So it was one evening when I was talking with a friend and the conversation went like, “I want to travel the world, but it’s expensive – very expensive. I’m still trying to pay my bills. Inasmuch as I would want to travel the world, I have to be very realistic as well.”
I smiled and said, “Well, it’s not that expensive if you know the tricks.”
I’m going to show you some of those tricks.
Just like my friend, I wanted to travel the world, but being Nigerian and having the sort of limitations that come with our green passport, travel became something that seemed far-fetched, and of course, it sounded very expensive. I had to think of hotel bills, flight tickets, extra cash, and every other expensive stuff that came with traveling, and when I look at my bank account balance and remember that the rent is almost due, I’ll sigh and say, “Perhaps, someday, when I make enough money, I’ll finally travel.”
But I finally got to realize that ‘someday’ almost never comes. There’ll always be bills to pay, emergencies that we didn’t plan for, and every other thing that will constantly tug at our pocket. So with this fact comes this very important question: At what point do you really make the decision to start living life beyond bills? This was also about the time when I stumbled upon a video which I’ll show you at the end of this article. I got to see that there were people like me who wanted to travel but had little or no money, but still made the decision to go despite having no money, and they’ve been able to travel to almost every country in the world.
So one day, I made up my mind, I packed my bag, left my city and started a solo trip across my country with just enough money to board a bus to my first destination. And after traveling across many states, with little or no cash, I realized that traveling is less about money and more about the heart. All you need is a little bit of courage to make the first step, the rest almost always falls in place.
Before we break down how to travel almost free, here are a few things to know before you start your journey:
- Get rid of fear! We are all told that the world is a dangerous place. At least, that’s what’s on the news all the time. We hear of bomb blasts and terrorist attacks. The truth however is that the world is more beautiful than ugly, and there are more good people than bad people. This was the reality I was confronted with when I visited Maiduguri, Bornu State Nigeria – a city regarded as home to the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Instead of seeing a city torn by bombs, I found it to be one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to in Nigeria, and I had so much fun there. You can read more about my experience in Maiduguri here. This is not to say that bad things don’t happen, they do. This is to say that sometimes, let go of your fear and have some faith.
- Prepare! Do your research. Have a plan. What cities are you visiting? What currency do they use? How do you get there? What’s the weather like? What kind of things should you pack inside your bag? Questions like that must be answered before you step out.
- Have the right mindset! A lot of people view travel as luxury. Yes, travel can be luxurious but more often than not, travel can break you. Just like Anthony Bourdain once said, “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
Alright, now let’s get the meat of the pie: How to travel the world almost for free! Two things make travel expensive: accommodation and transportation. The other factor is what I call ‘others’. They involve your feeding, and other expenses. Once you have sorted out the majors (accommodation and transportation), travel becomes a breeze. So in this article, we talk about how to take care of the two majors!
Are you ready? Okay, so let’s start with the first one:
- FFF: This means, Friends, Family and Friends of Friends/Family. This was the first route I took when I started traveling. All through my trip I only stayed at a hotel twice. For the rest, I stayed with family, friends and friends of friends. Once I’m headed to a new destination, I check through my contacts to see if I have a friend or relative that lives there. When I don’t, I simply ask my friends if they know anyone that may live there and wouldn’t mind me sleeping at their place for a night or two. Nine out of ten, someone I know would know someone.
- Couchsurfing: If you don’t know about this yet, this is a website that allows you to host travelers in your home. It also allows others to host you in their own home when you travel to their location. It’s like a social media for travelers. In 2019 I hosted my first couch surfer – a German lady, Brenda. The great thing about couchsurfing isn’t just that you get to stay in a home for free, but it gives you the opportunity to make new friends, and immerse yourself in the culture of your host. You also get to see some parts of the town that otherwise you may not have known if you weren’t a local.
- Good Samaritans: Sometimes, while on the road, engage with people sitting beside you. If you develop a connection with them, they can invite you to stay in their home.
- Airbnb: This is a cheaper alternative to hotels. Remember, the idea is to completely erase your spending on accommodation or at least reduce it to the barest minimum. Airbnb is an online marketplace that offers lodging, primarily homestays at very affordable prices.
- Barter: This is doing a service in exchange for lodging. You can work part-time at a lodging facility and they could offer you a room in exchange. Also if you own a platform like a travel blog, an Instagram account on travel with great engagement and following, you could offer to review a hotel in exchange for a night or two of free lodging. Remember, you must write them in advance before embarking on your trip.
I’ll start by saying this: my preferred method of traveling is via road trips. Not just because they are more affordable than flying, but because you really get to have a full experience of the journey. So let’s talk about how to minimize your transportation costs.
- Take road trips. I’ve already mentioned this. I know that sometimes long hours on the road can be pretty boring especially if there’s nothing really interesting to see, but you can combat that with good music, great conversation with other travelers, and even a good book (if the road is good to avoid hurting your eyes).
- Hitch a ride. I’ve done this, and it’s pretty cool. Of course, it has its disadvantages, but it’s a pretty cool way to travel free. You get to share stories with your driver and of course, create beautiful memories.
- Instead of always taking taxis, you can walk especially if you are trying to see city. You can also use less expensive rides like a tricycle.
Alright, there you have it! Of course, this is not exhaustive, but it’s good enough to get you started. Remember the video I told you about earlier? Here it is:
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you did, please leave a comment and tell us what you loved about it.