How To Travel Full-Time
For the last five years, I've been traveling the world full-time, and for less money than I've ever spent (and I'd wager less money than most people would spend) to live in one place.
My worldly possessions fit into one bag (just larger than carry-on size) and a backpack containing my laptop and computer gear. This small entourage (weighing less than 45 pounds in total) comes with me as I wander around the world, sometimes quickly, but mostly slowly. (See also: Housesit on Your Next Vacation)
In 2011 alone, I traversed 13 countries and over 45,360 miles. Sounds pretty expensive, huh?
What if I told you it wasn't? What if I told you that both 2010 (a similarly busy year of travel) and 2011 cost me just over $17,000 (including some major non-travel related purchases)? Would you believe me?
Believe it. (Here's proof, with a full breakdown of where I went and how much it cost: My Cost of Full-Time Travel in 2011).
How to Keep Your Travel Costs Low
Of course, I could travel for way more than $17,000/year. The sky is the limit for what you can spend on the road, from food and accommodation to flights, destinations, and tours. I could also travel for less than this, if I made different spending choices.
Here are a few of my secrets.
Don't Pay for Accommodations
In the entire year of 2011, I paid $173 for accommodation. And that expenditure was a function of a discounted stay at the Hilton in Stockholm as a luxurious “splash out.” The rest of the time, I had free accommodation in various forms, including...
There are lots of creative opportunities to work in trade for your accommodation (and sometimes food) and enjoy a more immersive travel experience. Many of the sites that introduce you to these opportunities involve a monthly or yearly subscription, but in my experience it's well worth it. Here are some resources:
The Caretaker Gazette
World Help Link
Got a few nights to kill at a given destination? Try a hospitality exchange, where locals who would like to host a traveler can put you up in a spare room or even on their couch. Good manners predicate you move on after a few days, and although it's a free stay, expect to provide a gift for your host and help out wherever you can. But there's also no better way to see how the locals live than to actually live with a local.
After five years on the road, I've come to crave my personal space, as well as time to work on my location-independent career as a travel writer. So when other people hit the road to do some traveling of their own, I come into their homes and take care of the property, pets, gardens, and any other chores that require attention in their absence. I tend to the home fires for periods of time ranging from weeks to months, and I'll soon be enjoying my second three-month stint of house-sitting and dog-minding on the Caribbean island of Grenada, where I have my own beautiful free beach-front villa and use of two cars.
The Caretaker Gazette (I've listed this twice because The Caretaker Gazette specializes in both volunteer and house-sitting opportunities).
Mind My House
Aussie House Sitters
House Sitters America
Crew on Sailboats
My most recent foray into free accommodation has come in the form of volunteering on sailboats. Every boat is different in what it requires, from capable sailors or people with boat-specific technical skills to simply being an extra set of hands to share chores and provide good company. I started out with absolutely no sailing experience, and I have met all sorts of people in the cruising community and been aboard three boats in the last month alone. This is a whole lifestyle and way of travel unto itself.
Find a Crew
Another way to get free accommodation includes home exchanges; check out more information on home exchange resources and etiquette.
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