Resources I have used to travel on a budget (or get paid!)

There are countless ways to travel: luxury vacations, backpacking, or somewhere in between. I’ve done most of them, but as I am a writer, I am typically on a pretty tight budget. After being asked time and time again how I am able to afford travel, I have compiled a list below of different opportunities to look into once travel is safe once again! The key thing to remember is that everyone has a different comfort zone, and different priorities to make sure they are safe while traveling. This is only my approach to planning a trip.

Lets start by talking about budgeting; for me, the largest expenses are typically: the airline ticket, eating/ activities out, and an emergency fund. Accommodations honestly usually falls pretty low on my priority list for a couple reasons, one of them is because of the opportunities to find free or very cheap housing. Also, I am not too picky about my living situation- so if you know you wouldn’t want to stay in co-ed dorms or on a stranger’s couch, it’s a good idea to factor a few extra dollars into your accommodation budget. Finding your comfort zone while traveling is key to being prepared and content on a trip abroad.

Leisure Travel Ideas:

One summer I took a trip with my then boyfriend to Thailand. Because accommodations in this country are so cheap, we decided to book air bnb’s and hotels to “treat ourselves”. Halfway through the trip we ditched the bookings (still paying) and checked ourselves into the best rated hostels in the city. We so because we wanted to meet new people, and learn more about the hot spots and fun activities available in the city. Hostels are built for budget travel. They offer the cheapest deals, group discounts and a fun environment to truly get to know a city. And we did not regret it for a moment. We still had privacy and time to ourselves, but at night I felt safer exploring the city in a big group where my new friends always kept an eye out for my safety, we ended up finding out the most ethical way to meet elephants, and we had a fun activity to join nightly. I have probably stayed in over 100 hostels around the world at this point and I cannot speak higher or have a bigger recommendation for first time, solo, or even couples traveling together. I understand hostels have a bad reputation, but as long as you are being hyper aware (which you should be anyways) and trusting your gut instincts, I have never felt safer than in a hostel. There are always other travels around who get it, and form a sense of community that allows you to really get to know a city.

As far as choosing a hostel, read the comments. Although the pictures may seem beautiful, what really tells the story of the atmosphere is what other backpackers have reported. If a place is filthy and you’re paranoid about cleanliness, or if a place does not party and you went to a new place to have some fun, these details will be expressed through the comment section more than anything.

In Ragland New Zealand, an eco lodging hostel. Our rooms were cozy, old and refurbished train caboose

I have only truly couch surfed once, but it was a kind and and sweet experience and I will definitely be using this again. The basics: it is almost like a community of really down to earth travelers, or ex travelers who are willing to open their homes to fellow travelers. You will create a profile with information about why you’re traveling, what you will be doing and your living style. Those hosting will do the same, but add what they can offer. This resource is not for the nervous or unsure backpackers. This option is best for experienced travelers, those who know how to keep themselves safe. You also need to be really open minded but also hyper vigilant in your search. I always tend to look for females or families with an extra bed room, also the one time I did used couchsurfers, I had a companion. The host ended up a being beyond generous single mom whose son had just moved out and she had the space. It was an incredibly lucky find! My other piece of advice is to plan ahead if you are going this route. People can be slow at responding or only available for certain times so it’s best to set this up before you. leave vs. while you are on the road. I also always like to cook dinner or leave a gift for my hosts to sow gratitude (even if you are not using this app, couch surfing in general works best when you can offer something in return).

Work resources

There are honestly so many ways to work abroad, so I am limiting this list to ways I have tried and have worked for me in the past.

So I’ve used workaway a few times and it is really my go-to. When I was in Israel, I found a placement 24 hours before I was homeless. If you are young and like being social, working in a hostel is the perfect way to visit a city. You don’t need a work visa because they typically pay in food and accommodations. In my experience there are other travelers working there to meet and learn from as well as staff and guests. Plus, for the one I worked in Israel, my job was to lead bar crawls most of the time. We got days off to explore the country, and the best part was I could stay for free in partnering hostels anywhere. The only requirement is being over 18 and knowing english. Overall this is my highest recommendation if you are social and enjoy working with others. If you are more of a introvert but a hard worker, I would try WWOOFing (details below).

Workaway can be literally anything. You could be catering to childcare, or working at a cafe etc. Some hosts even offer payment (look for the money sign on their listing).

WWOOFing is similar to Workaway in that one is trading their labor for a place to stay and food, but this organization focuses strictly on farming. Any kind of farming including; animals, wine or vegan farms can put their farm on wwooffing and there may be a few families looking for child care or language exchange as well as farm work. This option is not for one who hs never donne physical labor or who likes to go out and explore the city. WWOOFing is typically a lot of work, but also a lot of positive payback. Forming a relationship with the land you are visiting and the ecology is a graceful and unique way to travel. Also, these posting are typically long term, really giving you an opportunity to connect with the family and the area you are living.

When choosing a WWOOFing location, my advice will vary person to person. For me, I always looked for a location that has my own space, other volunteers, and a way to get to town (some will offer a car, or note there is a bus stop nearby). When I interview with the host, I make sure to ask a lot of questions so I can understand their expectations before I step foot onto their land.

WWOOFing may seem like a tricky option, but when you find the right fit it is a beautiful way to contribute to the community you are visiting as well as a budget friendly option to live and explore a place you may have not found yourself otherwise.

Photos from an organic farm inn New Zealand I worked for a few weeks in 2015

I know I talked all about this above, but something I have done in the past is looked up the hostels in an area I want to visit, and then called to see if they have any openings for work. A lot changes in hostels, as everyone is traveling in and out and most jobs are temporary, so often hostels could use the extra hands. Offer a few hours of work a day for a room/ bunk.

CoolWorks is a resource for those open to a seasonal job. This is mostly United States based, and you can find some neat opportunities here. However, these are long term options (typically 3 months or more) but the work is normally located in a community based setting, meaning you will meet others in your job and will probably be offered employee housing. This is one of my favorite sites to check out when I’m bored in class and need inspiration for a run-away day dream. This winter I am working at a ski school I found on cool works and I am living on site for cheap as well. This is different from WorkAway because these organizations are bigger and normally offer seasonal work for a lot of workers ever year, whereas WorkAway is a smaller scale and more temporary, individual positions.

Lastly: How to join a cult

Am I kidding? Yes. Have I accidentally done this? Also yes. But, that is a story for another time. Until then, happy travels (or day dreams)

And then, I was confronted with my worst fear before breakfast.

“Female solo traveler” has been a buzz phrase in the travel community for a few years. Being a female solo anything is challenging enough in our patriarchal run world, but to travel through it alone can be daunting and intimidating. As women, the threat of violence is ever looming, no matter where you go. Thus, to be putting oneself in new territory, without cell service and with only the vaguest sense of direction seems absolutely mad to many people. And it is. To be a woman in the field of traveling presents new dangers and requires hyper vigilance at all times.

But listen, I have been traveling on my own since I was 16. And I have learned many tricks and rituals to keep myself and others safe, but I truly have been so fortunate to not have gotten into anything too seriously traumatic (although I have many close calls). The reality of being a female solo traveler dawns upon me in routinely, small, everyday things. For instance, the other day it was maggots that reminded me how utterly helpless I can be. If given the choice between being left in a new city, chased by Ann army of strangers, and a trash can filled to the brim with maggots, I will happily take the first.

My roommate and I had planned a day of exploring and working intermittently. She usually picks a few beaches she wants to see that day and I grab a book, my journal and join along for the ride. As we were walking out the door she stood in front of me in rock paper scissor position to decide which one of us had to take out the trash bin. I suggested a coin toss instead, and regretted it immediately after losing. Confidently, I approached the bin to take outside. I opened the top and almost walked inside and booked a plane ticket home. The bin was absolutely covered, I mean covered, in squirming, yellow maggots.

It was totally our fault. We hadn’t taken the bin out for a few days because it wasn’t full and where we’ve lived you don’t waste bags by taking half full trash cans out. But, we didn’t realize the humidity and heat here, combined with rotting fruit peels, could turn so disastrous. And for the first time in my traveling life, I wished I could call my dad to come save me. Perhaps this instinct comes from an on going family joke me dad likes to say. “I’m good for opening jars and killing bugs,” is his favorite way to get out of playing board games with my sister and I. But in this moment, I needed him more desperately than I’ve ever relied on another human in my life.

I know this sounds dramatic; I fully acknowledge how pathetic this incapability seems. And it was pathetic, I was utterly paralyzed. My brilliant solution was to trow the bin away. I couldn’t see another option. I was going to spend my last couple bucks on avoiding this chore, which honestly seemed like a good deal to me considering I would have sacrificed a limb to avoid handling a bin filled with maggots so all the money to my name felt really reasonable. My dramatic response comes from my only real phobia – parasites. I don’t want to talk about it too much because that’s how intense this fear is, but any crawling, parasitic bug can go eat dirt because I simply refuse to share earth with them; I simply will not acknowledge they exist in order to protect myself. My friends know that I will happily challenge any intimidating figure to a scowl off and I will lead packs of women proudly into battle. Unless we happen to be battling maggots.

My roommate and I stood in the street with napkins, laughing so hard we were crying at how ridiculous our predicament. We had no idea our next move. So when people like Louisa showed up right as we decided to burn the bin and leave the country, I have to appreciate whatever great things I did in my past life to deserve her heroism. Louisa takes care of some of the houses in the area and was coming by to check that we were alive. My roommate was hesitant to accept the help, whereas I was already promising her my first born as she got out of the car to take care of us. She was the most fearless woman I have ever seen, I mean she looked almost graceful and powerful totally unbothered by my worst nightmare. She cleaned our bin as I sent my hysterical roommate to clean and shower and calm herself down a bit.

While Louisa was finishing up, I asked her if she fears anything. (In my head she was from the same island as Wonder Woman and completely inhumane.) But, I guess frogs and lizards are her kryptonite. Which made me laugh because I have a strange affection toward amphibians. It’s so fascinating where are fear comes from. I’m sure it’s partly inherited and partly cultural.

I don’t have an awe inspiring moral to this story but it did make me realize how strong of a community women are globally. In moments I look around for a man to help me, which is not often, there seems to always be a badass woman already stepping up to the plate. I don’t underestimate the female community, but when I do (confronted by a trash bin of maggots) I am happily proven wrong by a mother, by our matriarch.

My sweet roommate said something I’d like to share about her experience as a “female solo traveler”. She said, “I have been a woman all my life, I am still a woman while traveling so I take this wherever I go. I take those fears with me and perhaps there are a few extra, but my experiences being a woman in this way are the same.” You are a woman no matter where you go. So go wherever you are called, and be a great woman there.

Image taken once we left our villa later that day and began exploring. Polaroid 600

How can you be sad in paradise?

Before I dive into this piece, I want to start by acknowledging the immense privilege that comes with traveling anywhere. There are many people more eloquent on this subject than I am, but I just want to take a step back from my own struggles and woes to truly embrace the gratitude and unwavering appreciation for every opportunity to leave my hometown I have been given. It is an immensely big thing to have the time and resources to do what I do, and I never want it to go unnoticed or unacknowledged in anyway. Traveling, although often luxurious and expensive, can also be hard, both mentally and physically, and my intention with this thought piece is simply to create honest spaces to share challenges and real, raw and unedited moments that happen on the road. Thus, I think in order to stay genuine to my writing and to myself, I want to balance my appreciate with also allowing space to be critical and intentional with the resources I have been given and have discovered on the way.

During this wild pandemic, I lost a job and was forced to go on unemployment. As my lease was ending, my roommate and I struggled to decide what I should do next, as it seems things change so quickly and sharply during this time, it is hard to be quite certain about any decision. We had no where to live, no jobs and no plans. We both graduated in December, and post graduation is hard to navigate during normal circumstances, so it felt this liminal space was heightened by the current state of events in our country. Our unemployment was running out and we needed to make a decision. This is around the time my roommate suggested making use of her family’s villa in the Caribbean. Her parents are sailors and invested in this small property recently. As no one was staying there, we wouldn’t need to pay rent and could go there to have some time to figure out our next move. I had been struggling to write and make process on my novel for a few months, blocked from not being able to travel and feeling in-genuine to the story, I saw an opportunity to be I a creative space and I took it. We did our research of what it would take to come here and after multiple Covid tests, endless preparation and being careful not to corrupt our chances of getting out, we flew to Antigua, a small island near Barbuda. Upon arrival we showed our Covid results, had our temperatures checked and began settling into our new villa.

And after only a few days, my mental health took a decline. I found it harder and harder to get out of bed and became more and more anxious. I struggled eating and I didn’t leave the villa multiple days in a row. This conjured up intense feelings of guilt, I spiralled between thoughts of “someone else should be here appreciating this space,” and “you wanted this for so long, why can’t you just be happy?” Which, led me to remember other times when I traveled and was hit with depressive episodes. When I studied in Athens there were many times I disassociated in bed for hours, and times my anxiety crippled me to a hotel room while others explored. In Israel I slept for days in a row because my mind was exhausted and missed chances to see new parts of the city. And there too, I had these guilty and shameful thoughts.

However, this time a perspective changed for me. Instead of allowing those thoughts and dark feelings to fester, I was patient with myself. I was gentle and eased myself to accomplish simple tasks. I allowed myself days to wallow and time to be alone. Most importantly, I reminded myself that mental illness does not make me faulty or unworthy, and that I cannot outrun my serotonin deficiency. And, this is the messy side to traveling I want people to see. I still struggle with being human, regardless of where I am or what I am doing. Being in a new country is not a cure for mental illness, but wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy? And even though I am existing in this greatly privileged moment, even though I am only 22 in Antigua once, does not invalidate my needs and my health. It also doesn’t invalidate the incredible things I have seen and done. Whilst being here I’ve scuba dived with sea turtles and boated, jet skied and tasted new foods. I have still accomplished lots of writing and I’ve met new people. I am still traveling when I am experiencing dark and sullen thoughts, and I am still growing from them. I guess what I am trying to express is how imperfect and temperamental humanity can be, and as a good friend recently told me, “you bring yourself wherever you go”. It is okay to not be okay, even in paradise.

Escaping 2020 for a moment

I recently moved in with two close girl friends of mine. I originally planned to move to Chicago in the summer, but after facing a breakup and the whole global pandemic situation, I figured I would rather spend my summer soaking up all of Colorado possible. So, last second I changed my plans and signed a shirt term lease for the summer. Living with your girl friends is enchanting; we easily and gracefully settled into a very lovely routine of dancing and drinking wine and romanticizing our own lives. It’s refreshing and beautiful to settle into an environment of love right now, as our world burns we hug one another. It’s simply sweet.

When I finally made the choice to come back I was welcomed with not only open arms, but an open calendar of potential weekends. The great thing about living in Colorado is that the campgrounds are open at the moment. Of course social distancing is strictly enforced, but camping is not prohibited. My roommates and I groggily packed our car up one weekend in early May and took a girls trip to the mountains. We drove for a few hours, randomly picking a direction and played our music too loudly as limbs draped into one another.

Growing up, my mother really enforced the idea that girl friends, that women supporting other women, was the key to happiness. She told me to be nice to every single woman, to open my arms to my fellow females because she told me; “it would fill you up like nothing else”. And although I’ve adamantly stood by this in my life, I think this weekend was a moment it really sunk in for me.

No one will love you like your girl friends, that is just the truth. As we drove into the mountains, sharing secrets and giggling, my inner child sang. I felt loved and cherished and heard, but also I felt giddy and content, knowing that if anything happened, I was surrounded by those whose would do anything for me. I’ve never felt that with any love interest, mentor or peer. However, I have felt protected by so many good women, including those I do not know, these friendships have made failing a bit sweeter- to do it in the arms of feminine energy is divine. And this kind of therapy was needed in the moment of face masks, uncertainty corruption and fear.

My moment of euphoria (my ‘filled up’ moment) took place as I did not sleep in our tent, at 10,000 ft, next to a lake, in the middle of spring. I did not sleep because it was so cold my lips turned blue and my fingers were numb. The wind shook the tent the entire night and my head ached from the freezing air and the rocks jamming into my body. However, I felt safer and happier than I have ever with a mans arms around me, or in a luxurious hotel. I just was okay, even if I cannot articulate it well. Perhaps it was a combination of the music and the comfort of being outside. But, I am a firm believer that taking your shoes off is medicinal and the Mamma Mia soundtrack was produced by goddesses to teach wild souls to let go, and so I healed a bit in my cold frigid, safe space.

We found a warmer camping spot the next day, hiked miles and miles and learned about ourselves and one another in the same clothes and messy hair as the days before. The trip was really lovely, I am always enchanted by the trees and biology of new places and this trip satiated my need for a lot of things; for healing and escaping and running. 2020 has been a rough one, guys. Not being able to escape and travel to an exotic place to live for a bit has made me feel anxious and claustrophobic. So, even if we literally just packed up our home to make one elsewhere, my urge to flee the country and change my name settled for a bit. I learned that sometimes running into the arms of giggling and humbling women is sometimes enough of an escape for right now; that vegetarian hot dogs made by my best friend while I napped, are an absolute delicacy and that my name is just fine, for now. We all need different things, but this trip was serendipitous and fufilling. And it cost less than $50.