Do you dream of globetrotting, but worry about the high costs? Take heart: There are many ways to see the world for free.
Some of these opportunities require only an adventurous spirit and a little advance planning. Others demand you do a little work in exchange for your room and board.
Regardless of which opportunity you choose, you will have a chance to tap into the life-changing experiences that only travel can provide.
Following are five ways you can cut out most or all of your expenses when traveling.
Couchsurfing International has created a global network of hosts that enables you to stay for free in someone’s home. Some 14 million people in 200,000 cities make up the Couchsurfing International community.
A trade-off to free lodging through couchsurfing is that you must be open to sleeping on various forms of beds. In some cases, a host may put you up in a spare room with an actual bed. In other cases, you might be sleeping on an air mattress or a couch.
GlobalFreeloaders.com is another organization that enables you to stay for free in someone’s home. However, unlike with Couchsurfing International, you must agree also to host travelers in your own home. In other words, you can’t just be a guest in other people’s homes and never host someone in your home.
2. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF, is a movement that stemmed from one woman’s desire to feel part of country life by offering free labor to organic farms in exchange for free room and board.
The Federation of WWOOF Organizations, or FoWO, is a global network of 42 national groups. It promotes the WWOOF movement, including by providing information about how “WWOOFing” works and by helping national WWOOF groups pair volunteers with organic farmers across the globe.
“WWOOF is a cultural exchange,” FoWO’s website explains. “We have lists of organic growers and farmers who need help in many countries — and people who are willing to offer it in return for food, accommodation and the opportunity to learn about a different way of life.”
While room and board is free for volunteers, they must pay a subscription fee to go WWOOFing in each country they visit. It ranges from $0 to $72.
Typically, volunteers work four to six hours each day. They spend two to three weeks on a farm, on average, but stays can be as short as two days and as long as six months.
Volunteers do a variety of tasks and learn farming fundamentals like bread making, cheese making, animal milking and how to create mud bricks. FoWO says volunteers may also learn how to sow seed, prepare compost, harvest and garden, among other skills.
HomeExchange allows you to swap your abode with someone else’s. In essence, they stay at your place while you vacation at theirs.
On the organization’s website, you can browse available homes. When you find one you like, use the site’s messaging system to contact the owner and arrange the exchange.
You must pay an annual membership fee of $150 to join HomeExchange, although there is a free 14-day trial. The site promises “no hidden fees,” and members can do as many exchanges as they want.
HomeExchange offers more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries. A member of a family from Norway that has been involved in nine exchanges writes:
“I think one of the best things about swapping houses, in addition to being economical, is that it provides many opportunities to stay in real neighborhoods. … We meet everyday people who live in the area and not just tourists, and have life experiences we would not have had otherwise.”
4. United Nations
The United Nations Volunteers program, or UNV, is looking for people to volunteer in many of the 130 countries the U.N. serves. According to the UNV website, “Assignments can involve contributing to technical cooperation with governments, community-based initiatives, humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and electoral and peace-building processes.”
Most volunteer assignments are based on six-month to one-year renewable contracts with the expectation that a volunteer will serve for at least one year.
UNV notes that “the key benefit of being a UN Volunteer is the personal satisfaction the volunteer assignment brings you as you make a positive impact on peace and development.” However, the program provides volunteers multiple financial benefits during their assignments, including a monthly volunteer living allowance, annual leave and medical insurance.
Note that UNV is looking for specific qualities in volunteers. At a minimum, volunteers are required to have a university degree or higher technical diploma, have at least two years of relevant work experience and be at least 25 years old. The program is especially interested in volunteers with specific professional backgrounds.
5. Peace Corps
One of the oldest and best-known ways to travel for free, the Peace Corps is for folks who are interested in a lot more than a mere vacation. Signing up for this program generally means committing to a two-year stint in a developing nation.
While the work is challenging, it also can be immensely rewarding. Bettie Anderson left her home in Virginia to join the Peace Corps — at age 73. The volunteer said of her decision to spend two years in the African nation of Botswana:
“When we are blessed to have some longevity and our health, I believe that we are to use these gifts to be of service to others. The Peace Corps is a great option for those who have a little adventure in their heart, and service at home is good for those who want to serve in the area that they live.”
Peace Corps volunteers receive various financial benefits, including free transportation to and from the country where they are volunteering, a housing and a living stipend, paid vacation time, and medical and dental benefits.
After their stints, volunteers receive more than $8,000 to help them transition back to life at home. “This money is yours to use as you wish,” the Peace Corps website says.
The Peace Corps is also open to more people than the United Nations Volunteers program. The minimum age for volunteers is 18, for example.
Its website continues, “The Peace Corps actively recruits Americans with a wide variety of experience, ages, and perspectives so we can share our nation’s greatest resource — its people — with the communities we serve.”
Do you know of other ways to travel internationally for free? Share them by commenting below or on our Facebook page.