Thursday, October 18, 2012

How I Plan to Travel The World With Free Accommodations

At a recent travel event I attended, I got acquainted with one of the speakers who made a living traveling the world as a TEFL instructor. When I asked her how she got started, she told me a story of how this lady gave a talk at her school about traveling. She got so inspired that she came up to her to ask how she paid for it all, and the lady said – “Oh I just sold my condo. It went for 400 grand and I’ve used that money to travel ever since!”

“What!??” I asked, dumbfounded and annoyed at the lady in her story, whom I’ve never even met.
“I know!” she said.
“That’s completely anti-inspirational!” I added.

My new friend refused to believe that selling her non-existent condo was the only solution to being able to travel, so she did a little research and found out about TEFL. She’s been doing that ever since! Good for her! It’s nice hearing stories of how people get started, especially since I’m practically at the starting point myself. Whenever I meet travelers, usually the first thing I ask is – “How did you fund your trip?” or “What do you do for money?” I’ve heard a variety of responses ranging from “I saved up for a year,” or “I teach English abroad,” to “We sold everything we owned, and freelance while on the road”.

I’m definitely looking into all those options myself. Teaching English – maybe. Freelance – why not? I have been offered quite a few money making opportunities I can take advantage of while I’m on the road, which I will talk about the closer I get to my launch date. But in the meantime, the main goal is to save – save – save. I’ve already taken the first step by moving out. I’m also looking into getting part time work to earn some extra cash, so hopefully I’ll have a nice start up fund to kick start my tour.

But since I do not own a condo that I could sell, and I’m not some big shot executive from Wall Street who brings in the big bucks every month, I have to think about practical ways to stretch my dollar while I’m on the road. Board and lodging alone will drain out most of my funds. In fact, it takes up about 30 – 40% of one’s budget. That’s a lot of money… and I thought if I didn’t have to pay for room and board, I won’t have to worry about being a penniless ukulele player wandering the globe! I could actually survive the trip, and maybe even go for longer than I intended!
And so I got a little creative and devised a plan to go on this trip without having to pay anything for accommodations! With tremendous research, a little luck, and a little help from my friends, I present you my Grand Master Plan of Travelling the World with Free Accommodations!

1. Staying with Family and Friends

            Okay. I am lucky in this aspect. I have a lot of family and friends that are spread out across the globe, and the first leg of my trip will be heavily reliant on them taking me on as a moocher. Or as an annoying guest. :)
I will go from LA to my home in the Philippines, then to Australia to visit my cousins, to New Zealand to stay with a friend, to Japan to stay with my half sister and good friend from high school, to Dubai to stay with my friend Tina the desert fox, then to the UK to stay with my usual besties. I still haven't worked out my route after that, but I'm exploring most of Europe for sure. This is all a very rough itinerary, but I’ve already spoken with all of the above and they’re all willing to take me in. Bless them! Bless them all!

2. CouchSurfing

I’ve mentioned that I’m currently couchsurfing at a friend’s apartment but this type of couchsurfing is different. is an organization that helps tourists become travelers by helping them experience life as locals in different cities/countries. All you need to do is sign up, and you’ll have the opportunity to either be a host, or stay with a host for free. I’ve been a member for a while now, but I haven’t had the chance to try it out. I do have friends who’ve done it though, and they sing praises about it. The subject of safety often comes up when it comes to things like these and seems to be on the ball about it. They have a page dedicated to that subject alone, and they offer comfort by providing host information such as their references (from former couchsurfers they’ve hosted), a detailed profile, verification (to see if the host’s identity and address has been verified) and vouching. I have no qualms about doing this, and am looking forward to meeting these hosts! To give my parents peace of mind, I can always choose to stay with a woman. And I think it goes without saying that I have every intention of being a sensible surfer. I will clean up after myself, take my hosts out to dinner, cook for them if they let me, or help them out around the house. I don't think Couchsurfing is synonymous to being a leech. ;)

3. Help Exchange – (My Secret Weapon)

            Ahh. Help Exchange. Where do I even begin… First let me start with – Help Exchange is a freaking LIFE SAVER! Take a look at this ad.

Hello HelpX Helpers!
My partner and I live in Umbria, central Italy, in a beautiful house in the country with two very friendly dogs and four lovely cats
I need a lot of help working the land. We need help pruning, picking up chestnuts and other fruit, and cleaning herbs, etc. The work varies with the season and is different every day
I can offer you a room complete with bathroom and a lot of good organic food.
We will provide accommodation in our spacious guest bedroom with king size bed, three meals per day (Breakfast, lunch and dinner) with drinks, free WiFi broadband internet and also plenty time off to explore central Italy. We live only 1,5 hours drive from Rome... We are quite good fun, chilled and enjoy a peaceful life. Also, we throughly enjoy meeting new people and hearing their amazing stories about their travels!
If all this sounds good to you, I'd like to hear from you. So get in touch!

            Um – if that doesn’t make you jump up and buy a plane ticket to Italy now, I don’t know what will!

Help Exchange (or HelpX), similar to Couchsurfing, is an organization that helps travelers immerse themselves in the local culture for free. The difference is that HelpX gives you free board and lodging in exchange for a few hours of labor. You actually get to work hard for your keep! The time of stay varies per need – yours, and your hosts. I’ve seen people needing help for as little as a week, to as long as a few months. And if you stay longer, you actually could potentially get paid too! Imagine the possibilities! You could do anything from helping a couple tend to their vineyard or their land like in the example above, to working as a part time receptionist at a hip and happening hostel and make friends along the way! And after your work is done, you have the rest of the day to do some exploring!

WWOOF is a comparable organization that connects travelers with organic farmers who want to trade room and board for an extra hand. I just prefer HelpX because WWOOF limits you to organic farming. I like a little diversity in my life and HelpX provides just that!

I'm so excited about everything! The possibilities are endless! I know I may sound like a naive bright eyed little girl, but I never let my excitement overshadow my common sense. To my good friends and family members who are reading this --- Don't worry. I'll do my research and I'll be smart. I'll take the necessary precautions to ensure my safety, and if all else fails, I always have my 10 years of boxing experience to fall back on. ;)

And to the rest of you guys -- If you're up for hosting me, or know a relative or a friend who's willing to take on a fab couchsurfer next year, surf's up! I'm raring and ready to go! :)