Backpacking without money Sucks! But…
Backpacking without money! – Is Part 3 of the Long-term budget traveling realism’s series.
This post is for long-term budget travelers and backpackers who plan to travel for months and years on end. This has no relevance for those who take short holidays or set timeframe trips.
Backpacking funds running dry, what do you do?
I’m guessing you’ve clicked onto this backpacking without money post for one of three reasons…
Either you find yourself in a situation where your backpacking funds have run dangerously low. Or you’re somebody who wants to backpack but doesn’t feel like you have enough money to begin with. Or you just want to see who is stupid enough to be backpacking without money Am I right?
Well if it’s the latter…then I’m the guy that’s stupid enough to let that happen, on more than one occasion actually. But truth be told, It’s not just me, It happens to quite a lot of us long term backpackers. So, how do we keep long term travel going when we’re broke? Carry on reading to find out.
If you’re reading this post because you find yourself in a similar position or wandering how to travel for cheap, I’ll show you. I will cover how you can come out of this dark hole shining, and how to travel for cheap, cut costs right down to the bare minimum without becoming a begbacker. Let’s get one thing straight, if you ever get into a position where the only way you can carry on traveling is by begging, then go fucking home. I got no time for begbackers.
First though, let’s address the elephant in the room, backpacking without money, losing our backpacking budget, or just running low on it fucking sucks. It can be undoubtedly be one of the worst situations and feelings a backpacker can have. It’s a real low point for us, It can make us feel really shitty about ourselves, about long term travel, incompetent and at times even depressed. Self-doubt takes over and question why we even bothering to continue. It can ruin our whole experience of backpacking…That’s if we allow it to!
I’m not stupid. I won’t be backpacking without money!
I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about broke backpackers, or got that friend who said they traveled the world with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Before getting into that situation ourselves we probably laughed at that notio; I know I did. How many of us thought ‘I’m not that stupid, I’m never get into that situation, I won’t be backpacking without money!’ – How many of you reading this are saying that right now?
Yup, I hear you loud and clear…none of us ever expected to get into the situation, but here’s the thing – Shit happens when you long term travel, especially when you start on a tight budget in the first place.
We’re budget backpackers for a reason; we don’t have that much money to start with. And if we’re traveling long term, there’s only so far that initial budget stretches before it starts to run out. To travel long term we know there will come a point where we have to replenish our backpacking funds.
I’ll admit there are times our backpacking budget runs out far quicker than anticipated because of our stupidity. It could be because we’ve taken our eyes off the ball, completely neglected it, had too much fun, partied too much, wasted too much money, received the wrong advice, or times we’ve just fucked up. Sometimes, moreso when we’re backpacker newbies, we’re just naive. We could be in countries where we’re not used to the currency and screw up over exchange rates. We sometimes fuck up in places where it seems cheap. It’s easier to overspend in cheap countries than expensive ones because we feel it’s ok to have a looser grip on our backpacking budget.
But sometimes It’s out of our hands. Things out of our control happen like, accidents, injuries, medical costs, getting mugged/robbed, fraud; all these things can happen. And they happen to anybody.
Down the dark hole we fall
Like I mentioned before, I’ve been down this dark hole many times through my backpacking life. In foreign countries, far away from home, sometimes through my own stupidity but with nothing to fall back on. There hasn’t been family money to bail me out. And I’ll be honest there have been times, I’ve fretted and been scared wondering where my next meal would come from or how I would pay rent or even afford to move to on.
My mind has ran crazy, overthought things, wondering how to survive. I’ve beat myself up emotionally and mentally for getting into the mess in the first place. There has even been times, I’ve deflected and blamed others, convincing myself it wasn’t my fault. I know right fucking ridiculous, of course it was my fault.
Slippin, Falling, can’t get up
I used to hate it, wallowed in self-pity and felt sorry for myself. while I watched others have the time of their lives, eat, drink go on excursions as they pleased I just felt like crap. I felt shackled in financial restraints, and it fucking sucked.
If you’re in a similar situation, take it from me, once you start feeling like this, It’s a very slippery road into a dark abyss.
It took a while but slowly I realised a few things. One I was shit with money management but two, there was a bright side. A light at the end on the tunnel.
The light appeared once I had acceptance. I made peace with the fact if I wanted to long term travel on a tight budget, there would be times I run low on funds. I accepted I had to endure some painful days, that there would be days I couldn’t do anything and miss out on things. And I could see the bright side of it all because I realised it was all swings and roundabouts; money comes, money goes and it returns again.
There was a period early on in my backpacking life when I ran out of money backpacking. I did think it was the end of the world, I lived on scraps for a few weeks but then the backpacking budget replenished and I felt great, then it disappeared and I felt like shit, once it returned it was good again. This was a vicious cycle but one I had to go through to understand.
I can honestly say that horrible period of time was one of the most valuable in learning how to really travel for cheap and made me the long term backpacker I am today.
The positive spin…
Instead of feeling sorry for myself I started to see backpacking without money as a challenge.
Before you think I’m completely crazy, many of us are in the same boat. We’re budget backpackers because we just don’t have that much money to begin with. How many of you scrimped and saved every penny you had to go backpacking? How many of you like myself have struggled through life on bare bones? As I went through that vicious cycle I realised something, people like us are survivors. We make something out of nothing, we make what little money we had stretch as far as we can back home. So why would it be any different for us as backpackers?
Once I started seeing it like that, it became a game. We start our trips on the tightest backpacking budgets in the first place, so when it starts to run out the game really starts. The game is search, find and use the biggest bargains, get creative for dirt cheap and FREE things.
And here’s the thing, when you’re not feeling sorry for yourself, you will be amazed at how much fun you can have searching for the cheapest ways to do stuff. It actually opens up new doors, ones you didn’t know existed. Backpacking without money becomes a fun way to get your creativity flowing and by letting human instincts take over, it’s almost freeing.
How to travel for cheap and keep your backpacking budget in check!
Keep long term travel going by letting your imagination run free
As a long term backpacker, you typically stay in one place longer than normal backpackers, so role your sleeves up a bit and get creative. Do some research, talk to hostel staff, get talking to locals. Locals can give you better insights into doing things around the area. Things that aren’t touristy and most of the time free. Stay away from the tourist traps, they just want to eat your money.
You’re going to find much more real hidden gems talking to locals and people in the know than anything listed in a top 10 must visit list.
By talking to locals and people in the know you can find alternate routes to places too. Imagine there’s something you just can’t miss but your backpacking budget wont allow you to take the tour or usual transport. Somebody in the know can give you hints on local transport or other ways to get there.
You can dissect it. Strip it down to it’s bare bones, instead of organizing and booking through tour companies or hiring transport, look at other ways of getting there. Talk to locals, ask other travelers, take local buses, walk there if possible. Find out if there are entrance fees and what they are. Some places have different prices for locals and tourists, different entrances to the same place can have different prices or find out if certain days are cheaper than others or even free.
Take your time too, there is no need or rush to cram an itinerary, spread your activities out finding cheaper alternatives may take longer to get there but that journey will be worth it.
By doing some research, using your creativity and talking to the right people you will be amazed how much you can end up saving.
Cut out needless spending
Learn to say No and become frugal to peer pressure and to yourself. Let’s be honest, we all have urges and temptations. We’re backpacking in a foreign country, there will be times when peer pressure tries to get the better of us, and we don’t want to look like a loser so we give in to it; well you have to learn to say no. That applies to yourself, when you see something you really like, you have to convince yourself you don’t need it.
Way to be more conscious of your spending:
- Instead of buying that extra coffee, or drink just say no to yourself
- Take advantage of Free breakfasts in hostels
- Do groceries instead of eating out (most hostels have a kitchen. If you can’t cook learn to.)
- Do your groceries in local markets and not supermarkets
- Cook in bulk to last you a few days. This doesn’t mean you have to live on noodles (more on this below)
- If you do eat out, eat in local places not tourist restaurants
- Buy cheaper and not branded stuff.
- In countries where tap water is safe, drink that instead of bottled water.
- Buy local alcohol instead of imported
- Don’t waste money on shitty souvenirs
- Take local transport instead of tourist couches, walk where possible.
- If you smoke like myself, smoke tocabbo instead of buying cigarettes
- Have days where you don’t spend any money
- Find cheaper accommodation (Doesn’t have to be a shithole, there are good options available)
- Find and do things for free.
There are so many little and simple things you can cut costs on, things you don’t think make a difference but once you start adding them up they do.
We all need to eat, we know we can’t cut food out of our lives, some of us love food more than others. However there are ways to really cut costs on food expenditure.
I touched on it above but most backpacker hostels over all over the world come equipped with kitchens, so take advantage. By being a little savvy, you can cook a decent meal that will last you a few days for next to nothing. And I’m not talking about living off instant noodles.
Shop in a local market, you can buy, veg, meat, rice and pasta for pennies. Cook in bulk, or cook with other people in the hostel so you share the costs around. This isn’t limited to just hostels, if you’re couchsurfing, doing a homestay, or even camping you can cook for yourself or with others.
If your hostel offers a free breakfast take advantage of it. Granted don’t expect a hotel style buffet, but you normally get enough to keep you going.
If you really can’t cook and have no choice but to eat out, then keep walking past those restaurants. Find the local area, and not the fake touristy local area go further in find the real local eateries. Not only will it be cheaper but more than likely be actually authentic. Don’t be afraid to eat from the food vendors, or hole in the wall type places. Local night markets normally have food stalls, and will be delicious, fresh and dirt cheap options.
Another way to cut costs is by eating cutting a meal out, you don’t have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you can cut one of them out from your day.
The biggest and most constant hemorrhage to a backpacking budget can be accommodation costs. But there are ways to stop the bleeding.
If you’ve been staying in cheap hotels, It’s time to head over to a backpacker hostel. If you’re already in a hostel but an expensive or boutique one, then drop down to a cheaper option. I’m not saying you have to go into a shithole hostel, with a bit of research and looking around you can find some good cheaper alternatives. Sometimes just walking around and finding a hostel yourself is the best option rather than looking on booking sites.
However, if your backpacking funds are really running dry, you can also look for hostels which exchange work for a free bed.
Other options would be to try, homestays, housesitting, couchsurfing, camping, or staying in campervans. Backpacker accommodation options will give you a better insight into them.
Transport costs can take huge bites into our delicate backpacking budget, but again by being a little savvy, doing some research those costs can be cut too.
Local transport may take longer to get you to your destination, and in some countries they will be an adventure in itself but it will be a much cheaper option over organised coaches.
You need to look at transport country to country, or region to region. In places like Europe and South East Asia you can find amazing bargains on flights, but in other regions like South America it’s the most expensive way to travel.
You have the option to rent or buy a cheap vehicle in some places if you drive. Traveling by campervan saves you money on accommodation costs but you have to be wary of petrol/gas prices.
Hitchhiking is another option. I know backpackers who only travel by hitchhiking. Some people think it’s too dangerous and won’t compromise safety which is fair enough, but by all means if you’re up for it give it a go.
Work/ replenish funds
As I touched on earlier in the post, there have been times when I can go weeks backpacking without money but then come into some. That’s because I’ve worked to replenish my backpacking funds and you can too.
There’s quite a few options out there for you, some are obvious and others not so.
The most obvious one for any backpacker starting their trip with the intent to travel long term is to backpack through a country on a working holiday visa. This allows you to backpack through certain countries and work a full time job as you do. This option however, isn’t available to all countries, the link above will give you a better understanding of it. With a working holiday visa there are some permutations, in most cases you can only have on up to the age of 30 (which sucks once we get over that age) and you can only work for one company for a maximum of 6 months (but there are loopholes).
Don’t fret if you can’t get a working holiday visa, you can still work in other ways. Some are below the table cash in hand jobs, working for local construction, removal companies, bar work, promot work around the world; but these options aren’t totally legal.
More legal options are to volunteer, there are many programs running all over the world like woofing. You can exchange work for rent in hostels or homestays. Or you can teach English in some countries, online or in a class room with a TEFL qualification.
Of course we live in a digital age, so you can find something online, there’s always to become a travel vlogger/blogger but I don’t recommend that to earn real money. If you have a specific skill like programing for example you can work remotely, you can freelance or take surveys.
If you’re creative, make and sell things. I know so many travelers who make trinkets, pottery, paintings and all kinds of things and sell them. But again, don’t become a begpacker!
Backpacking without money turns you into a savvy backpacker
Like with everything in life, over time you gain experience, you learn (sometimes) from your mistakes and that’s the case with backpacking without money. The first time it happens you may panic, but over time, with experience it get’s easier the manage and cope. You do become a savvy backpacker, you learn how to travel for cheap.
Over time you like I did will learn to adapt to different situations, you’ll know how to juggle your backpacking budget around to keep a tighter grip on your backpacking funds. Eventually, it will feel like an art, you’ll get to a point where you’ll go days without having to spend a penny but not going without.
Once you get to that point, backpacking without money or having very little backpacking funds will just be easy. You’ll know where to look for the cheapest options, for food, transport, accommodation, you’ll easily learn about secret places from locals and long term travel will be a doddle.
The traveling realism
The traveling realism is that if you chose to long term travel especially on a tight backpacking budget then there are going to be some dark days and weeks. There will be times you question why you even bother, times you feel like crap and wallow in your own self-pity. But like you’ve seen in this post, you can come out the other end of it, you can replenish your backpacking funds and you can learn how to travel for cheap then it will be worth it. But you have to decide if it is.
If you’re going through the hard times right now and backpacking without money, hang in there, the things I’ve gone over will help you and you will become much more savvy with your backpacking budget.
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