“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.
- From October 11th to November 27th I stormed the gates of Europe
- November 28 to March 29 I hopscotched across South East Asia
- March 30 to June 7th Europe round two
- 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
- Been traveling across the US the past 8 weeks
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 the first half: I don’t mind! I encouage everyone to travel and the biggest misnomer is money. Stick with me and I’ll take the scary out of monetary… See already dropping a $ and ¢.
How I was able to start traveling at 22: First and foremost I have to give a HUGE shoutout 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 big roll in allowing me to start traveling immediately after college. During my hometown two week staycation inbetween international gallivanting and domestic meandering, my mom told me people had been asking her how. How was I able to pay for such a trip? Some thought my parents were sending me money along the way. Y’all I may have been raised in the south, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been riding a gravy train around the world.
So, how did I largely funded the past 10 months of my life? Well, it all started the summer before I entered high school when I got my first job. That’s right, I got a work permit before my drivers permit, 14 and fully licensed to scoop ice cream. Really giving critics of millennial work ethic the cold shoulder since 2008. During the college years I became a Panera Bread bakery dojo master. I used to get to work by 5am, work until 11am, and then head to class.
I was also a waitress for 5 summers before I traded burgers and fries for brand new skies. It doesn’t matter if you trimmed hedges or inherited a hedge fund, how you get your start up money is up to you. I’m just hear to help you make it last longer.
How I’ve been able to travel for so long: It’s probably obvious to anyone’s who has been keeping up with me, I’m not funding my life via this blog. I know, I know there hasn’t been any post for a while. It’s as if all my days are Sundays. But! It’s time for me to jump on the weekly grind. Some may be thinking, “right, when pigs fly.” Well gentle reader, sit right there, eat some of that bacon you bring home, and I will tell you how I managed to roam for nearly a year AND show no sign of 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 willing workers. I.E. budget travelers. In exchange for working a few hours a day, you get a free place to stay and generally free meals too. Talk about a free market economy! Work can be anything from house cleaning/organizing, rural farm work, hostel reception, assisting the elderly, child care, dog sitting, to lending a hand at a cider farm or yoga studio. Just sign up, set up a profile, and for the low, low, way down low annual fee of $29 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.
In my experience as a:
- Community art space volunteer in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: I did some general house cleaning and rehung curtains. My hosts at Artshram were extremely welcoming and always invited me out to dinner or for a night on the town.
- Guesthouse Tout* in Luang Prabang, Laos: I handed out flyers from 4-6pm to other backpackers ecouraging them to stay at Sok Dee, the family run guesthouse. My “coworkers” quickly became some of my best friends. We spent much of our time around the outdoor table talking by day and laughing by night. The toughest part of the “job” was coming to terms that I switched to the dark side, from traveler to tout.
- Jack of all trades in Tring, England: I lived with a family helping out around their canal-side cottage and permaculture farm. I did an assortment of odd jobs like wig maintenance. Allow me to comb over the details: One Saturday my hosts went to a show in London and left me alone for the night. While they were rocking away I was at home sitting with; feet propped up, glass a wine by my side, watching a documentary on Linda Kasabian* while working on my task for the night which was to brush the tangles out of a waist length rainbow wig. Maybe I didn’t get invited to the ball, but you won’t hear this but Cinderella complaining.
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.
Thanks to all these lovely lovelies I’ve had some experiences straight outta left field. I biked through the streets of London, nothing to remind you of the delicate balance of life like a double decker bus rushing past you while you’re two wheeling it. I attended a ~glow~ themed showcase full of positively electrifying performances by Leiden University College students. I 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 (guess you could say this experience was straight outta in field.) I had Lake Yellowstone boat rescue called on me along with my first mate of near-mayhem. Saw local Seattle musicians work their magic, played volleyball at the Nike World Headquarters, and went to a church turned roller skating rink.
It’s funny. Back in college people joked about my future prospects. I was a history major with no aspirations of higher education and the only type of inflation I understood was blowing up an inner tube. (All still same.) With a laugh people would say, “have fun sleeping on other people’s couches the rest of your life.” Mock my BA if you like, but it’s all potato, po-let me stay on your coach-o to me. If the rest of my life continues like the last four months, bring it on. It’s been a hell of a ride so far!
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 later rather than sooner. You could also test the waters, and couch surf via https://www.couchsurfing.com/ I personally 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. Shoutout to NFR 4610, my stopping ground for nine days.
Thanks to Workaway, friends, and camping, I will have 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 worth of living. I swear monthly rent is just a hefty security deposit in disguise.
Prepare to be un-glamorous: That’s right 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 living life on a 50 foot yacht is because I more often I look and smell like I belong on a pirate ship. For two weeks I camped in Oregon and northern California. After four days of not showering I finally found an RV Park to sneak into during the early morning hours. I had a total Amanda Bynes via She’s the Man moment singing, “I get to take a shower” when I found the unguarded bathroom. In the times I went into town, my backpack rattled like plastic wind chimes in a stiff wind because I jam packed it with a few litters worth of water bottles to refill. On a completely unrelated side note I’m beginning to think I was a camel in a past life…
Since I hit the road, my pantry has become a cardboard box of food in the trunk of my car that looks like I am doomsday prepping. Ever had a canned-spinach and peanut butter sandwich on uncooked ramen noodles? I’m sure Hell’s Kitchen would have to freeze over before some people would try this “sandwich.” Fair, but for a budget traveler the taste to cost ratio can’t be beat. A few weeks ago I got some free bagels. I went to eat the last one and it had grown a blue-green beard. (Leave it to Oregon even the bagels are hipsters.) I literally scrapped the mold off the bread and kept eating the probably safe bits. Either I’ve been listening to too much Sheryl Crow or too committed to balling on a budget. Although some people say ball is life… Hey if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.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 plan:
- Book everything in advance
- Make the story up as you go along
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, preplanned manner 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.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 and dinner.
I use https://www.skyscanner.com/ for airline tickets, or Air Asia when in Asia. What’s great about skyscanner is that you don’t have search for flights based on a specific arrival airport. You can search for a flight based on arrival city or country. My favorite feature is the ability to view an entire calendar page worth of fairs at one time.
TBV Travel Tips:
- In general it is cheaper to travel mid-week rather than weekends.
- Planes, trains, and automobiles: Sometimes the closest airport to your desired destination will be too expensive. See if there is a relatively close airport you can fly to then take a train/ bus the rest of the way.
- Know your major hubs: JFK is the cheapest international airport I’ve found on the east coast. London is a huge European hub, and if you’re in SE Asia, Bangkok will be your go to.
- Divide your time in a city into phases: I wanted to spend a few days in Madrid but also wanted to be in Toledo for the 2016 super moon. So, I spent a weekend in Madrid, took the €5 bus to Toldeo, hung out there for a few full days, then spent a few more days in Madrid.
- When it comes to getting around town ask hostel staff what is the best mode of transportation.
- 2 flights are cheaper than 1: I’m sure some people are blessing my heart and math skills but hear me out. My brother and I needed to fly from Surabaya to Singapore, but the flights kept climbing in price. Once I realized every flight had a layover in Jakarta, we booked a flight straight to Jakarta, and another from Jakarta to Singapore leaving 2 hours after we landed. In the end we each saved about $60.
A few weeks later I learned a trick Skyscanner, and presumably other websites, uses. Skyscanner remembers the flights you’ve searched. When you go search for the same flight again the website assumes you are interested in buying a ticket, so skyscanner bumps up the price. Either clear out your browser history before you search for the ticket again, or use a different device.
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.)
*Tout: attempt to sell something, typically by pestering people in a bold manner.
*Linda Kasabian: former member of Charles Manson’s “Family.” She was the prosecution’s key witness against Manson and his followers for the Tate-LaBianca murders
*Enigma Machine: Enciphering machine used by the German armed forces to send messages securely during WWII