How to travel the world for free
Yesterday I got an email from an unknown girl who used to follow me on Quora where I was famous before I landed on this Medium desert. In the email, she asked me for advice on how to travel the world (which could be exciting), and become like me (which could be very stressful).
I thought the answer might pique the interest of all the young and young at heart who don’t want to die behind a mouldy desk. So, here is the first part of the answer.
HOW TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU HAVE NO MONEY
I’ve been traveling all my life, and surprisingly since I started having money, things haven’t changed that much.
Here are my valuable (tried and tested) tips:
- Hitchhiking: Hitchhiking is a wonderful way to travel. You are forced to spend hours with people you would never have talked to (in normal life lawyers talk to lawyers, teachers spend time with teachers, etc) and who will never see you again. The result is rivers of words and confessions you never thought you would hear. Through these experiences, I discovered that the world is a beautiful place where everyone is happy to be indispensable, everyone has something interesting to tell you, mothers want to protect you from the bad guys who might pick you up, and truck drivers want company in the eternal hours of driving.
I have traveled thousands and thousands of Km hitchhiking alone and I always reached my destination very quickly. Once I hitchhiked 5600km in 15 days for a mission against Brexit, and another time I arrived second in the international two-day hitchhiking competition in the black forest in Germany.
-When a car stops, always ask where the driver is going instead of saying where are you going first. This will allow you to study the person while they are talking and only answer if you go to the same place once you have verified that they seem trustworthy.
-Do not get into a car with more than one man as they tend to become more aggressive when they have male company.
-Always keep your rucksack in your arms or in the front with you (travel light) and never put it in the trunk, so that you can jump out of the car in case of danger, and you won’t lose all your belongings.
-Trucks are slow but they make much longer journeys than cars. In addition, if they have to take another route, they can say “attention hitchhiker going to Minsk” on the radio and if there is a truck going to Minsk nearby, it will stop, you change trucks and they will take you to your destination.
-Always accept rides even for a few km, hitchhiking is often a long relay race.
-Bring chocolate to offer the drivers, or bring a Ukulele or a guitar so they give you a ride to listen to your music.
-Our brains think in watertight compartments. Treasure this and put yourself in the compartment of people most people consider trustworthy in advance so that you make the right first impression. Hide your tattoos, wear a blazer, and keep your hair neat. Don’t use sunglasses even if you need them because covering your eyes indicates you have bad intentions.
-Use the amazing website Hitchwiki.org where you can find the best hitchhiking starting points from every city to every destination, confirmed by thousands of hitchhikers.
2. Skyscanner.com: Flight search engine, if you’re free and open-minded enough, set it from your country to ‘anywhere’ at ‘anytime’ and let yourself be surprised.
3. Kiwi.com: The ultimate poor person’s flight search engine; it finds you the strangest flight combinations and lets you see more countries in a few days at bargain prices.
4.Omio.com: Calculates routes from one city to another by comparing bus, train and plane prices.
5. Blablacar: If you are driving, you can post your ride here and be paid by the passengers you give a ride to. If you are looking for a ride you can search this site to see if other people have posted trips and go with them paying much less than the price of the train.
- Couchsurfing.com: The wonderful site Couchsurfing gives access to 14 million people who live a parallel existence to the lives of normal people. Couchsurfers have friends everywhere ready to welcome them with open arms, feed them, take them on adventures, and share stories. Couchsurfing is one of the first websites that inspired the social economy. Basing your trust on the references in users’ profiles you can find free accommodation in strangers’ homes wherever you go. I have used Couchsurfing for more than ten years, hosted hundreds of people, and been a guest of at least 200 hosts. Also, everywhere I went I met thousands of Couchsurfers, at dinners and events. We all value freedom and human values more than job security and money, and only by helping each other can we all maintain our nomadic lifestyle. Couchsurfing is my favourite website in the world, so I invited its founder, Casey Fenton, with whom I became friends as a TED guest. You can see the TED-talk here: www.ted.com/talks/bibop_g_gresta_how_to_live_1000_lives_jan_2017
-When you sign up for Couchsurfing, at first you need to get references before you start hosting or being hosted. So download the app and whenever you can hang out with travelers close to you, i.e. participate in a “Hangout”. Once the event is over ask these travelers to leave you a review on how trustworthy and interesting you are. Once you have the reviews, you can start hosting.
-Couchsurfing is not Tinder. Don’t use the website to hit on people if you don’t want to end up on the blacklist of altruistic and conscientious humanity.
-Host people of your same gender. A profile with only reviews from the opposite sex is suspicious.
-Don’t make copy-paste requests, nobody will answer.
-Often it is better to publish a public trip and wait for the locals to offer you accommodation/to hang out.
- When you travel as a guest, you must behave as if you were friends with your host. Bring a present, cook for him, let him take you out to dinner and if you can, pay for his dinner.
-If you are on a business trip and don’t have the energy to interact with other people, it is better to take a hotel.
2. Trustroots.org: Couchsurfing for hitchhikers. It is much more improvised and spontaneous because hitchhikers never know if they will arrive at their destination on any given day and may need accommodation at the very last second. Since Casey sold Couchsurfing many people are switching to alternative sites like Trustroots because Couchsurfing requires an annual fee which is contrary to the spirit of the community.
3. Homeexchange.com: Every time you go away you can leave your home with strangers and get travel credits whenever you want to travel to strangers’ homes. The platform is full of beautiful and often available houses.
4.Warmshowers.org: This platform guarantees free accommodation for bicycle tourists. It is basically an international network of bicycle tourists that I am sure will change the world and how we travel. On Couchsurfing if you get a request from a bicycle traveler you could think that she/he might arrive all sweaty with stinking clothes. But at Warmshowers.org there is an understanding sweating community, ready to welcome you in their arms.
5. Trustedhousesitters.com: This platform is used by many of my friends, including elderly ones. It allows you to travel the world staying several days at even luxury homes in exchange for feeding the host’s pets or watering the plants.
6. Pasportaservo.org: This website is Couchsurfing’s grandfather. Since Esperanto, a constructed international auxiliary language, was invented in 1872 by Zamenhof, all Esperantists who had a global vision of brotherhood started to welcome travellers in their homes. Anyone who speaks Esperanto and believes in harmony between people from different countries can be welcomed on this extraordinary platform. How to learn Esperanto? For free, on the app Duolingo, instead of wasting your time on social media.
7. Airbnb.com: A now popular site where the original idea was to sleep in people’s homes. It is now very expensive but in some states like Norway it is still much cheaper than hotels.
8. Hostels: You can book on Hostelworld.com or by googling hostels in the city you are going to sleep in and through simple phone calls book cheaper.
1.Toogoodtogo.com: This revolutionary app and platform fights food waste by connecting customers to restaurants and stores that have unsold food surplus. If in the best restaurant in the city a full menu dinner can cost 100 euros, with Too good to go you can go to the restaurant and take away the very same dinner at 10 euros, because it was unsold food that would have been thrown away. In bakeries, for 3 euro you can get so many delicious rolls and pastries that you may not be able to finish them all!. You will be basically eating for free and also feeling like a superhero fighting famine and overexploitation of the planet.
HOW TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU HAVE NO MONEY BUT YOU HAVE MUSCLES AND BRAINS
My favourite way in the world to travel is by working. On these websites you will find the opportunity to get into other people’s shoes by living and by eating for months what they eat, doing the same physical exercise as they do, sharing chats and meals. No experience is required to work for free, so it is a great way to gain experience in new areas. Thanks to these sites I have been a falconer in Ireland, a reindeer herder in Greenland with the Inuit, a musher with sled dogs in Finnish Lapland, and a raptors ringer in Spain. I can safely say that apart from the experience of being a mother, those were the best experiences of my life. They require a lot of physical effort, a lot of adaptability, and for spoiled Westerners, also a liberating change of hierarchical roles.
From my list it seems that one has to spend a lot of money to sign up for these sites, but the user list is visible to everyone on the site, and any intelligent person can search for keywords on the internet and contact the company on Facebook. For example I found my reindeer herder just googling “reindeer” “Greenland” “volunteering” and comparing the pictures.
- Woof.net: This site allows you to go and work in agriculture and animal husbandry around the world, in exchange only for room and board. For as many months as you decide to dedicate to the experience you will only hear the animals, the silence, your muscles at work and the laughter of your fellow workers. In Australia, woofers are highly paid (for a European person) and it’s a great way to start a new adventure in that country.
- Workaway.info: Same as Woofing but here you can find many jobs in a wide variety of fields: you can work in Brazil in surf houses, you can repair gorilla cages in zoos in India, etc. Workaway often includes minimal wages as well as room and board.
- Aupair.com: is great for young people who want to learn the language abroad, this site allows you to go and work abroad with children in exchange for board and lodging and a small payment.
- Findacrew.net: Want to travel the world for free by boat? Here you can find thousands of jobs on boats at any level and gain experience for a very well-paid adventurous work!
Did you just run out of excuses for not travelling/speaking a new language/being useful to the world/learning new skills, for being depressed on your sofa playing video games because no one hires you because you don’t have any skill or any experience? I hope so!
You are not broke and struggling. You are just young. You will grow older, you will have all the resources you need to stand by yourself and you won’t need anyone’s help.
Fast forward some years, you will be alone in your hotel similar to all the other 300 hotels you visited in a year, you will be alone in a plane equal to all the other 200 planes you took that year, you will be alone in a restaurant where the food tastes exactly like the food you ate in all the other 600 restaurants you have tried in that year.
Treasure these struggling moments as independence and comfort are a cage of monotony and loneliness.