IN 12 months of travel the question we’ve copped the most is “how can you afford it?”.
We don’t have rich parents, we haven’t scored a huge inheritance and no, we didn’t win the lottery, but somehow we’re travelling around the world. We made it almost two years into a multi-year tour before stopping to work, proving you can have your cake and eat it too (if your cake is a supermarket special eaten in a muddy field next to your tent) and the truth is it’s not hard.
Quitting your job to galavant around the globe is seen as foolish at the best of times and simply stupid at others but what seems to baffle people the most is the financial logistics of sustaining a long trip.
We can’t speak for everyone else who’s ditched the office and sold their belongings for a backpack or a bike but for us it was initially relatively simple.
First of all we had to decide to do it and secondly we saved our butts off. We scrimped and lived like peasants for two years in the hopes of accruing enough for a decent trip and by the end of it we had about $30,000 AU. The truth is we’d hoped for more but life (aka: our chocolate addiction) got in the way and the equipment cost a small fortune itself (bike, panniers, clothing, tent etc to last four years).
We knew our savings wouldn’t go the whole nine yards (not with our love of bakeries and cappuccinos) and so from the word go we brainstormed ways to supplement it.
Most people we’ve met on the road have funded their world trips with work at one point or another. Some are fortunate enough to be IT wired and can work from their laptop on a beach in the Bahamas and others take a guitar and busk in the street or simply take seasonal jobs. We met a couple who made and sold jewellery (not a big earner) and others who have simply stopped their trip to work for a few months before taking it back up again.
You’ve got to play to your skills and if you don’t have any then you’ve got to be prepared to do whatever comes your way or live very cheaply.
Whether you use sites like www.helpx.net or www.wwoof.net (part time work for food and board) to save some dollars, sleep in ditches, hound Couchsurfing hosts or dumpster dive (we’ve met people who did all those things) it all helps the bottom fiscal line and the underlying message is this: where there’s a will there’s a way.
So how are we doing it?
I (Sarah) am a journalist and before I left Australia I worked for the country’s biggest media company. This enabled me to freelance for the first six months (in the way of a monthly column) and earn a little extra money. Freelancing, however, is a fickle business and if you don’t have a foot in the door you’ll more often than not find them slammed in your face.
Secondly, after waking up to the state of our miserably declining funds in Central Asia, we decided to break up our trip with some work. Being just under the age of 31 meant we could get a working holiday visa for Canada, or other countries around the world which take part in the working holiday scheme, and live and work for two years, if we wished to, experiencing life to its full extent in another country. At the end of the day, however, we snapped up an opportunity to teach English in China for a year, which is another popular option for travellers.
For us, it was a win-win situation. As a full time globe-trotter, you often tire of moving from place to place every day and so a respite in China, well if you count teaching screaming four-year-olds a respite, provided us with the opportunity to plant some shallow roots, earn some money, and really get to know another country. It’s a bit heart wrenching having to stop a world cycle trip halfway round, but the truth is, unless you’re financially blessed or you’re quite content with living on $2 a day, then for many this is the best option. And it’s a pretty good one too.
So how are our friends doing it?
In a hostel stay in Istanbul we met the seriously awesome Dan from Canada who (lucky for him) has musical ability. He took a guitar to the streets of Istanbul and in an hour earned about 16 TKL. You can check out his website for funny travel musings and suggestions at http://specialalonetime.blogspot.com. Plenty of fellow travellers have stopped for a month or two in hostels where they’ve scrubbed toilets and made beds for most often food and board but sometimes a bit of cash while others have taught English in developing countries. Miami law student Evan (who we met in Istanbul) spent a semester doing just this in a teeny Georgian village (the population was just 500!) and not only did he have the time of his life (living with a local family, teaching English and experiencing unique Georgian life) but was fluent enough in Georgian to hold his own toasts by the end of it. The only requirement for this program (www.tlg.gov.ge – Teach and Learn with Georgia) is to be a native speaker and Evan now rates this small and unassuming nation as his favourite. He earned a meagre $100 USD a month but all food and board was paid for and with Georgia being so cheap he spent very little.
So with all that in mind here are our:
Top 10 ways to travel the world and not go broke
1. Take a leaf out of your grandma’s book before leaving and save like never before. Politely decline invitations to dine out, borrow clothes from friends rather than buy new ones, avoid shopping malls like the plague, and research budget-busting student recipes.
2. Learn the resources. Get familiar with web sites like www.couchsurfing.com,warmshowers.org, www.helpx.net, www.wwoof.net, and www.workaway.info. Warmshowers is a global network of good samaritans who are or just love cyclists, and who’ll put fellow bike travelers up for a night or two. The other sites are for volunteer travelers. The flip side to HelpX and the others like it, pin you to one place. The up side is free board, food, and a new experience for the price of a few hours of labor a day. There are some really cool opportunities available, like working on husky farms in Lapland and helping run orchards in Italy.
3. Become an entertainer. Can you sing? Dance? Fire twirl? Blow giant bubbles from soapy buckets? If so, you can make money. We met a guy who did the last one in Europe and claims to have made enough money to survive and continue his travels.
4. Intersperse your travel with seasonal work. Cruise ships, restaurants, and hotels in tourist hotspots such as the Greek Isles and more are some of the options open to you. You won’t get paid a fortune, but you’ll earn enough to keep going and probably meet some great people.
5. Teach English. To get premium wages in this sector, you’ll need a university degree AND possibly a TESOL or TEFL qualification. China offers some great opportunities for English teachers, and is the most lenient with what they require thanks to the growing demand for teachers, but they often refuse candidates unwilling to spend a year or more doing it. You can have zero experience and land a job in a city in China paying upward from 10,000 yuan a month. Many institutions throw in living allowances on top of that and if you factor in the cost of living in China, you can save a pretty penny as long as you don’t get sucked into the expat lifestyle. Places like Japan offer top dollar, but higher qualifications and more experience.
6. Eat like a student. It’s more than a little tempting to spend half your time gorging down foreign feasts in quaint cafes or sampling the local beers in trendy pubs while you’re travelling the world. And while a global galavant wouldn’t be the same without just a bit of the aforementioned behavior, its unfortunately best left as a rare treat. Shop in supermarkets such as Lidl, if you’re in Europe (cheap as chips), only stay in hostels with kitchens (if you’re backpacking), and buy seasonal and local produce. It’s less expensive and will at least give you a chance to act like a resident. In Morocco we ate bread, couscous, and vegetables. You could spend just a couple of dollars a day living like this. In Italy we ate salad and pasta, in England baked beans and oats, and in France many, many baguettes.
7. Ask for free accommodation. Your chances of scoring a complimentary room at the Hilton for free are probably limited, but don’t be afraid to ask the locals if there’s somewhere free to rest your head, or if you’ve got a tent, somewhere to pitch it. We’ve scored not just rooms, backyards, and once a piece of grass in a military compound in Morocco through this method, but we’ve also been frequently been fed and watered while meeting great people.
8. Run a blog and sign up for Google Adsense. Ok, you’re not going to make a killing with this. You’ll get a maximum of about $1 USD if a reader clicks on an ad on your website or blog, but if your site gets a decent amount of traffic, you could earn enough to at least pay for your food.
9. Take your trade with you. We met a New Zealand hairdresser in Marrakesh traveling with his scissors, apron, and clippers who made thousands of dollars working his own craft abroad. He was nobly doing it for charity, but in the hostel trade alone, hair stylists could easily make a little extra cash cutting the ragged lochs of scruffy travelers.
10. Become a movie extra. We’ve never tried this or known someone personally who’s done it, but in the international traveler sphere, there’s more than a few nomads who have signed up as extras and earned up to $100 a day and scored a free lunch. Apparently, the best country to try this out in is India, Bollywood producers love foreign extras, but realistically you could do it anywhere.