How Do You Do It? Tips for Making Travel Happen on the Cheap

It’s no secret that nowadays I, like many Digital Nomads have been able to fund my lifestyle by working online from wherever I am traveling. However, as I highlighted in the article I wrote about becoming a Digital Nomad, for a long time before this job fell into my lap I struggled to be able to make travel happen, and I still continue to explore and discover new tricks and tips to save money so that I can sustain traveling long term. Being able to make money while I travel has certainly taken a weight off, but it wouldn’t be enough by itself to travel for long periods of time. Over the years I have come up with an extensive list of tips and tricks that have saved me money and allowed me to keep traveling long term, which I am going to share with you curious readers here. Everybody is talking about working online right now but not everyone has found their dream online job yet. So for those of us who have and haven’t alike, here is a list of money saving tips I have discovered through travel:

1) Travel to Cheap Countries

Most of my traveling the last two years has been in second and third world countries, mostly because they’re still pretty new to me, honestly. The first 8 years I stayed in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, admittedly because while I knew I loved to travel, I was apprehensive about traveling by myself in less developed countries. Once I started though I immediately realized that no pasa nada- it’s all good (as long as you keep in mind a certain set of guidelines)- and this has opened up a whole new, enormous, exciting world to keep exploring. Besides the fact that these places aren’t as dangerous or run down as we might believe, I also discovered that my money goes way further, I’m talking way, wayyyyy further, than when I am traveling through countries like my own. Not only are the cultural and societal differences far greater and more interesting, but the economy is also a far cry from our own, which means you are going to be paying less for everything than you would in your country and therefore, you can travel longer or even try and do things you wouldn’t be able to afford in another place. It might seem obvious but, you can travel longer and do more by sticking with cheap countries, and at the same time get a deeply enriching cultural experience: that of seeing what it’s like to live with a lot less than you do.

 

The best Carne Asada tacos of your life for 50 cents?!? Viva Mexico!

2) Don’t have bills

When people from home used to ask me how I was able to do this- traveling all the time- the first thing I would do is implore them to consider how much money they spend per month on bills: rent, car insurance, car payments, cable tv, phone, whatever- and add all that up. I guarantee you I spend less than that traveling each month. I save a ton of money every month just by not having those monthly expenses. I feel like when they ask, people are expecting to hear that I have some kind of a family inheritance or a rich benefactor, neither of which is remotely true. I started working when I was fifteen years old. I have funded all of my traveling and my education by working and saving up, just like everyone else. I haven’t gotten any breaks, I just figured out a way to do this that works for me and that has become my lifestyle. Now the thought of transitioning back to a stationary life with bills and a full time job seems more complicated to me than the lifestyle that I’ve developed, which isn’t an entirely good thing but, that’s for another blog post. The point here is that by eliminating your high, monthly expenditures you free up a lot of money to travel, and depending on where you are in the world that money can go a long way.

3)Travel on a Shoestring

Obviously, that’s what this whole article is about: traveling on a shoestring. But what does that mean? I was surprised to find that the meaning of this phrase escapes not only my friends who don’t speak english as their first language, but even some of my friends and family from home who have never had to travel or do anything “on a shoestring”. It basically means travel on a budget. That means we are not on vacation, we are not splurging, we are trying to make our money stretch as far as it can. Which means things like: staying in hostels and not hotels, taking low cost airlines or buses or trains, preparing meals for yourself with food that you bought from a grocery store instead of eating every meal out, bargaining and looking around and comparing prices for different tours before you buy them. If you were on vacation for just a week or two, you would probably splurge on the finer things. After all you only have two weeks and then it’s back to work… so why not? But if you want to travel long term this just isn’t feasible, you have to make some sacrifices.

 

 

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Get around like the locals do: wave down a collectivo instead of hiring a taxi

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Many places in South America (where the weather is nice) offer hammocks in addition to dorm beds where you can sleep for as little as $5 a night.

4) Volunteer programs, Workaway and Woofing

I listed these sites in my Travel Go-To’s , and here they are again as a way to travel on the cheap. I reckon you could do an entire backpacking trip through a country or continent just hopping from Workaway host to Workaway host (that’s a good idea for a future trip) and never having to pay for accommodation- which is probably the thing you end up spending the most money on while traveling. These programs link hosts who are willing to provide room and board in exchange for a wide variety of services- you can browse them all and apply for the ones that interest you on the website. You usually only have to work 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week, and in your free time you can explore the area that you’re in. Plus you get the experience of living with a local family and working or volunteering in a foreign country which is invaluable and adds a new dimension to your travels. You’re not just traveling to see things and spend money but to help out and contribute in some way.

5) Sign up for a Charles Schwab account

This is the most valuable travel hack that I learned about too late. Holders of a Charles Schwab bank account do not have to pay ATM fees anywhere in the world. I have paid ATM fee’s as high as $16 per transaction depending on where and how much money I was taking out, so you can see those really start to add up. I would have saved hundreds of dollars in ATM fees if I had found out about this years ago. I’m grateful to have it now though, and to no longer have to worry about these fines every time that I take money out. There is no fee to sign up for a Charles Schwab account and you can do it for free online. It sounds like there has to be a catch but, there isn’t! I’m not sure why more people don’t know about it but I’m sure they will soon as traveler’s are catching on to this sweet travel hack.

 

 

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