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.
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
- Biking or walking
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:
- Our guest blog post on getting paid to teach English while you travel
- Our friends over at Do It While You’re Young have a fantastic post on raising money to fund travel, by selling all that crap you don’t even need!
- If you’re interested in volunteering while you travel, you can apply for a grant to cover all your costs of doing so.
- Our friend Myscha Theriault at Trekhound shares how you can make money while on the road.
- Get some travel coupon codes that can help you save money.
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: