Backpacking without money – what happens when it runs out! – Is part of my traveling realism’s series
I’ll make no bones about it; running out of it and backpacking without money can undoubtedly be one of the worst situations and feelings a backpacker can have; a real low point in your travels. It can make you feel really shitty about yourself and traveling, incompetent and at times even depressed. Self doubt takes over and you question yourself to why you’re even bothering to continue. It can ruin the whole traveling experience…That’s if you allow it to!
This is another traveling realism and can happen to anybody at some point. It just depends on how you look at it, like it’s the end of the world or put a positive spin on it.
The end of the world…
Put yourself in these shoes for a minute; You’re in a foreign country and so far away from home. Your money has dried up, nothing to fall back on, no way of borrowing more money from friends or family back home either. There’s no money for rent, for food, for transport…You find yourself stuck in a dark hole and can’t see a way out.
Your mind over thinks, how will you eat? Where you going to stay? How are you going to survive? You start beating yourself up for getting into this mess. Sometimes you even deflect and start blaming others, convincing yourself it was their fault.
I’m sure you can see how you could end up feeling sorry for yourself.
Once you start feeling like this, it’s a slippery road. Trust me I’ve been down this hole a few times over the years. I’ve had some real low points backpacking without money. I’ve had to borrow money from people I’ve barely known, gone days without a proper meal, missed out on trips and excursions, I’ve even glued my shoes back together. However backpacking without money comes with the territory of being a long-term budget backpacker.
I used to hate it, I wallowed in self-pity, felt sorry for myself many times and I let it feel like the end of the world. It was like I was shackled, able to watch others have the times of their lives, eat, drink, go on excursions as they pleased but I couldn’t; it really fucking sucked!
However as with so many situations with traveling, I learnt from it, adapted, I freed myself from the shackles and saw the other side of this coin.
The positive spin…
You may be asking how there is a positive spin on backpacking without money?
Well if you don’t let the self-pity take over, you turn the negative on it’s head. Look at it as a challenge, a test, or even better…a game.
Before you think I’m completely crazy, think about it. As budget backpackers, we don’t start off flushed with money, we’re not on top of the money tree. We’re already on the tightest of shoestring budgets from the moment we start the trip. We constantly look out for the cheapest things, so when the money get’s very low or runs out, the game starts. And the game is to find even cheaper, or free things to keep us going.
If you’re positive about the situation, new doors start opening, you explore different avenues and make new discoveries. your imagination and human instincts start helping and lead you.
For example, maybe there’s a trip you really wanted to do but now you can’t afford it, so what do you do? You dissect it, strip it down. Instead of taking the tour group, hire van or doing it through an agency look at alternatives. Talk to locals, see how they would get there, check local buses, can you walk there? You can take off the unnecessary add-on’s that come with tours, check if a certain day is cheaper or even free. You will be amazed how much you can end up saving.
Yes you don’t do the trip how you first planned but you still get to do it.
Getting into that situation in the first place!
I know you’re saying, “Well I’m not stupid, I wont get into this situation in the first place and I won’t need to wallow in self-pity or put a positive spin on it” – Yup I hear you load and clear but here’s the thing – Shit happens when you’re traveling and you just have to deal with it.
Yes, sometimes it’s our own stupidity, our own fault, or we’ve taken our eye off the budget. There are times when We can miss calculate exchange rates, not realized how expensive a country is, or we’ve just overspent.
However there are times when it’s out of our hands, an accident or injury incurring medical costs that the insurance doesn’t cover it. Or getting robbed/mugged, fraud on our accounts, and sometimes it’s just the case that we don’t want to go home
Long term budget backpacking.
Budgeting becomes a whole different ball game when you become a long-term budget backpacker, (I mean years not months) and backpacking without money will occur at some point or another.
Of course we plan and research a trip, we work out roughly how much are going to need. However sometimes it can get complicated, like when we’re traveling through multiple countries or traveling without an end date in mind.
Things like exchange rates, differing prices, transport and accommodation costs changing all the time come into play. That budget you set will reach so far but at some point that dreaded ‘0’ in your bank account will creep ever the closer.
As a long-term budget backpacker you have to learn to become savvy, learn how to manage your money better, adapt to changing currencies when going from one country to another. There will be times you could be sitting in a cafe debating with yourself if you want or can afford that second cup of coffee, or figuring out what expense you can cut out for the day to get the second cup. As trivial as this statement seems right now, you’ll understand once it happens to you.
How to deal with it.
So when the time comes, and you find yourself backpacking without money don’t panic; don’t think it’s the end of the world like I used to. There are so many ways to make the best out of the situation.
The first thing is to look for work. If your visa allows you to work like a working holiday visa, get a job. There’s plenty of jobs you can go for from bar work, office work, construction, labor, farm work, and if your tech savvy we live in the age of a digital nomad. If your visa doesn’t allow you to work in that country, there are ways around it. Ask the hostel you’re staying in if you can work for board, they always have cleaning, reception and maintenance jobs going. Simply ask around, some places might just pay you cash in hand for some help for the day, or even try applying for teaching jobs in non-English speaking countries.
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.
There are a number of volunteering programs like wwoofing or workaways, you can apply for where work in exchange for food and board. If you can’t afford hostels anymore try couchsurfing, or house sitting if you love nature, find camping spots and pitch a tent.
Cooking food for yourself in bulk, or sharing cooking costs with others will make it so much cheaper. I do this on a regular basic in hostels, all you have to do is ask others if they want to pitch in and cook together. Remember you won’t be the only one trying to save money, nobody ever says no to cutting costs in a hostel.
Note: You don’t have to live on instant noodles, buy pasta, rice, make a sauce it’s just as cheap
Very cheap or free
Even with transport you can reduce your costs no-end, start taking local buses or even hitchhike (It’s not as dangerous as you think) I know so many backpackers that will only hitchhike, getting through a whole country this way.
Ask around, talk to other backpackers, locals or even he hostel notice boards, there’s always free activities, tours and trips going on. You don’t just have to go to the heavily touristy places which charge you; there’s plenty of places you will find for free which turn out but better. Some of the best experiences I and so many backpackers have is when we discover places for free not listed in the lonely planet or talked about on TripAdvisor.
The traveling realism.
You see, as a budget backpacker, especially a long-term budget backpacker, traveling is as much about leaning from and dealing with situations or circumstances that just pop up and those we’re not used to. We throw ourselves out of our comfort zones for a reason. And, backpacking without money, or running out of it is an age-old problem.
You may have seen blogs or articles titled ‘How to travel for free’ or ‘hacks to free travel’ or ‘ultimate guides to traveling for free’ or ‘backpack the world with no money’ floating around. There are loads of them, why? Because countless backpackers have run out of money in the past and will continue to do so in the future, possibly even you.
This post was the latest in my traveling realism’s series. Be sure to check out the previous ones if you haven’t already.
What did you think to this post, was it helpful?
Are you already a budget backpacker and been in this situation before? What did you do to continue your travels?
Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post 😀