Our five-year travel anniversary of traversing the world has enabled us to discover new countries, learn new ways of life, and meet amazing people along the way. We had never dreamed we would ever be away from home for so long, yet we feel as though we’re only half way through our journey.
When we meet new people and talk about our adventures, the number one question that always intrigues them is: “How we’re able to afford to travel for so long. Are we rich?” The answer to that is: “No, we aren’t rich—far from it!” That would make life and traveling too easy. Most people are under the false assumption that you need to have lots of money saved up to travel. My boyfriend, Jirka, and I have done the opposite; we started traveling to get out of debt. How did that work? Follow these tips and tricks, and you’ll learn how we did it and see the world at the same time.
first trick of traveling for a long time: Work as you travel. This has many benefits. You get to really integrate with the locals, and you don’t create a huge hole in your savings by doing so. IF you find the right work for you, it can also be a lot of fun.
During our stay in China, we worked as English teachers.Our income wasn’t high by Western standards, but we surely had upper-class salaries by Chinese standards. With such a cheap standard of living plus our accommodation, flights, visas, phones, and bikes all paid for by the school, our 20-hour workweek for six months meant that we had enough money not only to get Jirka out of tuition debt, but enough to travel Southeast Asia for another year without needing to work.
Moreover, we didn’t behave like other expats who were in China doing the same type of work. We skipped going to the restaurants and bars and ate either cheap street food or cooked at home. We cycled wherever possible and for longer distances we hitchhiked. Our limited carrying capacity in our bags meant that we didn’t shop, either. We weren’t weighed down with souvenirs, and we only bought new clothes when our old ones were pretty much disintegrating and ultimately taken away by a strong wind.
Trick number two: Volunteer! WWOOFing is fantastic because you’re expected to only work 3-5 hours a day 3-5 days a week, and you get your housing and food for free. We met some amazing families and had an awesome time volunteering on organic farms on Vancouver Island. It turned out to be such a memorable experience, not to mention all the things we learned while volunteering.
Trick number three: Live cheaply and stick to your budget. While traveling around Asia, we stuck to a daily budget of $10, which had to include everything: insurance, transport, food, entrance fees, accommodations—everything! day that we went over our budget, we made up for it by spending less the following day.Because of our extensive traveling, we’ve really became good bargain hunters, too.
Trick number four: Never accept the first price. We’ve spent many hours walking from guesthouse to guesthouse, bargaining with the owner to get cheaper rates. Yes, it takes a lot more time, but it’s worth it in the end. The more money we save, the less time we have to spend working to save up for traveling. Personally, we’d rather have more time traveling.
Trick number five: Another good trick we picked up was at learning from the locals at markets. Whenever possible, we always watched how much the locals paid for their produce before we paid for ours. Once we knew the price, we demanded the local prices as well. There have been too many times when we were ripped off because we’ere foreigners. However, once we found out local prices, we started saving so much more on food. We then did this with everything we needed to pay for, like transportation fares and entrance tickets.
While traveling around Western Europe, we saved a lot on travel expenses because we hitchhiked. Europe is so safe and so easy to hitchhike that it’s surprising more people don’t it. We even met some pretty awesome people on the way.
Trick number six: Couchsurf. Once we reached major cities where even the cheapest of hostels were out of our budget, we couchsurfed. We joined the couchsurfing community years ago, and we’ve been surfing on people’s couches for free ever since. It’s free to join and super safe (be sure to read people’s profiles carefully to find the match for you). From couchsurfing alone I think we’ve saved a few thousand dollars on accommodations, and we’ve also made some lifelong friends along the way.
Trick number seven: Be self-reliant Africa was a more expensive place for us to travel, and so we saved big by camping. We camped in the wild and cooked on our own camping stove in every country we visited on the continent.
While traveling around Madagascar we made most of our own meals. For the most part we also slept in our tent out of sight of the road, washed in the rivers with the locals, and enjoyed the variety of cooking our own food.
We usually drink at least 1.5 liters of water on average a day, and at least double that when we’re doing strenuous activities, or when the temperatures soar. Water in many parts of the world isn’t safe to drink, and so most travelers buy bottled water. This is not only expensive, but it’s also devastating on the environment. We use our own water filter and make our plastic bottles last much longer, all the while saving money. For our one year in Africa alone I estimate that we saved about $1,095. This makes our $50 filter seem rather cheap in comparison.
Trick number eight: Travel slowly. The major way we save on traveling is that we’ve adopted a much slower pace.By staying in one spot for an extended period of time, not only do we get to know the people and culture better, but we also have a much greater bargaining advantage when it comes to accommodations and food. This is how we were able to stay in a bungalow in Madagascar for $10 a night instead of the regular going-rate of $30. We paid the whole month up front and got a massive discount for it. This gave us more time to buy at local prices, cook our own food, and minimize transportation costs.
Trick number nine: Always use the transportation locals use. Too many times we’ve turned up in a new destination and have had no idea how to get around. Within moments of arriving, we’re swarmed by taxi or tuk-tuk drivers wanting our business. As we look around, we often find all the other tourists being briskly driven away in the back of a comfortable taxi. Yet, when we look closely, we always see how the locals get around, and it has never been by taxi. There’s always a bus or other form of public transportation well hidden behind a taxi rank, or around the corner. You just need to always follow the locals, and never believe it when a taxi driver tells you there are no other options.
Trick number ten: Stay away from tours. While looking at brochures of tours to the Great Wall of China, I became quite excited and anxious to finally be atop the wall and see something so monumental. I was staying in a tiny hostel in the middle of Beijing, and I had only a couple days left before I needed to catch the train back to the city where I was working—more than 18 hours away. Time pressure and pretty brochures can sometimes turn normally sane people into crazy, tour-hungry tourists. Never let that happen to you because it will cost you dearly. We’ve always found our own way to top sites without the need to be part of a tour or having to pay expensive guide fees. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. However, we’ve always preferred to explore our own way, in our own time, on our own schedule. Tours are too limiting and expensive.
So that’s about it for the major ways we’ve been able to travel for such an extended period of time. Work occasionally in countries with a high currency value, then travel in inexpensive countries on the cheap pretty much sums it all up. Once you get those right, you’ll enjoy a life of longer holidays and travels.
Authors’ bios: Tania and Jirka started their round-the-world adventure with the aim to see every continent before settling down. From hiking the Everest Base Camp in Nepal to teaching English in China to volunteering in the Maasai Mara, they’ve hitchhiked their way across the globe, always in search of off-the-beaten-path destinations and supporting themselves financially by picking up work along the way. After setting out five years ago, they finally achieved their ultimate goal of crossing Antarctica off the list—an absolute highlight of their travels. You can read up on Tania and Jirka’s experiences around the world at: http://www.planbdidntwork.com
— Uncharted101.com (@Uncharted1o1) May 3, 2017