Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Travel With Little or No Money

In my last post I told you why I travel, and today I explain some of the ways I have been able to do it. I didn't start traveling in high school or college like many people do with study abroad or gap years. Both of my sisters did, but for some reason it wasn't on my radar. For me, travels started after I started working, when I wanted to escape a job that I didn't want to do anymore. Knowing I wouldn't be able to spend much money, I sought out ways to go to the places I wanted for very little money. Here's how I did it.

Volunteering Abroad

About 9 years ago my travel journey began. I applied to a program called CHI or Cultural Homestay International to be an English tutor for a family. It was a great deal because all I had to pay for was the program fee which, at the time was only a couple hundred dollars and my plane ticket (the prices have risen quite a bit since my trip). All of my food and accommodations were included, and my host family even paid for me to travel with a tour group to a couple of different Greek islands while I was there. All of that to spend a couple hours a day with the twins teaching English. Volunteering can be a very cheap option depending on the organization you go through. There are tons out there, so the best thing to do is start pricing them out through websites like Go Overseas and Go Abroad. My trip to Tanzania was very expensive, but it was one of the best experiences I have ever had, so price isn't everything when it comes to volunteering. Research is key.


Free travel is hard to come by, the the next two trips required work but didn't require moolah. At the time of my next trip, I was working on my master's in global and international education. I was originally supposed to go on a trip through my university, but that fell through. I needed some international experience in order to finish my thesis. I had just started working with Heifer International and I found out about a scholarship they had for teachers to travel to Honduras to visit project sites and learn about the organization. I applied, and thankfully I received an all expenses paid trip to Central America. I met other teachers from all over the U.S. and learned enough stuff about international development to fill an entire notebook. While I don't think Heifer offers this scholarship anymore, there are lots of teacher friendly scholarships and grants available to anyone who can find them and apply for them. Here's a site to get you started or if you are looking into going back to school and want to do it abroad, check this out from the Matador Network.

Tour Leader 

Another fabulous way to travel for free is by being a tour leader. For teachers, this is a really easy thing to put together especially if you teach high school. When I led a group to Peru, I got a group of my fellow teachers together and it was fantastic. Once I got 6 people to join the group, my trip was completely free. Sure I was in charge of the group which entailed making sure I had the right head count where ever we were and having a couple meetings before the trip (we had ours at a Peruvian restaurant), but mostly I just got to hang out with a bunch of great people for a couple weeks. Another amazing bonus with EF (the company that I went with) was that because I was a first time group leader, they paid for me to travel to Spain for training. Here, I learned what the tours would be like and what to expect on my own trip. If I was still teaching I would organize another trip in a heartbeat, but since I have become a hermit spending all of my time writing, that will have to wait. But you should do it!

Teaching Abroad

Now this next one isn't for everyone, but it did provide me with a lot of opportunities to travel. Teaching in the Netherlands allowed me to have access to a very busy international airport that was only a short train ride away, and flights within Europe can be very cheap. Going to Spain for the weekend to catch some rays was only a couple hundred dollars including transport and accommodation. Trains were plentiful and the continent is small enough to go just about anywhere for just a couple days.

Some money is involved up front in terms of going to a job fair and paying for passport photos, and setting up a residence, but the benefits were huge. I'm not sure of the benefits for English teaching jobs, but changing up your home base is always a good way to expand your travel horizons.

The benefits were so huge for me, in fact, that I had a professional development budget of my own to spend on anything I saw fit. In this case I spent the bulk of it on a trip to Dubai to take a creativity workshop.

But you don't need to have a posh job in another country to travel. Working in a public school in Florida I was able to attend conferences and training in New York City, New Orleans and Indianapolis. Also, while I was involved with a volunteer organization, they sent me to Little Rock for training.

Opportunities for travel come in all shapes and sizes, and they aren't always the glamorous jet setting that you may have imagined, but a chance to see a new part of the world is always on the agenda for me.