Yes it’s true: the saying “the best things in life are free” does extend to travelling. So free yourself of travel companies, hotel chains and tour guides for the opportunity and challenge of a lifetime!
Working on farms (WWOOFing)
There are many programs and independent farmers looking for eager travellers to help on farms all over the world, but by far the most well known is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). The idea is simple: connect farms looking for cheap help, with travellers looking to learn a little something about organic farming while exploring a new area and meeting new people. It benefits everyone, and means that on top of cheap travel with your room and food provided by the farmer; you also get the opportunity to learn some farming skills!
Think “Beaver Falls” and “Parent Trap” and you will have the image of cute log cabins surrounding a serene lake with campfire singsong and archery practice. With few qualifications required, great accommodation and food, and paid well enough to go off exploring the rest of the country in your weeks off, this is the ideal option for many. If you are looking for a more rewarding experience than teaching well-off American children a selection of outdoor pursuits, there are charitable camps too. For example there are many camps for the disabled, as well as camps all over Europe, Asia, and Africa too.
Many websites offer a helpful system of pairing young potential nannies with families abroad, but lots of them require you to have some childcare qualifications. By far the best experiences are had by those who go to a family they are already connected with. Look after the children while the parents are working and then explore the area! Au pairs can often look forward to perks such as their own room or apartment and even their own car. You are also likely to be paid (although not much). However, it can be difficult to get time off to explore the surrounding area.
Summer schools at foreign universities
Students wishing to make the most of their summers will be drawn to this option. Summer study abroad programmes offer a balance between travelling to somewhere new and continuing your commitment to your university experience. You can take courses in many things, but many students choose to take a language course, or a course that the university is specifically known for. Scholarships are available for travelling and living expenses as well as the university fees. You can always go and visit the friends you will make here the summer after as well!
Volunteering abroad is a great way to mix travelling with doing something for the community. It also meansthat you have the opportunity to really get involved in the local community, which can be difficult as a tourist. There are volunteering placements covering everything: working in hospitals; schools and social centres; and animal and environmental conservation are just a few options. Choose a project which really interests you in order to make the most of your experience.
This kind of travelling is not possible everywhere in the world, and where it is it should be done with precaution, following certain safety rules. Never travel alone or at night, and follow your gut instinct – if you get a bad feeling about someone, don’t get in their car! When done right, this can be an excellent method of travelling. It allows you to benefit from local knowledge and get lifts to places where buses and trains wouldn’t normally stop.
However unlikely it is that you’ll win the luxury yachting trip to Bali or the month long jungle expedition through the Amazon, it only takes two minutes to apply and you have nothing to lose! Look out for travel photography or blog competitions that are usually run by big newspapers, camera companies or travel guides, which will have less applicants.
Crew a yacht
Whether you are an able seaman or have never been on a boat in your life, crewing a yacht is one of the most rewarding travelling experiences. Jobs range from: deckhand, cook and hostess, to officer, first mate and captain. The intense work load during passage is paid off whilst docked in exciting places around the world. Being on a boat also enables you to explore areas of the world inaccessible to the traditional tourist. Hidden beaches and coves can become highlights of the trip.
Websites such as HouseCarers and MindMyHouse allow people with second homes an opportunity to advertise for a house sitter. The deal is that you can stay in say a villa in the south of France and in turn you water the plants, sort the post and feed the cat. Usually no money changes hands, but sometimes the housesitter can expect a little pay depending on the amount of chores they are expected to do. This is a great and easy way to get a free holiday, although it does limit your opportunity for travel.
Use your connections
If university is about anything, it’s meeting new people from walks of life you have never experienced. Whether it’s your flatmate from Florence or course friend from Cardiff, get out there and benefit from free floor space and local expertise!
So leave your iPads, Netflix account and comfy sofa at home next summer, pack trust, optimism and freedom into an old backpack and explore the world!