Last year I traveled with a round-the-world ticket through the USA, Peru, Europe, and Asia. It sounds expensive, but I didn’t let a lack of funds stop me from going – and neither should you. Here are some tips on how to maximize what money you have and enjoy more memorable experiences along the way.
Live like the locals
Anywhere you go in the world, the best way to save money and have an authentic experience is to live like the locals do. Take the chicken bus in Peru, stand up and drink your espresso in Italy, eat fried bugs in Thailand. If you eat and travel like the locals, you will save money and have the chance to be completely immersed in the native culture.
Voluntourism is a hugely expanding industry all over the world. There are endless opportunities to volunteer in many different areas depending on your skills and interests. You can find many that are free or very cheap. Be wary of middleman operations who charge exorbitant amounts of money to place you in a volunteer organization with little money going to the cause. Do your research and you may find a great place to stay for a time, helping the local community while saving money, and being left to feel great about your sustainable travel.
Although finding paid work is a little more difficult (though not impossible), there are plenty of jobs where you can work in exchange for food and accommodation. Websites like Helpx, Wwoof, and Workaway have a vast array of work-stay arrangements from all over the world. You can work on an organic farm in Guatemala, make cheese in France, or help sail a boat in Malaysia. The opportunities are infinite; it just takes some time and research to find a good fit. Hostel work is also a fun way to travel and can often be very flexible. It’s surprisingly easy to find if you ask around at hostels or get recommendations from fellow travelers.
Depending on where you are in the world, cooking your own food from local ingredients is a great way to save money. Find the local markets and you will discover much cheaper and fresher ingredients than at the supermarket or store. Get together with a few other travelers and it will be all the more cheaper (and fun!).
The couchsurfing phenomenon has expanded the possibilities for travel worldwide. I have heard and experienced firsthand so many great stories of cultural interchange, not to mention free accommodation. Even if you are not comfortable with staying with a random person, the couchsurfing website is a great resource. Once you join up you can post questions about local events or recommendations. It’s great also to send a message when you arrive to a new city and see if any locals want to hang out. It is an awesome way to meet people and get the lowdown on a city, plus you may even get yourself a free personal tour.
There is the obvious danger factor here, but I have found hitchhiking to be a really fun and free way to travel. In rural areas, this is especially great as sometimes its hours between buses. Hitchhiking will save you time and money. As a solo female traveler, I never do it alone, but I usually wait until I have some other people to cruise with (preferably strong fierce looking men).
With round-the-world trips where you travel to very diverse places, it’s tempting to want to do it all. But my advice is don’t try to do everything at once. Pick a smaller distance to cover focusing on less cities or countries. The more time you stay in a place, the more you will learn of their culture and way of life. You will gain more from the experience and spend less money overall.
Look for new experiences
Think outside the box when it comes to how to spend your time. It’s tempting to just do the organized tours but far more expensive. Think about how you can experience a place in a new way. There is usually a cheaper way to get to the same place an organized tour will take you, so don’t be afraid to ask around and try. Sometimes the most memorable experiences are those that you happen upon organically. Challenge yourself and look for a better way to experience a place and its people.
Don’t try to plan everything
If your plans are open, you have every opportunity to change your mind when a better (cheaper) option comes along. When I was in Miami we managed to get a last minute cruise to the Bahamas for about an eighth of the total price. Be open to whatever comes your way and you might be surprised by what you find.
Enjoy your time away. Whether you sometimes splurge or always save, do what makes you happy and you will have a great and memorable trip.