When you picture somebody living for free around the world, what do you see? Is it a hippy planting trees and living in a tent or run-down shack? Or a down-on-their-luck hobo with dirt under their fingernails and a long face to match, sleeping on whatever charitable couches are offered to them?
What if I told you that there is a whole world of free accommodation that has nothing to do with being a bum? That you could stay in palatial accommodation – for free – in some of the most desirable destinations, sometimes simply for checking the mail and watering the plants?
Or that you can tap into a local culture and make new friends and do some volunteer good while you’re at it?
Or that you could sail the world at large – for free?
It’s true. Free accommodation isn’t just for bums.
I’m a Professional Hobo, But I’m Not a Bum.
The following is an excerpt from the popular e-book How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World:
In 2006, I sold everything I owned (including a busy financial planning practice) to embrace my lifelong dreams of traveling the world, long-term and intensively. I had no idea where I would go, what I would do, how long I could make my money last, and if there was any way to earn income along the way. I just knew I had to go.
Through extensive research, networking, and a bit of serendipity, I stumbled on various ways to get free accommodation; I started with volunteering (Part 1) and couch surfing (Part 3). Over time I discovered house-sitting (Part 2), and even the extensive world of getting free accommodation on boats (Part 4) when I sailed the Caribbean for a few months.
The only thing I haven’t tried myself (but which is very similar to house-sitting) are home ex- changes. (But don’t worry, I cover this too, in Part 5.)
The Money I’ve saved with free accommodation
When I commit to something, I commit. For the entire year of 2011, every single day of which I was traveling (since I have no home to speak of), I spent $173 on accommodation. Not per night, or per month – that was for the entire year. (And it was for two nights at the Hilton in Stockholm as a treat).
The only money I ever spend on accommodation is either:
- Staying in hostels or hotels between free accommodation gigs
- Renting an inexpensive place in a country where the cost of living is (usually) cheaper
Here are my approximate accommodation expenses in my first six years of full-time travel:
So for most entire years of accommodation expenses, I’ve spent less money than many people would spend on one month of accommodation.
If we assumed that it would cost approximately $1,000/month (sometimes less, usually more) for housing expenses in most developed cities, then between 2007 and 2012 I saved over $63,500 in accommodation expenses.
This is not only why I’m the free accommodation guru, but also why I have successfully made full-time travel financially sustainable.
Intrigued? Check out the book How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World here!
What You Have to Do in Trade For Free Accommodation
There are no rules when it comes to the tasks required for free accommodation. I’ve done a variety of jobs in trade for free accommodation over the years, including:
- Designing marketing plans for a hostel in Hawaii
- Checking the mail and simply keeping an eye on a house in Zurich and cottage in the Swiss Alps
- Taking care of the dog at a Caribbean beachside resort
- Cooking delicious food at a retreat centre in New Zealand
- Keeping a dog, cat, and bird company in a mansion in Panama, with full staff on-hand to do all the work
…and much, much more.
The Art of Financially Sustainable Travel
I like lobster – and I eat it when I want it. Techniques like getting free accommodation are a scientific means to an end – one of financially sustainable travel – which I do in style, thank you very much.
The two main components of financially sustainable travel are:
- Keeping travel expenses down – or at least keeping your expenses in line with:
- Earning an income along the way
Keeping Travel Expenses Down
You can keep your travel expenses down by:
- Traveling slowly (the less you move, the less you spend)
- Using cheap transportation hacks (and again, I’m not talking about hitching free rides; when I fly, it’s in business class for less than the price of equivalent economy tickets – here’s how I do it)
- And of course, by enjoying free accommodation.
Earning Income Along the Way
There is a myriad of ways to earn money on the road, from location independent businesses (of which there are dozens of options), to using working holiday visas, working on boats, teaching English, being an au pair, teaching at international schools, implementing your greatest creative business idea, and much much more.
I’ll be releasing a guide to Working on the Road in the next few months (more on that soon), but in the meantime, whet your tastebuds with this collection of resources from around the web to get you started:
For more information about how you can enjoy free accommodation around the world, check out Nora’s jam-packed resource:
Nora also wrote the book Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination, about some of the world’s most famous and epic train journeys and what it’s like to ride 42,000 kilometres of trains through 11 countries in a total of 44 days.