Many years ago I thought the only way to travel was to book flights through a Travel Agent and book accommodation at a hotel, motel, resort or another form of “mainstream” accommodation.
Then my mind was blown wide open when I discovered the wide range of outside-the-box travel options, providing affordable ways to see the world and experience all that life has to offer.
If you’re looking for affordable options for travel, and you’re passionate about achieving your travel dreams… let me say just one thing: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Now that Aaron and I are living nomadically, and moreover we’re digital nomads (simply meaning we run online businesses from our laptops as we move around), we’ve connected into a massive global community of people who also live this way. A large number of the people we follow and connect with are also bloggers. It’s been eye opening to read their blogs and hear about how other people travel and afford to stay ‘on the move’ on a long term basis.
Whether you’re looking to take a holiday or to travel on a longer term, open-ended basis, I’ve written this blog to share a few websites, blogs, ideas and resources that you might find useful for opening yourself up to affordable ways to travel (primarily focused on accommodation), to experience this amazing world we live in. My hope is that this blog will trigger the adventurer within you, to call out to your Indiana Jones explorer-self, and to get you thinking about where you’ll go and what you’ll do during your time here on this AMAZING planet.
1. Home Swapping
If you’re a property owner, be it that you have a home or also own a second home (holiday/vacation property), there is a large community of people globally who participate in home swapping as a way to see the world with ZERO accommodation cost.
Aaron and I got into this back in 2010 when we were planning our 3 month sabbatical in Thailand. After a friend suggested we look into home swapping, we found a website called Love Home Swap: http://www.lovehomeswap.com/
Essentially the site allows property owners to list their accommodation “for swap”. You upload photos, property details, location, descriptions along with the countries you wish to travel to and your preferred dates. You can also state whether the swap must be simultaneous (i.e. you literally swap houses for the exact same dates, switching over) or whether you are open to flexi dates (i.e. if it isn’t your primary residence, you may be open to swapping at different times, where you stay in their property on whatever dates suit you and vice versa). The site then helps to match you up with options that fit your requirements through their search function.
Love Home Swap requires a monthly fee to be a member, from as low as $15.75 per month. They have three membership levels. We found it to be extremely good value, when you consider what price you pay per night to rent accommodation, so even if you’re only looking to swap for a few weeks of a year, there are still massive savings to be had.
You can request a swap and the owner will reply to confirm their interest and possible timing. It’s a fantastic way to establish options, and no initial request that you make is set in concrete… it is just an invitation to discuss the possibility and then any details can be finalised through the website. Arrangements can be made to include utilities in the swap (e.g. power, phone, internet costs) or you can make your own arrangements to cover utilities for the period.
Properties on this particular home swap website range from standard suburban family homes to funky city apartments, from rustic and simple beach cottages, to grand estates of a seriously luxury nature!
Home swap durations could be anything from several days to several months or longer. It all comes down to the two members swapping and what they are wanting to achieve in their travel experience.
Thanks to home swapping, Aaron and I lived in Koh Samui for 6-7 weeks with ZERO accommodation costs. Almost every single member we contacted on the website replied to us within 2-7 days and were super friendly. Once we listed our property, we also had incoming requests from members all over the world who wanted to come to stay in our New Zealand house and it really started to open our minds up to what was possible when they offered their homes in the USA, Australia, Asia and Europe to us.
2. House Sitting
Aaron and I have done house sitting, but only for family so far! My parents have completed house sitting assignments through a registered house sitting agency in New Zealand, and enjoyed seeing different parts of the country while doing so.
House sitting abroad is becoming more and more popular, as an affordable way to see the world.
House sitting often involves looking after people’s pets for them. This might include dogs and cats as the most common pets, but there are many rural properties looking for house sitters to also feed/mind farm animals. From what we’ve seen, this often doesn’t require any specific experience, as many ask you to do simple tasks like feeding.
We follow a blog called Wanderlusters, by Charli & Ben. They have completed house sitting throughout their long term travel around the world and as they wrote in a recent blog…
“…it has allowed us to better immerse ourselves in the locations we visit while giving our bank balance a little respite from financing the cost of our accommodation as we travel. We’ve looked after properties in 6 different countries over the last 2 years and have learnt a great deal not only about the locations we’ve visited, but also the many benefits of house sitting”.
This is a great blog to read for those looking for an introduction to House Sitting from people who have experienced it first hand: http://wanderlusters.co.uk/house-sitting-house-sitter-faqs/
House sitting assignments range in duration from a few days and weeks through to several months. There are various house sitting websites which are global, and some countries have their own domestic focused house sitting agencies/sites. One international site that we came across is Trusted Housesitters, though we have not used this site but it will give you a flavour of house sitting as a mode of travelling if you are interested in the idea:
3. Private Rentals
If we’re staying anywhere for longer than a week, we tend not to stay in hotels, motels or any other form of mainstream accommodation provider. Why? Because the comfort and affordability of private rentals can’t be beaten!
There are websites dedicated to private landlords renting out their holiday homes/vacation rentals, with rates varying from 1 night rates, weekly rates through to monthly rates. Generally the longer you stay, the cheaper the average nightly rate.
We did this for our 3 month stay in Hawaii, renting two different condos on a monthly rate which worked out to be incredibly affordable and meant we got to stay in really comfortable, fully kitted out private accommodation with everything you could possibly want. We used the website VRBO (“vacation rental by owner”) for both stays but also made various enquiries on a similar site, Home Away, and found both systems to work really well.
VRBO and Home Away are both sites that allow private property owners to list their accommodation for rent, with photos, availability, descriptions and rates, and enquiries/bookings are managed through the site. Home Away actually owns VRBO.
We made payment for one of the condos via our credit card, and one via Paypal. Word of warning – sites like this do recommend that you ensure you do your own checks before you hand over payment to an owner. What does this mean? Well, in the age of internet, be sure you are dealing with and speaking to a real person. While sites like this do their best to manage security and the authenticity of listings, ultimately we should all take personal responsibility for checking that we’re comfortable before making payment. To that end, Aaron and I Skyped the first condo owner while we were still in NZ and spoke to him in person before paying, as well as doing a little google searching to verify who he was and looking at feedback from others who had stayed there. For the second condo, we were already in Hawaii, and actually got to meet in person with the person managing the unit and got to see it before we rented it.
We also use Airbnb a lot! We've pretty much lived in Airbnb for 2-3 years across many countries in Europe and it is absolutely brilliant, affordable, convenient and offers so many cozy places to make yourself feel at home.
You can check out the sites below to get a feel for what is available, and rates/style of accommodation for the places you are most interested in exploring…
4. Work Away
Ever wanted to travel abroad for an extended period but what you most want is to integrate into the local community and learn the culture, language and way of life? That is, full on immersion! Not able to afford to do that via conventional modes of travel? How about doing a work away opportunity, where you exchange your working skills and small chunks of your time, in return for accommodation and other potential benefits.
One site we came across which lists opportunities all over the world is literally called Work Away. Here is how they describe their site:
“Workaway.info is a site set up to promote fair exchange between budget travellers, language learners or culture seekers and families, individuals or organizations who are looking for help with a range of varied and interesting activities. Our philosophy is simple: A few hours honest help per day in exchange for food and accommodation and an opportunity to learn about the local lifestyle and community, with friendly hosts in varying situations and surroundings.”
Sounds pretty awesome right?! Think about it, travelling alone but immersing yourself into a local family/community, or travelling as a couple (two friends or partners) teaming up to offer a broader range of skills in return for accommodation and cultural exchange. You might find yourself renovating a villa in Italy, or helping to establish a little organic lifestyle block in Spain, or you might be minding young children helping them with their homework and teaching them a bit about your culture. The opportunities are endless. Doesn’t it get your juices flowing?! Think about it… if you’ve been considering a change of job or a change of scene to mix things up, and you love travel and other cultures, but you don’t have the funds for a fancy vacation or for the longer term type of travel you really want, why not explore and contribute with a work away adventure! You might do one work away, or you might do several back to back. Who knows… the world is your oyster, you may work your away around the globe!
And… PS. in case you're into stereotypes (?!) this type of travel isn't designed for people who don't know what they want to do, for ‘bohemians' or people don't have ‘real' jobs, or don't have responsibilities… it's for all people, of all ages! It's for people WHO LOVE LIFE and want to live as much of it as possible.
By the way, just to add, I love this little description below of what a bohemian actually is. I realised, on reading it, that I'm totally bohemian by stereotype definition! Bohemian B, and loving it!
- A person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.
- One who lives a wandering or vagabond life.
- A free-spirited, open-minded thinker.
5. Low Budget Travel Savvy
Aaron and I love reading anything that debunks the myth that travelling (and exciting life experiences/adventures in generally) are only for those who are wealthy, those who have a lot of money/savings and time, and that travelling can’t be achieved as a long term lifestyle versus short holidays snuck in between the rest of ‘life’.
Nomadic Matt is one blogger we follow and we thoroughly enjoy his practical tips for hacking travel – offering ideas, tips, links to special deals and offers, as well as reviews on specific locations with his insights on how to see that place on a budget.
The most recent piece by Nomadic Matt that we enjoyed was featured on Tim Ferriss’ blog. First of all, before we share this amazing piece Matt wrote, we just have to say that we LOVE Tim Ferriss. His book The 4 Hour Workweek was one of the things that dramatically changed the way we viewed ourselves, the world and the possibilities in life (if you haven’t read it, we highly recommend it).
Back to Matt… his blog featured by Tim is called “How to Travel to Exotic, Expensive Cities on $50 a Day”:
- Read the blog here: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2013/08/05/cheap-travel-in-paris-new-york-hong-kong/
- Find out more about Matt here: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/ “Proven tactics and advice from the travel guru for modern travellers. Learn how to travel anywhere safely and cheaply”
- Get Tim’s book The 4 Hour Workweek here
There is nothing better than being of service, to contribute where help is most needed, where your time and your love will make a huge difference. It might be that helping orphaned animals really moves you, or helping young children without families really speaks to your heart, or assisting with the building of facilities and community amenities in third world countries means you can merge your practical skills with your desire to give back. Whatever lights your fire, volunteering is an amazing way to leave a little love and a little piece of you out there in the world… to spend your time making it a better place.
And of course you get to see another part of the world, and learn about a new culture and language.
Volunteering offers you the opportunity to travel on a reasonably affordable budget, where you pay an amount to cover your living costs (accommodation/meals) and usually a contribution towards administration costs for the volunteer organisation that you are working through. Most global volunteering organisations charge a fee to cover such costs. You might think it odd that you pay to volunteer, but you’re not paying for volunteering, as much as covering the basic costs of your stay and the process of administering your time there. After all, what would be the point if you left them out of pocket due to your presence! Volunteering isn’t about giving your time in return for some tangible benefit (like free accommodation). Rather it’s about giving your time in return for the joy of giving, for the joy of changing lives and leaving a positive imprint of yourself upon that place in the world.
Volunteering opportunities may range in length, from several weeks or months through to longer term.
Here's a blog from Bootsnall.com called “How to Get Started with Voluntourism” that you might enjoy if volunteering is something that interests you. The blog covers the essential things to consider to get started (what your interests are, how much time you have, doing your research, factoring in safety precautions, as well as a mention of resources/organisations to check out).
The limited volunteer work we have done when travelling has not been on official ‘assignment’ and so we cannot recommend particular sites or services that facilitate volunteer projects/placements. However, we have compiled a list of blogs and websites below that you might like to explore and verify for yourself if volunteering appeals to you and your budget:
Blogs/Resources for volunteering organisations:
- “10 of the Best Volunteer Abroad Organisations” – http://www.goodnet.org/articles/397
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – Volunteering Resources – http://www.gatesfoundation.org/jobs/volunteering
- National Geographic “Top 10 Volunteer Vacations” – http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/books-excerpts/top-ten-volunteer-vacations-text
- 100 Best Volunteer Vacations to Enrich Your Life – A book by Pam Grout – http://amzn.to/13tG2x2
What are your tips for how to see the world in an affordable way?
I'd love to hear from you!
With love, Bernadette