“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage….”
I’m Bunzy, a day-dreamer from Malaysia but basically living wherever I can except my home country. I have a wild passion in getting lost on this place called Earth, meeting new people and learn more on living in different cultures. I love to stay with a local’s home and work with/for them, or sometimes I may even be teaching English in local village school or doing summer camps….for free!
Planning for next destinations, booking of transportation, or simply looking for hosts to stay or work with, have been my life for a long long time, and I would never want this wanderlust life of mine to end. Trust me, I can never understand how people can save so much, travel for a year or two, and then…..back to 9-5 job? ? Trust me again, it’s been a long long time since my bank account has $1,000 in it and I’ll likely die of boredom to be stuck at one job for life.
So here comes the magic question: How do I afford to travel constantly?
Truth is, travel does cost money. So, without savings and without a full time job, how can I still able to travel most of the time? ?
Having jobs that you love
NOOOOOOO, I am not completely jobless nor some Asian Rich Girl! I work really, really hard for all my employers. During my preferred working season, I scheduled myself to work almost 7-days a week, about 7-12 hours per day. Some fun jobs I had: lifeguard, theme-park rides operator, camp facilitator, high ropes instructor, kayaking assistant, events coordinator, games master, barrister, fruit picker, reception at hostels, pet-sitter, tour-guiding, English teacher, activity instructor on cruise ship and so on. These jobs motivate me to work longer hours because I don’t feel stuck in one place and some surprisingly pay quite well. In this way, I can happily work for full 2-3 months and travel until…..my budget runs out! Moreover, these skill-based jobs allow me to work anywhere in the world!
Life Motto: Work hard, travel harder
Booking of transportation
I love to travel, but I truly dislike flying! But as lucky as it sounds, most of my contract jobs include return flight tickets, which give me the choice of flying anywhere after each season *WHEEEEEE*! At other times, I will always choose land or sea transport over air. Nevertheless, I do sign up for airlines newsletter to keep myself updated on all the promotions. One of my favourite pastimes is to browse through Skyscanner and Secret Flying, allowing me to randomly choose my next destination based on cheap flights.
Be hardworking and keep track of your flight prices at least 3-months in advance. Wake up at random timing to check on last minute deals (only if you are flexible to fly at short notice), and always use incognito page!a
Hostelworld: My favourite app to book hostels/guesthouses from all over the world. Hostel per night not more than $15, accessible location (means I can walk or take public transport to get there) and reasonably good reviews are good enough for me.
Couchsurfing/ Female travel groups on Facebook: Not only having free accommodation, you get to make new friends too! Doing Couchsurfing also means that you get insider tips on where to shop cheap and eat at authentic places, and pay local entrance fees if you get lucky! During my Europe trip after pandemic, I found an all-female hosting page on Facebook and it was so easy to find hosts most of the time!
Workaway: The best is having a job which provide you with accommodation so you can go rent-free! Workaway is a platform allowing you to “earn” your accommodation (and most of the time your meals) in exchange for working for your host a couple of hours day. Some of the interesting “jobs” I did was teaching English in Mongolia and Cambodia, hosteling in Egypt and Bulgaria, to simply house-sitting in New Zealand.
Ultimate accommodation saving: Take overnight train/bus when travelling intercity or crossing overland borders. Sleep at airport or train station if you have a super early flight or train to catch, or arrive in the middle of the night.
A country can be so big you can’t possibly explore every place in one trip! I like the idea of going back to the same country exploring new hidden gems. Being able to stay with the locals, to experience their culture, to live like them are the best experiences. I don’t understand the concept of being the fastest or youngest to travel around the world.
By spending a quality amount of time in a place, I believe it actually help by spending less on unnecessary mainstream stuff like what a tourist would do or buy. Plus, I will have more time to find free things to do! Most of the time I stay as long as my visa expires or my budget used up, whichever that comes first.
Spend like a local
As a tourist, you tend to spend generously because you have the mentality of: “everything is so cheap here, so just get it!”, or “I won’t be coming back again, so just spend the money and do it.”
As a frugal backpacker, I set my budget based on the local’s living of standard: choosing to dine where it’s full of locals instead of foreigners, taking public transport because one trip of cab fare can allow me to take multiple bus/metro trips. Most of the times, I prefer shopping from vendors who can’t speak English well rather than bargaining with English-speaking vendors. This all goes back to slow travelling.
Go against the norm
Avoid popular destinations for Summer, avoid the capitals and big cities’ tourist traps. Wherever the norm go, I head the opposite. No doubt flights are cheaper flying into the capitals or big cities, but that doesn’t means you need to just stay there! Wherever is easily accessible by tourists, it’s expensive to eat, sleep and play.
When I touch down at the big cities, I tend to find a bus/train and continue travel to the furthest town/city I planned to start with. I like to wander around the small towns and villages in my own slow pace. By then, I would have collected enough information from locals whom I met along the way on where to find local areas in a touristy city.
Last but not least, I have a golden rule for all my trips: daily budget keep at $50. This budget is enough to include accommodation, 3 meals, transport, and activities, in most part of the world!
$50 is actually a lot of money in most countries! Even when I’m travelling with ZG, we are still keeping it at $50 for both of us. Though I do solo-travel a lot, I agree that travelling with someone is definitely much cheaper especially when it comes to accommodation and food. Yes, there are times you’re going to spend more to pay for attractions or activities, but there are many other days you will be under-spending so that would balance out the budget.
There is nothing glamorous or secret tricks about my way of travelling! It is all about self-control on your spendings and how much you want to make it work. I believe in having a debt-free life by not owning credit cards. I choose experiences over “instant happiness” such as getting daily dose of Starbucks cuppa, or splurging on that $50 dress or indulging on expensive date nights.
Maybe you might think I am just lucky to live the life I want to have. But, trust me, that luck comes with a lot of heartbreaks, hard work and fears too…
Love life. Live the adventure. Stay curious