How do I pay for my adventures?
March 16, 2006 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Travelers I need your did you pay for it?

Im your average college kid who need to get out in the world, but budget is lacking. I've seen previous posts on getting jobs at the places you are traveling and such, and I understand there a cheap ways of staying places with couch surfing and hostels a but eventually I would take on some costs. So I am curious:
Those of you who have done extensive traveling how did you pay for it?
Did you save up a whole bunch of money and go?
Did you say "screw it" and just left?
Did you do odd jobs along the way?
posted by Blandanomics to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I worked summers for the National Park Service. The pay wasn't fantastic, but there was no where to spend it, and the job was a travel adventure in itself. If you can get assigned to a pick up fire fighting crew for 2-3 weeks, that could be a couple extra grand. Then I would travel in the winter, focusing on sunny cheap destinations in the developing world. I kept this up through most of my 20s.
posted by LarryC at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2006


I have some friends that have gone to England with student visas (they actually had entered some english course there), which allows you to work a few hours a week. Then, they just dropped the course, and stayed the rest of their visas working at hostels, bars, and stuff like that. Hostels and bars are a good bet: these guys like having young "exotic" people working there. Also, these guys are less worried about having people working "extra-officially" (these friends I'm talking about worked a lot more than the allowed weekly hours for students).

If you are on a tourist visa, though, any job you take on will be "extra-official": Tourists aren't usually allowed to work at all. It can be a little harder to get jobs in this situation, but you can still try the ones I mentioned above.

Keep in mind that (virtually) no one will give you a job for a single week. If you are staying only for a few days in each place, you'll probably need to bring money and live cheap (hitchhike, make your own food...)
posted by qvantamon at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2006

Best answer: All of the above... and more.

I highly recommend you check out the book Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts. The first few chapters of the book deal extensively with the mental preparation involved in long-term travel, as well as the financial problems involved, and how to overcome them. Very interesting, and it will make you realize you have a lot more money than you think you do; or earning potential, at least. Great, great book.

As for me, I guess my first bit of long-term international travel was financed by three years of hard, hard work and penny-pinching, and a scholarship or two.

My second round of travel falls more under the category of "screw it," and if it all goes well I'll be on a plane by September :)
posted by dead_ at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2006

Medical missions. My wife is an Optometrist and we go on volunteer eyeglass dispensing missions. She performs exams and I've been trained to run the optical department. For many months before the trip, we work with volunteer organizations to do fundraisers/solicit donations which cover the costs of the mission.

When the mission work is over, we tack on a couple extra days for ourselves, which becomes our only out-of-pocket expense.

Sure, we don't get to do missions in Paris or Rome, but Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Thailand and India are all awesome. Plus, you mingle with locals in small villages the whole time. It has been a wonderful way to see the world, meet people and actually make a difference.

These missions are always looking for extra folks who are willing to work hard. I have zero medical skills but have been a big contributor to our crew.
posted by daveleck at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2006

In Australia (admittedly a few years ago), a lot of the backpacking hostels would give you free board in exchange for being their cleaner for a short period. My own tactics have included:

Saying 'what the hell' and taking out a student loan on the last day of the academic year to spend a month in Australia during the summer break (in the days when UK students didn't pay fees so this was the only debt I left Uni with and was worth it).

Going to very cheap places.

Relocating and living permanently overseas for a while with a full time job rather than constantly roaming. Doesn't have to be forever - I am completely guessing and others will have a better idea, but I think something like TEFL is v. portable and many employers are used to some of their staff only staying a few months - depends how long your college holidays are I guess.

Volunteer - I spent a while very cheaply in the South of France rebuilding castle walls (badly), living in a restored medieval hill village and eating awesome French food. Sorry that I don't have time to research, but there are all sorts of voluntary programmes which give you the chance to see another part of the world more cheaply than you would on holiday, and lots are aimed at students.

On preview, daveleck, do you have a link or further info on that programme? Email's in my profile. Thanks.
posted by penguin pie at 12:22 PM on March 16, 2006

I'll post here so all can see...

One of the primary organizations for volunteer optometric missions is VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity).

They are the only organization I have ever worked with, but I know there are several others. Of course, every field of medicine will have similar organizations. We've been in the field and bumped into volunteer dental groups.
posted by daveleck at 12:30 PM on March 16, 2006

Myself, I saved up a bunch of money and went. Afterwards, I decided to make peace with the American Working System, and signed up for the long haul, working 50 weeks in order to spend two weeks Elsewhere, every year.

dead_'s link is ironic -- a main catalyst getting me on the road was a book called Vagabonding in Europe and North Africa, by Ed Buryn, which Rolf Potts pays homage to on his blog.
posted by Rash at 12:50 PM on March 16, 2006

Check out BUNAC.
posted by Otis at 12:58 PM on March 16, 2006

A lot of folks I know, especially Japanese, live a lifestyle of working in some crap job (driving loaders at fish markets for one Ph.D friend in Tokyo) saving money, and then travelling as long as a year or two, coming home, and doing it again.

Check out the resident requirements in the countries you plan to visit. It is kind of difficult to just hang in the EU, but if you havce a couple of thousand bucks, you could live pretty well in Bulgaria with trips to Turkey and neighboring countries.

Another thing you can do is check out what people want to buy... I traveled a long time selling folk instruments and folk costumes I picked up alonmg the way in East Europe. Of course, I was pretty secure beforehand in who wanted to pay retail for them when I got home. I also contacted local newspapers and sold them on ideas for travel and food columns. With skill and luck, you can freelance write.
posted by zaelic at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2006

The forums on BootsnAll have lots of good suggestions on making the most of your money (as well as making money) while traveling, particularly for the student set.
posted by superfem at 1:05 PM on March 16, 2006

I did a bit of research before I went, and I made use of such online resources as and global freeloaders. These were both great ways to connect with hospitable locals and see things that weren't too touristy and kitschy.

In the end, I travelled Europe while spending only ~C$2.75 a day, which made for some interesting stories. This one hostel I stayed in was damn cheap, and they literally hosed the place down every morning. There were drains in the floor. If your tolerance for staying in a place like that is fairly high, you'll do well.
posted by antifreez_ at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2006

I did it by getting temporary summer contract jobs that provide room and board, saving every dime while on those jobs and then roaming free for months afterwards.

I did this in
Alaska (cook at fish processing plants - I did this for 6 consecutive summers),
Antarctica (cook at research stations)
California (yosemite "housekeeper").

All these jobs paid about 500 bucks a week or so, enought to have a bundle of dough by the end of the summer to travel.

Enjoy your travels!
posted by culberjo at 1:12 PM on March 16, 2006

I'm with culberjo on the seasonal jobs. Try they have a lot of listings, many of which offer free boarding.
posted by Alpenglow at 1:22 PM on March 16, 2006

I scrimped and saved while I was in university. I lived very cheaply, rarely even buying a coffee or muffin. I let myself eat out for one cheap meal a week when I was in school. I also alternated between working full-time and taking a night class and working part-time and taking 3 or 4 courses. I'd sometimes eat out when I was working full-time, though. I saved everything I could. I made sure my grades were high so that I'd qualify for scholarships. I lived in really seedy housing, which I don't recommend you do. When I graduated, I had enough for three months in Europe and the UK, some money to live off when I got back, and some money to go toward my first (old, used) car. Few people from my grad class have had the opportunity to spend more than a week or two in Europe.
posted by acoutu at 1:44 PM on March 16, 2006

I worked for a couple of years after I graduated. This allowed me to build up some job experience and also some good savings. The money gave me the flexibility to go wherever I wanted to go and allowed me to have more options when opportunities arose (as they often do when you’re traveling).

The key to this strategy is to always be motivated to save for the trip and keep it in your mind. Car payments, credit card debt, and mortgages are the big trip killers. I found it helped to think like this – a $30 monthly cable bill over a year equals about a month a half stay a Guatemalan hostel. This thread can be read as a good resource on how to save money for a trip.
posted by Staggering Jack at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2006

Saved up an assload of money, then went, then spent more money once I got back (to reestablish my life).
posted by aramaic at 8:44 PM on March 16, 2006

One summer during college I went to France and WWOOFed -- i.e. worked on an organic farm in exchange for room and board. You need to be fit and willing to work pretty hard (and comfortable around hippies), but it's a great way to travel. Your expenses on arriving are zero, and it can be a really wonderful cultural experience. I stayed with one family for almost two months, ate better than I ever have before, had a room in a tumble-down chateau perched on a hill overlooking a river valley. Most people seem to travel from farm to farm, staying in one place from anywhere from a week to a month or two. Living conditions vary pretty widely--some places it's like a foreign exchange program with a family that welcomes you as a surrogate member; other places, you are the help. You can go pretty much anywhere in Europe, N. America, Australia & New Zealand, + Japan.

I linked to the main organization above, but there are others for specific countries. You fork over $20 or so, and then they give you a password to see lists of farms and get contact information. You write letters of introduction, some people write back, you go. I reccomend it!

(For my ticket over + incidental expenses, I just temped for a little bit while living at my parents' house--but I had the good fortune of a strong dollar, to be temping in the Bay Area in 1999, etc. You might to sweat a little more than I did.)
posted by armchairsocialist at 9:33 PM on March 16, 2006

A bunch of my rellies from Ireland have come to Australia and done the backpacker/itinerant worker thing for a year -- working in pubs, fruit-picking, as cleaner in backpackers, whatever. Work for a while to save up some money, then hit the road again until it runs out. Repeat.
posted by robcorr at 12:57 AM on March 17, 2006

I know someone who is a trek leader for a tour company. In season, he lives out of the trek van. Out of season, he stays with buddies or travels. It works because he doesn't have an apartment or car or any real expenses, and all the money he makes can go to travel.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on March 27, 2006

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