Photography / Travel

Do more–5 tips to spice up your travel experiences–for FREE

It’s the question I’m asked constantly.

“How do you travel so often? You’re always going somewhere interesting.”

Yes, that’s me riding an ostrich in Zhengzhou, China, a previous post on my teaching resume.

My quick answer: location, Ryan Air, a flexible job, and research.

But there are a few tricks to the art of traveling cheap (and sometimes for free!) that every vagabond should know.

1. Couchsurfing

Most people know about this global community already, but let me add. Seek this out in locations that are “off the beaten track”. Hosts are more eager to show you their home city and more. Why? It’s not Paris. They have less spam, or erm, couch requests.

–My experience: I used Couchsurfing to find a host during my weekend in La Rioja. If I hadn’t, my experience would have been limited to the city limits of Logroño. It also means I wouldn’t have eaten La Rioja’s lamb chop speciality, chuletas, roasted on an open fire. Delicious, thanks Adrian!

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Wine tasting in a traditional wine cave in La Rioja, courtesy of my Couchsurfing host.

2. Airbnb

If you are in Paris, scour this website for cheap (or expensive and luxe) apartments to rest your head for the week. Airbnb gives you the keys to your own flat, treehouse or yurt, giving you more location options and styles to experience your vacay. I get serious travel envy just clicking on their homepage!

–My experience: I couldn’t find a Couchsurfing host in Ibiza so I opted for this. For 25 euros a night, I ate breakfast on a balcony with a view of the Mediterranean. I attest, croissants and coffee (provided free by my host) taste richer in Ibiza.

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This view of the beach was just a 5 minute walk from my bed.

3. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

Want to work with cheesemongers in France or pick grapes for a Tuscan vineyard? A one-year membership (€25) gives you access to the farmers’ contact information for your country of choice. Remember, it’s organic, meaning it’s also hard work. The additional rewards beyond knowledge: room and board.

–My experience: I learned about organic farming and selling, living a more sustainable life (shower from water cans and use waterless toilets), plus Swedish culture. Fika! (Coffee break!) It’s important. Read this testament by a Swedish inspired coffee roaster in Minnesota. It’s a large part of the culture.

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With WWOOF, my friend and I immersed ourselves right into Swedish culture. Wearing wreaths of forest flowers and sipping rosé, we celebrated Midsummer and forgot about weeding for a day.

4. Workaway

Aren’t dreaming of becoming a cheesemonger or vintner? Workaway. The website includes some organic farming opportunities, but the majority are varied and random. In Turkey, spend your summer working on a yacht or as a barman at a beachside hostel. Prefer Uganda? Volunteer for a social development project aiding local farmers. Unlike WWOOF, your membership fee (€22 or €29 for a couple) gives you access to the world’s contacts, not just a specific country, and for two years. Room and board are exchanged for your hard work.

–My experience: After the academic year ends in July, I intend to use this source to guide my summer plans. My eyes are set on Turkey and Greece.

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I expect it to look like this almost everyday. That’s a reasonable expectation, right? Photo taken in Marrakech, Morocco.

5. Research

Matador Travel Network, New York Times Travel, Gadling, and the Cultureist are great starters. They can provide further volunteer opportunities and new places to travel for the season. My favorite source for travel writing and nontraditional destinations alike–the New York Times.

–My experience: The world is out there. You can learn about everything from Vietnam’s beer trail to urban volunteering in Buenos Aires to authentic coffee tours in Costa Rica.

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In Genghis Khan country (Inner Mongolia, China) with Mr. Khan, traditional clothing and a yurt.

 Now, get out and explore!

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