How to Travel The World for Free
What’s the biggest thing keeping you from traveling?
There’s no doubt about that. It is a barrier, it is something you do need to travel (how much exactly you need really depends on you and what standards you want during your travels).
You may have already resigned yourself to the fact that the only way you’ll travel the world for free/for as little money as possible is by:
Finding work when you go abroad (au pair/bartender/waitress/waiter/farm worker/tour guide/English teacher with websites such as worldpackers,workaway)
Sleeping in hostels/dormitories – again these are wonderful experiences where you’ll likely make friends you keep for life
Using a student discount card
Free walking tours
Using your social network
Whilst these are definitely legitimate options, you may not necessarily want to work in a job you’re not passionate about, or you may be unsure of how safe it is to couchsurf and hitchhike, and you may not have relatives or friends in every country you’d like to travel to.
We’ve got good news - you don’t have to do anything in the above list if you don’t want to (we didn’t)!
We have a bigger secret that we have discovered, and we really want to share this with you. We don’t claim to know everything there is to know about travelling the world for free/as cheaply as possible – there is a learning curve and we are constantly picking up something new from people around us, getting new ideas and trying them out to see where they take us.
All the steps you need to take to achieve your goals are simple, but they’re not easy.
How We Started Our Journey
The best way to start this post is probably by giving you a better idea of who we are and where we started. If you’ve been following us for a while on our travel Instagram page, you’ll know that while we started our account 2 years ago, we have actually only been travelling full time for the past 7 months. Our love for travelling however, dates way back to when we were teenagers and took our first trip together to Greece. Since then, we’ve taken every opportunity to go travelling whenever and wherever we can!
We both worked in London (Bret as a project manager for 5 years, Evey as a doctor for 2 years), before we realised we didn’t want our lives to pass us by without experiencing what it’s like to travel the world! We didn’t decide this overnight, it took months of debating whether this was a good decision for us before we took the plunge, quit our jobs and left London, and we’re so glad we did.
If you’ve ever been on instagram, you’ve probably seen scores of beautiful travel photos or videos of full time travellers pop up every second on your Instagram feed. We saw these photos and they made us dream – about all the places we wanted to explore, cultures we wanted to experience, life we wanted to live. We always thought it was impossible to do what they were doing but that’s simply not true.
What is important to realise from the start is that everything comes at a price, the question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re willing to pay it. Before we started travelling we had a regular income. We knew when exactly our money was coming in and we also knew that if we started travelling full time, we wouldn’t have that comfort anymore and that can be scary but that’s the price we were willing to pay to go travelling!
The Steps to take to Travel for Free
We want to be honest with you, and honestly, we didn’t start the year travelling for free. We saved up whilst working and paid to go to places we had dreamed about visiting. We set up our Instagram account at the time to share our experiences with you, and we’re so grateful for everyone who has followed us on our journey so far! The reality is that we only started to be able to travel for free once we were able to offer our photography skills and influencer platform in exchange for accommodation, transfers and even meals.
These are the steps we’ve learnt to take so far on our journey to travelling full time for free:
1. Plan ahead
If you don’t plan, you plan to fail. You’ll need to decide when you want to start travelling. Very often you won’t just be able to up and go – but that’s okay. If you have to work for a few more months before leaving, that might be a good thing as you’ll have more time to save up and more time to plan. It’s a boring step that often doesn’t get mentioned – everyone seems to be spontaneous, everyone’s making trips on the spur of the moment. This is unrealistic, and you have to plan!
As part of your planning process, ask yourself a few important questions:
Am I willing to make certain sacrifices so that I can travel full time?
These sacrifices will be different for everyone, but might include giving up that ‘secure’ salary, not seeing your friends and family for somewhat extended periods of time, choosing not to spend your money on eating out or buying unnecessary drinks so you can focus your money on what really matters to you
Do I have an emergency fund?
In our opinion you have to ask yourself this question even if you don’t plan to quit your job and travel the world. If you’ve got that extra bit of cash in your bank account you can fall back on, you’ll sleep so much more easily at night. Save yourself the stress of not having a cash buffer and start creating that fund today!
Can I think of ways to make money online?
We’ll expand on this later in the article.
2. Learn all the skills necessary to support your travel life
If you’re planning on using Instagram as a stepping stone to allow you to grow and see the world, being able to take a good photo is the first on the list of things you need to learn how to do. If you already have a background in photography, that makes it that much easier for you. We didn’t know much about photography, not even its 3 pillars (ISO, aperture and shutter speed!) when we started, but when you want to learn something, you will. It’s not in the scope of this article to expand on this, but we will do so in another! A good place to start is always on youtube. If we can learn about photography from scratch, so can you!
Editing is another essential component – watch as many tutorials as you can on the topic. Lightroom seems to be the most popular tool to use in editing. Using a preset can go a long way as well.
Starting a blog may also be a good idea where you can share your travel tips and tricks.
3. Start an Instagram account in your niche and grow a following
It’s easier said than done. No one starts off knowing every single thing they need to know. The key though, is to start. You may not have photography down to a tee, but don’t let that stop you from creating your page. Pick a niche – are you a single traveller? A couple? It doesn’t matter what it is - identify yourself and go with it. How to grow your following is another topic of its own, but the main principles are: create quality content, offer content that is of value, be persistent and engage with others (you can start with following other accounts in your niche, interacting with their followers and interacting with large re-share accounts).
4. Brainstorm ideas on how to make money online on your own terms
We feel this is different to taking up a physical job in the next country you are travelling to – you would still be bound to a geographical location by your job. The aim is to be able to make money from anywhere in the world.
Here are some methods you could consider but the list goes on:
Getting paid to write articles eg listverse
Fiverr – offering your services online whether it is voice overs, photo editing, graphic design
Apps that connect influencers with brands – upfluence, manifest etc.
Setting up a youtube account
Setting up a blog
↠ Check out our article on how to make money online!
5. Learn how to pitch to brands and hotels
This is the step where travelling for free becomes a reality but is not possible unless all the previous steps have been followed. Nothing good comes easy.
You don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers to get on board with hotels or brands that you already love and support. The key is to try, and while you may get plenty of rejections to begin with, that just means you’re doing the right thing by trying.
Working with hotels is a significant factor if you want to travel for free – although with every complimentary stay you will be expected to create agreed deliverables for the hotel. This usually includes a selection of the following:
Photos, videos and Instagram stories to be posted on your social accounts as influencer exposure
Professional standard photos or video for the hotels own marketing use
Reviews on sites like TripAdvisor
Our advice is to always be clear on the deliverables upfront, to prevent any misunderstanding. This has happened to us before.
One of the important things to remember is that in the early days, many brands will try to reach out to you to offer you free products in exchange for posts – don’t accept everything that people throw your way. Sometimes it’s just not worth it and may make you seem less authentic. Post about what you believe in.
↠ Check out our blog on how to pitch to hotels to get a free stay
6. Have practical ways to spend as little as possible when travelling
There will always/sometimes be things that you need to pay for such as flights, local sim cards etc. If you want to travel for free you need to work on collaborating with appropriate brands to bring in money to cover these expenses. Whilst you are starting to build an income from your adventures, the best thing to do to make your money go longer is having a budget and being aware of it.
Important ways to save money while travelling:
Cooking your own meals is a great way to save money - this is obviously easier if your accommodation has a kitchen area
If you do have to eat out, look for restaurants that the locals frequent instead of tourists.
Camper van instead of hotels/lodges
Make use of credit card points to redeem flights – again this is a very useful tool, especially in America where you can get up to 50,000 points if you spend a minimum amount within a specified time frame. In the UK we have found that these bonus points are less generous, but you can still get 10,000 points
Be flexible with your travel dates
Travel slightly off season. Obviously you don’t want to be visiting a country in the middle of monsoon season, but if you go just before peak season starts, you’ll be able to find good deals
Other important bits
We've covered the basics of how to start to work towards travelling for free and will start to expand on all these points in separate blog posts. We just want to end this article by mentioning a few important and sensible steps not to miss out on if you decide to go travelling:
Never forget travel insurance - you never know when you're going to need it, whether it's a missed flight or lost baggage.
Make sure you have an emergency travel fund saved for a rainy day