugging around a ton of weight is going to stop feeling like a fantasy adventure and start feeling like army training real quick.

I’d recommend a 30L bag, as with this size you never have to check luggage. At least I haven’t, and I’ve flown the low-cost airlines like RyanAir which are sticklers for bag size.

As for which one – your best bet is to try out several in a shop, get them adjusted properly for your body, and choose something that’s going to be comfortable to have as a companion for the following months or years.

Yes. You could save a couple bucks ordering a bag online.

But you are going to have this thing on your back, likely for hours at a time, for weeks, months, or years. This is a situation where it makes perfect sense to invest time and money into getting quality, properly-sized gear.

I’ve had my bag since 2010, and I love it, but it’s not the perfect fit and this bothers me more with each successive excursion. Even 10lbs becomes a lot when it’s habitual, and I’m going to have to swap it at some point. Don’t make the same mistake.

What Type of Bag?

There’s a whole lot of choice when it comes to bags, and while I think you should go check one out in person, there are a couple bags I think you should keep an eye out for.

One of the big considerations I think you should make is whether or not to go for the “handle + wheels” variety of bag. Not classic backpacker, but a very comfortable option

On the classic side, veteran traveler Derek Baron, better known as “Wandering Earl” (WanderingEarl.com) used his Kelty Redwing bag for 12 years before it finally had to be replaced, and he stuck with the reliable brand.

On the other hand, professional traveller Kate McCulley (AdventurousKate.com) uses the wheeled Osprey Sojourn 60L.

For a more complete look, Nora Dunn from “TheProfessionalHobo” weighs the pros and cons of each style of bag in detail.

All this just goes to show that even for pros, it’s a matter of taste. But for each of them it comes down to the same thing: comfort on the road!

Packing Lists

After choosing a bag, it’s the matter of what to put in it.

I reached out to Colin Wright of ExileLifestyle to get the fundamentals of “the pack” right. Here’s what he had to say:

colin wrightMost people over pack in an effort to prepare for every eventuality.

Much better to ‘live off the land,’ in the sense that you bring over the bare necessities, and purchase/borrow/rent whatever else you need when you arrive.

This ends up being more cost-effective in most cases, but also frees up space in your bag and allows you to travel light.

-Colin Wright, ExileLifestyle

Here’s what to take, and what not to.

Clothing

When it comes down to it, most of us can get by with clothes and some toiletries.

  • 2 short-sleeve shirts
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt
  • 1 pair of convertible pants (that can become shorts)
  • 1 pair of shorts (optional)
  • 3 pairs of underwear (some people say 2, but by my account 3 is fine)
  • 3 pairs of socks (gotta have a back-up pair for rain or other emergencies)
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • Extra suggestion: lightweight towel

Optional: Belt, light jacket.

For colder climates, you might consider borrowing (or buying) a jacket and other winter wear at your destination, saving you bag-space and weight while on the move.

Toiletries

Toiletries can, if we let them, double (or triple) the weight we’re carrying. Do I need nail clippers? Shampoo and conditioner? I realize that it’s a more difficult task for women in this area, as they generally have more to “give up” – but I would encourage you to leave the make up kit at home and take just the essentials.

Which by the way, include TP, one item forgotten on most lists. It’s light, and if it only ever comes in handy once, it’ll be well worth the miniscule extra effort.

  • Toothbrush & floss
  • Soap (doubles as shampoo)
  • Deodorant
  • Feminine hygiene products, if applicable (diva cups for the environmentally conscious lady)
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Necessary medicals

Things like razors, nail-clippers, toothpaste, shampoo, bath salts, eucalyptus oil, and anything extravagant can usually be found or borrowed on-site.

Other Items

  • Passport, drivers license, insurance, other important documents
  • Money, wallet, bank cards
  • **Phone, books (electronic or physical), computer

**These items are optional, but it’s unrealistic to expect people to give these up. I sure don’t, and I feel the trade off in weight and space is considered “worth it.” (Though I’d recommend going on a 1-3 month mission without gadgets for the experience.)

Additional Resources

Part 6: Cheap Flights!

The plane ticket is generally the biggest kid on the travel-budget block. A single flight has the ability to rip through hundreds, if not thousands of dollars that could be put towards some good, local fun in the form of food, excursions – or even just saving the money and traveling longer.

Naturally, flying as little as possible is ideal, and crossing over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as infrequently as possible is a wise move.

However, when our plans dictate that we should fly, we can do a lot to reduce our costs.

nora dunnFrom professional traveler Nora Dunn at TheProfessionalHobo.com:

There are three distinct factors that go into any flight search, and they’re not necessarily harmoniously correlated. Depending on your own situation and priorities, your flight searches might be biased towards any one of the three:

  1. Route
  2. Connections
  3. Price


The cheapest airfare
will often have lousy connections, inconvenient flight times, and connect obscure, out-of-the-way airports that may be costly to get to/from. Many low cost airlines such as RyanAir operate out of airports that will cost more to get to by taxi or bus than the flight will.

The best connections might save you a nightmare 16 hour layover, but cost more than other routes, including over-land options.

The best routing is – naturally – convenient, but this will often be the most pricey (and we’ve still got to consider connections and layover time).

When to Buy:

The days of last minute, bargain-basement deals on flights are pretty much gone. Due to the nature of modern air travel, it’s much more lucrative for airlines to keep their tickets at their regular price right until the plane leaves, profiting from last minute desperation more than they would from a couple of folks looking for a freebie.

While it’s still possible, it’s not a reliable strategy. And if we’re trying to travel cheap, we want reliable results.

So when should we buy tickets?

According to the analysis of a CheapAir database of over 1.3 billion fares, 54 days in advance came out as being the best time to buy.

cheap flights

Independently, economist Makoto Watanabe developed a formula for predicting flight prices that returned a similar response of 8 weeks in advance (56 days).

What Day Should I Purchase Tickets?

In general, mid-week has long been considered as a general rule for better rates. Hopper.com provided analysis showing that Tuesday afternoons are often the best time to book tickets.

Where Should I Look For Tickets?

There are a lot of good ways to look for flights. The pros don’t necessarily do anything special other than be thorough. They check tickets on multiple flight-aggregation websites, and then always check out promising-looking tickets on the website of the specific carrier.

Here’s what the process generally looks like:

  • Choose our next destination
  • Choose when we fly
  • Choose where to buy our ticket and on what carrier.

Not too hard, right? Here’s how I do things in practice:

Skyscanner

I like to start with Skyscanner.com – Not only can we search for flights across a whole week, month, or year, to our destination of choice, but we can search for flights going “everywhere.”

For example, if we’re flying from Paris, we can see that Italy, Lithuania, Portugal and Poland provide the 4 cheapest destinations. If we want to cross Europe on the cheap, a $33 flight to Poland or $31 to Lithuania is going to be way cheaper than taking the train.

skyscanner

I rarely use Skyscanner to actually purchase a flight, but it’s a perfect starting point for building a mental map of possibilities.

Kayak.com

Kayak Explore provides a nice world map interface and let’s us see prices to any destination around the globe, similar to Skyscanner. The difference? The map view can be useful for finding hidden gem destinations.

For example, flying from Moscow to Europe, most flights are between $120 and $250. But here we find a hidden gem in the middle of it all, Vienna, for $89. Nice!

kayak flights

After using these two sits for large scale research, I start searching for specific dates for promising destinations, as well as which airlines fly a particular route. Now, we should search using a combination of flight-aggregation engines.

Here are 4 of the best:

      • WhichBudget – search many budget airlines simultaneously
      • Rome2Rio – Comes up with interesting route combinations you probably wouldn’t think of yourself.
      • TravelSuperMarket – A British flight aggregator that’s worth testing out.
      • HipMunk – let’s you sort flights by “Agony” – a calculation taking into account price, trip duration, and number of layovers.

Surely you’re familiar with this sort of setup, here courtesy of Hipmunk.com:

cheap flight engine

And the best of the rest, which are worth checking if you have more patience than money: CheapOAir, Momondo, Kelkoo, Fly.com, Dohop, Mobissimo TravelSpec, and Travelocity.

I would recommend checking out each website and doing a couple searches, then picking the ones you like most. We each have to build our own “repertoire” so to speak, and your preferences may differ from mine.

Final Step: Individual Carriers

The last step is to use the flight search engines of specific companies. Sometimes, a flight found on one of the aggregate sites will differ from that same flight when searched from the actual carrier’s site.

While this is not always the case, it certainly pays to check!

For example, here’s the homepage of Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline. The search function on the right isn’t much different from what we’ve already seen, except it obviously is only searching for flights on Lufthansa:

Lufthansa

That’s it. At this point you can either buy your ticket wherever you found the lowest price, or mark in your calendar when it’s ~8 weeks from takeoff to book your flight then.

A word of caution though. Flights rarely decrease that much in price, so if the price you’ve already found is good enough, it usually makes sense to buy it now and avoid the risk of a 20% price increase than it is to try to save a few bucks.

Pro Tip: Before booking any flight, clear your cookies. Some airlines will track your searches and may inflate the price on you if they determine you’re interested in a particular route.


More Flights Savings: Mystery Shopper Flights

When I told Nora from TheProfessionalHobo that I was doing this article and asked if she had any extra cheap-flight tips to pass on, she revealed a technique I’d never heard of: Flying as a Mystery Shopper, which saved her 50% on a flight from Toronto, Canada to Lima, Peru. Not bad.

SQM mystery shopperSince I’d never heard of this before, I did a little more digging also found this report on ABC news about the company Sensors Quality Management, the same company mentioned in Nora’s report, which is responsible for this little-known opportunity.

Maybe you’ll only ever take 1 flight in such a manner, but 50% off a flight is no laughing matter for most of us – especially for long-haul routes.

Now, a word of caution, since the whole concept of mystery shopping is predicated on its secretive nature, it’s a common hunting ground for scammers. If you’re going to look for these opportunities, be sure to protect yourself against the unscrupulous.

Additional Resources:

Part 7: Round The World Flights

earth - 2sides

Round the world tickets are not the cheapest way to see the world, but they are a good way to cover a ton of ground. Specifically, getting you around the entire world. Surprise!

I’ll be honest, this is completely not my style of travel, as I like to spend longer periods of time in each destination – particularly to learn the language, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good option for you.

For starters, Nomadic Matt put together this great guide explaining how RTW tickets work and who should use one.

Who should consider a RTW ticket:

  • People who want to travel for 1 year (RTW tickets are good for approximately this duration)
  • People who want certainty about their destinations
  • People with a lot of frequent flyer points, or who want to accumulate them
  • Ruthless planners

A RTW ticket is kind of like a planet-earth buffet, where we get to sample a bunch of different countries across the globe but won’t get a lot of time in any particular region.

Personally, I find part of the inherent challenge with an RTW ticket is that it’s hard to predict how much we’ll like a certain destination, and that by creating such a large itinerary up front, we’re begging for something unexpected to mess with our plans.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Stephanie from Twenty-Something Travel relates in How I Was Totally Wrong About RTW Travel.

RTW Walkthrough: Creating An Itinerary

Let’s take a closer peek at the mechanics, to help you decide whether a RTW ticket is right for you.

Round the world tickets are offered by two companies: OneWorld & StarAlliance.

In my opinion, the best way to understand a RTW itinerary is to see one in action.

Here’s an example using StarAlliance’s RTW trip planner, starting and finishing in Madrid:

RTW flights

Here’s the exact itinerary:

rtw itinerary

The particular conditions for each company differ. For the above trip with StarAlliance, we’re paying for the number of “segments” – flights taken including stopovers, “stopovers” – destinations with 24h spent in-country, and mileage.

rtw stats

The cost of this 31,310 mile (50,389 km) flight package?

An estimated 4,663 EUR, or about $5,276 US.

rtw price

The final cost will depend on the actual flights chosen, but this estimate is reasonably accurate.

If a RTW ticket interests you, be sure to check out OneWorld as well, as they have a completely different set of conditions, and you may prefer their style.

And as a 3rd option, AirTreks helps you put together a RTW flight without any of the restrictions of OneWorld or StarAlliance by buying each flight independently, not based on the air alliance partnerships of the 2 other companies.

RTW Budgeting Considerations:

Of course, the cost of flights is only the first expense we have to consider. Earlier, we looked at the example of Shannon O’Donnel’s RTW trip that ran her to almost $19,000 in a year.

As you can see, the cost of these trips tend not to be on the cheap end – but this is largely a function of the flight costs. It’s perfectly reasonable to have the post-transportation costs be in the $1,000 range (possibly lower, depending what lodging and food finding strategies you employ).

In the next section, you’ll find out how to get big time discounts on flights – sometimes even free. Perfect for slashing an RTW budget requirement. Or just flying on the cheap. Keep reading.

Part 8: Big League Fare-Hacking With Travel Points

AirBerlin_Oneworld_737_landing_at_DusseldorfIf we want to get serious and look at free flights, than short of becoming a pilot or flight attendant, we need to look at using travel points through credit cards and frequent flyer cards for specific airlines.

Lots of cards offer a truckload of miles for signing up, and often, simply by putting your normal living expenses on the card you can rack up enough miles for free flights without much sweat.

Let me make this abundantly clear: This doesn’t require spending any money you wouldn’t normally spend. It’s just a matter of choosing a card that gives you the right rewards.

Let’s look at an example to see the power of this strategy.

Epic World Travel Case Study: Steve Kamb – 9 Countries + 15 Cities For $418

In the viral blog post that helped put Steve Kamb of NerdFitness on the fitness world’s radar, Steve explains how he put together this ridiculous itinerary of flights for $418:

Steve Kamb itinerary

And while Steve spent more money on the ground ($2,000 a month by his account), 11 months of travel for under of $500 in international transportation costs is outrageous!

How did he do it?

In one case, to earn 100,000 British Airways points, he had to spend $2,000 on that card over a 6 month period. He simply put all his living expenses – food, gas, gym membership – on that card for a couple months.

Getting Started – Choosing a Card

Getting points for doing nothing is an easy enough concept, but in practice, it’s an overwhelming concept for beginners.

Fortunately, there are a couple of killer resources available to would be fare-hackers.

Brian Kelly – known as “The Points Guy” – has an awesome Beginner’s Guide that walks through the steps of signing up for Frequent Flyer programs, choosing credit cards, keeping an eye for deals, and managing everything.

I reached out to Rick, “The Frugal Travel Guy” – one of the best in the business when it comes to getting big-league travel miles for some perspective, as I’m not a frequent flyer myself. Here’s what he had to say:

FTGMy tag line has always been:

“Your credit is one of your most important assets.”Get and keep your score over 700 to reap the rewards.

-Rick, the Frugal Travel Guy

He recommends the same 2 cards that Steve did for his round-the-world uber-trip:

The Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express -$5,000 worth of purchases within 6 months of signing up net you a nice 25,000 miles.

The Chase Sapphire Prefered Card – 40,000 bonus miles (~$500 value) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after opening an account.

After you’ve chosen a card, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for deals that will help you earn more points, faster – such as 2x point bonuses.

Top Blogs:

You can also check out the following forums for more discussion about point collecting, as well as more deals/opportunities to earn points:

  • Flyertalk.com the most established forum with a ton of information at your fingertips. A word of warning: the conversations can go from heated to hostile here.
  • Milepoint.com established by FlyerTalk veterans who wanted a new scene, MilePoint has a different vibe but lacks the depth of it’s predecessor.

The Next Level: Travel Hacking Cartel

travel hacking cartelAnd there’s the premium option, a membership in Chris Guillibeau’s Travel Hacking Cartel (not an affiliate link).

For $15 a month you’ll be provided with alerts for new bonus point opportunities.

His guarantee is 4 flights (domestic) a year – or 100,000 points – for your trouble.

I checked out the members area to be able to report back to you, and I can honestly say that, while it wasn’t for me (I’m really far away from the average consumer, what with being permanently on the road), if you’re living in an English speaking country and looking to do more traveling during your time off, the $15 a month will likely be worth it.

Tracking Your Points

Regardless of your points-accumulation strategy, you’re going to want to find an effective way to keep track of them.

Enter Awardwallet.com. AwardWallet is a free service that allows you to enter your frequent flyer accounts, and they’ll track everything from one convenient dashboard. PLUS they’ll send you alerts if any of your points are in danger of expiring – a super handy tool if you’re not a frequent flyer.

Part 9: By Ground, Rail & Water – Other Transportation

trainThere are a ton of ways other than flying to get around this big shiny globe of ours – by car, bus, train, bicycle, boat, on foot, and for the truly adventurous: hot air balloons, camels, and dog sleds.

As a general rule (but not always) cheaper options than flying.

If you’re interested in slow travel, more as a way of life than a constant hopping from one destination to the next, then we ought to follow Tim Ferriss’s recommendation from the Four Hour Work Week: Stay in 1 place for at least 3 months, get to know the culture (and out of “tourist mode” – the need to see and later be photographed with every famous monument), and learn a new skill.

This has the added benefit of lightening the monetary strain on our transportation budget – as no transportation is the cheapest transportation.

In order to find routes for busses, trains, and other non-air travel options, I always start with Rome2Rio.com, a search engine that will find routes based on all available transportation options (including flying).

For example, this route from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Stockholm Sweden combines a train, bus, and ferry:

st pete to stockholm

st pete to stockholm2In addition to the creative routing options (usually ~5 alternatives are provided), both price and time estimates are given, so you can balance both your budget and time.

One of my favorite features is that, when you discover an interesting route, you can discover all the service providers who cover that route, and link directly to their website to book a ticket.

Why is this cool? Because in a new and unfamiliar region, we’re not going to know all the local companies who provide bus, train and ferry services – and unlike a Google search, which will tend to turn up the high priced tour services who are savvy marketers, Rome2Rio has often discovered the carriers that locals use too.

Ride Sharing

The original concept of ride sharing was to help commuters share vehicles. The driver would make a bit of money, the riders would save money on gas (and possibly the expenses of car ownership altogether). Plus it’s an eco-friendly option for the environmentally conscious.

It has since expanded into a way for travelers to get across countries for less than a typical flight/bus/train ride, as well as offer extremely creative routing options that conventional travel companies may not service.

aj walton franceFor example, once I had to get from a farm in northern France (where, amongst other things, I had helped raise over 300,000 snails) down to Lyon where I was meeting a friend.

650+ km, last minute. This was NOT going to be cheap.

The options in Northern France basically revolve around train service, and last minute tickets were both expensive, the routes were convoluted, and I really wanted to find a better option that was still fast.

Enter BlaBlaCar, a French ride sharing company, where I found someone who was driving the exact route I was looking for.

(Technically, they were going farther than I was, but one of the nice things about this system is that you can join for just part of the journey. Here, my final destination is at point “D”)

blablacar

Awesome. Made new friends, got to practice my French for a couple hours, saved some money, and got the trip done in an afternoon. The 42 Euro price tag was heavier than I normally like, but to see a friend from Canada after being away from home for over 500 days – worth every penny.

These services are still relatively new, and thus currently only exist in Canada, USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Western Europe.

Ride Sharing Resources:

Cycling

Cycling is far more than a cheap mode of transportation. It is, in it’s own right, one of the most incredible ways to travel the world.

For a taste of what’s possible with the power of human ingenuity (the bike) and desire, check out the route taken by Alastair Humphries on this 4-year, 46,000 mile epic tour:

round the world by bike

 

Tom Allen of TomsBikeTrip has this awesome advice to give would be cyclists uncertain about how to get started: Sell everything. Quit your job. Get a bike. Ride.

And for those of us who require a bit more preparation, he’s written over 400,000 words of biking related material covering any cycling-related issue you could imagine and several you probably can’t.

alastair humphreys“Begin. Travel, adventure, cycling: these things are more daunting to consider than they are in reality. Google the kit you need, buy a book that teaches you how to use it. Get your visas and vaccinations. And go!

You’ll learn the rest and get fit on the road. And if you absolutely hate it: just come home again. It’s not a 1-way ticket to Mars. So relax and go for it! The only hard part is having the nerve to begin.”

-Alastair Humphreys, AlastairHumphreys.com

I’ve biked a bit in Southern France, and the experience was one of the most memorable I’ve had traveling – and there’s stiff competition. There’s something incredibly liberating and empowering about this particular mode of transportation.

We make fast enough progress to experience many things and many places, without going so fast as too miss the world’s beauty; we have flexibility in terms of route, timelines, speed, breaks; We rely on our own strength – inner and outer, and improve our abilities by using them.

More cycling resources:

Hitchhiking

hitch hikingHitchhiking is more than a transport option for the moneyless adventurer or those who thumb their nose at risk. It’s a one of a kind experience that you have to have to really understand.

I’ve hitched through the nausea-inducing mountain roads in Northern Thailand in the back of a pickup with 5 comrades from around the globe. This was during the Songkran festival – where people basically spend a whole day throwing/spraying water at each other in order to purify themselves.

And soak foolish hitchhikers.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games, but hitchhiking is something I would still recommend trying once even if you don’t need to save money.

In terms of technique, Jamie from GreatBigScaryWorld, who has a 14,000km hitchhiking adventure to his name (as well as others), created this stand-out guide: How to Hitchhike.

Still not convinced you should give hitching a shot? Then check out Justin Carmack’s article on TrueNomads: 4 Reasons You Should Hitchhike.

Hitching Basics

The basics of hitching are, to me, quite simple: Be the type of person you would consider picking up. Wear clean clothes and shower. Be sober. Smile.

Your thumb is all the sign you’ll ever need in most places, though in SE Asia the accepted convention was to wave your hand – palm down – as if tapping the beat to a song (this is also the sign to wave over taxis and busses).

In terms of location, it’s often (but not always) illegal to hitchhike on the motorway itself. Furthermore, it can be dangerous. You also want to stand somewhere that cars can reasonably stop.

On-ramps are often nice because cars will have yet to accelerate. Gas stations are even better because you can ask people directly.

When you do get a car, the most important thing (other than safety) is your drop zone. In Thailand drivers always wanted to take Katia & me to a bus or railway station instead of leaving us on the road. Once this cost us hours in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar town, where the train station was several km from the main road – and we didn’t know in which direction!

Staying Safe

Hitchhiker-Luxemburg-1977Hitchhiking as a bit of a notorious reputation as being unsafe, especially for women.

I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say hitchhiking is unsafe. Most people around the world are enormously friendly and helpful, even to strangers who don’t speak their language.

It’s more a matter of proper planning, research, and good decision making than anything else.

I look at it this way – a ballpoint pen can also put someone’s eye out if used improperly. But most of the time it doesn’t.

There are tons of successful, solo-female hitchhikers out there – many of whom I’ve met while in SE Asia.

And others have recounted their stories online, like the 4.5 year hitchhiking adventure by the then 20-year old Rajam.

Here are some basic safety guidelines:

  1. Your intuition is your best weapon. Trust it, and be willing to turn down a ride or get out as soon as you sense something is wrong.
  2. On the flip side, a weapon is often not a good idea for 2 reasons: Think of how your driver would react upon discovering it. And would you really be able to 1) reach it and 2) use it effectively in a situation of duress? (Pepper spray might be an exception to this)
  3. Long haul trucks are relatively safe as they’re very conspicuous, as are cars with children in them. There are always exceptions of course, but sometimes planes crash too, and we use them.
  4. Hitch early morning. In very general terms, people looking for trouble stay out late and sleep in. People who wake up early tend to be getting a jump on work or some personal goals.
  5. And finally, traveling with someone decreases your risk a small amount.

I can’t tell you if hitchhiking is right for you. That’s ultimately your call.

What is important, is not forming an opinion out of hysteria or fear the way the media would entice us. I’d recommend reading the discussion over on TheHitchhikersHandbook for more insight, and deciding whether hitchhiking is a calculated risk worth taking.

Pro Tips

  • For increased safety, let someone know when you’re leaving and where you’re going, as well as the number/place to contact if you don’t check in by an agreed upon time.
  • Travel with a friend, or with a fellow traveller you met along the way
  • Check Hitchwiki.org for route ideas and where to look for rides
  • Bring plenty of water and be patient. I’ve been stuck out in the heat before with nothing to drink and it sucks. If there’s one thing you need when there’s no ride to be found, it’s water.

Part 10: Stay For Free I – Hospitality Exchanges

modest bedroom

CouchSurfing is a great way to stay for free in 100+ countries around the world

A hospitality exchange is where you are the guest in somebody’s home free of charge. Typically, these arrangements last a couple days, though if host and guest get along this might stretch to a week or more.

You may wonder “who in the world would want to invite a complete stranger into their home?” but as someone who has been a host as well as a guest on may occasions, I can say that both experiences can be extremely rewarding.

It’s like saying, “who would look at travel photography or read travel blogs when you could just travel?” Simple – we can gain a lot of the experiences of others.

Long story short, there are thriving communities of people that would like nothing more than for you to sleep at their place and quite possibly show you around their hometown.

Unsurprisingly, the type of people you’ll find to be hosts are those who are interested in travelling (and travelers) themselves.

Here are 6 of the top services I’d recommend:

  1. Couch Surfingcouch-surfing-logo – Arguably the most well-known service, CS provides the opportunity to browse online listings, learn about your prospective hosts/guests, and make arrangements. They have a solid system of safety checks in place to help keep out troublemakers, though that in no way means you can skip doing your own due-diligence. When you’re ready to contact someone, read my article about how to make the perfect couch request.
  2. Trampolinn An interesting twist on the CS concept where users gain/spend points by hosting or staying with others.
  3. Hospitality Club – It might be unfair to say “basically like CouchSurfing”, but Hospitality Club is a reputable alternative to our industry leader.
  4. Global Freeloaders – One interesting twist: They require guests to reciprocate within 6 months. If you’re not going to be up for that, best pass on them. Otherwise, a solid 3rd option.
  5. Servas – The UN recognized Servas has a strict registration process that includes an interview. The higher barrier to entry likely makes it slightly safer than the alternatives, but the lack of convenience might hurt more than the security helps.
  6. WarmShowers.org – a cycling-specific version of the above. Many world travelers make their mode of transportation the bicycle, and this is a great way to find a place to stay with a fellow enthusiast. I used it when I biked through southern France.

Hospitality Exchange Best Practices:

If only it were as easy as signing up and asking strangers around the world to crash at their pad. Not quite. But as a veteran CouchSurfer I can also tell you that it’s not all that difficult either.

On whatever site you opt to use, you can answer almost all your questions yourself by asking “what would I want to see if I were a host?” This goes for filling out your profile, choosing a picture, and sending requests.

To get a bit deeper, here’s a crash course of best practices:

  • Free lodging doesn’t give you an excuse to be a cheapskate. Bring something to eat/drink/share. Spend time with your host unless you’ve set expectations that this won’t be the case in prior communication.
  • Personalize requests – a bit. No, you won’t write a new request for every person, I know. But at least a line or 2 to show you read their profile is nice.
  • Read their profile!
  • Send your requests at least a month in advance, more if you’re going to a popular destination at a busy time of year – such as Paris around New Years
  • In big cities, expect to send a minimum of 10-15 requests before getting a yes – if you’re sending well in advance (1 month or more).
  • Shower and do laundry. Need I explain…?
  • Send a quick thanks even to people who say “no.” Katia did this and we ended up having an awesome New Years bash in Paris when some other travelers couldn’t make it and our host chose us out of 100s of people to reach out to.
  • Fill out your profile as completely as possible. Add photos. Be human. Be honest.

Additional Resource: Christian Eliers of dauntlessjaunter.com put together this thorough guide to using CouchSurfing – a great tool for the beginner to quickly get acquainted with the ins and outs of CS.

Travel Hacking Insider: Why You Should Become a CouchSurfing Host Today

AJ Walton food

Come on over!

Hospitality exchanges are a great way to get cheap accommodation, but by far the best way to use a site like CS to improve the quality of your travel is by becoming a host.

Why?

If you’re going to be traveling, the best thing in the world you can possibly have is a large group of friends from all over the world you can reach out to. Doubly so if you’re writing a travel blog.

You’ll find opportunities that no search engine, no travel blog, no guidebook will ever be able to share with you, because that’s the power of friendship.

For example, in Grand Cayman I met a Canadian lawyer living in New York who was on his first vacation in something like 4 years. He was an avid diver and we shot the shit for a couple hours at a restaurant several restaurants.

Months later, I ended up in New York City. This new friend of mine I had made totally by chance bought Broadway tickets for me and a friend and took us out to dinner at one of his favorite local dives beforehand.

Not because I’m cool. Not because I asked. Because I simply took an interest in another human being and tried my damndest to be a cool friend when the tables were slightly turned.

Extra Goodies:

Even if you don’t need a place to stay, there are often groups for big cities that have weekly meetups. This can be a great opportunity to mingle with a combination of locals and travelers and get a feel for the city you’re visiting, and if you plan on an extended stay – create friendships, discover job opportunities, do language-exchanges, and basically make the city more alive.

For example, in my current city – St. Petersburg in Russia, there’s a weekly CS meetup on Thursdays:

spb cs meetup

Part 11: Stay For Free II – Volunteering

uganda6

CharityWater.org is one of many good causes you can lend a hand to

To a lot of people, the idea of working for a good cause in exchange for the opportunity to live in another country sounds wonderful.

The challenge is finding legitimate volunteering opportunities to match one’s interests. Now that a lot of charities have started looking for a profit, often to the detriment of the ultimate community benefits, the marketplace has been infused with doubt and cynicism regarding international volunteering.

The Big Question: Are You Making A Difference?

Shawn Stafford contributed a guest post to GoBackpacking that outlines some of the pitfalls of trying to do good for others.

It’s one thing to have good intentions – but what the people we intend to serve really need are results. What we don’t want to do is create dependencies on aid in a community.

For example, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many families were displaced. Aid communities were formed where these people would receive food, water, and other life necessities.

All good and important things.

However, these were cramped, dirty places that were and are difficult to live in.

The unforeseen consequence was that when these people were finally able to return home and resume normal life, they often wouldn’t – because they wanted to keep receiving the handouts. From their point of view, this was a better life – even if they were now effectively stuck in a cycle of dependence.

It’s the old “give a man a fish — teach a man to fish” argument.

For any volunteering opportunity it’s important to look at the long term impact of our efforts.

Megan from Mapping Megan has a great text interview with Stephen Knight – the manager of Volunteer Latin America - about this problem finding ethical volunteering opportunities.

Is It Right For You?

Once we’ve vetted our prospective organization, we also need to answer some personal questions:

  1. How many hours will I be required to work each day?
  2. What kind of work will I be doing?
  3. What do I have to pay for?
  4. Will I have internet access?
  5. What sort of activities are there to do during “down” time?
  6. What time commitment does this opportunity require?

Knowing our answers will help us find the perfect opportunity that fits with our time commitments, budget, skills, and interests.

Volunteering Opportunities

Here are some legit volunteering opportunities you can dig your teeth info if you fancy:

1. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

WOOFingRoom & board is provided in exchange for a day’s work on a farm. Stays may range from weeks to years, as befits you and your would-be hosts.

A total of 53 countries participate in WOOFing. In general, you have to register for a particular group in order to see possible placements. This usually involves a small fee, as groups are independently managed in each country.

A world of caution: while WOOFing can be a great way to live abroad, there have been abuses of the system where hosts basically get a ton of cheap labor and don’t respect their end of the bargain – so do your research and be sure to talk to potential hosts.

Also, if you’ve never worked on a farm – be warned: it is not easy. You will be pushed physically. I had the opportunity t work on a farm of some distant relatives in Northern France, and even in moderation it’s tough work.

In many cases, and definitely in mine, this is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and have an authentic living abroad experience.

2. Turtle Teams, Worldwide

“Turtle Teams” is the catch-all name for the 1000s of small groups which help sea turtles. These groups tend to be located at a nesting beach – generally in an environmentally-exploited region.

One of my ride sharing “hosts” in France spent 2-3 weeks in Thailand and absolutely loved it.

Local tourist offices near tropical beaches should be able to direct you to a relevant group. You can also find out more at these larger organizations: SeaTurtles.org and CCCTurtle.org.

3. Other Eco-Volunteering Opportunities

For the green-spirited volunteer, here are some of the best places to search for opportunities:

  • Idealist – features an internal search engine and large internal database to help you find the volunteer opportunity you want. Volunteer opportunities are featured in a variety of fields (not just environmental ones) – including farming and agriculture – in all 50 states and around the world.
  • Transitions Abroad – offers a list of international farm work programs that includes WWOOF and others.
  • Help Exchange is another organization that connects volunteers with farms and ranches, as well as hostels and even sailing boats.
  • For those seeking an experience living in community, there are several eco-villages that offer internship opportunities. For more information on eco-villages, see the Intentional Communities website.
  • Larger eco-villages such as Earthaven, Dancing Rabbit, and Lost Valley offer educational internships that focus on building, planting, and organization.

4. Other Volunteering Opportunities

Prefer working with people? Teaching? Building? Or using some other skill set of yours? Then consider the following opportunities:

Part 12: Stay For Free III – House & Pet Sitting

cool bedroomIf I told you that you could live like a millionaire looking after a golden retriever, you would call me a liar. But as it turns out, there are people all over the world that want to have their homes and pets looked after by complete strangers while they go on vacations of their own.

I first discovered this opportunity through a fellow traveler who stayed with wealthy families in exchange for giving language lessons to their kids, and have since discovered there’s a whole community of house sitters who use these sorts of opportunities as a way to travel.

The big benefit of house sitting: After you’ve arrived at your destination, lodging is almost always the #1 expense.

By reducing that to zero you’ve just saved a ton of resources to invest in your travel experience or to save up for future travels.

What’s better, is by house sitting, you’ve likely just outdone even the mid-range hotels at your destination in terms of comfort/luxury/appeal.

Of course, the competition is fierce for the best spots, and it can be hard to break in to the field as a beginner with no experience.

But it’s well worth the effort.

Dani from GlobeTrotterGirls routinely nabs assignments on beachfront properties in paradise.

Maybe you’re next? Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Choosing A House Sitting Site

Unlike hospitality exchange websites like CouchSurfing, house sitting sites charge a fee, typically per year.

At first this sounds scary, but it’s actually good news.

Just consider, the number of people in need of a house or pet sitter is much smaller than the people who would jump at the opportunity to get free accommodation in beautiful and exotic locations around the world.

So the barrier to entry eliminates a ton of potential competition.

As for which site is best, ultimately it’s your call, but I’ve ordered the following list based on the recommendations of veteran house sitters:

  • Trusted House Sitters ($95.88/yr) Industry leader, with 3-10 new assignments per day. Mainly UK/Europe
  • Mind My House ($20/yr) Fewer listings but a lower entry fee.
  • HouseCarers ($50/yr) Dani’s top recommendation. Lots of North and Central America houses.
  • Nomador ($89/yr) Ultramodern design and super easy to use. The top choice from a user experience standpoint.
  • HouseSitWorld ($40/yr) Old design, but worth a look.
  • Housesit Match ($60)a Newer site popular in the UK
  • LuxuryHousesitting ($25/yr) Who doesn’t like a bit of luxury?

Need more options? Check out this list of 20+ house sitting options, including sites specifically for hte US, UK, Australia, and NZ.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Profile

A good profile would seem like common sense, but so many people get things wrong. Remember, your profile has to make an excellent first impression, or else you’re sunk.

Dalene and Pete Heck of Hecktic Travells are old pros and have a handy 101 guide to get started.

Profile Picture: Take a face shot with a big smile. A shot with you and a dog where your face is still close up and visible gets bonus points.

Headline: One sentence to give the homeowner a reason to care. Give them benefits. “Retired schoolteacher” conveys no benefit, “traveling the world” conveys no benefit. “Reliable, animal loving adult to care for your home or pet(s)” conveys massive benefits.

Experience: Share as much of your experience as possible. If you’ve never housesat, talk about similar experiences you’ve had and why you think they translate well.

References: Having references is a big plus and increases your chances of landing a gig. So be sure to get a reference from anyone you house sit with.

Because references are something the beginner house sitter is unlikely to have, I reached out to veteran house sitter Dale from AngloItalianFollowUs for some advice. Here’s the juicy insider scoop he shared:

Dave & FrancaGetting References:

House sit for your friends, family, and friends of the family before you start house sitting elsewhere, even if it’s just a long weekend.

Each house sit you do is another reference worth collecting and when you’re name is amongst a list of hopeful house sitters for an assignment your high quantity of references will make you stick out.
-Dale from AngloItalianFollowUs


Extra Tip:
Set up a blog showcasing your services. It’s just one more way to build your trust with potential homeowners. See Angela & John Laws at HouseSittingPerfected.com.

Step 3: Creating An Application

Here’s where the rubber hits the road. You’re application is going to be competing with as many as several 100 others, so you’ve got to stand out and make an impact fast!

Note that your goal isn’t to make the owner choose you now, it’s to get the conversation to the next level: Via Skype, phone, or (worst case) personal email.

  • Thoroughly read the owner’s advert and respond to their concerns and requirements.
  • Tie your skills to the owner’s benefit – don’t assume they’ll make a connection. “I have great intuition with animals” doesn’t say much, whereas “I have great intuition with animals, so you can rest easy that Scruffy will get all the play, affection, and down time that he needs” screams it.
  • If the owner has pets, address your letter to both the owner and their pet to stand out.
  • Research the local area, understand the costs, and then communicate this understanding in your letter. Show them you are serious and ready for the responsibility. You can even tell them the flight you’re ready to book should they confirm your hire.

Extra tips: Charli Moore from Wanderlusters on Creating a Successful House Sitting Application

Step 4: Contacting Your Potential Host

The final, critical step is to get in personal contact with your potential host.

Even though you’re interested in the possibility of house sitting with them, it’s important to make sure that your own concerns are being addressed to. In talking to a homeowner, you’re interviewing them just as much as the other way around.

This way, everybody will be clear about expectations and everybody wins.

I reached out to pro traveler Dariece from Goats On The Road about this critical exchange, and she had a lot of advice to share:

Dariece & Nick

Dariece & Nick

For first time house sitters, we recommend having a Skype conversation with the home owners of the property you’ll be potentially sitting.

You’ll want to have a notepad with all of your questions lined out (including duties required of you, amenities nearby, any special care needed for the pets, etc.) and make sure to be yourself during the conversation! It’s important that you feel comfortable with the job position, and aren’t blinded by the thought of (possibly) living in paradise!

House sitting can be beneficial for both the sitter and the owner, but it’s important to voice your concerns and questions right away.

Something else I would suggest to first time sitters is to make sure that you’re not taking a job that is going to end up costing you a lot of money – unless, of course, you have extra cash to spend. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to fly all the way to Fiji for a two week house sitting job, unless maybe you had planned to travel to New Zealand anyways. It’s important to think of the location and the duration of the sit, and decide whether or not the flight makes sense.

To find out how we saved $24,000 in accommodation costs, click here!

-Dariece, Goats On The Road

House Sitting Success Story:

dalene and pete heck

Dalene and Pete Heck of Hecktic Travels saved over $30,000 on accommodation by house sitting.

On their website, they break down their 2 months in British Columbia, Canada and 6 months in Honduras.

2 Months In British Columbina

Looking after a home nestled away in the mountains, the Hectic Travelers were responsible for basic property maintenance, looking after a cat, retrieving mail from town, and providing their own food and transportation.

In return they had utilities and internet paid for, had use of a kayak, and got to spend 2 months in one of the most picturesque regions of Canada.

6 Months In Honduras

Their next gig they discovered while in B.C. – since they speak some Spanish, the Hectic Travelers were contacted directly by their next host, who lived in Roatán, Honduras.

This gig was slightly different. Included in their duties were preparing the home for realtor showings, as it was for sale, as well as managing a part-time gardener (which they didn’t have to pay for).

Perks? Beyond living in Honduras for 6 months, their host covered visa extensions, provided a vehicle, and paid all utilities.

The Final Word:

House sitting is an awesome way to drastically reduce expenses while staying in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It’s also a great opportunity to live comfortably in many other spots around the globe.

Here are some other useful house sitting resources to dive into:

Part 13: Stay For Cheap – Hotels, Hostels, and More!

hotel

Photo Credit: Fodors.com

We’ve seen that there are a smorgasbord of options for finding free accommodation, but I would be remiss not to include some of the best budget “paid” options.

Top of the bunch: Hostels.

Many modern hostels have overcome the reputation of their predecessors for being dirty, run down joints infested with vermin. Those still exist of course, but it’s easy to find hostels that are quite acceptable for even “mid range” budget travellers.

I’ve used hostels in Paris, Prague, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok to name a few – and I’ve found good options whether I’m paying in Euros or Thai Baht.

Hostel doesn’t automatically mean “crowded dorm room” either, private rooms are often priced quite reasonably.

There are only 3 sites I recommend for hostels, which will probably serve over 98% of your accommodation needs without a hitch. I for one have never booked a hostel with another site, though I occasionally test new sites to keep on top of the market.

For instance, I think Booking.com is a total waste of time for any budget travellers, with prices coming in at 5-10x what I’d normally pay.

hostelworldHostel World: My favorite hostel booking website has listings for over 27,000 hostels around the globe. I’ve used them since my first solo trip in 2011. For the absolute best deals, this is where I look first.

hostelbookersHostel Bookers: The main competition of HostelWorld will sometimes have better prices. I think at this point they’ve actually surpassed HostelWorld in quality, but it’s easy enough to search both.

AgodaAgoda: My 3rd choice more out of habit than anything, Agoda lists the bargain basement deals along with the rest, has an easy to navigate interface, and has an enormous selection – over 575,000 locations worldwide

Cheap Stays With Sites Like Airbnb

airbnbA cool alternative to hostels is Airbnb, where people can list their home, apartment, or spare room.

Hostels are sometimes listed as well, but this isn’t the reason I use Airbnb.

Airbnb is cool because you get to stay in a real home. On a personal note, I think it’s wonderful to travel and support a real individual by renting their room rather than the faceless, multi-million dollar conglomerates behind luxury options.

Additionally, you’ll have a wider selection of locations than with hostels, which normally cluster around tourist hotspots.

These sorts of booking are often a bit more expensive than a hostel, but there’s the benefit of often having private space, as you’ll have the place to yourself or be sharing the space with the owner.

There is some tradeoff here. Where hostels shine in the realm of socialization, sites like Airbnb can give us some much needed personal space. This is especially useful if you’re traveling in a group and need extra space.

Getting Started:

The search function on Airbnb isn’t a lot different from hostel/hotel booking sites. You can choose your destination & date, number of guests, filter by price, and even extra options like inclusive Wifi, TV, and kitchen.

For example, for this search in Istanbul, Turkey I trimmed the price back to a max of $20 per night for 2 people and came up with 92 results. What’s great is you can also see their locations on the inset map:

 

airbnb ex

Of course, you can play with the settings to get the comfort/luxury combination you desire.

James and Susan from The Savy Backpacker go deep-dive into Airbnb in this post: advantages/disadvantages, best practices, and personal experience.

Safety and Security

One of the most important things as a prospective client is to thoroughly vet your host. Airbnb does what it can to verify hosts, but ultimately the community is powered by trust.

To that note, know that on Airbnb your money is held in escrow, so if your host’s place isn’t as advertised and you choose to leave, you’ll get your money back.

Nomadic Matt – as he is wont to do – comes through with this handy guide to getting the most out of Airbnb and its likenesses.

Airbnb Alternatives:

Don’t limit yourself to Airbnb, check out these similar sites to find the room right for you.

  • House Trip: Over 300,000 houses, apartments & villas to rent in over 20,000 destinations
  • Roomorama: Over 200,000 short-term home rentals worldwide
  • Homeaway: Actually composed of multiple subsidiary sites with over 1 million total listings. Higher end listings.
  • VRBO: One of the Homeaway partner sites. Specializes in North Americian property.
  • Wimdu: Another more upscale option.

Renting

The best bang for our buck is often renting out an apartment the way locals do. That is, not doing a Google search and turning up all the luxury options that huge companies with million dollar marketing budgets put in front of our faces.

On the island of Koh Samui, Katia and I rented a private cottage (part of a larger complex, but the building we had to ourselves) for ~3500 Thai Baht per month, which at the time was around $110.

Mark Weins of Migrationology has spent a ton of time living in Bangkok and knows how to get apartments in the 2,000 – 4,000 THB ($64 -$128) range as a part of his sub $300/mo budget.

This type of thing is not necessarily difficult to do, but it requires the right mindset. We’re used to booking a place to stay long before we get there. But in order to find a great location at a great price, we’ve gotta do the legwork: Explore the territory, talk to locals, and enquire at different places about vacancies.

Sam from Indefinite Adventure also talks about the importance of this in his guide to renting apartments in South America (that are applicable anywhere).

That being said, there is prep work we should do before we go:

  • Ask on CouchSurfing about places to look or people to contact, as well as what websites locals use to list and find rental property.
  • Use these same connections to make first contact with potential landlords and establish the rates before you come in and close the deal – because as a foreigner you will almost certainly be told a higher price than locals would.
  • Search websites like Craigslist or Expat-Blog to see what sort of rental options are out there.
  • Try Numbeo to get a feel for the general cost of living, including rental prices.

This is by far the most comfortable and enjoyable way to live in a new region and explore the culture for several months.

Part 14: Food – Eating Well On Any Budget

thai food

Photo by Fiona

Food is like a microcosm of the entire traveling process. It’s a process of discovery. Adventure. If you’re willing to do something new, you can never know where you’re going to end up – but it’s almost always worth it.

As a long-term budget traveler, food is the one topic that I’m the most divided on. It’s the frugal travel crossroads.

In principle I like to keep things thrifty, since less financial strain means more time doing things I love, such as learning languages, writing, and exploring new places.

In my own experience, it’s easy enough to be frugal about accommodation and transportation without losing much. And the freedom gained makes the tradeoff well worth it.

Food is different.

Sacrificing food is like a crime against both body and mind. Sure we could probably get by on rice and beans, but why would we want to?

Food is a cornerstone of the human experience (much more than the Sheridan Inn is). It’s history, culture, and art rolled up into one.

And having spent so much time on the road, at this point I’m convinced that if you really want to experience a new culture, you have to eat the food.

My solution: eat simply most of the time, and plan for food-related adventures the rest of the time.

And really, if you follow the rest of the money-saving advice in this guide, you should have plenty of budget room to eat well.

This may look different whether we’re in France or Thailand or Argentina, but most of the following guidelines hold true anywhere in the world.

Eating Well On The Cheap

  • Eat out at lunchtime. Many restaurants have noon specials, as much as half-price, unavailable at dinner.
  • Learn to cook several local dishes you can make at your home base. Trade an English lesson or pay someone to teach you.
  • Don’t drink alcohol at restaurants. To me, any possible benefit of having a drink during a meal is far outweighed by the food I could buy with that same money.
  • Drink water – most of the time. Occasionally I’ll buy a local specialty drink, but mostly I’ll go for the cheapest (and usually healthiest) option: water. Just be careful in regions where water safety is an issue!
  • Shop at outdoor markets for fresh (and cheap) produce. Checking at closing time can land you great deals on food that’s about to go bad. I made a killing on discount mangoes in Thailand this way.
  • Talk to locals (& avoid eating at tourist areas). Locals know where the good deals and the hidden gems are.
  • Eat street food! Street food is a great way to become accustomed to the local culinary style. And with some basic food-safety common sense, it’s perfectly safe. I, for one, have never gotten sick from street food! Lyndsay from DiscountTravelBlogger has a great guide Eating Street Food: How to Avoid Food Poisoning.

Hindu temply MalaysiaFor example, when I was living in Malaysia one of my friends referred me to a Hindu temple that had multiple daily ceremonies that included a community meal.

And they were thrilled to share their customs with a couple of foreigners.

Katia and I would show our respects by bringing some fruit offerings for the ceremony, and could take part in the meal at the end if we wanted, sitting on the floor with the faithful.

I made many new acquaintances on that temple floor. People were intensely curious to know what I thought of their food.

As an added bonus, next door was a restaurant which ended up becoming my favorite place to eat in all Kuala Lumpur.

All thanks to the fact I kept my ears open and stayed curious.

Food is a deeply personal subject, and your style will no doubt be different from mine. So I’ve added some resources that will help you discover your own preferred style of eating on the road, inspired by those who have “been there, done ate that.”

5 Top Travel Food Blogs to Whet Your Appetite:

Bacon Is Magic – A couple fellow Canucks share their love for food and travel.

Behind the Food Carts – Showcases the stories of the people who make the mobile food industry happen

Legal Nomads by Jodi Ettenberg – Focuses on long form stories and photo essays, mixing enthusiasm with words and attention to detail in pictures to write about how food brings people together around the world.

Eat Your Worldhelping fellow travelers find these truly authentic eats

Our Tasty Travels – a couple that’s eaten their way through 65 countries, from street food to Michelin-star fine dining.

Part 15: Earning Money on the Road

ajw russian trainFor the vast majority of long term travelers, it’s our ability to make money on the road that will keep us on the road.

This is the area where the majority of people experience the most difficulties.

It’s possible to save up enough for a 1, maybe even 2 year trip. But much more than that and we either have to wait for retirement and our pension, or to find ways to make money on the road.

This requires a mind shift for most would-be travellers, as we are mostly accustomed to short vacations where we are 100% in relax mode.

Long term travel is different. It’s more like “real life” – just lived somewhere else.

Naturally, I see no reason to wait for retirement to get started. So making bank is the way we’ll go.

There are only 2 variants we need to consider:

  1. Keep our job, but transforming it into remote work.
  2. Become a freelancer/self employed/entrepreneur who creates an income for themselves as they go.

Option 1: Remote Work

The central story in Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Work Week is about how we can transform our office job to home – gaining us location independence while keeping our salary.

Of course, this is only an option for certain types of jobs. Teachers, plumbers, and other service providers don’t have a remote option (though they have plenty of self-employment ones).

Even though I have used this option myself by turning an office marketing gig into a remote gig, it’s not my favorite option since there are so many things that can go wrong and prevent us from having success.

The condensed version of Tim Ferriss’s formula looks like this:

  1. Arrange for a single remote day per week. Propose it as a short-term trial, as well as how your results can be tracked.
  2. Make sure your performance on this remote day blows away the other days in some measurable and tangible way.
  3. Use your awesome results to negotiate additional remote days. For example, you could arrange for a 2nd remote day, and a month later ask for 1 whole remote week (for some good reason). Then, after coming back for a while, try getting complete remote work for a month.
  4. Travel while receiving your full salary.

For example, I did something very similar to this, arranging a couple days off and then finally complete remote work. I ended up taking a bit of a pay cut, but by avoiding all the nonsense meetings and commute, my hourly wage more than doubled – plus I was free to work from wherever.

However, there are a ton of weaknesses with this system:

  • You need to be in the right type of career
  • You need to be in the right corporate atmosphere to allow remote work
  • You need to have a good working relationship with the final decision maker
  • You have to have excellent communication during this process
  • Need lots of time to execute

I will be the first to admit my success with this strategy was more due to circumstances and luck than anything else. I don’t think I could easily pull it off again.

If you have a great job which you love and/or that pays really well, then arranging to do some remote work is a great option.

Otherwise, in my mind, the odds of success + time investment makes the 2nd option more appealing to me.

Option 2: Entrepreneurship On The Road

make money traveling

Making dreadlocks: 1 of many badass ways to earn money while traveling

Personally, I’ve found that travel and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand.

Both require us to take complete responsibility for our results. We can’t sit and wait for other people to make our goals and dreams come true.

When I suggest to my subscribers to make money on the road, I’m usually met with some initial resistance. “There’s nothing I can do to make money while traveling” seems to be the prevailing doubt.

This is nonsense. It’s just that we are so used to operating in the traditional job market that the abundance of other alternatives get lost on us.

And entreprising individual can put their skills to use in almost any situation.

The big challenge here is to see all the hidden value in our own skill set. Many of the things we take for granted at home can have incredible value to someone in another country.

Here’s a list of 50+ offline and online ideas to show you just how many opportunities there are available to us to make money on the road.

Want 2x as many ideas? Get our free download: 101 Ways to Make Money While Traveling

Offline Job Ideas

  1. Artists
  2. Jewelry Makers
  3. Hair Stylists
  4. Massage Therapists
  5. Musicians
  6. Yoga Instructors
  7. Personal Trainers
  8. Journalists
  9. Photographers
  10. Tattoo Artist
  11. Seasonal Workers
  12. Bartending
  13. Festival Workers
  14. Truck Drivers
  15. Manual Laborers (harvests, oil fields, etc.)
  16. Construction and Craftsmanship
  17. Contract Medical Staff (nurses, doctors, technicians, etc.)
  18. Cruise Ship Staff
  19. Fishing or Boat Crewing
  20. Military Service
  21. Traveling Salespeople
  22. House & Pet Sitters
  23. Tour Guides
  24. Amusement Park Staff
  25. Repair & Technician Work
  26. Temp Workers
  27. Performance Artists (balloon twisters, dancers, comedians, gymnasts, fire swallowers, etc.)
  28. Conference Speakers
  29. Trainers & Teachers
  30. Language Lessons
  31. Cooking Lessons
  32. Consultants & Designers
  33. Import/Export
  34. Animal Care
  35. Miscellaneous Services (cleaning, organizing, computer setup, handyman, etc.)

Online Job Ideas:

  1. Programmers
  2. Developers
  3. IT managers
  4. Database managers
  5. Bookkeepers / Accountants / CPAs
  6. Lawyers
  7. Personal Assistants
  8. Web Designers
  9. Freelance Writers
  10. Editors
  11. Bloggers
  12. Podcasters
  13. Photo & Videography Work
  14. Affiliate Sales
  15. Social Media Specialists
  16. Bargain Hunting & Re-Selling Online
  17. Online Products & Stores
  18. Graphic Designers
  19. Online Professors
  20. Personal and Professional Coaches
  21. Consultants & Advisors
  22. Customer Support
  23. Agents (travel, insurance, etc.)
  24. Investors / Traders
  25. Transcriptionists
  26. Translators
  27. Researchers / Information Providers

Resources for Finding Online Work

This is far from a complete list of job opportunities. The point here isn’t to think up every variant, but to change our thinking from, “there’s no way I could earn money traveling” to “how can I earn money traveling?”

I’ve taught English, taught guitar, participated in street performances, done online marketing, translating, copywriting, freelance writing and blogging in order to stay on the road. All my skills get used in whatever capacity I can find for them.

Your options will look different from mine. The most important thing is finding a need and filling it. Take the pressure off yourself. Instead of thinking “what can I do” try asking “what unmet needs do I see around me?”

I think that any type of work on the road that we do voluntarily is good work. When we work towards something we love and care about, that work is far more meaningful than work in order to just pay the bills.

Just one more way that travel encourages us to change the way we see the world.

Additional Resources:

Now it’s time to look at my favorite first option: English lessons – but it’s not for the reason you may think. Read on to find out more.

Why You Should Teach English At Least Once

teach english

Photo by Simon

I’m going to be brutally honest: I don’t particularly like teaching English.

That being said, I firmly believe that if you want to travel long term and you don’t have any experience as an entrepreneur, English lessons are the place you must start.

I’m so glad I took the time to do English lessons early in my traveling career.

Not for the money, the easy visas, or the extremely flexible schedules it can afford you.

No, the real reason you should really consider doing some English teaching is that having quick, initial success trying to earn on the road will give you confidence.

You won’t wonder anymore, “Can I really do this?” You’ll know. You can.

English is a language in such high demand that you don’t have to be a marketing genius. The product sells itself.

That’s rare.

And at the same time you’ll gain experience.

It will teach you how to be a self-sufficient entrepreneur: to market and sell your services, and then to fulfill those service requests in an environment where you’re already primed for success.

At this point in my traveling career, I’m moving away as from standard English teaching as a source of income. It’s a great way to establish oneself in a new region, and to develop the aforementioned entrepreneurial skills.

However it is worth noting is that the world of English entrepreneurship ideas go beyond doing lessons. In addition to private lessons, teaching in schools, conversation classes, and Skype lessons, you could also do editing/correcting of signs, menus, advertisements, and websites, and translations if you know any additional languages.

English Teaching Resources:

  • Nomadic Samuel has put together a great collection of articles about teaching English abroad in different countries.
  • Michael Tieso from ArtOfAdventuring has an in depth look at the school he taught at in Xi’an, China:
  • Dave’s ESL Cafe has a great bulletin board where companies make requests. I found a nice opportunity to work remotely with a Japanese company teaching Skype lessons there. Most listings are for Asia, with some Central/South America and Middle Eastern opportunities as well.

Part 16: Preparing to Launch!

traveling the worldCongratulations, you’ve made it to the end of this tiny, 17-thousand word guide on how to travel the world. While far from being comprehensive, it is more than enough to get you started.

And getting started is the most important part.

All the techniques in this guide are easy. None of them require special training or education. All it takes is commitment and desire.

You will feel doubts. That’s normal.

You’ll think “I can’t do this.” Do it anyway.

Do it – because nobody else gives a damn whether you make 6-figures in some high-flying corporate job or sleep with alpacas under the Bolivian stars. But you care.

Traveling the world has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I have seen, learned, shared, loved, laughed, cried, created, and experienced more in the last 2 years than at any other point in my life.

It has not always been easy or romantic, but it has always, always been worth it.

The Final Word

I didn’t write 17,000+ words so you could watch from the sidelines. I want you to take action. If you dream of travel, it’s time to start making that dream a reality.

So in order to do that, I reached out to Chris Guillibeau – one of the few people who has been to every country on Earth, to get some parting advice for the would-be-traveler who’s yet to take the leap.

The final thought I’d like to leave you with, and the final piece of advice I’d like you to consider – is his:

The final word:chris guillibeau

“Buy a ticket.”

-Chris Guillibeau, visitor of all 193 countries on earth & author of The Art of Non Conformity

 

Share your own travel plans or dreams in the comments below. I’ll respond to any questions with actionable advice that’ll help you get started!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Nora February 21, 2015 at 7:00 am

Great resource! Thanks for including my info about finding flights. Cheers!

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 9:47 am

I’ve been diving into your blog a lot lately as I reasearched this article. Thanks for creating such a stellar resource :)

Reply

Gary Kearns February 21, 2015 at 7:20 am

Ref. the travel insurance Dude. Why does it not work if you are a Brit or US citizen?

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 11:47 am

Gary – I’ve tried out a couple sample trips using the UK and USA as my country of origin. Other than the fact they wouldn’t cover my war zone destinations like Afghanistan it worked fine for me. Sometimes I know that there might be an error filling out the form on the main page and it will make you add more info after. If you can be more specific as to what problem you’ve been having I’d be glad to check it out for you.

Reply

Nomad Revelations February 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm

WOW what a complete blog post man. I congratulate you. I’ll definitely put it to my favorites. Keep on writing, I’ll follow you from now on. Big hug.

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Thanks João!

It’s been my sole purpose the last month or so, so I’m very grateful for your feedback and support!

Reply

Medha BN February 21, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Oh my gosh!

You have come up with such a comprehensive and detailed guide packed with insights especially for long term travelers. I love traveling but can never imagine of being on road for years! But I guess that’s the coolest things to do ever.

Thanks for sharing such awesome tips. I am tweeting:)

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Thanks Medha.

After all that writing I think I need a vacation :)

Take care!

Reply

Charli February 21, 2015 at 7:06 pm

What a seriously in-depth guide to making the most of your travels! Thrilled to see that you’ve shared so much information with regard to house sitting. It’s a brilliant concept that we have been using for the last 4 years to live rent free all over the world. Stoked to see you’ve included one of our guides too! Safe travels!

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Hey Charli!
I think it’s a great concept. My parents are nearing retirement and I’m suggesting they get into this as a means of travel. I’m also really curious to try after I finish my time in Russia. Such a fantastic opportunity that’s so overlooked! (I just hope as it gains popularity more homeowners sign up too!)

Take care :D

Reply

Harleena Singh February 21, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Hi Walton,

My Goodness! What more can I say :)

This is one of the longest travel guide I’ve ever read! I think you didn’t leave out anything in this one. I liked the real life examples you added, which makes it all the more interesting and worth the read. Also, the volunteering opportunities at the end.

Ah…I wish I had to time to get away, even for a little break! I guess I would once my kids are a little on their own, and that’d be the time I’d refer to this resource for sure! Another great traveler we know in the blogosphere is Ryan, if you have heard of him, he and his partner Kelli, recently got married and keep visiting so many places. It’s a pleasure to read all their experiences, just like the ones you mentioned here.

Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend :)

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Hi Harleena ma’am,

It is also by far the longest thing I’ve written in terms of time, research, and wordcount hahah. Perfect time for a vacation really.

One of my hopes is to use travel as a source of inspiration to do good for others. I think being involved in the world we see how much of an impact we can make on others. I haven’t put all the pieces together, but I know I’m going in the direction that’s right for me.

Yeah I know of Ryan – just discovered him through Aha-Now actually! He’s done a great job with his site, and of course the marriage is an exciting development. Definitely someone to learn from

Thanks for stopping by! :D

Reply

Ikechi February 21, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Hi AJ

I guess this the longest travel guide that is informative and has some innovative ideas on traveling. I am one of those who believed that travelling isn’t for everyone especially the finances isn’t available but you proved me wrong and got me interested when you revealed the entrepreneur side of travelling.

Book marked this page for future reference. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Hey Ikechi!

Thanks for stopping by. I have to admit that – for me – the entrepreneurial aspect of travel is one of the things that interests me most. It’s the perfect training ground becauseif I want to stay on the road I have to develop that skill set.

All the besst my friend.

Reply

Hugo Martins February 21, 2015 at 9:20 pm

This is a bible! Great stuff here.

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Thanks Hugo :)

Reply

Yatin February 21, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Namaste from India. I am visiting your blog for the first time. Thanks for this wonderful post. Earlier, I used to think that travelling is a tough task due to monetary issues. Now, I think money is not the barrier.
You have carved out all points in a single post. Thanks for your time

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Hey Yatin.
I don’t mean to be so bold as to claim money is no issue when travelling, however it is – as you infer – certainly something we can learn to manage and with time, master. Thanks for joining in the discussion.

Reply

Meg Jerrard February 21, 2015 at 11:00 pm

Hugely informative post Andrew with some great tips and pointers, thanks for sharing and putting this together, and thanks for sharing our link on ethical volunteering. There are truly some great projects out there which make traveling the world incredibly low cost :)

Reply

AJ Walton February 21, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Delighted to have you chime in Meg!

I was so glad when I found the resources on your blog. Voluneering is one of the aspects of travel that I think is under-represented. And certainly, it’s both important and rewarding. Happy travels :D

Reply

Ashish February 22, 2015 at 12:59 am

How do you suggest the citizens of third world get over the ‘visa problem’?

Reply

AJ Walton February 22, 2015 at 1:14 am

Hi Ashish.
Thanks for your excellent question!

I don’t have a foolproof answer. Sadly, my girlfriend (Russian) had her Canadian visa app rejected. Some places are harder to get into than others and things don’t always work out.

The first thing I’d do is consider travel in visa-free or visa-on-arrival countries. If such a citizen wants to travel to, say, the UK, then definitely have a decent cash reserve in the bank. These countries are worried about illegal immigration first and foremost, and that’s the primary concern that needs to be confronted.

For other tips I’d follow the advice of someone who does it: Tiara Shafiq from Bangladesh: http://matadornetwork.com/trips/how-to-travel-on-a-third-world-passport/

If you or anyone else has some useful resources I’d be glad to add them.

Reply

Jommie February 22, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Very informative ,exceptional travel site .The great efforts clearly show up in detailed descriptions and examples please keep on writing good articles like this.

Reply

AJ Walton February 23, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Thanks Jommie!

Reply

Lyndsay February 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Oh wow! That’s almost everything you need to know to travel the world on a budget.

Reply

AJ Walton February 23, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Hey Lyndsay.
It’s funny you say “almost” – because even though I tried to make this an info-packed piece, after writing all of this I feel “wow, I’ve only just scrached the surface.”

Which is awesome, means I’ll be doing more writing soon :P

Thanks for stopping by!

Reply

Mi Muba February 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Hi Walton

Is it a post or encyclopedia on travelling. But the best aspect is I never felt any kind of boredom while reading it.

You diversified your contents within diversification by supporting your main contents with a lot of images, references, tables, charts and graphs to make it a perfect post.

This is a case study for those who wants to write a post on “how to write a post that must alive till doomsday”. You are amazing man.

Thanks for doing much hard work and sharing this post with us.

Reply

AJ Walton February 28, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Hi Mi Muba,
Thanks for the kind words. That was kind of my plan – write a post that would live right until doomsday :D

Glad I was able to keep it interesting throughout – that was definitely the most challenging part, not having just a legenday wall of text!
All the best my friend!
Andrew

Reply

Lea Bullen March 1, 2015 at 4:12 am

Hey AJ,

Really cool pics. I especially like the horseback riding in Grand Cayman.

You really know a lot on the subject and seemed to have covered everything. You could truly write a book on it! :-)

I used to travel a lot when I was a younger. I got discounts on airfare because a close family member worked for an airline. I would say if you have that kind of connection use it. The last thing you want to do is miss out on that since it may not last forever.

Different clubs and organizations may also offer discounts. I always try to check everything I’m involved in for deals before taking a trip.

~Lea

Reply

AJ Walton March 1, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Hey Lea!
Thanks for the feedback – I feel like I spent just as much time choosing all the media as I did writing, so I’m glad it’s made a positive impression.

A book is probably the next step. I definitely wanted to put this out first and get feedback – see what people enjoyed/wanted more of and so on. It’s funny, after writing this piece I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! Funny how these things go.

That’s a good point you make. I will probably point something like this out when I do a post dedicated to air travel, since in general it’s our connections that create opportunities – whether that be air travel, CouchSurfing, or anything else.

Thanks for stopping by. All the best :)

Reply

Jacques April 21, 2015 at 6:57 pm

What a great post and resource! Thank you!
Soon I’ll be off on my own adventure. I’m currently CouchSurfing at friends, easing myself into the lifestyle…lol.
Thailand will be my first stop, then to Laos and then wherever the wind takes me…
Maybe we will meet on the road at some point, who knows.
Happy Travels AJ!

Reply

AJ Walton April 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Hey Jacques.
Way to go, good luck on your adventures. I’d be happy to meet up if we end up in the same region. Cheers, and happy travels
-Andrew

Reply

Marek October 7, 2015 at 12:10 am

Thanks for the link to my post about packing light. It’s surprising how much you can stuff into a 40L backpack! Wish I’d done this from the start :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: