The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You Have No Money

By Nomadic Matt | Published October 25th, 2012

beautiful and inviting australiaI recently asked subscribers of my newsletter about the number one thing that holds them back from traveling. The near universal answer?

Money

This is something I hear from everyone I talk to.

“Matt, I simply don’t have enough money to travel.”

This problem and how to overcome it probably my most asked question.

I answer this question in a plethora of posts, e-mails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Long-term readers might even be getting sick of me discussing this subject because it is one I talk about so much. One of the questions on my recent Q&A was about how someone who doesn’t work in travel can actually afford to travel. “What can they do?” they asked me.

Since this question comes up so often, I like to constantly remind people of this fact:

You do not need to be rich to travel.

Let’s repeat that.

You do not need to be rich to travel.

I sure wasn’t. I had an average paying administrative job the year before I left for my first trip. It wasn’t a lot after taxes and the cost of living (I had less than $15k to live on for the year after taxes and loans were paid off.)

Yet I managed to save enough to travel the world. How? I made it a priority. If travel is not a priority for you, you will always find some other things to spend money on and you’ll never have “enough” money to travel. I never have enough money to go shopping or buy a new electronic gadget because I spend my money on travel, so there isn’t much left over for non-priority expenses. Everything I do is focused on having more money for travel (and other things I love like sushi, movies, and nice dinners)!

What is your savings priority? Is it travel? If it is travel, what is keeping you from saving money? What are you spending it on?

A few months ago, I wrote about the importance of writing out your expenses and then cutting them to save money for your trip. I offered 20 tips on how to do so – the same tips I used before I went away. At the time, I was still paying college debt and yet using those tips managed to save over $20,000 dollars for my initial trip around the world.

“But Matt, I work a minimum wage job/am a student/live on social security/am homeless/insert other excuse here and no matter what I can do, I’ll never be able to do it. I can’t even pay back my student loans. What do I do?”

Ultimate Guide to Cheap Travel

nomadicmattWhat do you do when you are in that boat? What do you do when prioritizing your budget and using my 20 tips to grow your bank balance won’t even work?

Many things.

So the focus of today’s “you don’t need to be rich to travel” reminder is to discuss all the ways you can travel for virtually free. If you feel that no matter what you do you will never get ahead by saving money, follow this guide to ultimate travel frugality and see the world on the ultra cheap:

Work Overseas – Not making enough money at your job? Why not get a job overseas? There are plenty of opportunities in the world as long as you aren’t picky — and after all, this isn’t a career you are starting, it’s just a way to earn money for travel. Here are some jobs you can get to pay the bills and fund your travels:

(Click the highlighted links to read stories of individuals who have done those exact jobs!)

Working overseas often gets discounted as an option because it seems hard to do. It’s not. Just be open. These jobs don’t require advanced degrees or a lot of work experience either. Are you going to get some high-paying office job? No. Will you get a shitty, low-wage job that will pay all your travel bills? Yes! I’ve met people from all walks of life, both from Western and non-Western countries, funding their travels this way.

Here is my guide to finding work overseas.

Teach English Overseas – One of the best ways to make money for travel is to teach English overseas. You can make a lot of money teaching – I replenished my travel funds while working in Thailand, and I have had friends leave South Korea with tens of thousands of dollars in the bank.  All you need is the ability to speak English fluently and maybe a TEFL degree, depending on the country you work in. The world is yearning for teachers and this is a job in high demand- – many companies in Asia will even pay for your flight over.

Here is a basic guide to finding a job overseas and a more advanced in-depth guide for those ready to take the plunge. Or, read this interview, with Emily who funded her entire trip by teaching overseas.

Get Free Flights – There are so many ways to earn free flights I hate when people tell me they can’t afford to fly. Sign up for a few travel credit cards, collect miles, and then fly for free.  Most cards offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points — and if you sign up for both an airline card (think a United airlines card) and a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire or AMEX card, you can combine the two point balances and get a cheap flight faster.

Credit card sign ups are the best way to collect miles as most sign-ups will at least get you two flights. I’ve used these sign up bonuses to collect close to a million extra miles.

Here is an in-depth, step-by-step guide to picking the right one.

Can’t sign up for credit cards? There are many ways to increase your mileage balance without credit cards. Three impact ways are:

  • Watch out for deals – I sign up for all the airline mailing lists. I always watch out for special 2 for 1 miles deal. Or when they have special card offers to get extra miles. United Airlines just gave me 1,000 miles for watching a demo on their new shopping toolbar. I once got triple miles by buying some clothes from Gap just by seeing it in their mailing list. That doesn’t even utilize all the special bonus offers airlines have on cars, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Shop at their member stores – All airlines have special offers with all the big stores- Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Target, etc. Shopping at those preferred stores will earn you 2 to 4 miles per dollar spent- sometimes even more. If you spend 1,000 dollars a month, you can earn up to 3,000 miles just by going through their websites. The products don’t cost extra. I do all my shopping through the airline malls simply for the extra miles.
  • Put everything on the card – I pay nothing in cash. I put everything on my card- from Starbucks to phone bills. My total monthly spending is about $2,500 per month. That’s more miles for me. Everything I do is to benefit my mileage account.

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Get more tips on how to gain miles with (or without) credit cards

Meeting people with couchsurfingCouchsurf – This service connects travelers with locals who are willing to let them stay with them for FREE. Using this site you will never have to pay for accommodation. Years ago I read about a guy who has been traveling for years while only Couchsurfing and I’ve used this service about 10 times and always meet amazing people. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free. There are also local Couchsurfing group meetups that can help you make friends in your new city. Similar sites include Servas and Hospitality Club but I like Couchsurfing the best. It’s a more active community.

Hitchhike – A free way to get around destinations that is relatively safe and quite common in many parts of the world including Central America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve hitchhiked in over a handful of countries in the world.

Free Walking Tours – Want to learn about the city, get your bearings, and see the major sights? Take a free walking tour. You can find them in 90% of the major cities in Europe, and there are also a few in large Asian cities, New York, Australia, and New Zealand.

Some good free tour companies include:

Housesit – Can’t afford your vacation? Watch someone’s house while they go on theirs.  You can sign up for one of the sites below and watch people’s homes for free, allowing you to stay in one destination for a while and get to know it well without having to pay for accommodation. Added bonus: you get a kitchen to cook your food! Here are some resources:

cooking your own foodCook Your Meals – The best way to save money on the road is to cook all your own meals. I recently spent $60 USD for a week’s worth of groceries in Stockholm instead of an average of $15 USD per meal eating out! That’s a saving of $150 USD! If you are Couchsurfing, your host will probably have a kitchen and many hostels, campsites, and guesthouses also have kitchens. No kitchen? Pack your own container and silverware and make some sandwiches and salads on the go. Not every meal requires a stove right?

Just because you are traveling, it doesn’t mean you need to eat out every meal. You won’t ruin your trip to Paris if you decide not to eat out one day! There’s simply no reason to be spending lots of money on food on your trip!

Here is more information on how to lower your food expenses when you travel.

WWOOFing – Working on a farm will get you free room and board, while allowing you to commune with the great outdoors. You have to pay to get to the farm but once you are there, everything else is covered!

And four ways to save money that cost a little but are still very cheap:

Get rail passes – Booking ahead of time can usually save you about 50% of the cost of a train ticket, but if you don’t want to be tied into a fixed schedule, rail passes can save you a lot of money. I’ve saved hundreds in Europe and, in Australia, a train pass saves a whopping 70%.

Sleep in large dorms – Large hostel dorm rooms are the cheapest paid accommodation out there. If Couchsurfing isn’t your thing, this is your next best way to save money on a place to sleep.

Use student and other discount cards – Are you a student, teacher, or under 26? Welcome to the world of 50% off attractions and a plethora of discounts. Get a student/teacher/youth card and save big!

Get city tourist cards – If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card which offers you discounted and free access to the major attractions and museums, as well as free public transportation. I saved over $100 dollars with the London pass, $80 with Paris Museum card, $50 with a Helsinki card, and tons more with other city tourism card. They are an amazing way to save money on attractions that not enough people use.

Between all of these tips, you’ll be able to travel for relatively little money. After all, I recently spent 5 days in Stockholm on $100 and once spent 10 days in London on $700. If I can do it, you can do it too.

A Real World Example

uluru at sunset
Let’s create an example using the tips above. Say you want to go to Australia for two weeks. It’s a long way and Australia is an expensive country. How do you do it without busting your budget?

Flights – It takes about 70,000 miles for a round-trip flight to Australia from United States. You can earn that many miles by signing up for these two cards:

United Airlines card (30,000 miles)
Chase Sapphire card (40,000 miles)

Or sign up for two American Airlines card (40,000 miles per card)

Or you can simply pay the $1,500 USD for the flight!

Cost: about $100 USD in taxes and fees for your flight using miles.

To find out more about using credit cards and miles for free flights, read this article.  And while I used the US an example and we have the most deals, there are a number of reward cards for Canadians, UK citizens, and Europeans.

Accommodation – Couchsurfing while you are in Australia will allow you to stay with locals for free, plus you’ll have access to a kitchen where you can cook your meals and save money for traveling.  There are a lot of people on Couchsurfing in Australia and it’s very easy to find someone to stay with. Additionally, Global Freedloaders also has a lot of users in the country.

Cost: $0

Food – A friend of mine once told me they simply get screwed with the price of food in Australia and it is true! However, if you cook your meals, expect to pay $70–80 USD per week. For that price, your groceries will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and some other basic foodstuffs. Because food costs so much, campsites, hostels, apartments, and even some budget hotels have kitchen facilities for you to use. An average restaurant meal in Australia will run you around $15 USD for no-frills eating. This includes pub food, fish-and-chip shops, Chinese restaurants, and quick lunch shops.

Cost:  $100 – 300 USD (Assuming you alternate cooking your own food and eating out a few times.)

Transportation – The easiest way to see Australia is via Greyhound, and they offer good value bus passes. On the popular Sydney to Cairns bus route, a normal bus ticket is about $400 USD for a direct one-way trip. However, the pass for the same route is typically $350 and lets you hop off and on as much as you would like. Not only is the pass cheaper, but it allows you to see other destinations along the way.

Another popular and cheap way to travel around Australia is to rent a van and drive yourself. Campervan and car rentals do two things: they lower your transportation costs because van rentals are really cheap and driving yourself is cheaper than taking the bus or flying. They also double as a bedroom, so you can save on accommodation by sleeping at a campsite instead of a hostel. You can rent these for about $35 USD per day.

Using web classifieds like Gumtree or hostel message boards can allow you to find travelers looking for rides or those wanting to get rid of their car. Taking on a few travelers to share the cost of the van and gas can cut your transportation/accommodation expenses to less than $20 USD per day! (Or use them to hop rides with other people and only pay for gas!)

Cost: $100 – $400 depending on which method you use.

Activities – Activities are really expensive in Australia, generally costing $150–400 USD. For example, a one-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef can cost $170 USD, while two nights sailing the Whitsunday Islands can cost upward of $400. A three-day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs is around $355. A day trip to Kakadu National Park is around $100. There’s really little ways to get around these costs if you go with a tour company. If you organize a trip on your own, you can cut the costs by about 50% depending on the activity.

Assuming you pick the two big activities with a tour company, you’re looking at about $600 USD.

Cost:  $600

Total cost: ~ $1,400 USD (or less)

Looking at the itinerary above, I didn’t compromise a lot. True, you’ll be staying with other people and cooking your own food, but that’s not the end of the world. (These tip work even if you are traveling as a pair since sites like Couchsurfing do accept pairs.)

While this particular journey works out to be $100 per day, but my aim here is to highlight that while in this example you aren’t able to stretch your costs out over a long period of time (which is how you lower expenses), a two-week vacation doesn’t need to cost a huge sum of money. If I can go to London for $700 and design a two-week trip to Australia that costs $1,400, then the argument that you must be rich to travel holds absolutely no water. You don’t need thousands to travel. In fact, while $1,400 is a lot of money, that is the maximum amount of money you would need as there are still ways mentioned in the example to lower your costs even more.

The key is to get out of the mindset that you must travel using the flight/hotel combination.  While my real world example doesn’t utilize all the bare bones tips I included in the beginning of this post, it does highlight one thing – using out-of-the-box, non-traditional ways to travel can lead to big savings.

And that turns travel from a dream into a reality.

Continue reading these articles to turn the above advice into actionable steps:
—> A Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Trip
—> How to Save Money on Flights
—> How to Find Cheap (or Free) Accommodation

comments 152 Comments

Wow, that is one awesomely comprehensive post. It does bug me when people say they “wish” they could travel lots. Wishing is no good. If you want something to happen – you have to make it happen. And as you’ve demonstrated ably in this post – it’s more than possible to make a wish a reality, even without a pile of cash!

Yes, I think that is the problem with most of the people. They all want to travel but they are too busy with their everyday stuff and work that they always postpone it. Traveling is crucial for such people and I would recommend anyone to start doing it more often.

Mateo

Well… Some people want to set up a business and actually make money to save up for a family. Making money by working lousy overseas jobs won’t cut it. This is for single people who don’t want to set up a life for themselves and a family.

Andrea

Yeah, it’s easy to say when you’re not a 15 year old , who has three brothers and parents, and wants to travel the world…that’s why I can’t travel, WE don’t have enough money to travel as a FAMILY. We NEED to spend it on everyday food, on living comfortably and in education. That’s why it’s not easy.

Mateo

IM IN THE SAME BOAT! Trust me, I know how u feel

Stephanie

Thank you so much for this post! I’m a university student so money and time are both factors working against my travelling but your site has helped me plan sooo much! I bought your guide to TEFL and this past summer took i-to-i’s online TEFL course so that as soon as I graduate I am going to go travel and pay my way by teaching.
This post is very inspiring and I can’t wait to go on my first trip. Grad is still 1.5 years away but I’ll let you know when I finally make my dream a reality :-)

Great post! I just had one question – I’m leaving to move to France soon and I just got the Chase Sapphire card. Can I earn points if I’m buying things in Europe? Or does that only work with American dollars?

NomadicMatt

You earn points whenever you spend money anywhere in the world!

Do check if your card charges fees for overseas spending, though. Those can really add up! Capitol One cards don’t charge fees for overseas spending, but most other cards do.

Best of luck!

Gigi

Nice article Matt. I’ve used Couchsurfing on numerous occasions to help stay in certain locations for free as well as meet some locals who live in the area to show you around. I definitely agree with you though when people don’t “prioritize” themselves and complain about not having money to travel. You don’t need money, just use your resources. Reminds me of an old quote: “It’s not who you are, it’s who you know.”

To all you kids reading this post and getting ideas: go for them now, because by the time you get to be my age (about twice Nomadic Matt’s), this all becomes very impractical.

NomadicMatt

It’s only impractical if you believe it to be. I’ve seen many people more than twice my age, doing these things. Don’t limit yourself!

That Wolff guy must be kidding. At age 61 (3 years ago) my wife and I backpacked around the world (which included a 4 month trip around Oz). We stayed with friends and relatives where we could and used Hostelbookers for other accommodation. UK and Europe was expensive as was Oz. We started off with $9,000 and had pensions totaling $700/month. We were away 11 months so had to stretch our budget of about $1500/month FOR BOTH OF US. It was tight some days but we’d do it again, in fact we are making plans now for another RTW in 2015.
Some companies we used: Hostelbookers, Skyscanners, Kayak,Man in seat 61, Onetravel, Homeaway Vacation Rentals.

Amy

Such good points.
I think most of the time people just procrastinate too much – too much ‘what if’s and too much ‘but’s.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll make a way to do it. :)

FAB post, Matt, thanks so much. As one of your regular readers, I do hear you talk about traveling on the cheap a lot. However, this is a fantastic resource for someone (even a regular reader like me) to have all your basic tips together in one place. I particularly like the real world example in Australia, as that is the launching pad for my RTW next year. And new readers get a plethora of information out of this. Muchas gracias!

Great resource. I’m somewhat interested in the teaching english thing and I’ve heard it pays well too. I’m an expat and currently on job 3 when it comes to working abroad (and cheap local wage) but I’m also growing my business. I’ve traveled for free by monastery hopping and living in monasteries. It doesn’t cost anything! I registered for my first Amex frequent flyer mile credit card but haven’t really done travel hacking before. Do you literally just register for a bunch of cards just for the free points and then not use the credit card itself?

NomadicMatt

I just use them for the free points then never use them again. There are 2 I use for everyday purchases but that is it.

Nancy Nurse

Matt,

This is an amazing amount of fantastic information! You’re brilliant!

You mentioned about it taking 70,000 miles I believe it was for a trip to Australia. You said that by using two TOTALLY DIFFERENT AIRLINE cards, (one with 30,000 mile bonus and one with 40,000 mile bonus), you could attain that ticket. I guess I don’t understand Travel Cards at all. Does that mean that you can use different airline cards and total the air miles to get a ticket? That doesn’t make sense to me (unless I suppose they were affiliates)?

Thanks again for this amazing blog!

NomadicMatt

You get one branded card and one general credit card (Amex, Chase) and transfer the points from the general credit card into your miles account for the airline i.e. 50,000 Chase reward points transfered to my United account.

Great Post Matt. I use frequent flyer points to pay for my overseas flights. This year I got a free flight from Melbourne to Thailand and next year I’ll be flying on points to Germany, both times with a top airline. I don’t do anything special. I just use my card for all of my day to day expenses.
I also ‘travel’ a lot close to home. I only live 30 minutes from the Great Ocean Road, an attraction on lots of traveller’s must do list for Australia. I’m a firm believer in appreciating what you have close to home.
I can definitely vouch for your pricing of an Australia trip. Food is expensive but fresh produce is reasonable so if you cook yourself you can save a lot.
I’m not sure I’d catch a bus from Sydney to Cairns again though. I think I’d just try to pick up cheap flights especially in and out of secondary airports (e.g.. Avalon instead of Melbourne).
But I would defiantly recommend renting or buying a car and camping. It’s a great way to meet locals.

Aabhash

Great Post! The ‘Free Walking Tours’ was an addition to my knowledge in this area. Seems a fascinating way to know the place you visit.

Steve McPhilemy

Theres no such thing as a ‘Free Tour’… Whilst I think they are refreshing and excellent, lets be accurate and also add in that they are NOT free. The guides work for tips, its a tip based system.
Great marketing gimmick though…
I’ve only heard rave reviews about them. nothing negative, but also not ‘free’..

NomadicMatt

It’s free in the sense there is no obligation to pay.

A traveler

I traveled to Bath (England) a few years ago and took a really excellent, and completely free to the traveler, walking tour. It was subsidized by the city. I can’t say that this would be common, but there are probably other places that offer these kinds of tours. Ask the locals since they’ll usually know.

great post for sure, now i know i don’t have to be rich to travel!

Excellent list. I tell my friends who want to travel the exact same thing. Teach English or work at a hostel. Just get out there. Don’t make excuses if you want to do it.

This is a great post. I’m definitely using the excuse of not having enough money – although I have a financial goal I’m trying to accomplish first, so I’m not dithering indefinitely. Er, I hope! Either way, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s not like a magic number where it suddenly becomes possible to travel perfectly. You either do it or you don’t.

Great advice Matt – I can vouch for almost every tip here as that’s how I travel. Gotta love reward points!
Just a note for those how intrigued by Couchsurfing – yes it is free but consider thanking your host with a gift from your country, taking them out for a meal or drink or cooking them dinner. If you’re staying with a lot of hosts, you might need to factor this into your budget. You are under no obligation to do or give your host anything, but it’s a nice gesture.

This is excellent advice, and perfect for students. I’m definitely going to have to refer back to this post when planning my spring break adventures for next year.

Also, I just tried CouchSurfing for the first time and I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s the perfect way to get to know locals, have great conversations, and make lifelong friends and contacts while traveling. Just make sure to read the reviews thoroughly before choosing to stay with someone!

Kan

I would say I agree to everything bar food. For people like myself who are indulgers into food, sometimes you have to make that bit of cash leg room for a good meal unique to that specific country and I think it’s a big motivating factor as to why people travel too. Do your research and you can significantly cut down on your food expenditure but sometimes cooking your own meal at home may not suffice for some people :)

A very thorough post! I find that just getting out there traveling is also a great first step to traveling cheaper because you meet people and pick up tips along the way. I starting out doing volunteer exchanges (similar to WWOOFing), but as I traveled I met people who were working abroad, people who were couchsurfing, people who knew the most budget-friendly places to stay and ways to get around etc. The more I travel, the more I learn, and the easier it becomes to save money.

NomadicMatt

“The more I travel, the more I learn, and the easier it becomes to save money.”

Sums everything up right there!

You covered absolutely everything I think! Awesome post. I’ve used a lot of these tips myself to travel. It’s allowed me to stay on the road for three years. There’s always a way.

Wow, epicly detailed post, good work!

One tip I like to share is to start paying things with cash, and then put all the loose change you have at the end of the day into a jar for your, “Travel Fund”. You’d be surprised how quickly things add up! It also lets you be more careful about how much you’re spending as handing over a tangible bill will remind you more than a quick swipe of a credit card!

NomadicMatt

Great point. I do that all the time. It adds up pretty fast too!

I have three separate travel funds. Budgeting and watching your pennies is one of the best travel tips.

mboy

i ll sum the biggest problem in just 2 words: ‘fcking visa’ thats about it with cheap traveling

I definitely recommend travel hacking. I was able to go to Europe business class for $100. Check out my blog or ask me and I can help. Great article!

The message is clear, however as someone from an asian country, i can assure you its atleast 3-4 times more difficult to do whatever you have mentioned. I lucked out by teaching english in france and got to see western europe, but i fall into a small % of indians who manage to do that.
However, that said, it is important that one travels with whatever resources one can manage with even if it means just going to the neighbouring state/country for 3 days. And like you mentioned, it all depends on how you prioritize travel.
Great post!

NomadicMatt

Which things couldn’t you do?

NomadicMatt

Japan doesn’t need to be a budget buster. I found some ways to keep costs down there too.

I hope you’re right Matt. I’m from New Zealand, travelled to Europe, now in Paris, France, will perhaps call in to London to catch you at the meet-up there, my money is running out fast, I may well have to put some of your tips to the test soon ;)

Put it this way, perhaps you don’t need to be rich to travel, but it sure helps ;)

This list is amazing. All the advice you gave are true. If a person is really intent on travelling, nothing can stop him from travelling, not even the money. It is a big factor but there are ways to overcome the financial dilemma.

Matt, there’s also one more way to be able to raise funds for travel – crowdfunding. It’s the growing trend on the net right now and if you want to travel because you want to do social good abroad, this may be a good resource for you!

Great post!

Great article! I envy you Matt. I really want to travel but budget is such a great issue!! I’m still a student but my head says I want to travel and I can’t wait to travel now.. After my graduation, I want to work abroad so I can travel more.. maybe in Europe :D

Great post. Now there is no excuse for those unwilling to make the leap into the nomadic life if the desire is really there. You can do anything you put your mind to…I like to think of traveling as problem solving. Travel hack away!

Cheers for yet another informative post Matt! It was a very inspiring read. I know so many people who are at home working 9-5 and hating it, but think that they are stuck doing what they are doing because “they don’t have enough money to travel”. I’ll be sending this article to some friends back home :)

Safe Travels!
Goats On The Road

I agree Matt if travel is your priority you find a way to cut expenses to reach your goal. If you have passion and drive there is nothing that can stop you. I will definitely be using your tips to save some extra $ on my trip. Thanks Mate, hope everything is well for you and yours on the east coast with Sandy about to hit.

When I was planning my trip through Europe I was also looking at Wwoofing, but did some research and found out about Workaway.com (you work in exchange for room and board, but unlike wwoof, it’s not just on organic farms)

Check it out. It’s an excellent site, and I had some pretty amazing work opportunities in a few different countries. Definitely helped me stretch my travel stay.

And another +1 for couchsurfing. Not only is it free but I met some really amazing people and got a local insight into a lot of cities.

James Griffin

Matt, thank you. I lived in Indonesia for 6 years, and loved all of SE Asia. Now working a desk job (albeit well paying) in the States. Signed up for Continental’s (now United) card in 2011, Chase Sapphire Preferred in March 2012 and AMEX SPG in April 2012. Already have 200,000 miles toward my next epic trip.

I’d love to read more about how to maximize use of those miles to book flights. Seems some sites have limitations or hidden fees. What have you found to work best? Thanks in advance.

NomadicMatt

You still have to pay taxes on the flight so avoid booking with European airlines directly or you get whacked in fees!

Its always frustrating when I hear people say that they cannot travel due to lack of money. Your list proves otherwise. I spend less traveling, than I do when I am at home. You do not have the expense of permanent accomodation, or vehicle costs when traveling. I have traveled in Asia for less than $800 per month, at home my living expenses were upwards of $1500 per month!

Already read some of your posts on earning miles with credit cards. Interesting! Options are way more limited when you live in Belgium though… But I keep looking:)

NomadicMatt

They are. Every country is different. Europe is quiet difficult but you can always find small ways to earn miles through shopping at preferred retail partners and such.

Lynn

This is a thought-provoking post. I’m nearly done saving for and planning a pretty long term trip. There are some things here to look into, but it’s hard to work your way around if you’re over 30, and pretty hard to get numerous credit cards in this age of austerity!

Stewart

Great Tips Matt, trouble is in Australia we don’t get miles offered like you do we have to join store cards even the airlines won’t offer you a good deal on points so we save to travel and yes Oz is expensive even for us who live here but that is mainly due to high wages and profits from business owners, because they know people will pay the asking price, when we travelled to the uk we found the food expensive there as well a simple 7pound fish and chip meal was the equivalent of $15 Australian, so like you we ate in a lot, and to the gentleman who says at his age he can’t do it well we are in our late 50,s early 60’s and enjoy it but we don’t travel backpacker as we don’t need to but we don’t travel rich an famous either. We use around the world airfares and after looking at destinations it was actually CHEAPER to fly on the business class deal rather then the economy(coach) as by the time we paid for extra legs etc and stop overs it was nearly as expensive as business because we had to also pick flights or ground transport between destination with in Europe and Canada. the cost of a Business class ticket actually worked out at $1000 each a flight and we had 11 of them and yes the economy was about half that but as i said by the time i worked out the travel and cost $8,000 each economy including land transport and internal flights for an extra $2,000 we flew Business.

A

Great post Matt! So comprehensive, covers all the bases and adds a lot of ideas that I would not have necessarily thought of. Thanks for the links to the work abroad websites too.

Amanda

I agree with everyone, great post and very comprehensive. Lots of good suggestions. Although, the idea of couchsurfing does kind of freak me out being that I am a relatively small girl who has seen too many horror movies to want to live with a stranger :)

Gidday Matt,

Interesting article for me as I’m Australian and an avid Couchsurfer – and yes, our expenses in our country have gotten out of control lately.

A couple of points/questions/raised eyebrows:
-could you give an example of the “teacher discount card” you mentioned?
-70000 miles for a return US – Australia flight? Wow, that’s cheap. I can get Australia – China return for 70000 miles with Singapore Airlines, but only when they have an online special and availability is very limited, and you have to book a long way in advance.
-Are you telling me US citizens can get a free return long haul return flight just for signing up for one airline miles card and one credit card? Can non-US citizens sign up for either of those cards?
-I’d also point out that House-sitting is really only an option unless you are travelling long-term and your schedule is super flexible. It doesn’t really work for people with 2 weeks or one month of vacation that they need to plan.

But overall, you are spot on with most of this article – where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Benson

NomadicMatt

Benson,

To answer your questions:

1. Here you go: http://www.statravel.com/teacher-discount-card.htm (Available worldwide)
2. Yes
3. Yes, I am. It’s called travel hacking and quite popular. It’s how I get so many free flights. Non-citizens can’t get US credit cards but you can get one in Australia. Qantas sometimes has good sign up bonuses as does AMEX.

Best,
Matt

I think that it is important to have a little bit of money to get you started, but I have always had my best experiences working on the road. You’re guaranteed to meet lots of interesting people if you’re working in industries that attract other travellers. Plus, if you get into a good working gig (especially in a travel sector like a hostel etc) there could be other perks that could save you money in the long run!

Wow – this is by far the best, most comprehensive resource ever for traveling cheap and earning money while traveling. Thank you!

NomadicMatt

You’re very welcome.

Mathieu

So you’re not the dumpster diving and wild camping kind of guy ?

Petra Novakova

This is definitely the best article about cheap travel I found. I didn´t even know there is possibility of a free tours in some cities. I just finished my master´s degree and I too want to travel before I get into the normal life made of work and bills. You know experience life and stuff. I have only slight travel experience, all I know is from some trips I made with friends, or when I participated in a student exchange. But I hope to learn more soon. And your article helps a lot. I decided my first big stop would be Canada as I´ve always wanted to go there. So far now I only found informations, about how to get around in the cities as this one. But I´m definitely looking forward. Well, as soon as the weather will be back to normal. And thank you for sharing travel tips with us. I´m sure your blog will help me greatly, so that when I go back I won´t be completely broke.

These are amazing tips! I can’t think of any reason that I cannot travel now. I love to travel, and often. I can’t wait to start using these tips to save the money I need for travel. Look out world, here I come.
Happy travels!

NomadicMatt

Good luck on your adventures!

My only tip is “Get out the door”. Its harder said than done as our brains will convince us of anything but even more powerful than that is our instinct for survival. Once you’re out there you will naturally figure out everything you need to moreso than any amount of reading will.
There are books for finding work, parenthood, climbing mountains etc… but the best teacher is experience.

Brilliant post! I’m a uni student now and although I’m travelling a fair bit being on exchange, I’m still trying to keep my budget in check. These tips are brilliant – I’ll definitely be following some of these!

I found that article very interesting and helpful to me. It would be very good to know these simple tips before you travel that will safe you a lot of money for a long time.

NomadicMatt

That’s for the tip on that site! I’ll check it out.

it really is true that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. I knew I wanted to travel but also make significant money in the meantime for savings so I discovered yacht work (different from cruise ship work like you mentioned) but just in 2012 alone I’ve been in australia, all around Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore and still have a couple months to go. what’s more is that I’ve saved up a bunch from working for future travel so I can afford to not work and have more flexibility in what I want to do and where I want to go. It frustrates me when I hear people say they wish they could do it too- yes it takes work but it’s SO WORTH IT! love your site and thanks for all the helpful tips!

dumpster dave

Supermarkets throw away heaps of perfectly edible food everyday. Dumpster diving can cut food costs down to $0 if you’re willing to get a bit dirty and don’t care about what people think… In developed countries at least.
Developing countries tend to waste a lot less food.

Yes, traveling does not need much money. I managed to stay free for 10 days in Sri Lanka without having to spend a dime.

One thing that pisses me off is when people look at me and say “you’re so lucky.”

I’m not fucking lucky. I worked damn hard for this – I put in 70-80hrs/wk waitressing and bartending while living in my parents’ basement forgoing any sort of social life all to save up for this. All the while I watched all my friends go on and buy condos and start their ‘grown up lives’ – as western society dictates we should.

People have to realize if they want this lifestyle they’re going to have to put in the hard work and stop making excuses.

Glad you seem so happy Melissa , and so cheerful..lol

NomadicMatt

All airlines require you to pay taxes and fees, the total varies from airline to airline.

I always post my travels on Facebook and blog. People always assume that I am a spoiled brat who lives off my parents and travel as much as I can until I posted something budget travel related. The thing is, I don’t have parents anymore and I am living on a ‘standard’ less than $400 allowance given by my sister every month. That’s because I am still in college. I pack my lunch to save money. Only then these bunch of people realised that I made travel a necessity and priority.

Great blog post Matt.

Great Post Matt! I just got back from traveling for about a year and a half and am in the States now preparing to go teach in South Korea. I am in my early 40s and had lost most of my personal belongings in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans… So I took a leap and went for it! I had virtually NO money when I left and made my entire way doing work exchanges… mostly through the website helpx.net. It’s a great way to go! I also set up a blog and created a place for folks to make contributions through paypal. I didn’t get rich through this, but I was fortunate that some very supportive friends and relatives used it to make contributions and the money always came in handy!

Traveling is my passion and experience to the places I’ve been through are really worth it. Yes, the cost of travel is most people’s problem. However there are budget tours / travel deals so you can save up.

This is truly a wonderful article post. I will definitely take under consideration your traveling suggestions . I really need to start saving in order to start my traveling journey around Europe.

I think in this day and age people know they can travel cheaply, but they keep saying that they can’t afford to travel because what they really mean is that they don’t want to stay in other people’s houses and cook for themselves. So instead of admitting this, they make up excuses.

I for one am perfectly honest about it. I don’t want to do couch surfing or stay in dorms and I definitely don’t want to cook my own food as I want to taste the local cuisine, so I make a choice, and travel less often so I can travel in the way that I want to travel. But at least I am honest about it.

NomadicMatt

Cooking your own food doesn’t mean you can’t taste the local cuisine. Heading to a market and buying local food lets you taste the local cuisine just as much as heading to some restaurant. Some might argue that it lets you taste the local cuisine even more. If you really want to learn about local food, you need to understand local ingredients.

Travel hacking is definitely the way to go for me. Let the credit card companies pay for your travel, as long as you have a decent credit score and dont owe anybody anything then you can get quite a few trips paid for over the years. Just keep upgrading then downgrading cards every 3 – 4 months, upgrading only when there is a promotion on! Sometimes just adding a second person onto the card gets you lots of points. Then you just remove them again, so easy!

That is one comprehensive list Matt.

I have heard of coachsurfing but I have to admit Hollywood horror movies make me, an Asian, scared of living in a strangers home during my vacation.

Any cure for that.

NomadicMatt

Not everything you see in a movie is true!

john

Hi Matt
all what you say is nice and dandy but what do you thing is it still doable when you are
50 years old ?

what do you think of security like pick pocket, knife robbing for people of 50 yo, are we not an easy target (since people assume we have more money and we are weaker physically than the average 20/30 something yo)

what about the social perception?
you say couchsurfing but for 50 yo ?
I never encountered someone on couchsurfing interested in hosting an old couple ?

even in hostels when I was in my 40’s I felt a bit out of place….

is this just my perception or young people perceive what I am stating ?

thanks for the tips

NomadicMatt

I have met many people older than 50 traveling and staying in hostels.

john

good to know thanks

comprehensive article! if the goal is really to just “travel for the sake of flying into another country”, apply to work for an airline, specifically as cabin crew. I personally did that, however you realise its not really travelling, its just arriving (longest layover 2-3 full days, come on)

RioFrank

Well said!

Brilliant tips here. I think if you have passion then nothing can stop you. As this post would suggest if there’s a will there’s a way! Avoid unnecessary currency costs too with interest etc. Research is paramount!

jess

Look into becoming an exchange student. There are programs for a summer, semester, or year.
Rotary has the most affordable year-long program I know of.

Joan Hoie

What about someone in her 70’s trying this out ? Is it feasible ? I traveled a lot and often as a younger person but I hesitate to do so at my age now, and alone ? Interested in hearing your take on this.

Lauren Live

Hi, enjoyed reading your post but would like to ask about me going the other way. I’m from Europe 21 yrs old and want to travel Canada, north and central america. I wonder if the same things apply or if i would need more funds, i would happily take my next pay cheque, leave my job and go! any advice is welcome. Oh and also just returned from a trip to Amsterdam which is a VERY expensive place to visit im going again next month and wonder if you have any tips for there?

If you want it, do something about it. :) I don’t earn much but I save if I want to go to places I want to see. You don’t even have to do it monthly or quarterly. Once or twice a year is enough to treat yourself a travel. Later on, after years gone by, you’ll realize that you’ve traveled well.

Alisha

Love this article! I just got through a nasty divorce and a terrible 20 year relationship. I am ready to focus on me. I am currently selling everything I own to buy an RV and travel the US.

My boys graduate high school in 5 years. I have them on weekends, extended breaks and summers, so I’m going to start my travels with my kiddos on those extended breaks and during our summers. I figure I can do camp hosting over the summers with my boys and work in their hometown during the school year, stuffing away as much money as I can until our next Adventure. After they head to college, I am travelong solo for a few years.

I have already been job hopping since the divorce, attempting to find my lost “happiness.” Happiness is being free to go after your TRUE dreams. And, seriously, job hopping is not near as scary as one might think. Theres a real liberation about it!! You just have to be willing to put your pride away and work anywhere.

S

This is a great post that gets the wheels turning but I’m not yet convinced that “anyone” can travel. What about families? Some of these ideas might not work so well when you have kids, particularly young ones. For example, how can I maximize the travel hacking benefits when I have four airline tickets I need rather than just one? How can I keep costs low for housing when couch surfing isn’t an option? Parents of young children need to respect their children’s safety and basic needs, thus housing has to be thought out carefully. Even if I’m comfortable with staying at a hostel, the other guests might not enjoy jr’s screaming when he has a nightmare nor would he enjoy a loud, party atmosphere when he needs sleep. What housing would you recommend? It’s not always practical or possible for both parents to take a work position abroad. After all, young kids can’t tend themselves. and many volunteer sites don’t appreciate your cute toddler as much as you do. Some children also need specialized supplies, etc. (think car seats, portable cribs–yes, this is a need and not just a luxury in some situations, a kajillion pairs of socks…). I see things written for couples and women on here, but what about families? I would love to be convinced otherwise but I’m currently skeptical.

if you really want something, just go and get it. it’s that simple. an entire article is absolutely unnecessary. if anyone think it’s hard, it’s only because one’s unwillingness of change. you are your own worst enemy. if the person doesn’t want to change nor sacrifice anything, no articles of any kind will help.

Paul

Yeah, but you had a $30,000 a year job, there’s alot of us more recent college graduates who can barely land a $15,000 a year job, and that’s if we’re lucky. And when you factor in student debt and the difference in cost of education, it becomes ridiculously improbable. I live in Chicago and just being able to take a Megabus up to Milwaukee to visit a friend is something I have to budget for.

NomadicMatt

I also had $50,000 dollars worth of college debt too. And, you could always go teach English in Asia (they will pay for your flight over), and make enough money to pay off all your debt in a couple of years. There are options.

Thnx for the great post, very useful and interesting, makes you begin planning to travel :)

Matt – what a legendary post. I’m travelling all the time myself and know from personal experience that you don’t need to have the cash bulging out of your pockets in order to afford it. Good example: I went to South America for a month and NEVER paid for accommodation (friends, CS etc.) This way I saved thousands of dollars and met many great people. I think that the “lack of money” is just an easy excuse for people who don’t want to travel bad enough. They just kind of want it ;)
All the best

Steff

I wish it was this easy for me… I save every single doller I earn but flights cost soooooo much. You say Australia is expensive and yes, it is. When you live here it sucks because I one way flight from here to Europe costs like $1800 and you can’t just sign up to lots of different cards to get points like you can in America. I’ve set a travel date but I just wish I didn’t lose so much money on flights. I’m going to try and get a new job where I earn more and who have better penalty rates (I worked boxing day in my current job and earned 50c extra ) I’m glad you posted this article for people that keep making excuses but it really doesn’t work for everyone… now I’m depressed because Americans can get cheap flights :(

Steff,

Why do you need to fly all the way to Europe? What is your time frame like? How long of a trip are you planning? Why can’t you go to a site like crewnetwork.com or other yacht crew recruiting sites to get paid to travel by sea from Australia to Europe? Or fly to Eastern Europe and take a train the rest of the way? Or multi-country road trip? I think the whole point of this post was not to make you annoyed that Americans get cheap flights but to creatively find cheap ways to travel to your destination, or creative ways to fund your travels.

Have you ever heard of http://www.trevolta.com? its a crowd funding website for travelers. You post your itinerary and various people from around the world help fund your travel. Now if you just post your itinerary and do no other marketing on social media or reach out to businesses yourself it is very unlikely you will get your trip funded but………….

I think this was more the goal of this post to find viable and creative alternatives to fund your travel and ways to travel other than pay full “sticker” price for airfare out of your pocket and stay in 5 star hotels.

Uroš

As a couchsurfer I can’t explain you how mad you made me. For last two years the number of people on CS has tripled. Problem is that 85% of those people just want a free accomodation. They have no interests about you, your culture, city, or anything else that CS is actually about. They are misusing host’s hospitality and are very ungrateful.
COUCHSURFING IS NOT JUST A WAY TO TRAVEL CHEAP!!!

Thanks for ultimate guide :) My English is not good, how to make it better, Matt?

IndiGlo

It’s a good time for me to read this post since I’m planning a trip to Australia soon. I agree that if travel is your priority then you should focus on that and reduce spending on all else.
Australia is the 14th Country I’ll be travelling to. Thanks for the info, will incorporate as much as I can while I plan my trip.

Mateo

Matt,

I am currently a student in Grade school. I know there is no advice you could give me to start travelling now, and I want to get an education and go to university (overseas, may I add).
After I am hoping to start up a business in the travel industry. I want to be able to become a nomad (or semi-nomad) for at least a few years like you, but how would you do that while still running a business, and while still making money to set up for a future and a family?
What advice do you have?

Please, any answer would be greatly appreciated.

Brenda

Hi Matt – really enjoy your blog. I’m Canadian and wonder if you have any recommendations for us. I noticed when I looked up my points (AirMiles) that even if you have enough for a flight, you still must pay all taxes and “fees” and to go to Europe the taxes and fees were over $700. Is that the way it is in the US? Thanks!

We save a lot of money by cooking most of our meals and setting up each day with a hearty bowl of porridge. When we do eat out we always get take out which saves us money too
(mostly in Western countries). We always rent rooms/apartments with a kitchen or kitchenette.

Hi Matt!

Nice post, well put and thank you for the effort of writing it! I am also a world traveller and have tried to explain multiple times that I am not independently wealthy nor does one need to be in order to travel. I hope you don’t mind that I share your post on my website? (All credite due, of course!)

Cheers!

Susan

I went to the UK just earlier this week after saving for a year and was rather promptly deported for having insufficient finances, so money can be an issue.

NomadicMatt

I feel there is more to the story than that. What happened?

Susan

Well, it’s quite a long story but here goes:
I saved for a whole year to afford a trip to London but that seemed to be dissatisfactory for the local Border Patrol, even though I had a scheduled return flight on my itinerary and was staying with a local who confirmed it.

Upon arriving in Heathrow, everything was fine until Border Patrol did not care for the answers I gave when asked what I intended to do in the country, which was to visit my boyfriend, a man I met on YouTube in June of 2011 and have now spoken to each day for just over a year, on the phone. So he proceeds to ask me how we met and upon learning we met online, tells me, “you are not a couple until you’ve lived together.” I don’t see how that is any of his concern. Then he inquires about the amount of money I have with me. When he finds out it’s only $123, he begins asking me about my family back home and how much money they make and who works in the household. Again, I don’t see the relevance. When he hears how poor they are, he began insulting my clothing, told me I was “obviously poor,” insulted my poor family, insulted my intelligence, insulted my relationship with my British boyfriend and refused to let me see or speak to him. When I asked the man how much money I ought to have, he snidely responded, “you just need enough.”

I was detained at the airport for some time without access to my luggage or tablet, which meant I could not inform my family of what had happened. A phone was only available if I could pay for it but it would not have done me any good because it was about three in the morning in San Diego. I was interviewed by a woman who also proceeded to speak to me condescendingly and who continued to insult my family, relationship and intelligence. I was later informed, after waiting at the airport all day with slight hope that I may get through, that I would be going back to San Diego the next day. At night, I was moved from the airport to a gated and barred window “holding facility,” Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, which has had frequent problems with inhumane treatment of detainees.

There they once again refused to let me have my access to my luggage because I had a camera and they did not want me filming the conditions I was kept in, which felt suspiciously like a prison. There was no phone available in that location at all. My luggage was searched by hand and the security took out my lotions and tried them on, like they were deciding what to keep. This was also done with the luggage of others. They took out my underwear and passed them around to each other like I was not around. They laughed at my misery and said there was something wrong with me because I did not eat or speak. The room I was kept in had three beds, a TV and barred windows. I could not even see the sky from the window, only another wall. I couldn’t watch TV because I had had it with British accents and hearing them just made me angry. I was not allowed to leave the floor I was locked in on and if I came out of my room, the security guard just stared at me.

I cried all night and was unable to fall asleep until maybe four in the morning. The following morning at around nine, I was taken to about five different places where I was repeatedly searched and passed off to different people The entire time I was not allowed my luggage. I was later deported for the crime of being poor. They even deported another man going to see his pregnant girlfriend because he was broke as well. It was unthinkable. It was without a doubt the worst day of my life.

Yes, it is possible for travel to be your priority if you are truly hand-to-mouth poor, on one condition; you must be willing to risk everything you were accustomed to in your place of living – your shelter, your means of making money, your habits, your network of support / friends, anything you have saved, your possessions….etc.
If you’re truly poor and on an extremely tight budget, you won’t necessarily have the means to stay in touch while you’re gone (phones and internet cost money), to keep an apartment rented while you’re away, to keep any of your possessions (the less money you have, the less means you have to replace something that means a lot to you or your survival that you have lost). You may not know where your next meal will come from for a while, and it’s scary, but also brings out creativity in finding ways to survive.

Max

Good guide but the whole ‘rent a campervan for $35 AUD a day’ is only true if you share it with other people, the guide should state this.

Long time reader who finally decided to chime in!! I love this post. I get to answer this same question all the time. How do you afford to travel? Before 2008 I was the exact same way until I took a seasonal tour guide job up in Alaska from May – October. If people actually prioritized their finances instead of letting commercials and the massess dictate what they should buy, what they should look like & what they should aspire to be they could afford to do anything they want to!! Period. I work at a different ski resort every winter & in a new tourist town every summer since that life changing experience up in Alaska. I usually live in company housing which is around $7/day and includes all utilities, food & of course housing. Besides that being included employee housing is also usually within walking distance to work so no gas, maintenance or insurance is needed. I get the entire month of April, October & most of November off to do whatever I want wherever I want. I get a free ski pass to some of the most iconic resorts in the world. I have nothing to spend my money on except alcohol and travel. Last summer I decided to eat out every day & not save a dime. Just splurge on me for once. From April 19th to Sept 3rd without every saying no to myself once I had stacked up over $28,000 in cash working as waiter in a mom & pop burger joint in South Dakota!! I am now living in Park City, Utah with a free ski pass to 3 mountains & clearing $800/week with nothing to spend it on. Guess this spring World Cup in Brazil is going to be amazing with all this cash.

But to be completely honest its not the money thats stopping you. Its what you want out of life. If you want nice cars, house, family your right you will never have the money to take off and travel for months at a time to the point you won’t even care what day it is (which is how most of my friends and I live our lives). But if you can compromise your wants & needs a little bit and your true desire is to see the world than it is completely doable. You just have to think outside the box. For example that $100/ amonth cell phone bill can be completely avoided using google.com/voice as your new cell phone. I haven’t had a cell phone in 3 years. Thats $10,800 I have saved in 3 years using google voice instead of a fancy paper weight! Its free. Its like skype but FREE. Call any US phone number at anytime for free.

Quit being a cubicle warrior. Restaurant business averages $30/hr and you only work 2-4 hours a day max unless you want to work more. Have technical skills. Telecommuting is the future might as well get in on the ground floor now. Check out Odesk.com; guru.com; elance.com; rentacoder.com. You don’t have to know how to code to find work on these sites. Accountants, blog writers, social media reps, call center reps, secretaries, coders, product testers,etc are all actively sought after positions. Dont know how to code but want to learn. Pay someone off of one of those sites to teach you, or go to codeacademy.com or treehouse.com and learn for free. Go to w3schools.com and learn for free.

Good at poker go play poker online and live in a country like Thailand were the exchange rate is damn near 30 to 1. 10 cent/25 cent poker = $3/$7 stakes. $10/$20 poker=$300/$600 limits.

Have a blog or any kind of website monetize it with cj.com. Don’t have a website go get one and then monetize it with cj.com and adsense. $6/day is $180/month or $2,160 year from ppl clicking a mouse button. Don’t want a website. Fine go create a facebook page and like the app Sellz it allows you to sell products any products you wish on facebook and they take a very small commission.

Go teach english in a Foreign country usually pays about $2,000/month plus expenses so essentially you have $2,000/month that has no place to go. Don;t want to go overseas fine go buy a rosetta stone kit and go on craiglist and see all the translator jobs available. A friend of mine does that makes $200 a day for translating spanish to english & vice versa and he sucks at it! Probably why he only works about 10 days a month.

Not having money isn’t a viable excuse anymore. There are so many ways to make money nowadays its just plain annoying to hear people say I can’t do it cuz I don’t have money. The internet is our generations gold rush. Marijuana is our kids generations gold rush. How much money do you think those potheads in WA & CO are making from selling “quote medical unquote” weed to “patients”? I don’t smoke it I don’t like I could care less about it & best friend feels the same, but he makes $3,000+ a month from growing two plants in his house and selling it to the store.

I have a friend from high school that lives 2 miles away from where he grew up & works a $9/hr job that he has had for 11 years now. Every time I go back home he has no money to go out or do anything. His phone is shut off every other month, his internet every 3rd month gets shut off, and he is always one payment behind on his mortgage. He goes through 3 payday loan companies to make it through the month. His checking account never has more than a few dollars in it or its negative. Its a bad situation BUT here is the problem & why it is so annoying to hear I don’t have any money.

He does nothing to change his situation. He doesn’t look for other jobs, he doesn’t try to better himself, he buys a big gas guzzling vehicle to drive 68 miles one way to work each day. This is extremely frustrating because when he bought that house and agreed to do that commute gas was only $1.10/gallon and he had a ford escort that got over 20 mpg. Gas is now over $3/gallon and his big honking SUV only gets 13 mpg. But its fancy and gives a status to him. He doesn’t look for closer work or residence closer to his work. He does nothing but complain. All he does is complain about his situation & post on my facebook from time to time “I’m jealous Adam you live an awesome life”

Christ he could add $5000 a year to his income by taking one class a semester at capella university. Its an online college that offers 6 credit per class classess so you qualify as halftime student by only taking one class which in return qualifies you for financial aid. Which at the time of this writing gives you $12000/year at the lowest funding level. 2 classes at capella cost $7000 meaning you get a refund check sent to you for $5,000. Do you have to pay it back not as long as you are enrolled in atleast one class a year, but yes eventually you will have to pay it back unless you plan on taking one class a year until your 65. Guess that is only 32 classes.

Back to the point. If you think conventionally you will live conventionally which conventionally means paycheck to paycheck and a mountain of debt that won’t be summited anytime soon. If you think outside the box, compromise, stop trying to impress those around you YOU WILL BE AMAZED at how much money you can save in a few months. YOU WILL BE AMAZED at how non judgemental and envious others can and will be at your choices. YOU WILL BE AMAZED at how trivial the laws and rules are when you get to the point you don’t know or care what day of the week it is. YOU WILL BE AMAZED at how many people are missing out on life.

Think outside the box and you might find yourself working on a private yacht in the Bahama’s, or teaching ski lessons in the French Alps, or scuba diving in the great barrier reef, or bartending in Cancuun, leading hiking groups in Patagonia, playing guitar on a cruise ship, zipline guide in Alaska, etc etc etc etc etc

Keep your conventional job, and you will keep you dreams at bay.
Its not a risk if its your dream.
Opportunity multiples when its seized.
Stop allowing others to live their dreams off of your hard work and start living your dreams!

Rosa

You are so right Adam and all you said can be applied to everything you want to do in life, not just traveling. Unfortunately today we live in a world where people just complain and expect someone to do something for them instead of doing something about their situation. :)

Esther Williams

Do you write for BootsnAll? I just read this exact article a few days ago on there.

GG

Great guide, but it’s not to realistic for a person who lives in an undeveloped country where you earn a very low wage for a living. (around 300 dollars or less per month.) Considering that half of that money is spent on the food, and the rest on things you need.
Of course there is the possibility of going to work in another country. But what if you have a family and you don’t want to go far away to earn a decent living.

Why people still use to read news papers when in this technological world the whole thing
is available on net?

AndrewR

I take issue with your Teaching English Overseas advice. It is NOT that easy anymore. You wrote this in 2012 and it was already getting much more difficult to get good-paying TEFL jobs.

Most importantly, the biggest thing you left out is that you NEED to have at least a bachelor’s degree nowadays to work legally as a teacher overseas. The good old days of any native English speaker getting easy work are long gone.
Sure, you can try to get illegal teaching work w/o a bachelors, but the pay is much worse and the schools much shadier (often ripping off their teachers), + you won’t have the legal permit to stay in that country, meaning you could be caught and jailed/deported any time.

Since I have no bachelor’s degree, and have no way to get one here in the US (too expensive), your TEFL advice is worthless to me.

NomadicMatt

I obviously disagree and in recent updates to my guide on the subject have found there are still many jobs around the world where you don’t need a bachelors. Mileage varies by country.

Was skimming the net and found your article, it was a good read. Fellow long term traveler, coming up on 3 years. My situation is a little different, sold my company and invested in rental properties. Still, it’s not a huge income and I have to live cheap on the road. Everything you mentioned is true. I also agree there is still plenty of work out there for English teachers, legal and illegal, both have their pros and cons.

Good post. About the TEFL, I’m sure more people are in my situation; I do have a bachelor degree, but I’m not a native speaker. Countries like South Korea only issue visas to English natives. That’s the harsh reality, especially since the pay there is great if you’re eligible.

xony

It amazes me how american airlines allow you to pretty much fly for free! Here in Mexico there’s no such thing ): it’s money or nothing.

Excellent tips and a lot that I’ve never tried.

Thanks for your amazing website as well. I’m just about to start a new travel blog, so it’s great to find a place that has so many tips for helping blogs as well as travel be more successful.

Kudos Matt :)

Great post! It’s so true, if you make travel a priority then you will travel. I have kids and won’t travel without them so I have to pay for 6 people every time I go somewhere, so I’m always on the deal hunt. I like to use Yapta.com to track flight rates. I’m alerted whenever an airline offers a flight at the cost I want, which saves me time searching. I also got my rental van for free on my upcoming trip using my flyer miles. A savings of $500! So it is absolutely to travel and not be rich! Love your blog!

Denise

Is it possible to teach a language all around the world at 50 years old?

NomadicMatt

Yes! There are many older teachers out there!

Dillon

The best way to travel when you have no money is to sign up for crazy high interest credit cards with reward points? Are you fucking kidding? This is crap.

Dillon

Also, you have to be from up north or out west. I live in the part of America (read: most) that doesn’t get $10 minimum wage or have $1,500/month rent. Normal rent for us is maybe 1/2 that expensive, and as such, we make substantially less. “You could just pay the $1,500 for the flight!”… I thought this was about how to travel cheaply, not normally.

NomadicMatt

If you pay your bill off each month, you don’t face high interest rates. It’s easy to hate and be a cynic but if you follow these tips, you’ll be able to travel. Don’t limit yourself. It works others, it can work for you.

Jess

As an Australian with that last example you really are not spending your money wisely. Because the country is so spread out compared to everywhere else traveling by bus is more expensive than a plane ticket. you could get from Sydney to Cains and back for about a 1/2 the price. Even less with no checked luggage. Also your kinda picking top level attractions, like you say if you want to travel cheaply get off the beaten track. Try actually exploring the country not just the top 3 tourist destinations. And you do need more funds than that to be able to enter the country, Australia has some of the tightest customs and immigration in the world.

Jess

Ps. Also I dont know where you are buying your groceries or eating out, cause that’s a bit steep. 1 person should probably spend about $40 to $50 AUD. So like 35-40 US on groceries a week ( I know uni students who spend less), and you might want to try some different cafes and restaurants.

totally agree! you def don’t need to be rich to travel. i just did a review of what i spent during a 5 month stretch in south america and it came out to be less than 50 USD a day. and if i had not gone to Galapagos, it would have been much less than 50 per!

Good, comprehensive post mate. No matter how well planned a budget may be some days are always a blow out but you make up for it with others. I traveled for over a year recently through the first world mostly, on about $65AUD per day and found it ample and I could certainly do it for much less if I tried. Tip: Avoid credit at all costs IMHO, coming home to a debt would be the worst welcome home pressie ever.

NomadicMatt

Only avoid credit if you don’t know how to use it!

Yeah, I have tried some of the methods. It wasn’t literally with no money. I had some but still it wasn’t like you were paying the outrageous 2000 $ for organised trip in China. But one has to face both the good and the bad aspects. However, the memories are much more valuable, not the money spent IMO.

Thanks!
this is really inspiring.

Abby

I am on the Australian senior pension, Matt. I am about to become homeless. I have very little in the bank and very little in super. This wasn’t an option in my productive years and I spent my others raising my 4 children.
I did volunteer work to keep up my skills. My husband left me and I lost the house. I have been living with one of my children. That has now come to an end.
I may not be able to get someone to share the expenses of this very nice house with me and am trying to figure out if there is some way I can live if I have to sell up my furniture. Not sure I can afford to put it into storage at $50 to $60 a week Australian and still live. Not sure whether my car will last if I decide to travel.
Would appreciate any advice anyone can offer. I am a little panicked.
Abby

Abby

I forgot to add that I would love to work. However, at my age, over 60, this seems to be almost impossible. In 3 years I have had half a days work. I am losing confidence that I will ever be employable again. I am qualified to do various office work and even part time work would probably solve my problem. I currently live in Caboolture Sth in Northern Brisbane Australia. The other solve would be some one to share this 4 bedroom house with me.
Abby

vicky

The best way to travel and have money at the same time, is to work abroad.
But there’s a little problem with that, because in many cases, that would be illegal. (I don’t know what about American passport holders, but for some of us it’s a big risk working illegally and I wouldn’t want to take this risk).

I’ve already decided that I don’t want to live a boring “normal” life and settle in one place.
Unfortunately I am one of those people on the list who are earning near minimum wage and I still have to pay bills&rent.
I did figure out a way to travel though. It’s a ‘year-year’ system.
Means I live and work a year in my country (live in a very restrictive way, no clothes, no shopping, 15$ a day lifestyle) then go abroad for one year (either as a WWOOFER or any of the options you were talking about.)

My first destination, Australia.

I have a question…I’m leaving in 6 1/2 months to start long term traveling. I’ve been trying to leave for three years but money is always an issue. I decided that no matter what I have I will leave in the 6 1/2 months. So I will be starting with about $2000 after my plane ticket and a few other backpacking essentials ill need. I’m really worried that that’s not enough…can anyone ease my worries?

Thank you very much for this post!
Even though I have been brought up abroad and have been traveling a lot during my 52 years of age I do not think that traveling itself is very much of a purpose itself for most people.
Traveling without an aim can be very enlightening – but it is not absolutely necessary.

Grace

Hey Matt,
I have a question about bills. I have some student loans lurking, which is why I am planning on waiting a few years until I get either out of debt, or nearly so. Do you think that is being wise or a cop out? The employment options you mentioned sound more than sufficient for the basic cost of living, but do you think it would be too much pressure to find a high paying job?

Grace

I have a BA and am certified through the TEFL program, if that makes a difference.

NomadicMatt

Teach overseas – save for travel and pay off your debt! The TEFL will get you a job anywhere.

Megan

Melbourne, AU has a fantastic free greeter service. Their walking tours are 3-4 hours which you can tailor to your interests. I’ve done it twice, in 2013 and 2014. Highly recommended. http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/visitors/services/greeter/Pages/GreeterService.aspx

greek

30.000$ a year???It would be so f***ing easy that way.
What if i tell you basic salary in greece is 450 euro per month…
5400euro a year if you are lucky to have a job and working the whole year…

Just saying sometimes its not an excuse

NomadicMatt

Then I would say use the tips in this article to travel cheaper or work overseas and make more money.