How to Travel the World on Zero Dollars a Day

Our book, How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!) and blog are all about traveling free, or as close to free as possible. In the book we share a lot of our own personal methods that we use to travel oftentimes completely for free, and the rest of the time on such a bare-bones budget that it’s barely more expensive than staying home. In fact, many times when we are traveling we are spending LESS money than if we’d just stayed home; if I rent my place back home out, I can even make money traveling (and that’s not even including any travel writing I get paid for).

But don’t get me wrong – even though we’re traveling for free or pretty close to it, we don’t feel like we’re missing anything or enduring any hardships. I don’t do unsafe or unclean places to stay; we eat well and see most of the sights we want to see; and occasionally yes we do splurge on something we really want to do or an expensive activity or sight, because we know we have a rare opportunity to do this. For example, next week we leave for Kenya and Tanzania, where we will splurge on national parks and safari camping (which isn’t cheap even doing it the most inexpensive way), because there’s no way we will go there and not see the wildlife.

Michael Wigge

So I was very intrigued last week when I saw a headline in USA Today that said: How to Travel the World on Zero Dollars a Day.” The article told the story of a guy, Michael Wigge, who traveled 25,000 miles over a 150-day period in 2010 without spending a penny. Wigge’s journey spanned across four continents – from Europe to Antarctica – and 11 countries, and he didn’t spend a cent.

Even though I co-wrote the book on traveling for free, with Keith, I wanted to know: How the hell did he do that? Not spending one cent?

Well, as it turns out, he utilized some methods and resources that we use (and outline how to do in detail in our book) – including:

  • Couch surfing
  • Trading work
  • Bartering
  • Biking or walking

Wigge in Antarctica

Wigge even went on an Antarctic cruise – one of the most expensive cruises on earth – for free by working for his keep on the ship.

But, he also used a whole lot of very unorthodox methods that I, personally, would never use. These include dumpster-diving (gross!), asking restaurants to give him free food, sleeping on the beach and utilizing the facilities of churches or homeless shelters.

There are several reasons I wouldn’t use these kinds of methods; for one, I personally find it distasteful (and some potentially unsafe) and the point of traveling is to enjoy yourself. Second, if you are traveling – no matter how cheaply – you at least have some kind of resources. You aren’t destitute, and just asking people for free stuff or using resources meant for homeless and truly destitute people seems a little unethical to me. Trading work or skills is one thing; asking for a handout is another.

Also, while the article doesn’t really mention this, I am sure that there are plenty of things Wigge did not get to do, if he wasn’t spending one penny. If you are in Cambodia, I doubt the park gate at Angkor Wat is going to let you in free just because you ask them to. Same for the pyramids of Egypt, Machu Picchu or a national park in Africa. And personally, if I am in these places I don’t want to miss these kinds of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. That is why Keith and I will save extreme amounts of money on airline tickets and accommodations – often getting those for free – so that we can spend our money on the experiences when we are traveling.

What do you think about Wigge’s methods? What are the most out-there kinds of things you’ve ever done for free or cheap travel – or what is the most outrageous thing you would be willing to do? Please share in the comment section below, I’d love to hear our readers’ thoughts on this.

And I also thought I would include a few more resources for you, on other ways you can travel for free:

Also, check out this informative video from Graham Hughes of Odyssey Expedition. In it, Graham shares some of his best tips for traveling on the extreme cheap:

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."
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3 Responses to How to Travel the World on Zero Dollars a Day

  1. Some things are completely worth the money that you must pay in order to experience them – the entrance fees to Angkor Wat are a perfect example. The trick is to appropriately save as much money as you can on the things that you don’t necessarily have to pay full price on in order to savor and enjoy yet more of the experiences you want to have while you are on the road.

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  2. I love your push to help share this fun info on how to travel cheap. I have been to 100 countries and 109 islands by bartering performing teaching and working for free places to stay, free food and free tours. I put lots of my experiences on youtube travelindavetv.com Im now featured on a new reality show that airs in june on the A an E networks called barter kings and it shows my skills in action that airs world wide.,I am living proof that this is all real and true. Keep spreadinig the word. Its nice to see other people think out of the box and get out of the matrix.
    cheers dave

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    • St. Worth says:

      Michael Wigge also did a barter thing. In 2011 he filmed himself bartering from an apple to a house in Hawaii. In 200 days he travelled through 14 countries on 5 continents. I think that’s awesome! The show was broadcast on a German TV channel. This guy is really great.

      Like

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