travel small budget
Budget Tips

How to Travel on a (Very) Small Budget

How is this for a view? This was what I woke up to every day during a week-long wwoofing arrangement!


The title of this post is exactly what I typed into Google the day I realized that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in America working a 9-5 job. I knew I didn’t have a lot of money, and I wasn’t likely to have any more anytime soon. Two years into traveling, I still don’t! But that didn’t stop me. The lifestyle I live isn’t for everyone, and if you really need personal space, running water, or more than one bathroom for 40 people (ha!) then maybe these tips won’t work for you. But don’t run away just yet! While all of those situations are ones I have lived in throughout the years, you can still travel on very little money without subjecting yourself to those sorts of conditions.


Couchsurfing is a brilliant way to meet locals, exchange stories and skills, and travel without having to spend money on accommodation. While some Couchsurfing hosts are willing to let you crash at their flat while they work all day or are otherwise occupied, a lot host travelers in order to learn about new cultures, share their favorite spots around their city and exchange stories and recipes. It’s important to note that Couchsurfing shouldn’t be used as “free accommodation”; it’s very much a sharing community and you should be willing to give as much as you take.

Working for Food and Accommodation

WWOOFing – which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (although other variations also exist) – is a great way to learn new skills while working for both food and accommodation. While you need to pay to become a member of the site and contact farms, you can build a lot of skills in gardening, permaculture, building or caring for animals. Typically you will work for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week in return for food and accommodation.

HelpX – While I have been a member of both the WWOOF website and HelpX, I have found HelpX to be a bit more versatile and have used it much more. You can find organic farms on this site, but you can also find more unique opportunities like working in hostels, building homes out of organic materials and helping families with general work around their homestead. This website works the same way in which you work for food and accommodation. Typically hosts offer the same 4 hours a day, 5 days a week opportunity, but it varies depending on the work involved.


Hitchhiking gets a bad rap these days. And growing up in America, I understand why. To this day I wouldn’t hitchhike in America, especially as a solo female, although I know people who have successfully with no problems. In certain countries, people just don’t trust hitchhikers. And it’s understandable! You’re letting a stranger into your car, trusting that they are a kind, honest human that won’t harm or steal from you.

While I wouldn’t hitchhike on my own in many countries (mostly because I am incredibly and unrealistically paranoid), I have hitchhiked around Australia and Hawaii and have had hilarious and wonderful experiences in both places. New Zealand is also a very popular place to hitchhike, and I picked up a few backpackers during my time with a car there. Hitchhiking allows you to get from point A to point B for free, and introduces you to locals that you wouldn’t have the chance to talk to otherwise. It also shows you that so many people are generous simply because they want to be, and that’s a really beautiful thing. Big thanks to Charles for pushing me out of my comfort zone and getting me to stick my thumb up on the side of the road. It feels so weird at first, but you very quickly get used to it.

Dumpster Diving

Dumpster WHAT? Okay, this one is the most difficult to explain to people who haven’t been able to have the glorious experience for themselves. And I’ll admit, it’s a bit weird to get over the fact that you’re picking food out a dumpster for god’s sake. But you soon get used to it, I promise. I have lived in a couple of communities who have fed 30+ people per day on solely dumpster dived food. The amount of waste in supermarkets is really disheartening, to say the least, and the majority of food thrown away is perfectly edible (and still in packaging)!

If you’re wondering exactly what dumpster diving is, it is literally going to the back of a supermarket – or a pizza place, or a bakery, etc – and opening the large bin they use to dispose of things. Many times, you’ll find a glorious amount of perfectly edible food (or fresh bread, or still-warm pizza), which you can take with you, wash, and then use at home as usual.

I can’t speak about the legality of this, as it varies from place to place, so doing this is at your own risk. I can say that during the years I have been a part of it, I have never once had a problem (other than a couple of supermarket staff saying we had to leave).

Finding Intentional Communities

I accidentally fell into one during my first month of traveling, and I have been hopping from community to community ever since simply by word of mouth. From Fat Cat, to The Treehouse, to the River Tribe, to Crunchytown, each community has been completely unique but still followed the same principles. Work together, love each other, teach each other, give in every way you can. While many people think that “intentional community” implies a bunch of naked, free loving hippies (and admittedly, sometimes it does), this isn’t always the case. It’s simply a collection of like-minded individuals who have realized that there’s more to life than giving into a 9-5 job and a society that puts more emphasis on what you own than the ways in which you are helping and supporting each other.


Whether in a van, a station wagon, or a simple tent, you can find free or low-cost campgrounds almost anywhere! Be respectful and always clean up after yourself, especially if you’re taking advantage of free camping. If you don’t need electricity, don’t bother paying higher fees for “luxury” campgrounds. The whole fun of camping is spending time in the outdoors and roughing it. Just be sure you have the proper gear for the season you’ll be camping in!

Cooking Your Own Food

So, you don’t want to dumpster dive. That’s a-ok. But you should still be purchasing and cooking your own food! Eating out may be easier and save time while on the road, but it will definitely add up. Buy basic ingredients in bulk, such as spices, pasta, rice, nuts and seeds. You should try to find everything else locally! By purchasing your fruits and vegetables from local markets, you’re supporting local farmers, getting higher quality produce and saving a bit of cash. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

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