Sunday, March 20, 2016

Travel free - Is it joke or reality?

No, I don’t think anybody can travel free. It is simply not possible. I have searched lots of forums, blogs etc. and found people lying about the topic. Nobody really travels free. I feel amused when see headings like “Travel the World when you have absolutely no money”, “Ultimate Guide to Travel when you have no money”, and so on. They work, they do all sort of austerity to maintain a slim lifestyle during travel, slow living and other stuff, but never free. I travel solo, and have traveled to many places including overland traveling. I have seen lots of backpackers who lived a very austere life for their traveling passion. In a way that’s good, I don’t have any issue with that, but many bloggers show a far-fetched dream of traveling without money.

That being said, I also don’t like the idea of luxury traveling. It may be good for people who are not really enjoy traveling but try to escape from the monotony of the daily situation. Virtually they do exactly or expect to do the same thing in a different setting. That’s the idea of traveling for them. I am not here to do any critical analysis of traveling agendas of people. 

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There are two primary expenses: getting somewhere, and living there. Here I suggest certain budgetary plans, work plans in this topic and hope it will help people who are practical in their approach. These tips are not exclusive for backpackers but people who love to travel and at the same time engage in job, family and other things. Needless to say, these are not for luxury tourists, honeymooners and 4-5 days tourist trips. Lastly, these tips are for single people because I am not a family man and I don’t want to complicate the subject matter with my naivety.

Before Traveling

Start your planning early

First trip with most of the things borrowed (ignore the date)
We Indians have lots of obligations, even certain obligations, which are more of a burden than desirable duties. I generally plan my travel plans early in the year; destinations, travel budgets, days and job leaves.  Many people do cubicle jobs, some stay outside of their hometowns, so they need to manage time to visit their homes as well as fulfill their traveling ambition. So, the trick is, take your traveling seriously like any other job, and plan early.

Start a monthly saving scheme

Many travelers, backpackers suggest this method of saving a separate account for traveling. What I do, I open three recurring deposit account of 2000, 3000, 2000 at different periods of the year. In a year I get three good lump sum amounts to travel. If you have to travel by air and don’t want to empty your bank balance on airfare, I can also suggest you to book tickets on your credit card and ask your bank to convert it into monthly EMI. 

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Book early

It comes to the first point that is to plan early. If you have a clear idea where to go and when then it is better to book early your flight tickets.

Don’t book hotels

If you are not traveling to some exotic destination, you always find hotels no matter what is the season. Most of the cheap hotels or homestays do not advertise in internet, if you explore it well around the place, even in the most remote places of Himalayas, you can find accommodation.

During Traveling

Engage in money making process

This is for people who have left regular jobs for travel. If you don’t have a definite objective for travel, I suggest don’t just leave your money making process. No matter how romantic it sounds, at the end of the day, you will regret that you don’t have any money left. The situation of Indians and westerners are entirely different in terms of finance, social, cultural and personal will. If you write relatively okay, you can try your hand on different freelancing websites. Again, it is not an easy way to do it. Apparently, it seems very rosy to do freelance writing, earn and travel, but trust me, I am in this field for 6 years,  it is not. In India nobody pays you.

If you have facility to do work from home, you can give a try in your office. Small companies generally don’t mind to cut your salary and give you work from home for a definite period of time, so you can try that option.

If you have some special skills that can fetch you some money, you can do it.

a) Open a shop in eBay – It sounds ludicrous but people earn through it. There are number of people who are interested in postage stamps, coins, comics, old books etc. if you have something, you can start a shop, selling those stuff. Needless to say, if you are a hobbyist, this selling thing is not for you.

b) Day trading – If you have a relatively good idea about equity market, you can earn some money through day trading. The fun part is you can earn lots of money both when the market is up and market is down. There is a risk factor involved in day trading, so if you are not experienced, don’t do it.

c) Use your professional skills – If you are good in finance, you can search for auditing firm or CA firm or similar business and ask for a freelance financial analysis job for you. I know it is extremely difficult in terms of credibility, but if you have a good resume, it might possible you would land up with good job. If you have a skill in photography, you can ask for freelance projects from small companies.

d) Learn new language – For a long-term travel plan, you need to be very specialized in your profession. For example, if you plan to leave your job after two years and travel itinerantly, learning extensive language course would be a great idea. You find lots of opportunities like translator, tour guide, interpreter, language instructor etc. Money is good and it gives you lots of flexibility.

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Walk more, use public transport

In almost every place, public transports are the cheapest way to travel. If you are not traveling in scorching summer, you can walk. I walked in Bangkok every day; in fact, I walked almost 25 km whole day and then returned back by ferry. So, walking gives you a certain amount of joy, know the place more, explore things better and it’s free.

Free Food

Well, I never tried it because I never had to. However, you can if you think living such an austere life is an adventure so as to sleep on rugs and eat free lunch. There are many ashrams, churches and of course Gurudwaras where you can look for free food. 

Make lots of networking, be an extrovert

Networking helps to find free accommodation, at least for couple of days. Find all friends from schools, colleges, universities and even offices and start connecting them through Facebook, Whatsapp and all possible ways. To have a good public relation is a great way to do lots of work. You can engage in travel groups, both locally and internationally and start interacting with people more often. Only thing one should remember, people are no stupid, so don’t try to push things in groups, be honest and be what you are. Ironically, humans are fond of honest people.

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FAM trips

I am not a big fan of FAM or Familiarization Trips that are offered by travel agents to give information and content for definite destinations. Reason for not being a big fan is these tour agents look for established players who already have earned good reputation in the blogging world. I got twice these types of trip offer but when I thought about it, I denied because I didn’t want to stay in a resort and do some stupid activities and write about it. Which traveler wants to be dictated on terms of travel agents?!?! Honestly, if I get something that blends with my traveling agenda, well, free trips are always welcome.

Staying in camps

I do it always when I travel in Himalayas. Northern Himalayas and villages are quite hospitable towards backpackers, and though there are rules not to camp anywhere in India, you can always do it. However, this point won’t go with the very first one to engage in freelance work while traveling. You can’t camp in the middle of a village or town, you have to go outside or stay in the forest where in all possible ways,  you won’t find any internet.


Traveling free is not possible, but yes you can do a lot more shoestring than you anticipate, only thing is the courage and inclination to do that.  If you leave everything and dedicate a period of time for traveling, I think you must have courage to ask hotels, hostels, restaurants and all odd places to ask for free things in exchange of work.  If you have a rich parent who's for some bizarre reason ready to sponsor your travel, then it is entirely a different thing.

If you have any suggestions/tips/invaluable advice, please share it in the comment.

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