It is possible for the savvy, budget conscious traveler to travel the world with $0 in the bank. First, consider staying at hostels, sleeping on trains, preparing meals from supplies purchased at the grocery, visiting museums on days when the entrance is free, and spending as much time as possible in the developing world.
On a recent European vacation, I spent a great deal of time in Prague and Budapest both of which are not on the Euro zone. This enabled me to see some amazing sites at remarkably low prices. Additionally, certain landmarks and experiences in nearly every corner of the globe — such as statues, churches, and festivals — are generally free.
Still, you don't want to merely keep your expenses down. You want to travel the world with $0 in the bank. Do not despair. You need not hide in a friend's suitcase during a transatlantic flight. Nor it is necessary to become a smuggler of hashish, who, sadly, ends up on next year's Locked Up Abroad. Actually, there are a number of legal, straightforward ways to travel the world in style. The following ten strategies should enable you to satisfy your cravings for wanderlust without burning a hole in your pocket.
1. Teach English In A Foreign Country: Teachers of English are always in high-demand. When you consider that most placement agencies and government organizations provide housing and medical expenses, and give you a salary upon which you can both live and travel, and many cover the cost of your flight, it certainly seems an appealing option. There are wealth of agencies looking for candidates — many of whom do not require prior teaching experience— although TEFL or TESOL certification helps. Good places to start are Teach Away, which offers placement services around the world and a wealth of resources. Language Corps and CIEE also offer interesting options in a range of host countries. In terms of payment, Japan and Saudi Arabia are the highest. A typical placement in Japan through the Jet Program, offered 3.6 million yen a year (approx. $45,756), while placement in countries such as Hungary, Thailand, or the Czech Republic are typically between $20K-$35K per year. Another interesting option in Japan is The Westgate Corp. English Teaching Program, which enables one to teach for a shorter, three-month stay at a good salary.
2. Join The Peace Corps: Agencies like The Peace Corps are a great way to not only learn about hidden corners of the globe but also help revitalize them. Many participants assert they got more out of the experience than they put into it. Some of the tangible benefits of this 27—month commitment are medical and dental benefits, free transportation to and from the country of service, intensive language training, student loan deferral or cancellation, food, housing, and, upon your return, a $7,425 readjustment allowance. This position also offers you up to 48 paid vacation days from which you can easily travel from your home country.
3. Live With a Host Family and Couch Surf: There are an abundance of agencies that can connect students with host families. Some of these include Study Abroad UK, International Experience, and The Danish Institute For Study Abroad. Any fees associated with these programs can be paid for through student loans. An alternate route is to work as an au pair or participate in a work/travel program, two options offered by agencies such as InterExchange. Finally, once you have your host family or other living situation established, you can easily get around your local area by couch surfing. Couchsurfing.org is a great resource, although you should ideally do a background check on your hosts. You should also be sure to perform household chores, bring a housewarming gift, and make every effort to be pleasant.
4. Apply For Fellowships: There are wide ranges of grants/fellowships that can support your travels. For example, recent college graduates can apply for a Marshall Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarships. Students, scholars, artists, and journalists can also submit themselves for highly coveted Fulbright Scholarships. These will cover your travel, food, and housing expenses, for you and your dependents, and, at times, may also cover fees for language classes or other services. World Nomads also offers a Travel Writing Scholarship. Finally, there are a number of regional and program based grants.
5. Become a Sailor: The U.S. Merchant Marine offers free training and guaranteed first job placement for maritime school graduates. A good place to start your research is the Seafarer's Union. You will crew U.S. flagged commercial vessels (aka private companies), hence, despite the title — merchant marine — you are technically not part of the military. Most sailors get between 90 and 180 days off per year (many work three or four months shifts, seven days per week). Some positions include OS/Wiper/Steward, AB, Tankerman, Licensed Mate and Licensed Engineer. You should be in good health and willing to spend long periods of time at sea —often in isolation.
6. Join a Commune: The idea of joining a commune likely conjures up images of hippies engaging in free love at the height of the 1960s. But communes are still relevant in certain parts of the globe, offering an exciting way to immerse yourself in a new culture. Israel has officially organized communes, or kibbutzim, many of which you can visit and live upon for as short as four weeks. Freetown Christiana, in Denmark, and Auroville, a multicultural city in India, are two other communes where you might consider residing. Communes often abide by spiritual principles and codes of ethics. Additionally, you will generally need to work a certain number of hours of week in exchange for housing and food.
7. Become a Tour Guide: This is a great solution for those who want to find work rapidly. Placement is made easier by having training and/or certification. The International Tour Management Institute offers a two weeks program that provides licensing and preparation to be a tour director. They also assist with placement. It is often best to start locally, for example by joining Tours By Locals, and then branching out to lead tours in more exotic locales. In NYC, Washington D.C., and many other areas, you will need a sightseeing guide license. It also helps to speak the local language. To help in this regard consider reviewing phrase books such as those offered by Rick Steves. Expect to make somewhere between $8 and $18 an hour. Some of the requirements for the job are strong interpersonal skills, the ability to communicate clearly, and a thorough grasp of history.
8. Earn A Living as a Travel Writer: The Matador Network offers travel writers around $25 per post, and is a good place to get started if you have limited experience. Theoretically, blogging through this site alone could fund your travels if a budget—conscious nomad in the third world. You could then use this experience to try and get published in larger outlets. Many travel writers also work out deals with resorts, car rental companies, and other corporate entities in exchange for their coverage. One good place to start would be by picking up Writer's Market and getting a better sense of what kind of income stream is possible.
9 Join the Navy: In addition to the opportunity to explore faraway lands, the Navy offers paid training, job opportunities, college tuition reimbursement, and free health care. The monthly pay for enlisted sailors with 0-4 years of service generally runs between $1,500 and $2,500. For officers with less than two years of service the range is $2,800 to $7,000. Navy ships dock in more than 100 ports of call and at bases in multiple time zones.
10. Become a Flight Attendant: To become a flight attendant you’ll first need to first go to a Flight Attendant School like The Travel Academy. The average salary is $40,000. The best perks for nomads are the flexible schedules and the opportunity to stay extra nights in exotic locales. Additionally, most flight attendants get unlimited free flights anywhere their airline travels.
With focus, commitment, and a bit of careful planning traveling the world with $0 in the bank can easily be accomplished. You can visit Westminster Abbey, swim in Israel’s Dead Sea, and attend a tea ceremony in Osaka. Good luck, and I hope that soon — at a cost of $0 - you'll be telling friends and family bon voyage!