In the six and a bit years since I finished my studies in the UK, I have spent four years overseas without having to pay for accommodation. It was never my intention for this to happen – things just went this way – but it shows that you don’t have to be rich in order to explore the world.
The Ways I Found Free Accommodation
There are four main ways I found free accommodation during these four (non-continuous years):
- Free Camping – Around 8 months. This is my favourite way to stay somewhere for free. Armed with a sleeping bag (and sometimes a tent or hammock), you can find somewhere subtle to hide where you won’t be disturbed and (even more importantly) you won’t be bothering anyone else. Read more about how to free camp.
- Volunteering – Around 3 months. Volunteering can be both charitable and non-charitable (such as volunteering in a hostel), but the experiences often give you a sense of purpose and I have spent time volunteering in Uganda, Poland, Norway, and Hungary over the past few years, and had good experiences on every project. Read more about how to get involved in volunteering projects.
- Working – Around 27 months. Some jobs offer free accommodation as part of their renumeration and I found this to be the case whilst working as a ski rep in France, teaching English in South Korea, and working in a pub in Australia. The accommodation (generally) isn’t great, but you get to live where you work and save your money to spend on other experiences.
- Visiting People – Around 10 months. In this category I lump together visiting friends and family, staying with strangers through Couch Surfing, and those occasional times when someone you meet on the road invites you back to their house or garden. I don’t like to stay with a single person more than a couple of days (to not overstay my welcome) and I only do this when the experience of spending time with that person (strangers included) is an experience that I want. Friends, family, and Couch Surfers are not free hotels – they are an opportunity for social interaction and broadening horizons. Due to the large number of people I have met over years on the road, I often find myself hopping from one friend’s house to another for weeks at a time, and I have also spent months Couch Surfing when I have wanted a local experience of a place, rather than the typical tourist view.
Four years is an awfully long time. Around 1,400 nights. That means, potentially, I would have had to spend:
- £14,000 at £10 / night
- £35,000 at £25 / night
- £70,000 at £50 / night
Not having to fork out these sums of money allowed me to spend my money elsewhere (not that I had vast sums to blow anyway). The video (above) details a breakdown of the bulk of these past few years, but after doing this for quite some time, I have now chosen to live in my own place for a little bit.
The message I would like to share here is that you don’t need vast sums of money to explore the world – with a bit of careful thinking and some compromises, you find a way to make things work with whatever you have. This was just my way of trying to share that message.