Shh. We’ve got a secret to tell you. Being an adventurer, gallivanting around the world and seeing everything it has to offer doesn’t have to cost you the Earth. You don’t have to be a posh toff to safari in Africa or a trust-fund Tarquin to summer in the South of France.
The secret’s this: the most expensive part of any trip is always accommodation, but it doesn’t have to be. You can stay in any country in the world – for free. The types of accommodation on offer range from sharing a hut with Asian villagers to having free run of a Californian villa. It doesn’t matter whether you want a taste of adventure or a brush with luxury. And here’s how.
Work for your room
If you’re prepared to graft for your bed and breakfast, paying your way by working is one way to avoid handing over any money. It’s also a good idea when you’re starting on a trip or need to refill the savings account when you’re on a big trip.
Teaching English as a foreign language and working as a rep are popular choices we’ve covered before. Other perennial favourites include picking fruit for a place to sleep. It’s a big choice in Australia which, in turn, is a good stopping off point for an Asian backpacking adventure. You’ll usually get lodging in a communal dorm or barn.
If you have the skills and patience, working as a carer for older people is another way to combine vacation and vocation. Craig’s List is full of adverts for live-in carers, whether you’re looking after one person or helping to take care of communal home. Most live-in carers will have their own room.
To widen out your net, try looking through the listings on workaway.info. “Hosts” post jobs that include board and lodgings around the globe, ranging from helping out on an Icelandic ranch to teaching kids how to swim in Jamaica. Adjust your level of adventure accordingly.
When you work for accommodation, you’re likely to get a bit of extra cash in your pocket – but most of the work will be repetitive and unrelenting. For a more spiritually rewarding experience you could give volunteering a go.
A whole industry has grown up around volunteering in recent years, with companies putting together packages in some of the world’s most exotic destinations. These organisations claim to take the hassle out of arranging your trip. If you arrange your own volunteering expedition it will cost you money for flights, transport and insurance – but the actual volunteering part shouldn’t cost you a dime.
There are several organisations crying out for the help of able bodied young folk like you, eager to see the world and stay in a foreign country for free.
WWOOFING – A big thing among eco warrior backpackers WWOOFING (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a loose collective of people and farms all over the world. There were 99 countries with WWOOF connections at the last count. Volunteers don’t get payment, but do get food, board and the chance to learn new skills.
VSO and the UN – Both Volunteer Services Organisation and the United Nations have initiatives that place Western volunteers where their help is needed. Digging out a well in an African village will be a short, sharp shock if you’re more used to living it large in Maga – but you’ll learn life lessons you’ll never find at the bottom of a shot glass.
Volunteer Alliance – The Volunteer Alliance is a site where organisations from all over the world can post volunteer opportunities. There’s a small fee required to sign up – but after that you can search for free opportunities (and paid for opportunities too, if that’s what you prefer). It’s global too – so you could find accommodation in return for work anywhere in the world.
Your digs will vary in quality and will usually be shared.
We’re not going to lie. Both the options we’ve looked at so far are hard work. You may not be paying for a place to sleep – but you’ll be paying for a place to sleep, know what we’re saying? Course you do bro’.
What if we told you that it’s possible to get cash-free accommodation without getting blisters on your fingers? Two words: house sitting. That’s looking after someone else’s house while they’re away. And the deal is scha-weet.
With most house sitting gigs, all you should have to do is look after a posh person’s gaff while they’re away on holiday. You’ll be expected to keep the place clean, tidy and secure, perhaps look after some animals but – in most cases – that should be all.
So where’s the catch? In most cases, the deal is pretty catch free – but to find house-sitting jobs, you’ll need to have good references, a clean criminal record and sign up for an agency that can help you track down available properties. Subscription costs can vary – up to £115 a year. But that’s still cheaper than one night in most central London hotels.
Check out online agencies like:
Ever seen Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork The Shining? In that movie (and Stephen King’s awesome source novel) writer Jack Torrance takes his family to a remote hotel in Colorado as Winter hits. He’s there as caretaker, responsible for maintenance during off-season. It’s not too much of a spoiler to tell you that supernatural forces drive him crazy and he tries to kill his entire family.
Good news! You can do the exact same thing! The going crazy and killing your family part is optional, of course. Discouraged, even. But, looking after hostels and hotels during the off-season is a real thing and a brilliant way to see another part of the world. Plus, you’ll be able to build up a bit of a nest egg for more travelling. While it’s not quite fruit-picking, a caretaking job will take up a few hours of your day, every day.
Again, there are websites that specialise in putting together potential caretakers and the resorts and hotels who need them. A good place to start is The Caretaker Gazette – though you’ll find opportunities on workaway.info too. Like applying for any job, you may need some specialist skills and references.
If a bit of light cleaning, fence mending and fending off axe-wielding mentals is still a bit too much like hard work for you – there’s one last and lazy way to stay around the world for free. Couch surfing. A peculiarly Internet-age phenomena, couch surfers hook up online using specialist social networks – and offer accommodation in their homes and flats for free.
Like other social networks, you create a profile that describes you and your interests. Unlike other social networks, people can review you. It’s a bit like giving you a reference so that other participants know they’re not about to let a total douche-nozzle into their home. Reviews are important too. As you use the service, if you use it in the spirit intended and you get good reviews, you’ll unlock more and more opportunities to stay in foreign climes.
Couch surfing is more than just a way to freeload somewhere to stay though. There’s a lovely core of sharing, hippy philosophy at the centre of the idea, encouraging people to be nice to each other and help out their fellow man and/or woman. Though no payment for accommodation is exchanged, dedicated couch surfers will know to pay in kind, with a gift for the house or by cooking a meal for the host. And, while it’s not necessary to take part, dedicated couch surfers will offer a bed in their own home for other travellers to crash in. It’s certainly a way to meet interesting people…
So, there you go. Proof that travelling around the world – or even travelling to another town in the UK – doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. And a kidney. It’s comforting to know that even in this day and age, you can sometimes rely on the kindness of strangers. Or their desire to have their apples picked without paying you very much. Have fun!