A year of travel was never going to be enough – too much world and not enough time. The monotonous, sedentary lifestyle that awaited us upon our return simply fuelled our desire to make travelling a permanent state. The question was how.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of opportunities where, instead of paying in cash, we can contribute time or effort. This helps stretch the travel budget as well as offering unique and interesting experiences. We’ve tried out a few of these already and they have been incredibly rewarding, so we are looking forward to trying more this time.
Couchsurfing is a huge hospitality network where hosts from around the world allow travellers to stay on their couches or in their spare rooms for free. This is an amazing opportunity to save money and to meet local people who can give you tips about the area and even show you around. We had a great experience hosting interesting travellers in our home, and now we are looking forward to trying ‘surfing’ ourselves.
Stay in some amazing houses all over the world rent free with house sitting. Usually all you are required to do is look after pets or the garden, and you get the house to yourself. This will be great when we want to take a break from travel and focus on writing or freelance work. We’ll be trying Mind My House and Caretakers Gazette for a small annual fee. There aren’t many options in South America but houses do come up in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
You can save huge amounts on accommodation costs by working in exchange for a room and sometimes meals. One of our favourite experiences of our last RTW trip was WWOOFing in the Australian outback. We spent four hours a day gardening and had the rest of the time free to relax. We didn’t spend anything while we were there, but best of all we got to know our wonderful hosts and learn more about Northern Territory life.
WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is the most well known work exchange programme, but there are plenty of other options including Help Exchange and Workaway. They all charge a small annual fee, but this often works out to be less than the cost of one night’s accommodation. You could also organise your own position when you reach your destination – hostels are particularly open to this.
You may want to contribute something to the country you are travelling in, but this isn’t always cheap. There are many volunteering placements that charge high participation fees, especially when you go through an agency. I paid them myself when I volunteered in Sri Lanka after university.
However it is possible to help non-profit organisations for free (or for the cost of your own living expenses), and the fact you aren’t paying an agency generally means they really want your help. You’ll need to organise your own placement but websites like Volunteer South America, Independent Volunteer and Idealist can help you find organisations looking for volunteers.
The benefit of long term travel is that we won’t be in a rush to reach our next destination, so we will be able to contribute a decent amount of time when we find the right organisation.
Crewing on Yachts
We would love to learn to sail and it is possible to get free passage (usually contributing to expenses) on yachts by helping out. Sometimes you don’t even need any sailing experience, although any you do have will increase your chances of getting a position. Crewing opportunities can be found by asking at local yacht clubs or on websites such as Find A Crew and Crewseekers.
But what about cash?
The resources above will help us save money, and we’ll travel frugally to make our savings last as long as possible, but when we find ourselves in need of some cash there are plenty of employment options without having to return home to the UK.
Simon is a web designer and developer and will be building up his freelance business while we are on the road. There are a number of services, such as Elance that help freelancers find jobs. We are also looking into various ways to make money online, as our ultimate goal is to be location independent and be able to work from anywhere in the world.
It may take a while to build up the freelance work so if we run out of money the plan is to get our CELTA Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification (we’ll keep some money aside for the month-long course) and look for work either in South America, Taiwan or Japan. Working in Ecuador or Colombia for a while would be great, but we would only earn enough to cover our living expenses. Working in Asia would enable us to save money to continue our nomadic lifestyle as well as being a great opportunity to experience a different culture.
Working Holiday Visa
These are just some of the ways that will help not only to make things cheaper, but to get us involved with local communities and give us the chance to contribute back. Whatever happens – whether we are house sitting in Mexico, teaching English in Taiwan or volunteering in the Amazon – we want our life to be full of excitement, exploration and learning. We hope it lasts forever.
Update: 1000 days into our journey we have tried many of these things including couchsurfing, housesitting, volunteering in exchange for accommodation and our main business freelancing. Long term travel on a budget is definitely possible so why don’t you try some of these?
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers which includes unique suggestions for exploring the world at home. There’s something for every budget.
Enter your email to sign up for our monthly newsletter with exclusive travel tips and updates.