Many people I know (including myself) have asked, wondered and googled how to travel without Money and since 5 years ago I decided to stop Googling and try it out myself I reckon some people would like to know how it went and whether it’s worth it or not.
Spoiler: I didn’t die.
Before we get to the nitty gritty of how to travel without Money (and the Photography, of course), it may help to give you some background on how and why I decided to do so.
At the end of 2014 I was Broke. As. Fuck. and after working 4 months as an Au Pair in Dorset, because it was the only way to leave Italy without spending a fortune, I moved to London, since
I always wanted to I was in love with a girl who lived there. Being a broke ass bitch I couldn’t afford the deposit or rent for a normal place, so I had to compromise and move to a massive house with about 50 people in it. It was a bit of a long term hostel, bit a squat, bit a commune, bit a family. All I knew back then is that rent was 75£ a week and that was pretty much all I could afford at the time. I would’ve never expect that what I thought was just a shithole would’ve changed my view on life and opened my mind so much.
That place is called Laings and there I’ve met the people I still consider my second family and are my friends for life. Some of these people (mostly the Aussies and the Kiwis) were staying in Laings to live cheap in London, save money and as a base to backpack around Europe every now and then.
These guys had the most amazing travel stories: they wouldn’t stop talking about adventures in Asia, surfing in Bali, working in Hostels in South America, road tripping around Europe, going from Festival to Festival on converted vans, and all that cool stuff.
Now you might agree that when you’re a dude from a small, close minded Sicilian town at his first experience abroad, you might find the idea of doing that weird but also pretty fucking awesome. Especially if you grew up with the mentality that there’s no such thing as travelling without money and that holidays are for the rich and wealthy. So after 6 miserable months working in retail for a
slaver small business owner, on inhuman minimum wage and getting fired for not ironing my shirt (yes, true story). I woke up on my first day as a jobless bum, turned my laptop on, Booked a 1 way ticket to Pula (Croatia) and went back to sleep. I woke up again and realised what I just did: I was going to be in in Pula 2 weeks later, attend my first music festival in Zagreb (alone) and then had no clue of what was gonna happen with my life after. That kinda freaked me out but hey, it was too late I guess.
Ok, you made a few friends, took a few risks, yadda yadda yadda… Did you actually do this thing without $$? AND HOW?? I wanna go and see the Taj Mahal and my bank account is emptier than a Flat Earther’s skull.
Yes, I did! I managed to travel through 5 countries for about 2 months with a few hundred pounds. Here are a few pictures and a few tips on how to do it, based on my Experience.
1. Sleep Cheap
Guess how much I spent in accommodation in total during those 2 months? 0. Zero. Nada!! And
I didn’t sleep rough on the street I did actually, 1 night in Rome on a sidewalk. But thanks to websites like Couchsurfing and Trustroots I always found a roof. When I couldn’t find any host on these websites I would reach out to friends I knew from the cities I was visiting and ask if they knew someone there with a spare couch, post desperately on Facebook groups or just ask people I met when travelling. I had a great chat with this chap before we both took a nap on two benches in Rome.
There’s something magic about taking risks, it somehow always works out well: When I arrived in Marseille and got no replies on Couchsurfing I started to freak out, I thought I was going to sleep on the streets (and Marseille ain’t Disneyland). So I asked on a Facebook group if someone could help me and got a message with an address to go and stay at. Turns out the place I was going to wasn’t a house but a hitchhikers’ squat. That was a turning point for me as I spent more than a week there and basically took a mini-degree in Nomadism: I met the people who inspired me to keep going and travel for free. This amazing guy called Igor (aka The Russian) told me how he’d spent the previous 6 years on the road and how he relied mostly on hitchhiking, squatting and dumpster diving. Which means he spent 6 years moving, sleeping and eating for free across all the continents. I will never forget how impressed I was when I realised he was the happiest person I had met in my life. His stories inspired me and other guests (we are all still in touch) to push ourselves and try hitchhiking and spend as little as we could.
2. Move Cheap
Even though I got the ride from Zagreb to Trieste I got serious about hitchhiking after learning everything on the topic from Igor in Marseille. This guy really pushed me and the others to give it a go and take the risk, as well as giving us tons of advices. Well, guess what? It worked. I hitched my way from Marseille to Aix en Provence and then to Grenoble, Lyon, Cologne and Hamburg. Hitchhiking ain’t easy though, you need to pick a decent spot, dress accordingly and even choose what to write on your hitchhiking sign depending on the country and culture (You’re in France? Add SVP, short for S’il vous plait, be polite). It’s all about increasing the chances of someone picking you up and since travellers and Nomads are all about community and sharing we have an amazing resource for this: Hitchwiki: The hitchhiker’s guide to the best points of entry and exit of all the major cities, how to move around and general advice. They also organise hitchhiking races and if you want to go from point A to point B and add a bit of competiton to your travels!
3. Eat Cheap
“But Davide, I fucking hate McDonald’s!!!”
Thank fuck you do, cause it’s shite. When I say eat cheap I don’t mean eat crap. There are several ways to eat real cheap or for free. My first night in Marseille Igor told me: “We’re going to the supermarket to get some food. Wanna come?” As I approached the supermarket doors he laughed at me and said: “What are you doing? Come with me”. He took me back to the bins and started going through them. I found it gross and disgusting at first but you have no idea how much good food we waste in the western world. My disgust was replaced by surprise and then anger (and then disgust again) when I realised that there was tons of good food, not expired, perfectly sealed in plastic thrown in the bins. There are people starving out there and we produce more than we need to and bin it. Well. fucking. done, Society.
Don’t feel like dumpster diving? Fair enough, I did it just that time and although is a great way to make up for how much we’re wasting I doubt I’ll do it often so here are some alternatives:
Karma Kitchen: Restaurants offering free food, the bill is always 0.00 you decide whether you want to leave some money so they can keep buying food and feeding people.
Ligging: You know, people throw parties and events with free food all the time… A ligger is a person who hangs out at these places just to take advantage and get some free yums. That’s easy in big cities: Go on Eventbrite, filter by “free” and check if there are events that offer free food or have a reception. Dress accordingly and go have a feast.
Table Diving: A bit like dumpster diving, this is more of a last resort thing but if you walk around touristy areas full of restaurants you might see people leave some stuff untouched on their tables and if you’re smooth enough and avoid getting noticed you can grab a bit of what’s on the plate and have a munch.
Ask: If you don’t ask you don’t get. Go to bakeries around closing time and ask if they have any leftover pastries or bread they are going to throw away and see if they’re nice enough to offer you some. Life pro tip: If you ask for something always smile and give a reason. Research shows that simply smiling and adding a “Because…” with a valid reason after asking for something dramatically increases the chances to get a yes as a reply.
Just Save: If you’re broke and in Paris, don’t fucking go get a cheeseboard and a fancy wine. There are supermarkets, be smart and spend accordingly to your budget: Get some bread, tinned food, veggies and fruits and you’ll have a proper meal without breaking the bank. Tip: Slow digesting proteins like the ones in legumes will keep you full and satiated for long periods of time (and are healthy). Drink plenty of water as well.
4. Make Some Money
If you have any valuable skills that would allow you to work while travelling go for it. You can code, teach, work as a digital marketer, customer support agent, PA, Sales Exec, Business Developer etc. remotely. If you look up remote work on the major job search engines you will find plenty of opportunities. Some websites also specialise in this: (e.g. remote.co). If you don’t want to work for others and prefer to freelance then check out platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. There are also plenty of platforms where you can teach English to foreigners on video calls and get a good pay.
If you have a talent you can busk on the streets. However don’t busk or beg for money in poorer countries, especially if you could afford not to. Asking for money to people who need it more than you do It’s a dick move, more so if you do it just ’cause you’re on the “gap Yah” and want to post on insta how Kool you are ’cause you’re travelling without money even if Mummy and Daddy could send you a few grand in seconds without problems.
And Remember: Safety First.
It’s important to watch out. Even though I spent barely any money and managed to visit a lot of amazing places, I had a little emergency safety fund of around 500£ in a card (all my savings lol). Fun fact: I lost that card in Berlin and had to make my way from Berlin to Sicily without that little safety net and I need to confess that it kinda felt scary. Make sure you also have travel insurance to cover injuries or illnesses. In Europe we are lucky and don’t need one but is important you get one if you plan to stay far away from home for a while. Always make sure you check whether a place you are going to is safe or not and try not to hitchhike, sleep rough or flash valuables in dodgy places where people would literally kill you for a piece of bread.
Something good will come out of it
Going on an adventure is leaving your comfort zone and whether it’s meeting some new people, discovering new places, finding new opportunities, whenever you push your limits and take risks the universe will reward you! Be bold and brave and most importantly give back when you can. The first thing I did when coming back from this trip was to offer other hitchhikers and nomads to stay at my house while I was there. I picked them up, showed em around, went sightseeing and really enjoyed watching some of the close minded people from my small hometown in shock when they saw these two Polish girls with dreadlocks walking around barefoot and hanging out with a local. It was a beautiful reminder of how much travelling can open your mind and staying still and conforming can turn you into a frustrated twat.
Four years later that trip also gave me the opportunity to Exhibit at ARTeria gallery in Barcelona and tell this same story through my photographs, few more snaps in the gallery below 😉
Have you ever gone on an adventure with zero or very low budget? Would you like to try or are thinking about it? Post a comment, share your story or ask your question! 🙂 If you know someone who would enjoy or benefit from this article, please share it!