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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
Another option for making some money is getting a Working Holiday Visa in Australia or New Zealand. You can apply for these up until your 31st birthday and work for a year in each country.
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?
What is forever? But for now, it has been 15 months of a nomadic lifestyle. We also make great use of home exchange by exchanging non-simultaneously our home in Nicaragua for others in locations we head to on the road. Love this system, as besides being inexpensive it’s a great way to be really ” local” and experience neighborhoods.
Nice blog! The Wife & I are only into our 2nd week of travels but have another 6 to go before returning home. We call it a ‘mini retirement’ a test to see wether we like it enough to go full time. Whilst we’re only 37, we invested hard the past 10 years so that we could eliminate work. It ws a very hard slog and I actually couldn’t make the last 2 years work because i’d had enough (working 2 jobs, one full time one weekend job) but luckily we were able to rearrange our finance plans and it worked out well
So these investments are crucial to us having the ability to travel freely and readily available for anyone to use. I think we’re getting into the swing of things now. Can’t imagine having to get up at 5am when the alarm goes off anymore!
All the best to everyone on their travels :)
Have you had much experience with Workaway, and did you find it positive/negative? It looks like there are some great opportunities posted on there, but I don’t know anyone personally who’s traveled that way.
Thank you so much for the reply, although it does raise two more questions if you don’t mind me asking.
First: how do you afford to pay rent while being gone for years at a time?
And second: does someone HAVE to be a resident somewhere or is freedom really just a myth?
I’ve been wanting to backpack around the world for years now and I plan on spending many many years doing that, I’m just in the process of figuring out more options. Reading this page has helped out a lot and I love your guys story! Maybe ill see on on the road one day :) thanks a lot and happy travels
We don’t pay rent in the UK but we rent places as we go. This is how we fund our travels: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/how-we-fund-our-permanent-travels/
I think you have to be technically resident somewhere, and it’s definitely helpful to have an address to use. We are technically resident in the Uk but it doesn’t mean we have to spend any time there, just that our bureaucratic life is based there.
We have lots more info on the practicalities on our start here page: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/start-here/
How do you stay out of your home country (mine is Canada) for so long without losing citizenship or having your passport taken away?
I don’t think most countries can do that. We’re from the UK and still have ties there – we have an address we use and pay taxes so we are still officially resident (we have to be resident somewhere).
At the moment I’m working 6-7 days a week at mc donalds, and I have a car, pay rent and all the rest, but recently I have been planning to travel and teach around the world I have figured that if I sell the car which I don’t acctually need (but my family think I do and we’re shocked when I said there is nothing a car can do that feet can’t except get you there faster and drain your wallet) I can save £7000 a year, so £21,000 in three……
Any advice as to budgeting, as I want to travel and see everything, volunteer, learn and the rest
It sounds like getting rid of the car is a good idea. We’ve written more about saving to travel here: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/how-we-saved-75-of-our-income-to-travel/
This post is so helpful, thank you! My husband and I are leaving the end of July for a slow travel journey. Our first stop is 3 months in Iceland where we will work at a cafe for room and board while finishing a film we started there last year, Dýrafjörður http://www.philipcarrel.com
We hope to save at least $10,000 (hopefully more!) how long do you think that might last us using all of the above methods? I would love to hear what you think! After Iceland we will be heading to Denmark to visit friends, then hopefully a cheap mediterranean country to work-exchange for a while, and on from there. We are definitely a bit nervous about it all! Would love to hear back from you, I know I’m a few years late on this post :P
All the best on your sweet travels!
Sounds like a fantastic plan! It’s really difficult to say how long it will last you as it depends on so many things. Europe is more expensive than other parts of the work but if you aren’t paying for accommodation and food then you could get away with spending very little, so it all depends how much you spend on treats and activities. I’m sure it will last you quite a while though. Good luck with it and enjoy!
and (forget to add) I am absolutely enthusiastic about traveling forever. What about that?
Hi, I am just overwhelmed with the preciousity of this site! :) Soooo inspirational comments and everything! Huge thanks to all of you.
But I enormously need a kind of ´confirmation´ that my intents are possible and that I am not just a dreamer :D I attend high school right now and I am also planning not to go to the university because I have came across lots of people (like you!) who travel and earn money on the way .. So what do you suggest me? I will surely do that but a kind of take-it-easy comment and practical tips will make me the happiest ever !
I recommend developing your skills in an area where you could work online which would give you the freedom to travel. We are launching a site soon about becoming a digital nomad. You can sign up to the email series here which has weekly emails on how to get started: http://digitalnomad.co/. Good luck!
very interested in your great site which I have just come across. We are a couple of old farts (58 & 63) looking forward to having a gap year starting in 2014- first stop India – we figure we might as well go for a complete culture shock to start our year out before bits start dropping off! would really like to know your thoughts on other ‘oldies’ you may have met on your travels?
India will be quite a way to start your trip! I’d recommend starting in Kerala to ease yourselves in. We’ve met plenty of older travellers – in our opinion travel keeps you young :) Happy travels!
I’m deeply inspired by your bog! What would you say to a passionate highschooler who aspires to be a ‘digital nomad’? I’ve already seen the expected path I should take, but it’s not what I want out of life.
– Good luck and may your travels bring you joy
If I were you I’d start developing skills around your interests and focus on portable skills -anything that could be done online. Good luck with it!
Great plan, I’m looking to do something similar. I just finished college and I’m leaving for Asia soon and the plan to keep traveling until I can’t.
I have been enjoying browsing your website for the last few days. I am envious of your travels and have been thinking for years that I need to just quit my job and travel… Already have the money but had been hoping for that special someone to come along to enjoy it all with. Ah well, thanks for all the travel suggestions and info.
One question I have is what you do about taxes back home every year? Parents or online? (Though fyi, I live in the US.)
It sounds like you should just do it! Maybe you’ll even meet that special someone while travelling :)
We have a post coming this week that covers taxes. We’re from the UK but we do ours online.
I am a teacher and I travel every summer…I am with my family when I travel, and I love every bit of it…would want to save so that I could take a sabbatical for 3 years and just travel the world again! I am happy that i found this blog that really is inspiring for us!!! God bless you all!!! :D
Hi – great wsite. When I went in 1980 I got myself a Seaman’s book. It’s a kind of passport for sailors that have to travel to their ships abroad. I traveled as working passenger from Australia to New-Zealand. And as a cook around England and Northern Ireland on a small coaster [I could tell you stories about that trip :) ]. However you would have to buy return tickets before you are allowed of the ship at your destination, so do research…
Crewing on yachts might be problematic, but you will find out. I know cause my brother is sailing his cat for over 20 yrs. around and he told me stories. Be extra careful with that.
I ended up traveling on and off for roughly 8 years. Now I am 53 and ready to sell my house, etc. and take a small mini campervan to go again, hopefully never to stop.
Thanks for the tips Eric. We haven’t tried to crew on a yacht yet—it’s not the most practical thing to do when we have work to do on our laptops. We’d still love to learn to sail though.
Good luck on your campervan adventure! It’s a great way to travel.
So heart-warming to read everyone’s responses. It’s a good feeling to know that as we all travel alone or in groups, that our need to explore and not just “settle”, is not unusual. I feel the expectations of western society quite heavily. I just want to keep exploring forever! The sensation I get when hopping on a plane, a ferry or a humming, waiting bus is indescribable. I hope I get really get into a rhythm of doing it more sustainably.
Best of luck to everyone :-)
How much money do u leave with ???
Good luck! I really recommend doing a TEFL certificate and teaching abroad. I taught in Japan for 3 years and it was a great experience.
What do you do about insurence?
If you travel more than 18 month??
We got a years insurance initially and then we’ll get another year.
Thanks for this fantastic post! I’m bookmarking it.
Its nice to have all of these things grouped together in a single post. Amy and I are just beginning to prepare ourselves for our own journey and its so easy to forget many of these resources with all that is going on.
Cheers and happy travels!
Glad you found it useful. Good luck with your preparations!
Nice stuff about heavenly travel place. I found very less people proving such good stuff on this beautiful country and so many countries don’t even know its use even. Thanks for the ample information.
Congratulations on realising the value of money. Too many people nowadays don’t, squander whaterver they have and then complain they are poor.
Looking longer term, after a few years of travelling you can then start looking for jobs abroad and getting other people to pay for your travel.
Since I first left the UK in 1959 I have worked in 12 different countries and travelled in nearly 100, much of it at other people’s expense.
Since retiring I live in New Zealand and Europe according to which is enjoying summer, so soon I shall be relocating northwards, stopping off in Korea, UAE and Egypt along the way.
Good luck!! I am also amazed at how long some of your commenters have been traveling!
Hubby and I are into month 9 in South America. We had the same goal as many – to be permanent nomads. But, lately we are finding ourselves to be pretty tired of it. Living out of a backpack, having no “home”. We have to go home (Canada) in September for a family wedding, and we’re not sure if we will be on the next plane out afterwards or settling.
We have seen/done some pretty incredible things! But there is something to be said for permanence. We aren’t done traveling (THAT is for sure), but we might just need to do it in smaller chunks.
It may not be for everyone, I guess!
.-= Dalene´s last blog ..Privileges =-.
No it certainly isn´t for everyone, and eveyone has to find what´s right for them. It can get tiring moving around a lot – I was going to suggest you try staying somewhere for a few months, but I see you are doing that with your volunteer work in Ecuador. Hopefully that will leave you feeling refreshed.
We feel very ‘at home’ here in Buenos Aires after 2 months, but are now ready to get off and explore some more.
Enjoy the rest of your travels!
What a positive and delightful read! I am a 26 year old male stuck in the 9-5 right now and currently saving, I am setting off/escaping England October 2011 NO EXCUSES!! I have similar ideas to you too, good luck with it all you are a true inspiration! Every time I hear the nay sayers I am coming back to this bookmark!!
Thanks for your comment Anthony. You’ve done the right thing and set a leaving date, even if it is a little while away. It’ll give you focus for planning and saving and you’ll be surprised by how quickly it goes. Let us know if you need any advice. Definitely ignore those naysayers – they’ll be jealous soon enough!
Hey Erin, thanks mate. I estimate to have 7,000 pounds saved up then and I don’t feel it’s enough, as for me-one year is not enough. I will then be on my 3rd year of open university, (studying Spanish) so I am thinking South America is perfect for me.
Do you know the chances of TEFL success over there?
Hi Anthony, 7000 pounds probably isn´t enough although using some of the tips in this post it could last quite a while. Teaching English is a great option. Here in South America it isn´t as lucrative as in Asia, as I think generally you earn enough to live but not enough to save. Ecuador looks like a cheap place to get the CELTA TEFL course and we are going to look into Colombia for teaching when we get that far, but we don´t know much about it yet.
aaaah bugger! I thought as much! I have been telling everyone I’ll go when I have 20 but then I got impatient! Right, I’ll either go with 20, or like yourselves, create an online venture. Thanks for your honesty.
It’s just…this wanderlust is killing me! I can’t believe you saved 30, well done! I’ll stay tuned hopefully for more TEFL based info.
Well, if you are desperate enough to go then you can always teach and save up some more (Japan, Korea & Taiwan are supposed to be good for saving). Good luck!
Good luck with your trip it sounds great. My partner and I enjoy travelling in a van. We had a beat up old VW van in Europe that we ended up spending 7 years in. It was a great way to see Europe, we camped wild all over the place. Travelling by van is another alternitive way to travel cheaply and works very well in first world countries.
Thanks Anita. Wow 7 years! That sounds amazing. We hired a campervan in Australia and it was a wonderful way to get around. We’ll definitely try it again at some point.
Definitely a subject always on my mind.
I bet! Well you never know what opportunities might come up on your travels…
Lots of great advice in there and some really cool plans, especially the yacht crewing thing. I’ve always wanted to do that so will be interested to see how that goes.
Working holiday visas are something I’ve used to extend my travels a few times and with Australia and New Zealand now allowing two year stays, it really is possible to stay on the road for ages!
Thanks for commenting. We’re really excited by the idea of crewing, but need to figure out how to do it. We need to make some sailing friends and get some advice. You’ve been a real inspiration to us, especially your volunteer work. We are definitely heading to Ometepe in Nicaragua after reading about your experiences there.
I’ve been reading your blog, and am truly inspired. as far as yachting goes, if you make your way to ft lauderdale, Florida, there are many recruiting agencies. i went down a number of years ago. you can make contacts through agencies as well as at the docks. there are many crew members looking for work, so its a great way to network. there are two seasons. one in the Caribbean and then the Mediterranean. Of course Dubai has a massive yachting marina with some of the largest yachts to ..
Thanks for the info Erik.
You definitely seem to be aware of all the amazing options out there that make it so much easier to become permanent nomads/location independent than most people think! I’ve just entered my 11th year of traveling around the world and I don’t have any plans on stopping any time soon. I’m looking forward to reading more about where you end up.
.-= Earl´s last blog ..A Night Of Miracles In Cancun =-.
11 years! Wow, that’s amazing Earl. It gives us hope! There are so many incredible opportunities out there – it has really opened our eyes.
I feel the same way, 1 year is not enough. I’ve only been out on the road for around a month but I’ve learned I’m a very slow traveller, I prefer to get to know a place a bit before I move on. When I left I said maybe a year, maybe forever, I’m more strongly than ever leaning toward the forever now. :)
It’s definitely possible to be a permanent nomad, I’ve met someone who is on their 4th year and says he has no desire to go back to the 9-5 sedentary lifestyle. If he can do it, so can you. It looks like you’ve covered the ‘how’ and I wish you all the best!
.-= Catia´s last blog ..How to Stay Healthy While Travelling =-.
Thanks Catia! Weirdly I was just over at your blog leaving a comment on your packing post! Slow travel is definitely the way to go. Good luck if you decide to become a permanent nomad too.