Most people think that travel is a luxury reserved for the rich. Find out why this idea is wrong, and learn 5 ways that you can travel for free.
Fellow twenty-somethings often come to me, asking for any advice I can give about how to fund travel. As students, money is often tough to come by and as soon as we have it, it’s gone again. The truth is that most people think of travel as a luxury, something that only the rich can do. From first-hand experience, this view is 100% not true! There are many ways that travel can be achieved for free, and even more opportunities that are especially reserved for students. Here is how you can travel on the cheap, and in many cases, for free:
If you are going to volunteer somewhere, study abroad, or perform some kind of project or artwork somewhere in the world, there’s a very special option for you that can help you travel for free. When I brought a group of 14 students (including myself) to Guatemala, our participants only had to pay $400 out of pocket, about half the price of the plane ticket alone, for the entire trip. How did we pull off the rest? We fundraised, reached out to loved ones for support, sold baked goods, and applied for grants. We did everything it took to raise the $17,000+ that it cost to go to Guatemala. And guess what? We made it happen, and all in less than five short months.
2) Travel Hacking
Successful travel hacking does not necessarily mean that you have to sign up for an airline credit card or other expensive, debt-staking programs. College students have enough financial strain as it is! However, if you are accustomed to buying things online, you can almost positively earn valuable airline miles from those purchases. Clothes, cosmetics, gifts…you name it, you can find it online.
Most airlines have a shopping area for frequent flyer members to earn miles. Sometimes, purchases can get up to 5 or 6 miles per dollar! Encourage your family members and friends to buy things under your frequent flyer portal and you could earn big miles, enough for a round trip flight or a free stay in a hotel. Look out for contests and deals offering mile bonuses for signing up or entering your email. Also, airlines usually have partnerships with survey websites where each survey that you fill out gains you a few miles. A little bit can go a long way, and free travel is worth the few extra spam emails!
I once won a free trip to Europe by rapping. I got a scholarship to Buenos Aires by writing an essay. I won a $500 travel voucher simply by sending a tweet on Twitter. Dozens of other coupons, discounts, and free stays have come from simply entering giveaways. Johnny Jet has a great newsletter that sends out notifications about travel contests. WorldNomads also has a fantastic scholarships section where they send a handful of students on an all-expenses-paid trip to somewhere cool each year. Keep your eyes peeled for any opportunity and jump on it when it comes!
4) Travel Jobs
In this increasingly globally-connected world, there are more and more jobs popping up that require travel or knowledge of a foreign language. Many people work at hostels or teach English abroad in order to travel and learn about new cultures, while making a little bit of money at the same time. A few of the people I’ve met while traveling were working as au pairs, or nannies, in foreign countries, using the money they earned for travel afterwards. Often, business positions around the world offer ample opportunities to travel and visit other countries on business trips. A few even offer sponsorship for living abroad long-term. The point here is that traveling and spending money don’t always have to go hand-in-hand; in fact, you could be maing money while traveling!
5) Free Cultural Exchange
This bullet point is last because it is the best, and the broadest. Anyone can engage in cultural exchange and there are a variety of different ways to do so. Couchsurfing and WWOOFing are two options of programs that provide free housing while traveling as well as a cultural exchange with locals in the area you’re visiting. Another example of an awesome free cultural exchange is free walking tours, offered by the locals of a variety of cities. Since these are run by people who live in that city, they offer a more personal and local view of a city than an expensive tour run by a large hotel chain, for example. Plus, they’re free!
Another way you can travel for free is by walking. You’re probably thinking, “Walking?! That’s not traveling!” On the contrary, I believe walking is the best way to travel. Walking doesn’t cost a dime, you see more of a place, and it’s even a great way to explore your own city. Plus, you get some calorie-burning exercise in there too.
So, in a nutshell, it IS possible to travel for free. You just need to make travel a priority and work hard at it, and the rest will come!
How have you managed to afford your travels? What things have you gotten for free? Share your expertise in the comments.