How to travel and see the world for very little money
We all have a deep-seated desire in each of us to travel, even if your idea of travel means going to the beach and sipping margaritas all day, whereas mine would be to hike all around a city and see sights.
Le Louvre in Paris, France
How can you travel with barely any money saved or travel on the cheap?
I’m of course, ruling out that you are in debt and want to travel, because travelling is a luxurious expense that comes after you’ve responsibly cleared all of your student loans.
Oh and I’m putting my money where my mouth is because once I was $60,000 deep in student debt, I didn’t take a single trip-for-leisure out of the country until my debt was cleared.
Any trips I took, were company-paid trips and I basically flew in the morning of Monday and worked 10-12 hour days for the whole week before flopping into some tiny, cramped seat to fly back home. It was not leisurely and it was not relaxing.
So assuming you are not in debt, and you have no money saved to speak of, here are some ways you can still see the world.
GET A JOB WITH A BIG MANAGEMENT CONSULTING FIRM
This one is not so easy to do, but you are almost guaranteed to travel a lot but it may not be where you want to go!!!!
(I can attest to this)
Oftentimes I saw a few of my friends head off to Abu Dabi, London England, Stockholm Sweden, and Sao Paulo Brazil to work for a few months at a time.
3 Photographs I took in Stockholm, Sweden (2011)
I wasn’t quite as lucky to be stationed on an out-of-country situation, but if that happens, you can actually apply to bring your spouse/significant other along for free in lieu of a ticket flying back home.
Of course, your loved one won’t be working at all, won’t be paid, and will be on a vacation for the whole time, but at least you won’t be alone in a city.
I had a friend who took the year off to basically go around the world with her husband.
Don’t take jobs with small firms, they generally don’t win bids in big countries, and if they do, the bid sucks and you’ll end up working too much to enjoy any part of that trip.
LOOK AROUND YOUR OWN COMPANY TO SEE IF THEY HAVE POSITIONS OVERSEAS
Countryside in Lyon, France (2011)
You’d be surprised what’s available.
I had a friend who was not part of a consulting company, and ended up in Thailand for 2 years to help with the office down there, and another friend who knew French, was sent to France for a while.
Poke around, ask if they have any positions available that you might be able to do.
Loads of family-oriented folks won’t necessarily want to go and leave their kids and husband/wife at home, so you could be looking at a company desperate for people who want to travel.
BECOME AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Pretty self-explanatory — teach English, get money, live in another country, wash, rinse and repeat.
Japan seems to be a popular country for this (and why the heck not? 🙂 ), but don’t rule out others that come along.
Google “Teach English”, and you’ll find a ton of links.
USE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND HELP A NON-PROFIT THAT WORKS OVERSEAS
I had a friend who was a doctor, decide to take a sabbatical from her job and go to Haiti to help the survivors.
She went for a year, and came back totally re-energized and enriched from her experience. She’s planning on doing it again, perhaps this time in Asia.
As a matter of fact, think about charities and non-profits in general who travel around the world to help developing countries.
GET A WORKING VISA AND VISIT COUNTRIES WHILE WORKING
I had two friends who did this during the summer while in school. This is only really applicable to younger folk in their 20s, because those countries think that they’ll like the place so much, they’ll go and live there (new blood!)
They took visas for Paris and London, and worked in bars while living the super frugal life, and saw as much of Europe as possible.
Even now, I still have a friend in her late 20s who does this. She takes off for 3-6 months at a time, going to different countries and taking on odd jobs just to be able to travel and live in exotic places.
She doesn’t need much to get by on, and she is absolutely not choosy about anything in the slightest (food, shelter, etc).
MEET EXCHANGE STUDENTS OR TRAVELERS AND BEFRIEND THEM
Invite them to stay at your place at a future date, and they’ll do the same to you. At least you’ll have a couch to crash on.
You may think this is a dumb idea: “OMG she’s telling me to seek out overseas students and BEFRIEND THEM?“, but we have exchanged contact information with perfect strangers (and afterwards, perfect friends) whom we’ve met while traveling.
(Of course, this is assuming you like them and they like you. Don’t be a creeper..)
We even got invites to visit proffered before we said anything from very lovely retired French couples who were thrilled to find French-speaking folk in Asia.
They’re just as eager to travel as you are (obviously), and if you can host them in return, why not?
It’s how BF stayed for free in Australia once — exchange friends rock!
OR MAYBE FIND OUT WHERE YOUR RELATIVES & EXTENDED FAMILY LIVE
Who knows, maybe Aunt Sally now lives in Hong Kong or in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam, and you can pop by for a little visit.
Of course, you’ll have to do the dishes, clean, not overstay your visit (2 weeks MAX) and otherwise be a proper house guest and not a pest.
Vienna, Austria (2011)
We’ve stayed a number of times with BF’s extended family in Europe, saving a bit of money…. however sometimes they stay too far from downtown to be a great place to crash, which meant that we took a cheap hotel instead.
Otherwise, why not?
To really travel on the cheap and on a budget, you have to take the good with the bad and commute two hours a day to tour a city.
GET A JOB AT A TRAVEL AGENCY
It’s a dying industry, but they get free vacations, paid to go anywhere they want.
I had a friend who traveled all over the world like that, using her travel agent job to not only score great deals but travel on the cheap
GET A JOB AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT — STEWARD/STEWARDESS
I loathe flying and working in the air (motion sickness is my No. 1 Enemy when traveling), but if you’re up for the job, why not?
You can travel to exotic places, stay for a few days as a layover, and then work on the flight back.
Talk about earning your bread and butter…
PARLAY YOUR MBA INTO AN OVERSEAS JOB
If you were thinking about an MBA anyway, you could totally switch up your career by going to a different country altogether.
3 Photographs I took in Salamanca, Spain (2011)
I know at least 2 people who got MBAs from INSEAD, and ended up moving abroad to Europe and Asia to work, instead of staying in North America, because they wanted the international experience.
Companies abroad love hiring freshly minted grads who can bring another perspective to their company.
Sure, you probably won’t get paid as well (my friend was paid about 25% less, living in London England, versus if she went back to Toronto Canada), but you get the experience of living and working abroad on a visa.
GIVE UP FUN AND SACRIFICE TO SAVE FOR A TRIP
And what semblance of a personal finance blog would this be if I didn’t tell you to just save your money as the last resort?
In addition to your 15% savings for retirement, you could give up eating out, entertainment, and generally any kind of paid fun for the next year or two, to scrimp and save money to be able to go on a trip.
This also means no buying of a new car, house or anything that will take all your money.
Furthermore, I’d also suggest you make and stick to a budget that is so frugal, pennies will cry when they see it.
That means living in hostels, taking the bus, eating sandwiches made from stuff at the grocery store, eating oatmeal and basically not “enjoying” a luxurious trip just to be able to see the sights.
Madrid, Spain (2011)
YOU CAN MAKE IT, IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE CREATIVITY AND/OR SAVING
You can make it happen, you just need to understand that there has to be some give as well.
Without any money saved, you don’t have the luxury of staying in a hotel (not a hostel), eating out in restaurants, or taking cabs everywhere.
For my yearlong vacation, I spent about $20,000 just for myself, and that was for about 4 months living in cheap hotels overseas, eating food from grocery stores, hoofing it everywhere (NO CABS!), and taking buses, trains and/or public transportation to the airport and back.
I wasn’t traveling 365 days a year, but I went on a pretty frugal budget quite similar to my most recent cheap-ish trip to Hong Kong and Macau where I spent $3000 for about 4 weeks, and went all around Europe and Asia, plus a small stint in the U.S.
I also lived in New York City this year on the island of Manhattan for about 6 months, working on a project, and I took advantage of the entire situation by touring like a mofo on nights and weekends.
If you really want to travel, there are plenty of ways to do it. It just depends on your priorities and motivation to do what it takes.