Seven Things Guide Books Don't Tell You - pt. Two
You don’t have to be rich to travel long term
If you are ready to strip off the American ideology of the two week vacation, and become travelers instead of tourists, it can be very affordable. You can be on the road much longer than you expect.
If you were to ask most people what traveling to other countries would look like for them, you would hear dreams of lounging by the infinity pool sipping drinks with paper umbrellas. It’s true that that sort of travel style is desirable--and expensive. For most people, luxury travel not sustainable for long periods of time. But, with a little thinking outside the box and compromise, you can have that (in small doses) and not break the bank.
You don’t have to be rich to travel long term, but you do need to be creative. Most, younger travelers are taking a world tour after college and before settling down to a career and family. As older travelers, we most likely have a mortgage, insurance payments, ties that keep us tethered to our jobs and to our tiny spot on the planet. It is not easy to keep all these balls in the air from the road, but with careful pre-planning, it is possible.
Once you make the decision that you are serious about long-term traveling your perspective will change. You will consider that Grande mocha, not as a pick me up for the day, but rather an entire meal in Thailand. My husband and I adopted the philosophy that every penny that left our hands was either bringing us closer to our goal or further away from it.
The best travel books will give you luxury to budget options for accommodations, but the optimal way to stay, is free. Homestays are becoming more and more common around the world. Most are legitimate and carefully screened, so you don’t have to compromise your ethics or your safety to stay for free.
Homestays are not just for exchange students any more. There are several internet sites set up to connect travelers with local families. One of the best websites for this is www.couchsurfing.com . The site is user friendly and walks you through setting up a profile and getting connected. It is important to be thorough in setting up your profile page, as well as in reading the profile page of your potential host. You want to make sure your personalities are compatible.
It’s important that you go in to a homestay with humble expectations, be flexible and accept what they offer with gratitude. I have experienced home stays where the host gave me a quick tour of the house, explained a few house rules and handed me a set of keys. But, most likely, you will be staying with people who will want you to be part of the family, they may be able to show you around the city, make home cooked meals, and offer invaluable advice. In our two years on the road, we took advantage of homestays which allowed us four to six months of free accommodation.
Another great option for free accommodations is to work for room and board. My favorite website for this is; www.helpx.net. The helpx site offers a wide variety of work opportunities, from childcare to farm hands and everything in between. Accommodations can range from private homes and farms to hostels or resorts.
While in Thailand my husband and I took a helpx offer to work on an organic farm run by the owner of an eco-resort. The exchange was that we would work five hours each day (with weekends off) in exchange for all meals and a private cabin at the resort. The first day we slept in a bit as it had been a long time since we had slept in such luxury. We finally got to the job site around 10am which meant we worked until around 3pm. This sounded good on paper, but as the day wore on, and the sun beat down hot and hard on our backs, we changed our strategy. After that, we were at work by six am and lounging by the pool by noon.
In SE Asia and some places in South America it’s easy to be hired at beach bars just by talking with the owner. In exchange for your work, they offer you free accommodation, meals and most times all the drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) you can handle.
For animal lovers pet/housesitting is a great option. There are many options out there, www.housesittingworld.com, is just one. When housesitting, be sure you are truly an animal lover, remember, people are trusting you with their fur babies.
If you would like a bit more privacy than a homestay offers and you are not inclined to work for your accommodations; hostels are a good option. Hostels are mostly dormitory style and you pay for your bed not your room. You may be rooming with strangers but mostly the experiences are positive, you already have things in common, i.e. wanderlust and a tight budget. Some hostels do offer private rooms as well. Most hostels will have what is referred to as the Commons room where everyone hangs out. It’s a great place to get advice from other backpackers on where to go and what to see, not only in the area you are in, but also other cities or countries to add to your travel list.
Make sure you really “get” the concept of hostelling though, once while staying with a couple in Tel Aviv, Israel, they commented that they would love to travel long term but could never afford it. We explained that hostelling was a great help to our budget, to which the man replied, “We tried hostelling once but it cost us nearly one hundred dollars a night.”
When my husband asked how that could be, he looked at us with a very serious expression and said, “The beds were ten dollars per night.” Then, seeing the confused look on our face, exclaimed, “There were ten beds in the room!”
Traveling for a long time on a short budget absolutely requires you to get out of your comfort zone. I don’t mean stick your pinky toe out of the box to see how the Gap year or twenty-somethings are doing it, I mean jump out with an open mind and open arms. It is unquestionably a challenging leap, especially when you are of an age that having the bathroom down the hall may require you do the potty dance, but a jump worth taking.
Oh, and getting back to the drinks with umbrellas in them . . . stay at the hostel and use the pool at the resort down the street. Most resorts will allow day use for a small fee.
Discover your wanderlust.