Today marks the seventh month that I have been abroad and living a life full of freedom and spontaneity. Of course everything these days requires money and many people have asked me how I’m able to keep travelling for so long, especially as I still expect to be abroad for at least the next 12 months. I can tell you I didn’t leave Australia with a massive fund backing me; in fact it was a final pay check from Outward Bound, the proceeds of selling my car and a few odd jobs here and there in the weeks before I left. Admittedly, I have a lot of family and friends throughout Europe, as well as dual citizenship so immediately, I have a distinct advantage over a lot of other long term travellers when it comes to visiting Europe. That being said, I still have tips to offer other travellers, just note that it’s a little easier for me based on my setup.
People speak to, read about or see photos of perpetual travellers and think that life is wonderfully carefree and easy. Of course, these are only the highlights that come across through social media or the Skype catch up sessions but perpetual travel is just like anything else; if you want it, you’re going to have to work for it. My life at the moment is incredible and liberating, but it certainly demands its fair share of work. It’s not just about how to make money, but also how to minimise your spending of it. Here I’ll go through what I’m currently doing on this trip, again with my tailored circumstances but will write another article soon on other ideas I have that will allow you to extend your trip.
I arrived into the UK on July 10th, 2014 where I spent the first few weeks visiting family for various birthdays and poking my head into say hello all around the country. The only thing I really knew was that I wanted to work in the Alps in a ski resort over the winter, about 4 months away and so this time was also spent making a vague plan as to what to do till then. In between appointments for setting up tax details and attending job interviews, I was free to disappear and do as I pleased. This started with trips to Ireland, Iceland and Scotland, all more or less cut short by having to return to the UK for an appointment in one form or another. Once I’d laid the groundwork for jobs, I was free to start sending my resume all over a foreign continent as well as explore wonderful places I had yet to visit.
How I’ve been saving money
When it comes to travelling, having a large amount of savings behind you isn’t always the best way to go about it. When you have a lot of money, you don’t mind spending it and the little bits and pieces eventually do add up. I suffered from this very early on in my trip with trains up and down the UK eating away at what little my money I had, and blowing a large quantity of cash in my first few nights in Dublin, where I feel my adventures actually began. A quick reflection on this and I realised that I would have to be a little smarter with my spending. I would say I’m far from stingy with my money, nor do I budget but I do try to make conscious decisions on the small things that add up. There are little shavings in a lot of areas you can make that will keep you going.
I purchased a one man tent shortly before leaving Australia as an investment. It would allow me to get out and have a lot of adventures throughout Europe, allow me to save on accommodation here and there and I’ll certainly get a lot of use out of it when I return home one day. Admittedly, you’re not likely to find a campsite for you to pitch a tent in a city like London (there’s always urban camping but I’ll leave that to another day) but Ireland, Iceland and Scotland all had plenty of places, both monitored and wild for me to spend the night, for far cheaper prices than a hostel. Once the winter set in, I was far less keen to camp out so I left my tent at my grandparents’ place and carried on trying to save some money. I replaced camping with budget hostels and staying with friends, as well as having a few Couchsurfing stays. For those who aren’t familiar with Couchsurfing, it is an online community of travellers who have a spare bed or couch they are willing to offer for a little while. It’s a great way to meet locals and expand your travel network. As far as budget hostels went, using sites such as hostelbookers.com and hostelworld.com and searching by price was relatively easy. After having spent 12 months working in the outdoors, any bed is a luxury for me so I’m not too picky, although I do check the location of the hostel and how easily accessible it is between transport hubs. Some hotels have a better atmosphere than others so it is nice to mix it up once in a while, but any hostel is a great place to meet people and enjoy yourself irrespective of price.
Not having any concrete plans or places to be allows transport to be very flexible and offers a great opportunity to save on certain fares. The internet is a beautiful thing, with there being a plethora of websites that compare and offer the cheapest prices. When it comes to flights, skyscanner.net and momondo.com are both excellent choices, although skyscanner offers a few more features helping to decide where to head to next. In the UK, thetrainline.com is a great way to compare rail fares, which combined with a 16-25 youth railcard, can save you a ton of cash. I managed to get a first class ticket from Crewe to Edinburgh down from £200 to £20 with this combination, as well as some special offer on at the time. thetrainline.com also has a European branch helping organise train tickets. I’ve only hitchhiked over relatively short distances but am pretty keen to try some bigger journeys and have yet to hear a bad review. I met a young German lass who hitchhiked everywhere and did so mostly with truckies. Her reasoning was that most trucks these days have GPS to ensure they are sticking to schedule and she’d been at it for months without any bad experiences so that might be something I venture towards in the future.
I’ve found a few ways to cut down costs on food throughout my trip. The first obvious one is to buy food in a supermarket and prepare it all yourself. Whether this be sandwiches or whipping up some pasta for dinner in the hostel, this definitely makes a huge difference. I still find myself eating out but there are a lot of places where it’s not too expensive. Eating in Germany for instance is ridiculously cheap, although so is everything I suppose. Occasionally I find myself combing two meals and turning it into a bigger one, saving a little bit of cash here and there. Another thing you can keep in mind when it comes to food is to look for food that is marked down late in the day: ready to go sandwiches in supermarkets, bread and rolls in bakeries and meat late at night. If you can manage to cut out, or at least back on your coffees and beers, you can save a lot more money than you may initially expect.
Finally, there are a lot of places that offer youth discounts. Sometimes this is based on age, whether you’re a student or even if you’ve just got yourself an International Youth Travel Card. These are quite easy to come across at a lot of STA travel agents but there are other providers as well. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask if there are any discounts available to young people, flash the required card and you’re good to go!
How I’ve been making money
I wouldn’t advise anyone to travel without a little bit of a savings fund behind them, even if it is just to last long enough to get your feet on the ground. For me, it allowed me to travel and explore a little bit before I needed to top up this fund and start working overseas. I would also recommend travelling with a credit card. I’m not saying you need to use it but it is also an excellent thing to have in the event something does go wrong, and you need to run to a safe place without worrying about funds. However, when this money started to run out, I knew it was time to look for work, ideally something with an adventure aspect to it as that is what I thoroughly enjoy. The beautiful thing about technology is you can do so much through the internet and there are tons of people making money with internet businesses whilst they travel. Hopefully I can delve into this a bit more with time but we’ll have to wait and see.
I was fortunate enough that I was able to do a little bit of work with my family on a temporary basis which helped in several ways. The first was that my costs were down because I was staying with family, the second was that it provided me more time to look for work that I would enjoy and support me more stably and thirdly, it helped put a little more money back into my travel fund. Whilst I was doing this work, and having been unsuccessful trying to get work on the slopes, I had to change tack. My back up plan was to work in a hostel somewhere in Europe, near enough that it would allow me to snowboard frequently. Not only does working in a hostel often mean that your accommodation is subsidised but it provides a great opportunity to meet tons of travellers. I managed to hit the jackpot whilst looking for work through a hostel forum, when I stumbled across a volunteer position working at a hostel in the north of Sweden. This position had the potential to become a tour manager, running Arctic Circle Tours including visits to the Icehotel, dog sledding and snowmobile tours, trips to the Norwegian fjords, BBQ nights and a sauna night involving a dip a frozen lake. Oh, and the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. ALL THE TIME! Not only this but accommodation was all included so I was happy to grind out the volunteer position and become a guide. Due to previous experience in the area, as well as my outdoor guiding back home, the day after finding out I’d been offered the position as a volunteer, I was called back and asked if I wanted to become a tour manager. I took up the position immediately and couldn’t wait to get into it.
Being a tour guide with Scanbalt Experience has been an incredible experience. I ended up working with them for 5 weeks straight, and effectively had no days off but I was doing something I thoroughly enjoyed and happy to work hard for. There was even a six week period in between stints to travel some more, which was great now that I had a lot more contacts. I went to sleep every night for probably the first 3 weeks with the biggest grin on my face, still coming to terms with the fact that I had landed such an amazing job. I got to play around in the Arctic, party it up with a new bunch of 50 international uni students every week and get to lie in amazement underneath the Northern Lights several times a week. Not only that but accommodation was included and I was even lucky enough to have some meals subsidised. I got to save money like crazy. In about two weeks I start up for my second stint in the Arctic and it can’t come quickly enough.
As for work beyond March, I’ve put out a few feelers, dabbling into some more tour guiding and outdoor adventure work for the summer. There will be travel, adventures and hard work at all stages but it’ll come, all in due time.
I find the concept of perpetual travel is about being switched on, having a general plan (as well as a couple of back ups) and keeping an eye on your funds. It doesn’t matter how you balance it all as everyone has a different way but this is the way I’m currently practising. I do have a lot of other alternative ideas as to how to do this, which I will happily share in due time. This is what I’ve done to get me to this point, but there will be a lot of adaptation and change to come, something which is nearly as exciting itself!