or yet another guide to travel with no money
Alright alright, there are heaps of those posts with "10 tips for traveling for free", "long term traveling on a budget", "find the cheapest flights" etc etc. I don't wanna flood a saturated market, however, I have been asked by friends repeatedly how I travel. After all, it's even good for your health. So I wanna share my view here, my challenges and resources, my general idea. Lesson 1 (aka the header image): Have fun!
In one way or another, we all travel. You might be a curious low budget backpacker or a passionate beach addict or an adventurous mountain hiker or a luxurious hotel lover (probably with limited funds if you’re reading this) or simply a loving family member. You and me are connected by the wonders each time we get to new places, no matter how close or far from home they are. Somehow, we all travel.
But, travel is a matter of specific intention (or no intention at all. Makes sense to me, haha). Like, you want to visit someone or a particular place, escape everyday life for a while, your job demands you to, you're simply curious, etc. While there are many many different ways to discover this planet I have learned - it is about compromises.
I have grown up with those classic 2-weeks-each-year-all-inclusive-pool-beach-cheesy-evening-entertainment-holidays. Really. Have a look:
Now, what do you think makes the better memories? I know the extremes (to some extent) and have experienced quite a lot of the range in between. So here I wanna gather some useful tips and advice for all of you!
As a general direction: You either travel with time, or money. Or, of course, both if you’re really lucky. Which like 99% of us aren’t. But gimme a call if you need some company 😉
First of all, your possibilities depend on where you wanna go. Do you have a destination in mind? How far is it from your home? Or are you still free and looking for inspiration? Depending on your situation, you can adjust to the following:
How much time do you bring? Are you traveling on fixed dates or are you flexible?
How limited are you in your expenses - do you have to go ultra low budget or can your bank account still bear a little before committing suicide?
Now can you find yourself in one of the following?
1. No money but heaps of time
Great! Why great, you wonder? In my opinion, this is an amazing base for really getting to know places and overcome possible fears. And probably the position where most of us start and that allows the most freedom before and during your trip. You'll find a lot of helpful tips and different possibilities regarding accommodation, transport, food and activities if you scroll down a little.
2. No time but heaps of money (or let’s say a sufficient amount)
Whatever the reason for your limited time is - you’ll have some free days a year I assume, and the weekends of course. So what you gotta consider is, how much of your vacation you can and want to take at once. And then get off the couch and follow your intuition! That’s seriously made for some of my best travels.
Maybe you always wanted to check out that nature park 5 hours away but were too „busy“ or thinking, if you have free time, you wanna go far away? And now think about it. Why is that? Why do you think the back of beyond is better than your actual home?
If you’re looking forward to a longer vacation though, you might wanna plan a little more for the fewer flexibility - which doesn’t mean, you get to see less! If you want one week of sunshine but be absolutely flexible and have a little adventure, check what's not too far (so you don't waste 2 ways for just getting there), rent a car and keep cruising 🙂 Or whatever appeals to you of course.
3. Neither time nor money but heaps* of wanderlust!
Damn, I know that feeling. But that doesn’t mean you gotta be glued to your couch. There are many ways of taking the few resources you have and make the best out of it. If you really want, you can make an adventure out of what at first glance seems nothing more than a dreary 8th grade school field trip. You still have no clue at all? Use the free time you have to get to know your home in ways you didn't have before. Do spontaneous silly fun things. Try, for one second, to ignore all the bullshit society tells you about what is right and wrong, mature and childish. What do you WANT to do?
Further inspiration can come from simply googling** and participating groups in social networks (I KNOW that might not sound helpful but for me it was; I actually looked up "most beautiful forest in Hamburg" and this happened). Or how about a language tandem partner, or taking in some couchsurfers yourself - and thus bringing the travel spirit into your home?
4. Got both time and money #inyaface
*Alright, what is it with me and „heaps“? Here a quick shoutout to my lovely Örebro girls - cannot stop using this word cause I think of you every time I do!
**I say googling while I'm, however, not very fond of this data collecting monster - please consider it as a more conventient way to say "open a search engine of your choice and look for...".
Either way and whatever your situation, you might find some of the following useful:
- Consider low cost and free alternatives. You might have heard about couchsurfing, a fantastic way to connect people and cultures, to get to know locals and share stories and company - for free. However, that's not the point behind it all, its focus lies on exchange and connection. Sure it's built on trust, but in my opinion that fosters mutual enrichment even more. There are similar networks like trustroots (especially for hitchhikers), bewelcome and hospitalityclub. Or simply walk around and ask people! Takes some courage at first, but you'll be rewarded for sure!
- Depending on weather conditions and regulations of your country of choice (that sometimes can be taken less strictly than they sound .....), definitely consider camping. It has quite some adventure spirit to it and lets you experience your surroundings way more - you might get to know even your home at a way new level (like I did here)!
- I guess you already figured the following out for yourself, but wanna include it for complete information purpose: Apart from that, airbnb can be a cheap alternative, and you should be able to find inexpensive hostels, youth hostels and guest houses if you don't concentrate on the city centre. Actually that would be a great opportunity to explore less touristy areas and walk around a little (which I always find nicer than taking public transport).
Think about sustainable ways of getting from A to B (#safetheplanet)!
- Hitchhiking - in my opinion best you can do. You connect to loads of different people, you get to exchange stories, it saves you money, and definitely is an adventure. While not for everyone, you might consider starting with a partner and only on short distances. It's a brilliant way to kick yourself in the butt a little and overcome your fears. To see for yourself how generally good people are but also spread this message among them (I noticed almost everybody is overly worried of a woman hitchhiking alone cause there are so many bad people out there, excluding themselves of course). When I started, I had no clue at all but chose to cover the distance from Berlin to Krakow and I used this amazingly helpful website called hitchwiki.org for my whole preparation. It gives general advices (also for girls alone), information to most big cities and maps with different hitching points judged by other people – this has been incredibly useful.
- In case you're alright to pay for relying on a possibly quicker ride (cause you don't have to wait and know your driver's destination is the same as yours) as well as the comparably increased safety of an official network, use carpooling. E.g., the European website blablacar compensates for the CO2 emissions of every booked drive. For within city rides, wundercar and uber are a great alternative and cheaper than taxis.
- If you don't wanna go far, even consider cycling and walking. There's way more to discover close to you than you'd might expect, thus I think it's worth to go without a flight. Try to think about it for a second before just reading on - it's really worked for me personally.
- Of course buses and trains. In Germany, the biggest train company uses 100% green electricity. Try to look for websites that offer vacant tickets on short notice (like ltur or travelsupermarket for Europe specifically) if you're spontaneous, or plan longer ahead and get special offers before they're gone. Also check closeby places of your planned origin and destination (like Rosenheim instead of Munich for example) which is often cheaper.
- You're an oceanlover and can't get enough being at the sea? Water is your element? Or might be? How about a cruise then! This might find you some good deals.
- If your dream destination around the globe is absolutely a must, check out these tips for finding cheap flights. I can recommend considering a layover and thus booking the flights seperately - azair will show you possible connections. Also have a look at skyscanner and momondo, good for on overview of the prices on different dates, as well as skiplagged - here you'd book a longer flight while the layover was your actual destination where you'd just leave the airport - at own risk of course.
- If you travel with company or get along with your roomates or whatever applicable, obviously, share stuff. The more, the merrier - and the cheaper. And yummier, cause everybody contributes awesome recipes.
- There's way too much food been thrown away in cities every single day. We all know this. Most of us ignore this. You can find so incredibly much more than eatable food just behind regular supermarkets - also known as dumpster diving. It doesn't necessarily have to do anything with being poor or homeless but protesting the huge daily waste of our society.
- If you don't feel comfortable doing this at first, you can also go to shops, markets, bakeries etc. shortly before they're closing and simply ask for leftovers that they would just throw away otherwise. You'll be surprised how often that succeeds.
- Some cities have public food sharing places. That can be just a box or a small fridge where anybody is allowed to help themselves, or even small cafés or shops run by volunteers - also great to get to know people! Of course here applies take what you need and give what you can.
- I don't rely on this, but actually when couchsurfing, I never had to bring my own food so far. If I still had something with me, my hosts and I threw together what we had and made something fancy out of it. But honestly, the hospitality you come across on the road is mind blowing - no matter whether I was cycling through Hessen, Germany, and surfing at an orthodox 11 head family, or enjoying Bedouin hospitality in Ramallah. But again, it is about taking - and giving. So when you're back home, think about offering your couch to someone else in need, it'll be greatly appreciated for sure and you'll have the travel vibes around for longer 🙂
- Obviously: Talk to your host / room mates / other travelers you meet / accommodation people / tourist information / anybody that to you appears worth asking. Get to know people!
- Apart from that, check out facebook / couchsurfing / other social media groups for local events with like minded travelers, or simply ask people in those and similar networks whether they wanna hang out. Bigger cities often have weekly gatherings of locals and travelers alike, a lot of people meet online in facebook groups and organize meetings.
- Most cities also have groups of people, mostly students, who offer free walking tours (I especially adored the one in Krakow) - just google it. They ask you to donate as much as you feel the tour was worth to you / you are able to give.
Many of all those tips include talking to and getting to know various people - which will possibly result in more opportunities! So consider this list as an inspiration and see where it might take you. Also, if you wanna go super low budget, check out this post about ultra cheap ways of traveling long term, from a female blogger and adventurer I got to know a while ago and whom I find very inspirational.
Now think about - what is your intention?
Do you travel for leisure? Simply getting from A to B? Do you wanna save as much as possible? Or rather wanna try foods and activities of many kinds? That'll make it easier to adjust each "factor" of your traveling accordingly.
And no, it’s not a matter of resources. That would be just an excuse, on the long run. If money is the object - it often is not. As for me, being a student I really don't earn a lot but I'm just saving as much as I can. Meaning I don't go partying every weekend (rarely at all), I think twice before getting this 3€ coffee or making myself one at home later, I buy my food consciously (I do pay attention to quality, but I mean no extra treats every single time, and only as much as I really need), I wear clothes as long as they're alright and buy second hand, I hitchhike or use carpooling when I wanna visit friends, if I really need something (#lessstuffmorepassion), I try to buy items used instead of new, my student ID enables me to often get free or reduced entries to museums, I enjoy free activities like walks / cooking with friends / making music / photography more than spending 10 bugs in the cinema or going on shopping trips. I don't wanna say, do the same. I simply try to explain: Traveling is my passion, and I sacrifice as much as I can for being able to pursue this 🙂
I think that going long term traveling is almost always your own choice. Your passport might not allow you to travel this freely, your support might be absolutely essential to your family, you might have health issues - these are things indeed making the situation more difficult, and I'm not able to judge these particular situations, or dare to imagine the burden it puts on your life. Just let me show you a few examples of highly inspiring people traveling nevertheless:
- this girl tells you about how she travels the world with a third world passport, and how she became a digital nomad by simply teaching herself
- here you find a list of blogs about family travel - click yourself through them if you're interested, you'll be amazed what those people actually made possible
- read this inspiring interview of a woman traveling with Hashimoto's or check out this lovely lady traveling with diabetes
In summary: If you sit at your desk every day and dreaming away about exotic travels instead of doing anything - it’s nothing but your mind holding you back! There are many ways of saving up or earning some money on the way (something I'm still working on myself but definitely possible and being addressed in a future post).
A another note at the end, I'm aware some of my statements might seem provocative, exaggerated and are not applicable to everyone - but as a psychologist and statistician I would never claim complete generalizability of what I'm saying 😉
In this spirit - see you sometime, somewhere ✌
What are your experiences?
Do you agree or disagree? How do you travel? Anything to add? I'm curious - let's talk and feel invited to comment below!