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  • Writer's pictureDorien Scheets


Ditch the Debt, Embrace the Globe: How to Travel Abroad for Free (or Almost!)

Calling all wanderlusters, globetrotters, and budget-conscious explorers! Tired of staring longingly at travel brochures while your bank account sings the blues? I was, too.

I always hear my friends telling me, "Dorie, this sucks! All I want to do is travel and I just don't have enough money." For the longest time, I felt the exact same way. I didn't go anywhere because I felt like:

A) I didn't have the money to travel luxuriously, which is how lots of travel influencers have told us we need to travel

B) I felt like throwing up every time I saw a $2,000 price tag on a round-trip ticket to pretty much anywhere beyond a 1,000 mile radius from home

C) There must not be any opportunities out there for free, cheap, or even paid travel because I've never heard of anyone doing that

Then I realized that none of those things are actually true. In fact, sometimes all it takes is a little creativity and research to find free, almost-free, or even paid travel opportunities--and ones that you can feel good about. Gone are the days when globetrotting was reserved for trust-fund babies and frequent flyer miles hoarders. The internet has opened a treasure trove of opportunities to experience new cultures, indulge in stunning landscapes, and maybe even learn a new language – all without breaking the bank. 

In this article, I'm going to take you lovely humans on a deep dive with me into the exciting world of free (or nearly free) travel abroad. Think of this like your cheat codes to unlock the secret world of budget-friendly travel, that just so happens to be a lot more ethical in the long run. So ditch the despair, because the world awaits, and you don't need to win the lottery to explore it. Buckle up, babes, its about to get epic.

Volunteer Your Way Around the World:

  • WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms): Trade your muscles for meals and accommodation on farms across the globe. Imagine waking up to breathtaking mountain views, helping with harvest, and enjoying farm-fresh meals at sunset – all for free! You do have to pay to get to the farm, but once you are there, everything else is covered! WWOOF has opportunities available in 130 countries around the world, with over 12,000 hosts and 100,000 WWOOFers(Check out WWOOF here.)

  • Volunteer Programs: From wildlife conservation in Africa to teaching English in Thailand, there are countless volunteer opportunities that cover your accommodation and meals, sometimes even flights! Research organizations like GoAbroad or Projects Abroad to find your perfect fit. See my recent post about my favorite volunteering platforms here.

Work Your Way Through Wanderlust:

  • Teaching English Abroad: Dust off your grammar skills and use them to travel! Programs like TEFL: can equip you with the necessary certifications to teach English in countries all over the world. Not only will you earn, but you'll immerse yourself in the local culture.

    • Some countries even have government-funded programmes that will pay you to come teach English, event without a prior TEFL certification. For example, Spain has an English assistant programme that I'm planning to apply to this winter that offers a monthly stipend of 800 to 1000 euros (depending on where you're working) and medical insurance.

  • Work Exchange Programs: This is sort of like volunteering in some respects, but instead of working on primarily social programmes, you're usually trading a few hours of work (think 25-30 hours per week) for free accommodation and board in hostels, guesthouses, or even farms (options are literally endless, including volunteering at wildlife preserves, building eco-communities, teaching English, helping out with cleaning or social media tasks). WorldPackers is one of my absolute favorite work exchange platforms and has options to go it alone, or even bring your best friend or partner with you!

  • Explore a Working Holiday Visa: There are a whole slew of countries offering opportunities to young travelers looking to make some money while exploring a new country. A working holiday visa is a special visa for young adults aged 18-30, and sometimes 35, that allows visa holders to move to a country for six months to a year and work part-time while traveling. It's a way for people to support themselves while temporarily living and exploring a new place! Some working holiday visas even allow people to study while visiting or extend it for another 6-12 months or longer. 

    • To see all the countries that offer working holiday visas, check out this interactive map.

Become a Hospitality Hero:

  • House Sitting: Animal lovers rejoice! Look after adorable pets and cozy homes while their owners are away. Websites like TrustedHousesitters and HouseCarers connect you with homeowners seeking responsible pet sitters. Free accommodation, anyone?

  • Hostel Work: Swap sightseeing for dishwashing and dorm-making in exchange for free stays at hostels. This is a great way to meet fellow travelers and get insider tips on hidden gems in the city. Check out hostel websites or job boards like Hostelworld:

Think Like a Savvy Traveler:

  • Travel Hacking: Master the art of accumulating travel rewards points through credit cards, airline loyalty programs, and travel hacking websites. My favorite team that makes travel hacking feel manageable are the Travel Hacking Moms--check out their site here. You might be surprised at how quickly those free flights and hotel stays can rack up!

    • I booked my first solo trip to Croatia for practically free by using credit card points.

  • Couchsurfing: Stay with locals for free – and gain invaluable cultural insights – through platforms like Couchsurfing. I've never personally used this platform but have heard from tons of people that they've had great experiences. As always, especially if you're a female solo traveler, remember to prioritize safety and responsible hosting.

  • Freelance on the Go: If you have marketable skills like writing, graphic design, or virtual assistance, offer your services online and work remotely while you travel. Platforms like Upwork and Fiverr can connect you with potential clients. A slightly more informal platform that feels more suitable for things like private tutoring or private yoga lessons is Superprof. My husband uses this and has had some success!

    • You can also teach English online 100% digitally! In this option, you're not tied down to any one place or location, so it offers the benefits of full flexibility. Some places you can teach online are:


  • Do your research: Every program and opportunity has its own requirements and expectations. Read reviews, compare options, and make sure they align with your goals and budget.

  • Start small: Don't be overwhelmed by the possibilities. Begin with a shorter trip or volunteer program to test the waters before embarking on a grand adventure.

  • Embrace flexibility: Be open to unexpected detours and unplanned adventures. Sometimes, the best travel experiences are the ones you don't plan for!

So, what are you waiting for? The world is your oyster – and you don't need a pearl necklace to open it. With a little creativity, resourcefulness, and an open mind, you can embark on the adventure of a lifetime without emptying your bank account. Pack your bags, choose your path, and get ready to experience the world in a whole new way!

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