They say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. That’s true and great and all – but what about all us everyday folk who don’t have thousands of dollars sitting around to travel for months at a time?
Allow me to let you in on a little secret: you can travel for months at a time, without your entire life’s savings in the bank. In fact, you can do it for next to free, with the exception of some startup costs like your flight, a Visa (if necessary), and maybe a couple hundred bones to get yourself situated when you arrive.
No, this isn’t a gimmick or a pyramid scheme where you have to sign up to a newsletter/give us your credit card information/do a survey/tag three friends on Instagram. These are simply my favourite ways to live abroad for free. I promise they work because I’ve used them before. All you need is an open mind and an adventurous spirit.
Work in exchange for room and board with workaway.info
Workaway is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: work, away. In exchange for few hours of your time per day, you can live anywhere from the tranquil rainforests of Peru, the romantic countryside of Northern Italy, or the hustle and bustle of buzzing Morocco – while having your food and accommodation covered.
Workaway is essentially a massive volunteer board chock-full of people who need help in hostels & B&Bs, on farms or in animal shelters, on eco retreats or in schools and so on, all over the world. No matter what skills you have, chances are someone on Workaway will need your help. It’s completely safe, with a rigorous review process and encouragement to get to know the hosts via email and phone before arriving. Some hosts will even offer payment for your work, though these opportunities are few and far between.
The website is free to browse, but you’ll need a membership ($49 annually) to contact hosts. If you’re looking to experience a totally different culture, meet people and experience a new country as the locals do, Workaway is your best bet.
Become an au pair on aupairworld.com
If you’re good with kids, consider becoming an au pair with aupairworld.com. As an au pair, you’re basically a live-in nanny who gets paid. There are families across the globe who need child minders, and it’s a great way to live somewhere longer term if that’s what you’re looking for.
Au pairs have set hours, and often times if the kids you’re looking after are old enough to be in school, you’ll have plenty of time off during the day to explore the city you’re living in. Plus, depending where you are, families often go on holiday and will take you with them.
Duties are usually pretty lax: playing with the kids/keeping them company, cooking, errands, some house chores. Evenings after 6-7pm and weekends are usually free as well, though the logistics like schedules and payment are between you and your host family. The website is free to use and the #1 online database for au pair work.
Dog + house sit with trustedhousesitters.com
This one is my personal favourite and requires very little actual work, plus you get to do the best thing in the world which is HANGOUT WITH DOGS ALL DAY. trustedhousesitters.com is a board for people around the world who need sitters for their pets and homes, usually because they’re going on holiday. It’s pretty straightforward: you live in their house while they’re gone, look after their pets, sometimes water their plants…that’s about it.
It’s a great way to explore a new city rent-free for a while, especially if you’re an animal lover. But keep in mind most opportunities are unpaid and won’t include food, so you’ll have to account for that (though depending on the family, they might stock the fridge and pantry for you when they leave).
Signing up for the website is the priciest at $100 for the year, but it is well worth it in the long run once you connect with the right hosts.
Couch surf with couchsurfing.com
If you’re cool with crashing on peoples’ couches and not having a lot of personal space, couch surfing is for you. couchsurfing.com has over 400,000 hosts and 4 million couch surfers, making it super accessible to find the right host in your chosen city.
Hosts will open up their homes to you anywhere from one night to several days or weeks at a time depending on your agreement. It’s a fantastic way to experience new cultures, make friends and become part of families much different than your own.
The website is free to use and emphasizes safety – with mandatory reference checks and identity verifications so you can trust that who you’re potentially going to be lodging with is who they say they are. I’d highly recommend becoming a couch surfer if you’re planning a solo backpacking trip anytime soon.