If you think "Travel the World for Free" is yet another clickbait, I can tell you that, No, it is NOT a clickbait! But I can also tell you that, almost nothing in this world is really free!
Let us travel back in time and try to understand a few things first.
Very long back, it all started with the barter system where you give something you possess, to get something in return which you don't have. Over the course of time, it got refined, reformed and made into a system. In this system, people started exchanging their possessions in an indirect way through a medium, unlike the Barter system.
One day suddenly they were not exchanging any goods, but a symbol with an assumed value. We now call this medium as money and within no time we started to deal with money for all the things that we wanted.
Travel is also something that we all want. We've just learned that to get the things that we want, we need to give something in exchange. Since we as a society started to believe in the illusion of money as a reality, we often think about saving up enough money to travel or rather not having enough money to travel.
"I need to start saving for my next year's annual holiday", some of you might think. Well, that is one way to think. But in reality, you don't always have to exchange money to get some 'travel' in exchange. It can be your time, your skills, your experience and many other things. But the point is that there is nothing like absolutely free travel.
If you have started to think, " Now you are saying you can't really travel for free after all the clickbait talk" or "I am not here to read all these 'stories from the past' crap, tell me how to travel for free", I hear you.
And my reply to you would be, " I am going to tell you everything that I have learned so far. But if you don't even have the patience to read a long introduction about "How to travel the world for free", you probably don't have the temperament and mindset to pursue a sustaining 'travel for free' lifestyle."
Don't get disheartened if you had thought so. It was just a reminder that travelling for free might not always be as nice as you might think. With some tips, tricks or by exchanging one of those possessions you have, you can somehow make a trip look like a free trip or sponsored trip by offering something of value in return for good travel deals. Now, that explains why so many travel bloggers/vloggers/influencers sprouted all of a sudden just like the mushrooms in rain! Well, that is good news too, by the way!
If you happened to be here on in this page due to your curiosity to travel for a long term with using as little money as possible or even without any money, I have a few things to share with you. You will find experiences from other travellers, my own direct experiences, tips, tricks and so on. The first of the many tips coming your way now.
People mostly ask travellers who are constantly on the road one main question, "How are you able to travel all the time?! I mean how do you make money for travelling?".
Basically, this question comes from the conditioning we have regarding the concept of travelling. Thanks to the idea that money can buy 'travel' or money is needed to buy 'travel'. We all think at some point or the other, that travelling is really an expensive affair.
But let me tell you that it is not.
"Travel is never a matter of money, but a matter of courage."Paulo Coelho, Aleph
You might have heard this before and there can be mainly two reactions to it. Either you accept it at face value or jokingly reject the idea.
Even if you accept or reject it, without direct experience, you wouldn't completely grasp this idea. If you are keen on travelling, if that is what you want more than anything else in the world, money is NOT important, because..
"Travel is never a matter of money, but a matter of courage." and this is where the temperament and mindset become important.
But I know that you are here not going to get motivated by reading some "travel inspiration" quote. You want to know some practical steps to make your travel cheaper and sustain your wanderlust! Before I give you that, I want you to know that once I met a couple who were/are travelling the world without any money and I will tell their story soon.
So Tip #0 : Cultivate patience, become hardcore, prepare yourself to face any adversities, imagine using some of the dirtiest toilets, sleeping on unclean beds and if it all still makes sense, you have a chance at Travelling the world for Free!
Now, you go ahead and read a few tips.
My #1 advice for anyone who is seeking ways on how to travel cheap or rather travel for free would be to become a couchsurfer.
Couchsurfing is a worldwide community of travellers listed under a website/app who believes in helping each other. If you are looking for a very basic definition, it is like a friend you haven't met giving you a place to stay when travelling to a new place. But couchsurfing is actually much more than a free accommodation. It involves sharing of culture, sharing a meal, helping the host and more. It provides you with a more experiential local experience, learning, sharing and caring.
If you want to know more about couchsurfing check out the article Couchsurfing : An idea that everyone should try.
I will be updating soon how I used couchsurfing to stay in Hampi for almost a month.
We are coming back to the same point we had discussed earlier. Yes, I am repeating it and that should say something about the importance of temperament, right?
Everything comes with a price. Even travelling cheap or without money comes with a price and the price you have to pay is the difficulties on the road! Without a right temperament or attitude, it will be difficult to continue the journey of shoestring budget travels.
For example, if you are going to stay with a couchsurfing host, depending on the person who is hosting, you might end up sleeping on a soft king-sized bed in a big mansion or you find yourself inside a torn sleeping bag or on a couch in a run-down single room apartment. On various occasions I have slept on the tables of a restaurant, in a tent on a rooftop facing the ocean, in a cozy private room with aircon and other amenities and even in a big house all for myself.
When you are travelling on a super tight budget, you just can't be demanding and discard the sleeping options that come your way! For that, one needs to have the right attitude and a good travelling spirit. If you are flexible and adaptable, many other doors of traveling-on-a-budget open up for you, such as hitchhiking and volunteering.
There was one time I travelled without any money, any material things except a pair of inner wears, just to figure out how the less fortunate people would travel. That was a revelation to me!
Some day I will tell you my story in detail how I've travelled without money. I might have done this for a few days, but there are people like Ansh who travelled all around India without using a single rupee.
How did they do it? They Hitchhiked!
If you want to travel the world with thinner than the shoestring budget, this is one way to go about it. But to be able to hitchhike one need to have the right temperament(Temperament, Yes, It comes again!) and a lot of patience.
If you are uninitiated and wondering what exactly this hitchhiking is, in simple terms it is the way of getting from a point A to point B, by way of asking free lifts from passing vehicles. Hitchhiking these days have become sort of a trend, thanks to the vloggers and bloggers who hitchhiked with their GoPros!
It is not that hitchhiking is a new concept. People have been asking for free lifts while travelling for a very long time. For some, it is even a way of life. But only recently it became a 'cool thing' to do due to the surge of social media influencers and people are pushing the limits of Hitchhiking these days. There are people who do it across the continents! Nomadic Indian and Shubham Kumar Panjyara who are quite popular on social media have done it.
When hitchhiking is collaborated with couchsurfing, it becomes a winning combination for super long term budget travel and that is how most of these people are doing it.
In 2018 when everyone was celebrating the New Year's eve, I was hosting one of the couchsurfing-hitchhiker at my place. What a great way to start a new year! This exactly I got a chance to host Nomadic Indian while he was on his initial days of hitchhiking. Now he is hitchhiking around the world.
If you want to travel the world in a slightly more comfortable way, pick up one of those travel-related jobs, that actually let you travel. The disclaimer is, it might not let you travel to those places that are in your bucket list, but still, you get to travel to certain destinations. The best part of it is that someone else (or the company you are working for) is paying for your trip.
You can become a tour guide if you know much about a destination. You can become an itinerary designer for some of the travel start-ups that are looking for local experts, you can be a travel writer and so on. But most of the times it is easier said than done!
With that said, if you are really serious about this option, you can find a way to make it happen. You can go to one of the destinations of your liking and get in touch with the local tour operator and explore your opportunities. For example, go to a popular hill station and contact an adventure tour operator and offer to become a trekking guide.
If your communication skills are good enough, you can learn about a local tour and deliver it as a tour guide. Your understanding of the place also improves, you get a real feel of the place and above all, you are getting paid for it. This is exactly how I learned more about Fort Kochi. I had led many tours in Fort Kochi. Now Fort Kochi feels like hometown!
Luckily I was with great people who were like my family and the best part during my Tour Guide stint was the weekly opportunity I got to drive from Kochi to Thekkady to conduct a few tours. Those were golden days. If you can get into a great international company, you can even travel around the world for free doing this job!
Are you an expert in any popular tourist destination? Have you previously travelled to an amazing destination? Do you know anyone who is an expert in a certain destination? If you answered yes and if you have enough confidence, you can actually organise a trip! Do it yourself or team up with the expert, and organize a trip for others!
Don't look at making a profit. Rather look at making a good enough margin that helps you to make your travel expenses zero. In that way, you are helping people to explore a new destination and by doing it, you are also getting to experience the place. Win-win at its best!
In 2018, I was doing a solo motorbike trip through South India. At Hubli, I happen to meet this rider because he was part of couchsurfing. The second day after our first meeting, we were sitting in his office and planning to organize a trip to Bhutan for our future clients!
He had already done Bhutan and knew about the important places to visit. I only had to do some research, create an itinerary and organize a few other things and post it on this blog. That is how I've gone to Bhutan for the first time in my life. But I must warn you that it is a lot of responsibility, especially when you are asking someone to pay for a good trip!!
Here is our 8-day itinerary for Bhutan Motorcycle trip which might be useful to you, if you have plans.
This is the latest trend in the travel field. Almost everyone you meet wants to travel the world and make a living out of it. Travel blogging/vlogging is the new coolest thing to do in town!
Whoever has a good number of following on any media, may it be social media, blogs or vlogs; are called "Influencers". These influencers are the people who can advice people about various things such as new destinations, travel trends, doing less explored things to do and so on.
Due to their large following and ability to influence their followers; travel companies, tourism boards and other players in the tourism field offer the 'travel influencers' a free trip or a free product to get the news out about these products. These are called Press Trips or Sponsered Trips.
These Press Trips are one of the main reasons for the exponential increase in new-age travel influencers. In exchange for the freebies, the influencers talk about these travel products and destinations, and thereby make their travel almost free!
Note: During the earlier days of blogging, especially that of travel blogging, there were very few serious bloggers who were consistent and had a good following. Calling them "the travel influencers" made so much sense during those days. Once the free trips offered to these hardworking bloggers got more attention, more and more people started out to become the so-called influencers. This rise of influencers looking for free stuff has degraded the blogging scenario, even though becoming a travel influencer is a great way to travel for free.
Not the cute dog sound! WWOOF means World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms. WWOOF has a network of national organizations all connected together by their love for organic farming. So if you are a traveller who is interested in organic farming, you can find hosts all around the world who would offer you free food and accommodation, in exchange for some work at the farm.
In order to start WWOOFing, first of all you have to go to wwoofing international website and find the country you are planning to travel to. Go to the respective country website, pay a membership fee valid for a year which is 40$ for a single person, and you will get the list of host in that country.
In India, there are more than 300 hosts spread across 16 states according to the wwoof India website. Once registered, you can choose as many farms as you like. You are supposed to work 4-6 hours daily to help the organic farm host family. In exchange or your volunteer work, you will get food and accommodation from the host. However, you will have to bear the travel cost on your own. But imagine travelling around expensive European countries working on a farm! On any day it will be much cheaper, at the same time more authentic and enriching travel experience.
More about Volunteering, Teaching jobs, other travel jobs and more coming in the coming days.
I will be adding to this list every week. Keep watching this space if you want to know more about travelling long term. Do send more ideas that you know. If you don't want to miss an update, get it straight to your inbox.