Interested in finding out how to explore the world for free? These days there are more resources than ever to help make this dream become a reality. Speaking from experience, it can be as simple as having the time and means to physically travel to a new destination. After that, you have many options of programs to be part of, some of which I have described here:
Work as Exchange for Boarding
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), HelpX.net and WorkAway.info are very successful work-exchange programs. They offer a way for you to become immersed in a new culture and make new friends, anywhere in the more than 60 countries they operate in. This is different from volunteer programs because you are not paying for lodging / host but instead you are offering your time and work in exchange for a place to stay. TRY IT: Go to the links above, choose a country and browse through the farm lists. You must be at least 18 years old. Sign up and follow the directions. In some cases you could have to pay a fee up to $72 but it is well worth it since you will be saving on accommodations.
As a house / pet sitter you can stay at someone’s home for free; seeing the world on a tight budget doesn’t get any easier than this. It offers a great opportunity to explore a new region, live like a local and entirely avoid the costs of hotels. House sitting contracts can last anywhere from one week to six months. TRY IT: Websites offer listings of people around the world looking for house sitters; access to their databases will cost you a small fee. The best rated sites are Trusted House Sitters ($20/month), House Sitters America ($30/year), House Carers ($50/year), Mind My House ($20/year) and The Caretaker Gazette ($30/month). If you’re serious about it, the fee is totally worth it. Be sure to consider visa requirements for the country you apply for.
Both CouchSurfing.org and GlobalFreeloaders.com aim to connect up like-minded travelers and hosts offering a temporary place to sleep while visiting a new country. While the couches or guest rooms are free, it’s customary to offer something in exchange, be it a bottle of wine or sharing your travel stories and photos. The experience isn’t just for the couch surfer – the hosts usually enjoy having visitors and interacting. These sites will give you access to host profiles from all over the world and you’ll easily find people with similar interests who have specified how many guests they are willing to host and for how many days. It is always important to find someone with the same ideas in mind regarding how much interaction you want when you visit. TRY IT: Sign up for free and fill out your profile. Start browsing in the areas you will be traveling to, and when you know your travel dates, start sending messages to see who is available and interested in hosting you.
Teaching English in a Foreign Country
This is a very popular way to see the world and make some money while your at it. No better way to experience the life of a local than to be one yourself! It offers a regular paycheck and a place to stay, but expect to be working a full-time job teaching. I have heard nothing but good things about experiences like this, because the work is fulfilling while you get to explore on the weekends. TRY IT: You will need certification from TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). These courses cost a fee and can usually be taken online. Once you’re certified, chose a country and contract duration.
WorkTrade.org is an option for people who are looking to travel and volunteer but can’t afford the pricey volunteer programs. TRY IT: Joining will cost you $29 and they will send you email updates with contact information of organizations who are in search of volunteers around the world. Trips vary from one week to one year. GlobalNomadic is another trusted volunteer program, though you will be paying your own travel expenses which is fairly standard.
I also recommend learning from someone who has shared everything you’ll need to know about this subject, travel expert Shannon O’Donnell; check out her book, ‘The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook’. Another great resource is an ebook called ‘The Underground Guide to International Volunteering’, with the tag line of ‘experiences that go beyond beaches and the backpacker trail’. Online, you can start your research with these related articles:
Ten Volunteer Opportunities for Free Travel
How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World
Questions to Ask Your Volunteer Organization
Understanding the Developing World
Volunteer Organization Resources by Grassroots Volunteering