By Emily Landsiedel
Okay, yes, travel IS expensive, but not as expensive as many people make it out to be. When the average American thinks of travel, they think of a one to two week whirlwind trip filled with shopping, restaurants, bars, and nice hotels. Long-term budget travel looks quite different, although it’s just as much of an adventure.
Cut on Accommodation
Peter and I aren’t embarking on this journey to go stay at beachfront hotels or resorts. We are going to live as cheaply as we possibly can by staying in hostels, with friends, and using websites like Couchsurfing, TrustedHousesitters, Workaway, and the organization Diverbo to save on accommodation. If you haven’t heard of these companies:
Couchsurfing is a website with over 4 million users that connects travelers to locals who are willing to let them stay in their homes for free. It may sound scary, but both the “surfers” and the hosts get rated by whoever they stay with/stays with them. You pick your hosts by their pictures and the description on their profile as well as their rating by other couchsurfers. What’s in it for the people who host? They get to meet people from all over the world and show off their town.
Trusted Housesitters is a website where people let you stay at their house for free in exchange for you taking care of their pets, plants, etc while they’re gone. This is another website that relies on reviews of pet sitters and hosts. There are people all over the world who need house sitters, although it seems especially popular within the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia.
Workaway, is a website that connects travelers with jobs all over the world where they can work in exchange for a place to sleep and (usually) one meal. They have jobs ranging from working at hostels to construction and farm work or even tech help.
The final organization, Diverbo, is what I am most excited about. You fill out an application with them and if you are approved, you fly out to a major city where they pick you up and take you to an all-inclusive, resort style village. (Peter and I are flying to Madrid, Spain.) They cover your food, drink, entertainment, and accommodations in exchange for you speaking solely English to a group of foreign language participants. These people pay for one week of full English immersion, which you provide in exchange for room and board. In addition to getting to know a group of people really well and making connections all over the world, I think working or helping someone else out would be a nice break from the site seeing for a while.
Spend Abroad Like You Spend at Home
These organizations aside, when you think about it, you have the same expenses at home that you do traveling: you need to pay for a place to sleep, food to eat, and occasional entertainment. Peter and I are just choosing to pay those expenses abroad rather than at home. We don’t have to eat out at nice restaurants every night or stay in plush hotels. There are grocery stores and street food vendors abroad, and hostels that charge equivalent to what we would pay in rent. As for entertainment, most of what we want to see is free- architecture, parks, the occasional museum, as well as just the general culture and energy of a place. All of that costs little to no money. When done carefully, the only new expense with travel is the transportation (flights, buses, etc). Not counting flying, that doesn’t add too much more than a few thousand to what you already spend at home. As for the flights, I explain how we saved for that in the post “Using Travel Credit Cards to Save Thousands.”
Set a Budget and Stick to It
Another way Peter and I are working to make travel affordable is by setting a budget ahead of time and doing our best to stick to it as we go. We researched general daily travel costs for budget travelers in every country we’re visiting, and I plan to keep track of how closely we are meeting our daily spending goals throughout the trip. If we are going over our allotted amount, we’ll cook our own meals more, Couchsurf, or do less site seeing. We can assess and adjust as we need to. We also don’t like going out to bars, so that will save us significantly as well.
I’m also hoping traveling on a budget won’t be too hard for us because sticking to a spending limit is something we’ve been doing consistently for the last year in order to make this trip happen. Budgeting at home has prepped us for budgeting abroad.
In summary, you don’t have to “go big or go home” when it comes to travel. As long as you keep a level head about your limits in food, accommodation, and entertainment, you can do it affordably while still having fun.