I wake up to the bright orange sunrise streaming in through the window. I am wrapped tightly under three layers of blankets; mornings and evenings prove to be the coldest in New Zealand this time of year.
It’s the end of March. My husband Ross and I have been traveling around the South Island of New Zealand for two weeks now, exploring glaciers in Franz Josef and turquoise lakes on the West Coast, hiking on the most epic mountains I’ve ever laid my eyes on and soaking in natural hot springs underneath the clear evening sky. In just a couple days, we’ll return our camper to Christchurch, pick up another camper through New Zealand Transfer Car and road trip to Auckland before heading back to the States in mid-April.
For the past ten months, we have had these kinds of experiences all over the world: We’ve lived in a glamping retreat center in Portugal, in a 1000-year-old monastery in Tuscany, and on the beach in Costa Rica. Of course, one of the very first things people ask us when they find out how we’ve chosen to live our life is “How can you afford it?”. Most people assume that our parents are funneling us money, or that we have huge savings funding it all; neither is true.
We are living in an incredible time, one in which we all have the power of the internet and global connectivity to support us. What we are doing now wouldn’t have been possible fifty, or even twenty, years ago, but it is now. With the mere tap of a finger, I can access websites and tools that allow me to share my knowledge and skills in exchange for food, housing, and even transportation in any city around the world. I’ve always wanted to travel and I was willing to do anything to live a life of constant adventure and exploration. And if you’re willing to step a bit outside of your comfort zone, the very same reality awaits you.
Now, if you don’t want to travel, that is understandable—we all choose to live life differently—but “I can’t afford it” is no longer a valid excuse for why you can’t travel. An excuse is all it really is. The reality is that, if you can have a big fancy job (or any job at all), you will spend in proportion to the amount of money you make. When I made eight grand a month, for instance, we went out to dinner all the time, stopped in coffee shops every morning, and doled out two grand per month in rent for our apartment in Austin, Texas. Now, we make dinner and coffee at home, and camp or use AirBNB for accommodation when we travel. We make money by saving money.
Plus: We have time. Time is the most valuable currency. Time is worth millions. A Ferrari is nice but, if you ask me, silence, clean air, clean water, and freedom are the greatest luxuries in life.
Here are some of the tools, websites, and resources that helped us learn how to travel the world on a budget. Journey on, friends.
Workaway This site allows you to lend skills such as farming, language knowledge, childcare, yoga, culinary arts (just to get the list started) in exchange for room and/or board in over 155 countries around the world. Through Workaway, we’ve lived and worked at a retreat in the Portugal countryside and at a hostel on a main street in Bozeman, Montana. We’ve trimmed olive trees on a farm in Tuscany and taken tourists on horse rides along the beach in Costa Rica. And in exchange for living for free in each of these glorious places, we gave just 3 – 5 hours of our time each day.
WWOOF Similar to Workaway, but focused solely on organic farming. For two weeks, I lived in a reforestation village in Tamil Nadu, India, where we would spend mornings planting trees and evenings cooking, doing yoga and connecting with like-minded travelers from around the world. This was a 100% self-sustaining community, and the experience was the catalyst that set me on the path of a career in health and wellness. Check out Sadana Forest (and many other organic farms) on wwoof.net.
Yoga Trade Focused on building a global wellness community, Yoga Trade connects yoga teachers, plant-based chefs and wellness practitioners to work and volunteer opportunites all around the world. The platform has become a favorite tool for finding exciting new experiences and helping sustain my flow wherever I may roam.
HomeExchange.com The mission: Connect like-minded travelers, help them travel anywhere, live like locals, and stay for free. Your exchange can be anything you want it to be. Plan it on your time, travel where you want, on your schedule. Partner with like-minded members to get everyone’s ideal vacation. Travel your way and live like a local.
AuPairWorld Au pairs and host families can find each other by their own initiative, quickly and directly on this well-respected site. Since its foundation in 1999, AuPairWorld has had more than 2 million au pairs and host families register. To save money after my three-month journey through India, I lived in the city center of Rome for another three months as an au pair for two young boys.
HelpX This is an excellent online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats(!) who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation. HelpX acts primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity to stay with local people and gain practical experience during their travels abroad. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of four hours per day, and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.
Not interested in volunteer/exchange work? There is a ton of work to be done remotely, as both Ross and I have done, like web design, social media, sales, and blogging; Fiverr and Upwork can help find the freelance work best suited to your skill set. There are also a myriad of other resources to tap into as well for lodging and airfare and car rental; some of our other favorites include Warm Showers and Coolworks.
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