“If you don’t mind me asking, how can you afford to travel so much?”
If I had a dollar for every time I’m asked this, I could afford to fly business class across Europe instead of riding the Flex bus. One day I’ll sit in first class, annnnd 10 minutes later a flight attendant will probably tell me those seats are reserved for paying customers only. Anywho,
- October 11th to November 27th, 2016 I stormed the gates of Europe
- November 28th to March 29th, 2017 I hopscotched across South East Asia
- March 30th to June 7th, 2017 I made my Europe round two debut
- June 8th my feet touched North Carolina’s sandy shore
- Did my Beatles impersonation & said, Hello! Goodbye! to the hometown crew
- Became a rubbertramp on June 22nd
- Travled across the US for six months
Before those minds wheels go a’ spinning, Rubbertramp (n): A person who travels in, and lives out of their vehicle.
Considering the answer to #whereintheworldisrita changes more often than a chameleon in a tie dye tank top, I understand why people question the state of my finances. To address this post’s opening question: I don’t mind! The biggest misnomer when it comes to long-term traveling is money. Stick with me and I’ll take the scary out of monetary… See already dropping $ and ¢.
How I was able to start traveling at 22: HUGE shout-out to Rob and Linda aka my parents. Because of their kind, supportive nature they paid for my college tuition. Not having student loans played a confounding roll in allowing me to start traveling post-college. My mom once told me people constantly ask her how I am able to afford my travels. Many thought my parents sent me money along the way.
Wrong, y’all I may have been raised in the south, but that doesn’t mean I rode a gravy train around the world.
How did I fund the past 10 months of traveling across three continents? Well, it all started when I got my first job the summer before I entered high school. That’s right, I got a work permit before my drivers permit. I was 14 and fully licensed to scoop ice cream. I’ve been giving critics of millennial work ethic the cold shoulder since 2008. During the college years I became a Panera bakery dojo master and worked from 5 to 11 am, before heading to class.
I also waitressed for 5 summers before I traded burgers and fries for brand new skies. (During my two week staycation at home between international gallivanting and domestic meandering, I worked ten shifts at the ole restaurant to stimulate the waning bank account.) It doesn’t matter if you trimmed hedges or inherited a hedge fund. However you get your start up money is up to you. I’m hear to help you make it last longer.
I know some people out there are thinking, “right, I’ll be able to travel for a year when pigs fly.” Well, sit right there, eat some of the bacon you brought home, and I will tell you how I managed to roam for nearly a year with no sign of sowing err I mean slowing.
7 Main Ways to save:
- Being Un-Fabulous
- Taking it Slow
- Waiting Until the Last Minute
Workaway: My A#1 fav way to save money on the road. *Note (so important I’m not going to make you scroll to the bottom to find out what’s on this side of the asterisk) You don’t make money through Workaway, but it will enable you to go weeks/months without spending money.
https://www.workaway.info/ is a nifty website that allows hosts seeking help to connect with workers. In exchange for working a few hours a day, you get a free place to stay and meals are generally too. Talk about a free market economy! Work can be anything from house cleaning/organizing, rural farm work, hostel reception, assisting the elderly, childcare, dog sitting, to lending a hand at a cider farm or yoga studio. Just sign up, set up a profile, and for the annual fee of just $42 USD you gain access to a worldwide network of volunteer opportunities.
Sometimes hosts have reached out to me first, but normally it is up to the volunteer to send out the initial email. Make sure to plan ahead. Send out emails a few weeks before you’d like to volunteer. I normally email 7-8 different hosts at a time and generally hear back from 2 or 3. Before making a commitment, it is up to you and the host to communicate via email or Skype to ensure both parties are on the same page about; the type of work expected, the hours per day/week, accommodation arrangements, and meals.
I have now volunteered through Workaway on 5 occasions in; Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Luang Prabang, Laos, Tring, England, Crowley Lake, California, and San Ignacio, Belize. I have had a tremendous experience every time. For more detailed information: Workaway for the Eternal Win
Friends: I’m technically a solo traveler, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get by with a little (a lot of) help from my friends. I have crashed with friends across England, The Netherlands, Germany and the US stopping in; Brighton, London, The Hague, Breda, Utrecht, Stendal, Hamburg, Berlin, Würzburg, St. Louis, Yellowstone, Seattle, Portland, Reno, and San Francisco. I’m not sure which network offers more world wide coverage, Verizon or my people.
Couch-surfing has also offered some experiences straight outta left field such as pedal bike-riding through the streets of London. There is nothing to remind you of the delicate balance of life like a double decker bus rushing past you while you’re precariously two wheeling. I have; attended a ~glow~ themed showcase full of positively electrifying performances by Leiden University College students, visited the keeper of windmills, sat (stuck out like sore thumb) in an 8 person Business English lecture at a German university, camped somewhere in the south (?) of Germany with a scout troop, attended a Cardinals game for free, had Lake Yellowstone boat rescue called on me and my first mate of near-mayhem, saw local underground Seattle musicians work their magic, played volleyball at the Nike World Headquarters, and went to a church turned roller skating rink.
I’m NOT advocating for you make friends under the pretense of using them in the future. Personally I’m looking forward to the day I can host everyone who has fed me, housed me, &/or let me use their washing machine, even if that day is a distant fleck in the future.
You could also test the waters, and couch surf via https://www.couchsurfing.com/ I have not used this site yet, but I’ve heard good things about it from people who have.
Camping: I feel like I don’t need to be as inten(t)se about stressing the benefits of camping. Free is normally enough of a pitch in itself. Instead here are some fun facts:
- Norway, Sweden & Finland have laws guaranteeing “Every Man’s Right” to access uncultivated land. Translation: it is legal to camp on any public land for free… Finally! a law worthy of chopping down a tree to write it down.
- In the US you can camp for free on any national forest service road. Shout-out to NFR 4610, my stopping ground for nine days on the outskirts of Bend, OR
Thanks to Workaway, friends, and camping, I only paid for accommodation for 14 nights between March 29 and September 6th. That breaks down to 14/161 days or 2/23 weeks. Not bad paying two weeks “rent” for nearly six months of living. Dodeka-annual rent checks are security deposit in disguise.
Prepare to be un-glamorous: Forget everything Fergie taught your preteen brain, except Taco Bell. I too still go to Taco Bell, drive through, raw as hell, I don’t care, I’m still real…
The reason my Instagram feed is not full of pictures of me lounging on a 50 foot yacht is because I often look and smell more like I belong on a pirate ship. After 4 days of not showering while camping in Northern California, I finally found an RV Park to sneak into with an unguarded bathroom. During the crimson-streaked early morning hours I had a total Amanda Bynes via She’s the Man moment singing, “I get to take a shower.”
Since I hit the road, my pantry has become a cardboard box of food in the back seat of my car that looks like I am doomsday prepping. Ever had a canned-spinach and peanut butter sandwich between cracked apart sheets of uncooked Ramen noodles? I’m sure Hell’s Kitchen would have to freeze over before some people would try this “sandwich,” but for a budget traveler the taste to cost ratio can’t be beat.
I have solidly entered the, “I just brushed my teeth and washed my face in a grocery store bathroom” stage of life, and you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing because the less you have to tie you down, the more free you become.
Flexibility When it comes to traveling, there are two ways to pen your tails:
- Choose your own adventure novel and make the plan up as you go along
- Book everything in advance
Guess which narrative I subscribe to… Some people will plan their entire itinerary and book all transportation/ accommodation weeks in advance. If you ask me, traveling in such a regimented manner heavily reduces freedom. Imagine you get to a place and hate it, but you already paid to stay four nights. You either eat the money and move on, or waste four days in a place you don’t want to be.
Flexibility in your means of travel and arrival date is essential to stretching a budget.
As time goes on you’ll meet travelers with slews of recommendations about on-going event and destinations. You also may want to link up with a fellow traveler and spend some days wandering together. If you allow yourself the flexibility of a non-iron clad planned trip, then this all becomes possible.
Remember you are the master and commander of infinite possibilities.
Divide your time in one city into two phases. For example, I wanted to spend four days in Madrid. However, I learned the 2016 super moon was going to occur in the middle of my Madrid window and I decided I wanted to watch the event from Toledo. A considerably smaller town located an hour south of Madrid by bus. So, I spent a weekend in Madrid, took the €5 bus to Toledo, hung out there for a few full days, then spent two more days in Madrid.
Finding the cheapest way to get to your desired destination is like solving a logic puzzle. It’s not quite on the same level as the enigma machine,* but figuring out the magic combination of departure date and arrival airport without breaking the budget can be a tough code to crack. Keep playing around with these variables until winner, winner you can afford the plane ticket that hopefully serves dinner. Sometimes the closest airport to your desired destination will be too expensive. When this happens see if there is a relatively close airport to fly to, spend some time in that city, then take a train/ bus the rest of the way to where you want to go.
I most commonly use https://www.skyscanner.com/ for airline tickets, and Flixbus for getting around Europe. What’s great about skyscanner is that you don’t have search for flights based on a specific arrival airport. You can search based on arrival city or country. My favorite feature is the ability to view an entire calendar page worth of fairs at one time.
For the full gambit of my transportation tips check out the “Tips n’ Links” tab under the “Tales and Tips” header
If you want to try your hand at hitchhiking use hitchwiki.org. It is a collaboration of information all about hitchhiking and cheap travel. Note: in some countries sticking out your thumb is like giving the middle finger, so read up on a country’s customs first. http://hitchwiki.org/en/Main_Page
Taking it Slow: This will sound crazy but the slower you move, the longer you can travel. In my 8 months abroad I only visited 10 countries. Like Foghat, I took a slow ride. I spent 3 weeks in the Netherlands alone. A country than can be driven end to end in approximately 4 hours. I theoretically could have visited 6 countries in the same amount of time. However, if you move quickly from one city to another you are not getting as much for your money’s worth. When I travel to a new destination, I divide the cost of transportation by the number of days I will be there to figure out how much it is “costing me” per day.
More importantly the further the distance you travel at once, the higher your cost will be especially if you have to fly. When you plan your itinerary, try to make your next stop within reasonable bus distance. For example, I decided to visit a friend in Stendal, Germany. A small village a little west of Berlin. Coming from Amsterdam it would have been more than a pretty penny, so I added a 36 hour stop over in Cologne to make the journey to Stendal more worth the money. As you go along you’ll naturally find yourself spending less because the less you spend, the longer you can travel. Finally! some math that makes cents.
Waiting until Last Minute “If you don’t wait until the last minute, opportunities can’t fall in your lap.” -Me (Hope you enjoyed this latest installment of deep thoughts with Rita.)
I decided to cross country road trip complete with camping before “cash me ousside howbow dah” became a meme. (Still don’t get it but hey, it is has the word cash in it.) However, less than 2 weeks before I set out on my greatest, latest adventure I still had no camping equipment. I was going to buy it, really I was. It was on my “last 48 hours in town” to do list. Instead, a week before I left I ran into one of my brother’s friends who said, “hey heard you’re planning on camping want to borrow all my equipment?” Guess you could say I had camping in the bag, after that.
People ask how I always seem to luck into opportunities. Honestly it’s a lot of living life on the bright side, sending out good vibes, and waiting until the last minute.
So there you have it! I admit sometimes I think, “What authority do I have on this topic? I’ve only been in the world traveling trade for 10 months.” Then I remember, oh yeah that’s slightly longer than the average bear and I haven’t had to resort to trading my goldilocks for cash.
I originally only set out for 8 months, yet here I am going on 11. At the end of my third month it’s like my “free trial” period ran out. It was then I decided to perpetuate my forward momentum for the foreseeable future. I fully subscribed to a continual state of nomadic-inclination. Take my word as my bond, it IS possible to travel without costing you an arm & a leg, an internal organ, or a piece of your soul.
Talk is cheap, but damn it would be nice to get paid by the word. Alright, I’m done. Check y’all later, time for me to bounce. (Hey gotta give me credit for that one. I’d never short change y’all on the puns.)
*Enigma Machine: Enciphering machine used by the German armed forces to send messages securely during WWII