When I tell people about the great travel experiences I've had, the response is almost always the same: "You're so lucky, I wish I could afford to do all that." Well, actually you can! I'm not living off a trust fund or the savings of a well paying job -- and I even have quite a bit of student loan debt to pay back -- but I am still able to live out my dream life on the road.
Traveling doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. First of all, staying in hostels rather than hotels or resorts will save you a ton of money and make your trip more fun. At a hostel, you can make new friends from all over the world while being budget conscious. And you can save money on meals by picking up some staple foods at the local grocery store and cooking for yourself in the communal hostel kitchen.
For longer trips though, even paying for hostels will add up after a while. But don't worry, there are tons of travelers out there making ends meet creatively. Here are some ways you can travel better, longer, and farther for cheaper:
A great way to see new places for free is to do work exchanges. You could work on farms, in hostels, or locals' homes in exchange for a bed rather than money. Generally hosts ask that you work 20-25 hours a week in exchange for a place to sleep and sometimes even breakfast. That still leaves you plenty of time in the week to explore the area, too.
Work exchange is a good option for travelers looking to spend more time in each location they visit. And especially for travelers looking to do something new -- I've met people who have worked at ostrich farms in Australia, artists' studios in Indiana, and vineyards in Italy. Or you can search for exchanges that use any specialized skills you already have, like carpentry, web design, or writing skills. Websites like WWOOF.net, workaway.info, and helpx.net allow you to make a profile and search hundreds of hosts around the world for a small annual fee.
Ever wanted to see what houses are like around the world? Well here's your chance. You can tend to someone's house while the owner is out of town. House sitting works much the same way that work exchanges do - you can sign up for a profile on websites like MindMyHouse, HouseCarers, or TrustedHousesitters and find properties around the world that need to be taken care of.
You will mostly likely be in charge of doing some light cleaning, watering plants, and feeding pets, but otherwise you'll have tons of time to explore your new neighborhood. This may not be the greatest option for solo travelers though, as you will be in a house all by yourself... unless you want the constant peace and quiet to work on your upcoming travel memoir.
I once met two women who worked 6 months of the year on a fishing rig off the coast of Canada and spent the other 6 months of the year traveling a new continent. There are several options for seasonal work, from tourism work to harvesting crops to teaching English or running youth summer camps.
Seasonal tourism jobs can allow you to save up heaps of money for future travel even as you are seeing a new place. Unlike house sitting and work exchanges, these are full time jobs that will most likely require proper work visas in the country you want to work in. But your options for work are so varied: Ski chalets, beach hostels, resorts, tour guides, cruise ships, yacht crews, etc.
The best part about these jobs is that you have almost no expenses, as they generally provide free accommodation as you work. Making money + no bills = affording amazing future travel experiences.
If you really want your lifestyle to revolve around traveling, you have to get creative. For example, I met a Lyft driver who funded a few months on the road by driving passengers around cities during big events like the Sundance Film Festival and the Super Bowl.
If you are an artist, you can sell your work online or in person as you travel at craft shows or in local stores. If you have traditional 9 to 5 office skills, you may be able to take your expertise on the road by working remotely from anywhere that has a decent WiFi connection.
The key to trading your settled life for a nomadic adventure is to think outside the box. And to ask fellow travelers how they live - I am always amazed by the different schemes others come up with the save and make money on the road.