Los Angeles is a city with two faces. On the one hand, you see the glitz and glamour and on the other hand so much misery and dirt everywhere. I didn’t like it. And the stories I heard in my shabby hostel were a reflection of that. Full of cheating landlords, home abuse and looming homelessness. Saddened by this I wanted to give a little piece of hope for those who are broke but travel without money (or stay in a foreign place despite not having much) – because you can use them even if you are not travelling.
The Sad Background Story
I just met a woman in my hostel whom life hasn’t treated so well. Her childhood was punctuated by punches, recent deaths and a serious car accident have left big scars on her soul and she fears homelessness by the end of the week. It left me feeling helpless and wondering what I could say except the standard reassurances. They never work anyway, if you ask me.
And since I remember an acquaintance of mine admitting she was in the exact same situation but was too afraid to open up and seek help, I thought I would write this post to let anyone who might be struggling and keeping to themselves know, they are not alone and it’s not embarrassing to reach out. It is also applicable to those travelling and hitting a rough patch, realising they have blown their savings and don’t have a job lined up and are maybe stranded somewhere in the world. So here are my personal thoughts for finding a way. If anyone has something to add, feel free to drop it in the comments and I can include it.
Open Up about Your Fears
This is the scariest part and the hardest one. Admitting that you need serious help and bringing it across as that is absolutely crucial. Everyone is always so caught up in their everyday lives that you might feel that nobody cares. That’s not true. Sure, you might have said something here and there but did you actually say that you are desperate?
That you cannot do it on your own and you see no options? Use clear words, definite words, don’t say anything that could leave a doubt open. And don’t doubt yourself her either. Don’t downplay if you feel like there is no hope. There is, but sometimes you need others to show you.
Don’t waste time drowning in sorrows. You need to make plans because plans mean hope and plans mean action. There is always a choice, even though limited. Try writing down what your biggest fears are. And then burn them. Then make a list of what you need to fix and any steps that could get you there. Get your brainstorming on and don’t just dismiss. We weed out the scribbling later. See who you know, what resources you have and where you can search.
Friends, acquaintances, online forums, church communities, local shelters and hotlines, online help, whatever there is, write it down. Then, match them to what needs to be done and where you could find out more. Even if the first source can’t help, you have brainstormed different options and those options might also have ideas. Ask them directly if they know of more options!
Find a Place to Stay
Make a list of priorities of what you absolutely need to get done. Finding a place to stay that feels safe and where you can stay for a while ranks absolutely high and you need to fix this. Again, look at your list and see who you can reach out to and whether they are available, close to where you are and maybe how you can even offer them help yourself to make the deal much better for them as well. You could offer to take over household chores, do babysitting or cook.
If you really cannot find anyone, don’t despair. There are so many broke travellers out there and they still don’t end up on the streets. Why not look around sites like couchsurfing to find a free place to stay or even pick up volunteering work to get food and shelter in return? You could also work for accommodation in hostels and check craigslist or gumtree (but be careful, there are a lot of scams and weird people on there). (Get my airbnb voucher, which might give you one free night).
Helpful Links to Travel without Money
Here are a list of sites where you can stay in return for help:
Trusted House Sitters (small signup fee)
Mind My House (small signup fee)
Workaway (small signup fee)
HelpX (small signup fee)
WWOOFing (not only work on farms)
Find a Crew (small signup fee for stay on a ship)
Think outside the box
Ok, so you need money, shelter and someone to not be alone? Why don’t you try and tackle all of these problems above and think outside the box? You have got skills, whether you are super confident of them or not. Maybe you can paint, teach or are good at languages. You could look into nannying and check out the many websites and job boards online and in local newspapers or you could even think of teaching English abroad. These are the most popular options people use to travel without money.
There are many programs that pay you a decent wages and also take on the costs of getting you abroad. This would be a win win as you would be so busy and challenged every day, you won’t have time to worry and you realise how strong you are. Also, you get your main priorities sorted for the moment and can focus your energy on your personal happiness. Bonus: get a free ride with uber (Code annemaries59ue) and lyft (code annemarie313776) and get a $25 credit with airbnb (this could give you one to two free nights).
Teach Your Language to Travel without Money
However, before you start dreaming of teaching abroad, you need to acquire a TEFL / TESOL / TESL certificate (best and cheapest online) and preferably have a degree. But that shouldn’t stop you! Reach out to companies and get information, check websites like TEFL, Teach Abroad. And connect with others to find out about what to expect in the programs and where best to go (public schools in Korea!).
If you don’t feel you can qualify for teaching a language, why not provide tutoring services travel without money? Sign up on online boards, websites like gumtree and craigslist and hang up your flyers on notice boards in communities and universities, to name just a few ideas.
Ok, this might be a last resort or out of the question for you, but why not try to do it like the grey nomads in Australia? Sell all your stuff, get a car and camping gear and be location independent. Living on campsites can be so much cheaper than keeping an apartment and cooking for yourself is also cheaper and healthier than dining out in Fast Food Restaurants.
Plus, you mostly are never alone and you have a change of scenery. You can buy used cars, rent old cars (a couple of travellers told me about Rent a Wreck for those that are really down on cash) or search for travel buddies online in facebook groups, community websites or forums. There are many different ways to travel without money.
Well, these are just a few of my thoughts on travel without money and I certainly hope that there are other ways out there as well. The most important thing is to never give in to your dark thoughts and drown in worries. You are stronger than you think and need to tell yourself so. But make sure to let others know you need those reassurances as well.
Please share to spread the message and reach others who have been afraid to reach out.
Disclaimer: So far, I have only tried Couchsurfing when I wanted to try travel without money, which I can personally recommend from my own experience. Even if you cannot find a host at the moment, it is worth reaching out to get to know people or ask them if they know anyone. Also, don’t forget to check out all the others sites as well.