That is a very practical question that every single friend I come across on the road asks me. Some of them thought that I must be rich. Honestly, I still owe my bank quite a lot for my student loan, if I were rich, that shouldn’t be happened, right?
However, let me share my secrets of being a long term traveler, or I would rather call myself a nomad or a vagabond.
Saving from previous job
Since I was studying, I already know that one day I will start a long term journey traveling around the world, that’s why I always saved up every single cents to make my wanderlust dream come true as quick as possible. Getting part time jobs working from 9am to 11pm, saving up transportation costs by sleeping in office, eating leftover instead of dining out…I didn’t regard them as suffering, because they were just temporary, my daydreams about traveling around the world kept my morale high.
Volunteering, a good karma
I spent almost a whole year doing various kinds of volunteer work mainly in Southeast Asia. Honestly the true spirit of volunteering is people shouldn’t expect to get anything in return when they decide to do charity work. However nowadays most of the charitable organizations provide their volunteers lodging and meals (or with a very low cost) as a thank you gesture.
The whole year that I volunteered in clinics, hospitals, orphanages, or even just in a remote village, it didn’t only give me spiritual fulfillment, I can say that I hardly spend any money except transportation costs for the whole year.
This is an online network that I have used for more than 5 years, as I really like the idea of opening your doors to welcome travelers to stay at your home, as well as sharing what you have with them.
Many people concern about the safety of Couchsurfing, but my theory is “once you accept people to stay at your home, you see them as your friends; and friends won’t steal from you or hurt you”. It might sounds too innocent, but after hosting and surfing more than 100 times, it proves my theory is 99% correct. Precautions are needed to be taken, you shouldn’t leave all your money and credit cards unattended anyway.
Couchsurfing is way more than just free accommodation, it is a way of building connections, a way of exchanging ideas, a way to learn from another traveling soul, a way to simply help and receive help from another individual in this world.
Make sure you read references and their profiles before sending a Couchsurfing requests, I wouldn’t bother sending a request to people who has negative references.
Cooking or eating instant food
No matter I am staying in hostels, couchsurfing or camping, I love cooking my own food. Although it takes a bit longer than just dining out, it is no doubt the cheapest and healthiest way to keep your stomach full. Buying ingredients in different supermarkets around the world could be an interesting experience, as you could see what local products are popular in that region.
I really enjoy cooking with Couchsurfing hosts, to learn how to make local cuisines expands my collection of recipe.
Anyway, it is always cheaper to cook than eating in fancy restaurants.
Another tips is to eat instant food such as nuts, fruits and fresh vegetables. They are not only more healthy, but also could be cheaper than eating junk food.
Be smart on sightseeing
It is expensive to enter every single museums in a city, before you arrive, try to do research on Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor or WikiTravel to give you an idea of what is worth seeing in that city. Usually I just pick some of them that I am particularly interested in, and also seeing if there is any date I could enter for free. Usually museums do offer free entry in one day of the week, some of them Friday, some Sunday, it depends.
If you couldn’t enter a museum for free, try to enter it with a concession price. That’s why you need a Student card! You could be a student as long as you want if your face doesn’t look like an old chap. There are many ways to get a student card, you can either make yourself one, or pay somebody to make it for you. Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand is famous for all kinds of fake cards, don’t miss the chance to make a few when you pass by there.
I also sneaked in some places in other ways:
Deal with minibus driver to bring me in his luggage area to enter Lugu Lake in China;
Went into Stonehenge at night, camped there but I was kicked out the next morning;
Mixed myself into a group of tourist to enter Alcarzar in Cordoba, Spain
You can definitely find a way to avoid paying if you are determined to do so!
Hitchhiking, shared ride and cheap flights
Transportation is another major expenses in travels, it costs quite a lot to bring you from point A to point B every few days. But you could also find ways to lower the cost!
First of all hitchhiking, I have done a lot of times when I traveled in Tibet, Central Asia, Israel and New Zealand. The possibility of getting a lift depends on the culture of hitchhiking in that country, and also a matter of your luck. I don’t recommend single female, or even single male to hitchhike, and if you are gonna do it, take a photo of the license plate and send it to your love ones just in case anything happens.
If you think that it is reasonable to share the fuel cost with somebody, there are some websites which serve this purpose, like blablacar and carpooling. It is always cheaper than taking trains or buses, and I appreciate the idea to reduce traffic on the road when people share the ride.
Nowadays taking a flight becomes a daily thing for some people, as they have to travel from place to place to work or study. As a result of generalization of air transport, low cost airlines suit the needs of many people. Most of the time, flying could be a lot cheaper than taking road transport. Although I like to enjoy the view when I travel by train or bus, the lower cost of flying sometimes become a critical element to decide what should I take.
Of course it is not easy to live with small amount of money, but it challenges myself not to possess so many useless things. If I see something I really want to buy, I will take a picture and bring with me a memory, rather than taking the real object, not to say I couldn’t bring a lot of things on the road. I only buy things when I really need them.
I am very grateful to receive a lot of things, mainly clothes along the way, and even to a certain point that I realize I have too many clothes that I have to give them away.
Seeing all my friends in Hongkong buying all sorts of new clothes, new cars, new houses…I start to question myself if I want to be one of them, or I will find my own way to live against all these possessions. Traveling is a very good way be a minimalist, and I am proud to be one. And I saved a lot of money!!
There are still a lot of ways to earn or save money during my round-the-world trip, you can read my other post to be inspired!!