People who know me know I love travelling. Whenever I’m in one place for a few months, I start to get the urge to move on. Sometimes I fight it for a year or two but mostly I decide that life is short and the world is large, and I want to be out exploring it. Some people sigh and say, “Oh, I wish I could afford to travel.” I want to shake them and say, “But you CAN!” Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve spent much less in the last three months of exploring Latin America (having the time of my life, I might add) than I would in three months of normal living expenses in Vancouver. Here’s a few tips.

By far the easiest way to travel is to base the trip around a visit to someone you know. If you have a friend who has relocated for work or settled somewhere far away, they might be delighted to have a visitor from home! Bring a couple of bottles of wine or some local food product you think they might miss, and explore their town for a week. You get the benefits of a host, a friendly face, and possibly a tour guide when they’re not at work.

If you don’t know anyone to host you, sign up for couchsurfing (free accommodation in strangers’ houses), workaway (pay for a membership and get access to free volunteer opportunities around the world), or WWOOF (pay for a membership in the country of your choice and get access to free farm-based volunteer opportunities). If you’re volunteering, in exchange for a few hours of work a day, you’ll get meals and a place to stay, and you can explore a new region in your spare time. Many workaway and WWOOF hosts accept families, so if you have a teenager who wishes you could afford to send her to horse camp, two weeks volunteering on a ranch in northern BC might be the vacation of her dreams, while saving you money and letting the whole family explore and learn together.

If you decide against staying in someone’s home or volunteering, don’t forget that camping is possible almost everywhere in the world. Ellen and I strapped tents, sleeping bags, and mats to the sides of our backpacks. In a hostel in Costa Rica, we saved about $10 a day by staying in tents rather than in dorm rooms, and we had more privacy as well. You might find strangers on the bus offer to let you put up your tent in their yard, or can recommend free sites nearby. Talk to locals and you’ll meet lots of people who want to help you on your way. Some will even ask you to house sit for them or insist on buying you lunch in exchange for hearing your travel or life stories. Most people you meet are genuinely kind and interested in helping you have the best experience possible in their area.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how to travel more cheaply. If you stay at a hostel, ask the hosts or other travellers where you can visit on a tight budget. Some hostels will let you stay for free if you help out, or at a discount if you’re staying for more than a couple of days. Check the internet for free activities – sometimes beautiful parks cost little or nothing to visit and are full of local wildlife and birds. Also, don’t overlook the advice of travel agents. By going into a travel agency rather than buying tickets online, you might save hundreds of dollars. Agents can recommend a cheaper airport to fly out of or into, an equally nice destination at half the price, or a better travel date than what you were planning. If you’re going overseas, you can save hundreds by waiting to book a tour until you arrive in-country. You can get tickets for tours directly from the tour operator or from a local travel agent or hostel, and not have to pay a middleman in your own country.

Lastly, take advantage of unexpected, or even bad events in your life to find a way to travel. Are you having to move because your landlord sold your place? Maybe you could put your stuff in a storage locker and take a vacation with no rent to pay while you’re gone. Ditto with a breakup – rather than moving in with friends or parents while you get over it, hop on a plane and distract yourself with a vacation. When I broke my wrist and spent a few weeks on Worker’s Compensation, I was able to save money on rent by watching a friend’s house. I used the savings to travel without interrupting my career because it was already on hold due to the injury. A bad situation can be the trigger for a wonderful life change.

There are hundreds of other ways to save money on travel, but these are my main tips. Overall, if it’s something you dream of doing, there will be a way. I hope you find it!

Beaches like this are just waiting for you!

Beaches like this are just waiting for you!

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