Travelling on the cheap

The Ways And Woes Of Shoestring Travelling

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We discovered Andrew Fraieli, author of this week’s guest post, through Reddit. Not only is it refreshing to see a blogger that didn’t abandon the corporate world, his style of travel reminded me of two books that were influential to The Working Traveller: Ken Welsh’s Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe, and Susan Griffith’s Work Your Way Around the World.

Both books and Andrew’s website Homeless and Abroad are a reminder that you don’t need to save a huge amount of money to travel. By travelling cheaply or picking up work as you go, and by treating travel as a chapter in your life rather than an act of consumerism, it is possible for the impatient to leave home with relatively little money:


Keeping yourself on a tight budget means you can travel longer. Because of its limitations you take different opportunities, meet people you wouldn’t find otherwise, and generally see a world those travelling with lined-pockets can’t. It only goes to say that the shoestring way is the better one right?

Well, that’s my ongoing logic and what I say when I’m happily munching on a chef’s dinner in a posh flat in Paris, and what I say when I’m getting flicked off, almost fainting from heat exhaustion hitching in the Italian sun. Sometimes you’ll get an apartment for a week by making friends with a street musician, other times you’re sleeping under a bush in Budapest. You’re luck is fleeting and fickle with so little money.


I — the one in the red shirt — sat by a guy playing ukulele — the black shirt — on the street in Vienna, met his friends, and ended up staying with them for a week! Photo by Janet.

Even with all the shitty situations I end up in from not having the money to improve it though, I will never say that you need money to travel. You don’t. Anyone who says you do is too afraid to push their own boundaries and trust the world. You should totally just leave. Just go, I’d suggest having the money for some food and a bit of know-how, like hitchhiking and Couchsurfing, but besides that, just go.

Hitchhiking is free and the best way to travel. Standing at truck stops, highway on-ramps or just city limits, you’re at the mercy of the kindness of others, so you can’t rush. You watch people all around you, and you get brought to places you’d never discover without their help.

You’ll meet retired international rock stars who now delivers fish for a living in little italian villas, you’ll get brought to a farmer’s shack in the Swiss mountains to buy eggs and butter, and you’ll see the real people of a country and culture.

Couchsurfing is a website that connects you with people willing to let you crash at their place for a night. It brings you to people who speak the language, know the culture, and above all want to show it to you. People who give you a place to sleep for nothing more than your company.

You’ll live in the country you’re in, not just visit. You’ll see a city from the inside, you’ll see their routines, eat like them, see like them, drink like them, and you get to do the same for them of your culture.

Squatting to save money on travel

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In Ljubljana, Slovenia, a homeless guy about my age saw my backpack and brought me to a squat in the city to sleep and it was an amazing artistic place. This is just the back as they are not fond of photos being taken.

But this shoestring budget, that forces you to meet others, to depend on others and so draw people and places to you, will also be painful.

Sometimes there just won’t be someone there to help, sometimes you’ll be all alone. The sun will be setting with everyone settling into bed while you still stand with your thumb out, hoping someone drives by and has pity on you.

Sometimes people will flip you off, yell profanities at you, laugh at you because you are asking for help with your thumb out. Sometimes it will rain freezing piercing rain and still no one stops. You’ll lose feeling in your arm, or your mouth will run dry in the sun that you can’t escape.

Sometimes no one will be available on Couchsurfing, no matter how many people you ask. You’ll go to a Couchsurfing gathering hoping to find someone who’ll help, but they are all busy or can’t spare the room. So they will leave slowly one by one, while you have nowhere to go. You’ll try to sleep in a park only to have to take cover as it rains, and rains.

The tight budget lets you travel longer, but brings its own uncertainties. Don’t take these negatives as reason not to travel so light in cash though. There’s many ways to do it from staying at squats to dumpster-diving to just doing it long-enough you know people all over! Travel the world on too little money, it’s better than $5,000 on a week trip to Paris and just staying in a posh hotel.

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This piece was first published in an older version of our blog