Nine Tricks I have used to Travel the World Solo and Penniless
A guest post by Natalie Frizza
When it comes to long-term travel, people usually find ways to prolong turning their daydreams into a reality, allowing them to crumple and disappear as the clock ticks side to side. This eventually leaves them at a time in their life when they are “too busy with work”, or now have prior commitments like kids, mortgages or future optimistic business opportunities that are bound to take off any minute. Their fond idealistic thoughts of leaving behind all their belongings and going forth, “Into the Wild”, with nothing but a backpack on their back and the road in front of them, ready to climb every mountain that stands in their way, turns into exactly that… A distant thought of what once could have been.
We’ve all heard it all before, from one time or another.
“I wish I had the courage to do what you do.”
“I wish I could just pick up and leave everything behind.”
“Well… once I pay off my debt from school/my car/house/etc,etc… I’ll go travel.”
“I’ll work for one more year (even though we all know you have more than enough money to pick up and leave for months right now) and then I’ll quit my job and travel.”
Time is, quite literally of the essence. And your time is NOW.
STOP with the excuses, stop being lazy, get up and live your life!
I have spent the past four years since finishing high school flying across the world, with almost nothing in my pocket, and I have always made it. I have always been fine, better than fine!
From a Schoolies trip in Bali, that I spent mostly blind drunk or hungover by a pool, to eating sushi in Kyoto, from running through the streets of Melbourne, comparing the cities vibrant air to NoCals San Francisco, to spending a miserable winter in Vancouver, and now a magical winter throughout Europe. I have always left Australia with a ridiculously low amount of money, and most importantly, a fire in my heart, to make my way through this Earth, creating my life to what I want it to be as I go.
Traveling in Japan with Niki, her Mother showing us some sites in 2011
These have been my wanderlust Endeavours over the past 4 years:
December 2010: Bali, Indonesia-3 weeks
December/January 2010/2011: New Zealand-3 weeks
September/October 2011: Japan-4 weeks
January 2012-June 2013: USA/Canada-18 months
September-October 2013: Thailand/Cambodia-5 weeks
August 2014-Current day: USA/Mexico/UK/Europe-5 months almost to the day, and counting!
This is only international, over the past four years I have made multiple trips from where I was living in Australia from my home town in Sydney up through Byron Bay, NSW and down to Melbourne, Victoria.
A hidden treasure a local in Chang Mai (Northern Thailand) took us to in 2013, beautiful and free!
Traveling on a budget is a completely different experience to traveling with loads of money. Here are my top tips to traveling almost penniless from continent to continent:
1. Don’t Be Picky
You are after all, a backpacker right? Who needs a private room with their own bathroom, in a hotel that has absolutely no character. That shit is for our parents wanting a vacation from us, or a family on a trip to Disneyland. Immerse yourself in hostels, eat local, CHEAP food, don’t settle for the first expensive restaurant you walk into, walk and ask around. It can make such a difference between spending $5 or $12 on a meal.
Hitchhiking is a fast and effective way to get around and save money! As long as you have your wits about you and you don’t lack common sense, hitchhiking is easy! Getting from one place to another is a pretty boring and unadventurous task anyway, there’s no fun in sitting on a bus for 8 hours going cross country. Try your luck and see how far you get! You’ll be surprised.
3. When Traveling, the Internet is your friend
Social media is forever rapidly growing around us. We are all guilty of sitting on our Facebook page scrolling down our news feed seeing what everyone back home is doing, or what those travelers who asked you to join them are now doing on another some-what more appealing destination. I am just as guilty of this as the next person. BUT, when using social media outlets in moderation and accordance whilst traveling, a range of connections can be made that can help save money and guarantee an entirely unique experience.
Couchsurfing: I have talked about this website before in past blog posts. A website that allows us to connect to other travelers or hosts in the existing area you are in, in search for a (free) place to crash or a friend to gain. I have met some INCREDIBLE people from couch surfing, people who have literally taken me off the street, hosted me in their wonderful homes, and helped me experience their town, city, country, in a truly distinct and of course, local way. A way I would never have been able to see if I had stayed in a hotel or even a hostel! There are so many benefits of couch surfing, try it on for size next time your trotting around the globe.
Rideshare: Ok I get that hitchhiking isn’t for everyone. So take it slow and ease your way into cheap ways of getting from A to B. Ride share is a great way to do this. It’s safe and super easy! Throw in a bit of cash for gas, get some snacks for the road, and be prepared to talk about your adventures and future endeavors when you get in the car for the long ride. There are many a websites for this kind of travel, in Europe you can use BlaBlaCar, and in the USA you have Craigslist as well as ridester.com and ridejoy.com.
Australia and the UK/Ireland you can use Gumtree.com.
It’s a great way to see the land and how far your stretch is from one place to the other, if you come to a nice view-point your driver might even stop and let you take photos! Try getting that kind of service on a bus or a plane.
Wwoofing and Workaway: Yes, I have spoken often and fondly of these websites in the past and I will continue to do so.
When I left Australia 5 months ago, I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to learn how to be able to provide for myself, and learn more about how mother nature really works. I want to be able to live a life with minimal surroundings, create my own meals where I can taste the pure love and energy that’s placed into it and really learn about my connection, as a human, with the Earth. I set out in search for like-minded humans, in search for the same, and what I found did not disappoint.
Wwoofing in the US and Mexico was life changing. I learnt SO MUCH, yet so little and there is still so much more to learn! It is a great way to travel, you connect not only with people, but deeply with yourself, as well as the earth beneath your feet. And! You get to eat amazing food, and you have a place accommodating you in exchange for a few hours honest work a day. I believe that this is what our lives should be, an honest exchange from one another, helping each other out as we enjoy our surroundings.
Workaway is similar to Wwoofing but broadens your horizons further from just working on farms, to working in home stays and other similar arrangements in exchange for a few hours work a day, you receive a place to sleep and food.
Tinder: Yep, I have Tinder, as most of you reading this do (whether you want to admit it or not), and I use it to my advantage just like the rest of you do too. Except my advantage is perhaps a little different to societies “direct” if you will, main purpose of Tinder.
Now I agree, that it is silly that this social media dating app has taken the world by storm, and has now become a regular way for girls and guys to communicate with each other. What happened to the days when you could just walk up to a guy and say, “Hey, I’m attracted to you, let’s go on an adventure.”
Now it’s like, “Hey, you look like a good one night stand.”, and thats portraying Tinder discreetly, we’ve all had way more forward Tinder matches than that…
But I learned to use Tinder my own way, adventurously, and oh! the adventures I have had from the people I have met on Tinder! I have climbed some of San Francisco’s greatest, most hidden peaks, with Tinder matches, places I never would have known to go to unless these people had showed me. I have found myself in exclusively alternative hole-in-the-wall bars and pubs through out Arizona, New Mexico, Amsterdam, and all over, that alone I wouldn’t have known to step into with out these Tinder matches.
One time, one of my Tinder dates, walking into a tattoo parlor to meet me for the first time, paid for my tattoo within 5 minutes of meeting me (having only realized AFTER I was tattooed that this parlor was ‘Cash Only’)… I of course paid him back, but this guy hardly knew me, I could have flown back to Australia the next day for all he knew.
Multiple and MOST of the Tinder matches I have met up with have been people who, yeah sure, I thought to be attractive at the start, but in the end have turned into big brothers or best friends for me.
When traveling Tinder can be a savior, and I use it in the same way I use couch surfing. If your tired of walking around, introducing yourself to every second person you meet, hanging out with them for an hour or two then finding yourself alone again, try out Tinder, you might just end up meeting someone cool, who you really connect with. For those of you reading this with an utmost disgusted expression on your face, all I can say is, get over yourself. I meet people without even trying, in the streets, in pubs, in parks, crossing the roads and through striking up conversations with strangers almost everywhere I go. But Tinder is fun, a new way of meeting people. I don’t think its necessary to use it religiously, but why not let yourself loose on the app once in a while and find some like-minded people you can relate too.
Blogs: Travel blogs are a great way of finding out about places to visit, some of the places I’ve visited have been based on blog posts I have read from blogs I follow, of girls and guys of all ages that travel the world.
Never under-estimate a good blog! I first really started getting into researching and finding good travels blogs to read when I got back to Australia after visiting South East Asia. A girl I met in Cambodia, Ashley from the USA, had been traveling off the money she makes from her blog for over 2 years, her persistence to see the world and write about it inspired me so much to find more people through blogging that have the same passions as her and I do. I usually search for quirky and unusual blogs that stand out to my lifestyle, I then find inspiration from individual blog posts about where I want to travel too.
For example; Ashley’s blog post on “The Craziest things that happened in India” had me kicking myself for canceling my flight to Chennai from Rome in January, and writing a bucket list of things I want to see/do/witness when entering India. Check out her dramatic yet spiritual Indian adventures.
Another example; another blog I follow, heartmybackpack.com is written by a 26 year old USA/Norwegian girl named Silvia. Besides Silvia’s inspiring long luscious hair that she seems to keep immaculately beautiful through out her travels, I am also largely inspired to now travel through Iran. After reading Silvia’s blog post on road tripping through Iran’s hills and lakes, I know that whenever I eventually get to India, it being so close, I want to experience Iran as well. A young girl solo traveling through Iran is almost unheard off, but if Silvia can do it so can I! I knew this before I read this blog post, but it is nice to read the adventures of a girl who is similar in age and from a similar background as you having succeeded in solo traveling through a middle eastern country.
Search the internet for some inspiration and see what surfaces, I am very thankful to the numerous creative blogs I follow, for opening me up to places I may never have bothered even thinking about to explore.
Exploring California with a good friend I made from Tinder 2014
4. Set A Budget for the Day/Week/Month
I usually set a budget for each month, if I spend more than what I thought I would within that time frame, I am usually super hard on myself for about an hour, then I tend to relax and get over it. I’m only human after all! Setting up a budget can help you immensely though, you look at what you have left and you realize that is what you need to live off for the coming weeks. Never take out anymore cash from the ATM then what you need, once it’s in sight, it goes quicker then you can blink. I usually take out money from ATM’s monthly and hide what I don’t need deep in my backpack.
5. Eat The Food People Offer You!
When I first starting traveling I use to hesitate to eat the food people held out for me, even when I did eat it I would pick at it, eat it slow, and never ask for seconds. I do not have that problem anymore. These days I take what I can get, no hesitation. I’ll go for seconds, thirds and still have room for dessert. Stop hesitating and just eat! People wouldn’t offer you food, whether it be a home cooked meal or paying for your dinner, if they didn’t want to. Let them do it! They feel good for helping, you get some sustenance and everyone’s happy!
Another issue I have had with excepting food from people is my allergies, I am intolerant to gluten and dairy and I am a vegetarian. I am very serious about my food, I totally believe that you are what you eat, when I can afford it I buy only organic and local foods. However traveling, you kind of say goodbye to that privilege, and although I would obviously rather not eat things with gluten and dairy in them… most foods have them in some way or another. And I am in no position to pass up free food, so, most of the time I am very lenient with these things. I still will not touch any meats, chicken or fish no matter how hard anyone tries to push me to eat it, but as far as my allergies go, a little bread, if that’s all there is, won’t kill me.
6. The Best Things In Life Are Free
I have never really been a museum girl, modern art annoys me and the Mona Lisa is to small for me to see without my glasses. I thrive off running through fields of flowers, or jumping on the back of someone’s motorbike and witnessing a city with the wind in my face. Climbing peaks to see the view, and taking advantage of every ‘donation based’ yoga class I can find. Getting lost in cities on purpose and really learning the roots to each place by eventually finding your way back again before the sky night falls. The best things in life really are free, get creative when traveling almost penniless, you don’t really have a choice in the end anyway!
7. Take Up Some Hobbies
Since this most recent trip of traveling I have learnt how to make dreamcatchers and jewelry, I have learnt how to play the guitar (not well but as long as you enjoy it who cares!), how to cook some authentic dishes from different countries I have visited, and also picked up some awesome recipes from people I have met along the way, and I have read some fabulous books. I even picked up a hula hoop in Mexico and taught myself how to hula. I have also of course, started this blog, which is a great outlet to expressing how I am feeling, even if no one does read it, I love writing it for myself. I have also enjoyed starting to make little films of my travels as I go, and writing down inspirational quotes I want to remember in my journal. All these little hobbies have helped me stay sane as I have waited for rides, sat on airplanes, waited for people to get ready or pick me up, and when I have had nothing else to do, I turn to these things. Best of all, it costs nothing to read a book or play guitar!
Waiting for a ride in Juluchuca, Mexico, October 2014
8. Be an Au Pair for a While
If you find an area you like and your hesitant to leave, why not stick around? There are many ways you can work abroad, Au Pairing is only one of them. I like Au Pairing because I of course love kids, but you can also find ways to do this with no fees from websites, craigslist for the US and Canada is a great way to find jobs, for Europe, check aupair-world. Au Pairing is a great way to immerse yourself into a different cultural whilst getting paid a little to work an easy and enjoyable job, and living for free. The possibilities are endless, but Au Pairing is a great place to start for working abroad, especially if its your first time over seas, there is something comforting about becoming a part of some one else’s family, far away from your own.
9. Travel to Places Where you have Friends
The beauty about traveling so much and being open to meeting new people is that you find yourself with invitations all over the world, from Thailand to Berlin, Rome to Seattle! From people you spend only a couple of minutes with to people you spend weeks with. There is obviously a deeper connection with you and the people that invite you or you invite to come stay. It’s a wonderful thing and it is something you should learn to take advantage off.
Not only will you get to rekindle your friendship with these people, but you will get to see them in their natural habitat, and you will get to live like a local!
I have been in Berlin a week, a destination I had desperately wanted to go to for years, now here I am, with one of my best friends and her typical German family right in the centre of it all! They feed me, they play tour guide, they even took me to their family Christmas where I got to witness first hand a proper German Christmas, complete with presents!
On top of that, yesterday some Swedish boys I met in Cambodia, messaged me saying they are also in Berlin, and so we spent the day together. You will find yourself constantly surrounded by amazing people from your past travel endeavors, popping up in your present travel endeavors! That is really something special!
Christmas with the best! This year in Berlin, Germany
So there it is! My top and most effective tips for traveling solo and traveling penniless! If I can do it you can too! Money does not make the world go round, people make the world go round.
It’s a big world out there with much to explore, don’t let something as silly as money put you in a bind or pull you down. Take some action and make your time count!
About the Author
Natalie is a 22 year old Australian girl with an EU passport and a keen eye for adventure. She has a passion for writing, talking, and inspiring. She likes to walk through the wild and listen to people speak foreign languages and also likes yoga.
Check out this video of her travels:
You can follow her adventures by reading her blog: 1 Way to Wanderlust
This article was published in December 2014.