When I turned 18, I decided to move out of my parents’ home. I wanted to see the world, but I had no money at all. How could I travel the world when I was totally broke? But I also believe our dreams can come true when we set ourselves up for success. I found ways to move around despite my lack of money. I hope I can open your horizons a bit and inspire you to find creative ways of getting paid to travel, or at least to cover some (if not all) of your travel expenses.
Work As An Au-pair
An au-pair (literally meaning an extra pair of hands) is usually a young foreign person between 18 and 30 years old, who wants to travel the world, learn a new language, experience a new culture, and live new adventures. In exchange for that, they offer a maximum of 25 to 30 hours of help to a local family who provides food and accommodation, plus pocket money. The au-pair lives with a local family, usually helps with the children, and should be considered a member of the family and treated respectfully.
When searching for a host family, make sure you are like-minded and have a lot of things in common. That’s the key to a great experience. Some families will offer some perks, like your airfare, a language course, a monthly transportation pass, etc. Check which family offers you the best perks, but always keeping in mind that compatibility, similar ethics and lifestyle is way more important than any “perk.”
I´m now in Switzerland, doing a very short au-pair program. I have a wonderful host family, great children and I´m very glad I had this chance to live in Zurich, while experiencing the culture through the eyes of a local family.
Work At Summer Camps Across the United States
Summer camps can be a great opportunity for you to travel to the States and have all your expenses met. Every summer, hundreds of American summer camps fill up with children wanting to have a great time. You can travel to another state if you want a new experience as a camp counselor, and some of the camps also hire young foreigners who want to have a taste of America and meet people from all walks of life in exchange for daily activities with kids. You won’t make a fortune and you might not be able to save much, but you’ll be paid and have zero expenses.
After the summer camps are over, you have the opportunity to travel all over the United States with the money you made. You’ll probably team up with other people you’ve met at the camp so you won’t be on your own.
This is probably the most profitable work/travel opportunity out there. If you’re a native speaker, you can just take a short online course or even find countries which won’t require any certificate.
If English is not your native language, you can still do it, but you should have decent English skills. Having actually completed an ESL course is a plus as well.
Work on a Cruise Line
This is hard work and you’ll be living with the people you work with, which is not always easy — especially if you don’t like or don’t get along with someone. But it’s a great opportunity to travel and making good money at the same time. Your ability to have time off when the ship arrives at a certain port depends on your type of job and duties. If you’re in the cleaning department, you might have to work, but if you’re working with other departments like entertainment, massage, hairdresser, etc, you might have time off.
Every year many cruise lines around the world recruit people from all walks of life. If you want to sail across the world, get a CV ready and check for hiring dates. A quick Google search should tell you which cruise lines fit you better, which routes you’d like to do, and who’s recruiting. There are also forums where you can ask questions to people who work or have worked aboard cruises.
Work as a Tour Guide
Are you extrovert, communicative, and have patience to deal with people all day long?
I believe being a tour guide or tour leader can be one of the best ways of exploring the world, get paid, and have no expenses. You might get to experience things you wouldn’t otherwise. You’ll meet people from all over the world and live a wonderful adventure. Some tour companies specialize in adventure travel, budget travel, spring break adventures. you’ll find something that relates to you if you search for it. Contracts usually last for a year or more, so you’ll have to be very available with no attachments, no pets, no and no significant other (unless you don’t want to see them more than once a year!). This is easy for the early 20s, but more complicated for the older folks. I think it’s a chance you could grab if you’re totally free.
Get A Temporary Agriculture Job
I’ve picked up grapes in France for 3 weeks and then had money to travel for a year — on a super low budget, not luxury traveling for sure! Usually, the money is great and the work is temporary. You’ll meet other people from all over the world, mainly travelers who are also gathering some cash together. You usually get a free place to stay and some wine for your efforts. Everyone I know and who did grape picking in France said the job was super easy, relaxed and fun. Australia and New Zealand usually welcome farm workers as well.
You won’t be paid as a workawayer, but you should have all expenses covered, while volunteering. The Workaway website is a work/exchange volunteer type of program, with projects all over the world. I love the workaway concept of making your way around the world by volunteering and giving back to the community, while having the expenses paid and getting to know a new culture in depth. Workaway is perfect for people who want to stay a long time in a certain place for free or as a chance to learn a new language.
Couchsurfing And BlaBlaCar
I’ve met the most amazing people through the Couchsurfing community. People are usually very open-minded and generous. If you want to travel around and have a free place to sleep, this is the best option! Remember that hosts’ homes are not a free hotel, so treat them and their space with respect, offer to cook for them, and always keep in mind you’re being welcomed by a very generous person who hosted you out of kindness.
If you want to connect with local people, hang out, make new friends, find company to do activities, check out the events page at the Couchsurfing website. There’s always something going on!
If you have a car or a van and enjoy traveling by road, using BlaBlaCar or some other type of carpooling website will meet all of your travel expenses. On these carpooling/ride share websites, people share expenses and travel by land. You have to all be heading in the same general direction, but if you take a couple of people, you’re probably be able to cover 100% of the fuel costs. This is a win-win situation for all: carpoolers will have the convenience of going by car and not having to drive, and you’ll have your gas money covered. (Don’t have a car? Check it out anyway for a few outstanding cheap rides; you’ll save an incredible amount of money. Oftentimes, there are free rides because some people get really bored traveling long distances alone and are happy to just have company to chat while they’re driving.)
Making Sure Your Food Expenses Are Covered
I didn’t buy basically any food during those overland trips. I had no cash for that, so what did I do?
Most bakeries, pizza shops, and restaurants throw away ALL the fresh food they didn’t sell during that day. So I took advantage of that. When I traveled around Italy, I ate pizza nonstop: they were free and healthy, and filled with veggies and good quality ingredients. In the evening, before the bakeries or pizzerias closed, I’d ask if they had any food they were about to throw away. I usually got more food than I could even carry, leaving me with dinner, breakfast and lunch for next day.
People can be extremely generous and they have nothing to lose by offering the food. Be aware this WON’T work with big chains, just small family businesses!
I also asked around in the markets. I remember in Venezia, I got so many fresh tomatoes that I had daily delicious sandwiches. I got lots of free fruits as well. In France, I got lots of veggie burgers and other 100% organic/bio products from health food stores. They gave me excellent products that were about to expire in a couple of days. Most market vendors will give you free vegetables and fruit, sometimes more than you can carry! If you have access to a kitchen, you can eat extremely well without spending a cent.