Like you, I have read many articles with the over-confident titles: “10 Ways You can Travel for FREE!”, because who doesn’t want to travel around at no cost? But each time I read them I think, sure, I could get a job working in the Arctic saving polar bears, or do manual labor on an organic farm, and buy ALL the air miles-collecting credit cards…but do I actually want to?
The short answer: no. I have a different lifestyle in mind. Now, I don’t mind travelling cheaply! That I’m all over. To me, it’s a lot more doable, and there are plenty of options.
Now, I will preface by saying that my suggestions might not fit your lifestyle choices or fit to your specific situation. If you’re like me, you want to travel often enough, and you don’t mind being budget-conscious.
Whether it’s joining your high school choir on its annual music trip, or taking a job overseas teaching English, I have found ways to travel within my own country and abroad. This post is mostly for Canadians, since that was my jumping point to everywhere else, but there are points in here for everyone else too! Now, I will walk you through the three main phases of my travel life starting with when I was a teen in high school, to when I was a University student, to now in my adult life.
Hopefully, there is something in here that will give you an idea, some inspiration, motivation or a push in the right direction to get you closer to your travel desires!
When I was a Teen
The first solo trip I did out of my own was when I was 15 years old. I discovered something called the Explore program, which is a Canadian-wide program that offers intensive, immersion language schooling over the summer. If you want to learn French, they place you in a French community. If you want to learn English, same deal.
Now, in this case my parents paid for everything (thank you again!), but there are ways to apply for financial help, and between the time you apply, get accepted and actually go, you can save up money with a part-time job and by collecting money through Christmas and birthdays (it’s going to an educational cause!) and not only do you get to explore another part of Canada, you learn another language and part of the rich, diverse Canadian culture! Wins all around! (Interested? Click here!)
When I was 17, I really, really wanted to go on the Chicago trip with my high school choir and band. To help raise money, I had to sell cheese. Weird, I know. It was kind of hard, too! I walked around in the winter time during the Christmas season doing the old-fashioned door-to-door sales. I had some really nice neighbors who clearly did it just to support me. It was a great experience and I fell in love with the city very quickly! Still meaning have to go back one day…Many public schools offer students a chance to go on a trip, some will be more expensive than others, but don’t let that discourage from taking at least one trip! There are always fundraising events you can do, and if you’re creative enough, you can raise a lot of the funds!
Family Road Trips:
Because of our central location in the prairies, my family did road trips to Minneapolis, South Dakota, and we even drove all the way down to Florida to visit family a couple times. Never underestimate the joys and fun times of family road trips! Best part? It’s part of the family budget. Yay!
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR TEENS TO TRAVEL:
- Volunteer: Maybe you’re young, or you really don’t want to commit to a job long-term abroad. Volunteering will bring great experience, look great on a resume, and you can choose how long you want to go. You will likely have to finance your way there and back, but usually the organisation takes care of the rest once you arrive.
When I was a University Student
Teacher Assistant in France:
I was getting restless during my first year of University, when I came across an ad outside the French department to teach English in France. Paid accommodation, a salary of 800 euros a month, a chance to travel Europe: I was in! The catch: You had to be 21 years old and have at least 2 years complete of University, as well as proof of enough French proficiency. (These are the requirements for Canadian citizens, and it varies from country to country).
I put my plan into action and throughout the next year, did everything I could to make sure I would get accepted. I found a job with the Festival du Voyageur (best job ever!), I got my French professor to vouch for my proficiency, and then I got my first long-term job in the summer working custodial services at an outdoor theater. Probably the worst job I ever had, but I was able to save 3,000 dollars working part-time.
This is a program run by the French government, and it’s goal is to place native language speakers in schools to interact and teach French students in that language, in my case, I taught English. It was, by far, one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. Not only did I catch the travel bug, I made life-long friends, some who were my bridesmaids later on, and I grew incredibly as a person.
OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS TO TRAVEL
Au Pair: If you like kids, are single, and want to travel, this combines all three. Getting hired as an au pair means you are basically a nanny, you help with taking care of young children, it may include helping them with school work, but basically you are a glorified babysitter and chances are you get to stay in the home of the family who hires you or they take care of your rent elsewhere. I’ve heard a couple bad experiences, but overwhelming amount of GREAT experiences. Many families will take their au pair on family holidays, bring over to social gatherings, so you get a very authentic local experience with some savings and time off to go venture on your own once in a while!
Volunteer: There is no age limit to being a volunteer, and it’s incredibly rewarding with many, many opportunities world-wide! One example is Canada World Youth, which has been running for over 40 years in over 60 countries around the world. (Click here for more info)
Farm Work: Organizations such as WOOF and the like. I have a good friend in Australia currently working on a farm so she can get a second year extension on her visa, because she loves it so much there!
Missions: Whether you do YWAM, or through another organization, if you are a person of faith, missions is a great way to grow in so many ways at so many levels. This is not going to be your typical chic Euro trip, but it is always life-changing and eye-opening.
University Exchange: Check to see if your University has a program that involves an exchange, or a partnership with another University abroad. For myself, I could have taken an Education practicum abroad, but I had to plan my wedding…
Internships: You can find these through your University too, particularly if you’re doing Business, Engineering, or maybe something in the realm of Political studies. But there are many, many, many other areas to intern in! Try to find one with some perks, like paid lodging. But don’t expect too much! Afterall, you are doing it more for the experience than the money.
As an Adult
One of the easiest and most sustainable ways to travel as an adult is to find a job abroad. One of the most accessible jobs is teaching.
After my experience in France, I was determined to come back to Canada, finish my BA, and go back out into the world of teaching English abroad. I had my eyes on Russia. But, love happened. So I stayed until I got my Teaching degree, then we got married, and moved to Egypt!
Three years after returning from Europe my desire to travel abroad probably only grew stronger as time went on, so I was so happy when Wayne, my now husband, agreed to change his home-boy ways to travel with me. Since we’ve been hitched (and wrote this post), we’ve been to 9 countries (8 of which are new to me!) and he’s got the travel bug too!
Other Top Travel Jobs for Adults
- Flight attendant – the travel might be short, but you’ll get little snippets of one or two days nearly right away!
- Cruise crew worker – that can be cleaning crew, maintenance, health and fitness, kitchen staff, the options are endless!
- Tourism and Hospice work – this can mean being a tour guide or working in a hotel or hostel
- International Business – may take some years of schooling and finding the right company, but chances are trips will be fully covered!
- Translator/Transcriptor – put those language degrees to good use!
- Online work – maybe an online business, an editor or journalist, a YouTuber or consultant. Making money on the internet has become a growing reality.
There are plenty other job positions that can help you with your travel goals, these are simply the most common and popular careers. Do some research, join some travel groups, see what other occupations make travel possible! In fact, here are 50 JOBS that involve travel!
Extra Tips for Finding Opportunities to Take You Abroad:
- Learn another language: If you’re in high school and you’re not taking a foreign language class, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Opportunities will not only open up but not seem so scary if you can speak the language of said foreign place.
- SAVE Money: this one is obvious, and many people seem to think they will never save enough. I have talked with several friends, some who genuinely really want to back-back Europe, but never took the leap because someone else didn’t come through, or they decided to buy a car instead, or they’re going to 5 concerts a year and buying gym memberships. I can’t help but shake my head, because so many of these people could have seen 5 countries with the money they have spent on things like car parts and festivals. Money won’t magically add up by talking about, any more than you can lose weight by talking about working out. It has a to be a priority and it will require sacrifices. You think I wanted a custodial night job? No. But I had a goal and I worked for it, and it changed my whole life.
- Live with Your Parents: This is still on the ‘save money’ trend, but if you’re young, still going through school or a recent high school graduate, don’t rush into finding a place of your own. Unless your parents hate you or you weren’t the nicest kid, chances are they would be very willing to let you stay home if you pull up your pants and assume some more responsibility to live rent-free. Offer to do their lawn services, clean their windows, help with dinner once in a while, take care of the dishes, or vacuum once a week. Your parents will appreciate the help and you may possibly help them save some money in the process. It’s a win for everyone!
- Live life MINIMALLY: It is SO easy in our North American culture to get obsessed with accumulating so much stuff and having the biggest and newest. Go without the latest iPhone. You can survive. Trust me.
- PLAN FOR IT! It won’t just happen. It took me a year and a half of planning before I went to France. It has to be something you work toward if you want it enough.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, you are probably fairly serious about satisfying your travel bug!
I’m not going to pretend like travelling is easy to afford, I know how hard it can be for many people. But there are ways to make it cheaper and a possibility! It comes down to your choices and your priorities. I hope you are encouraged to start planning, making goals, keeping an eye out and ear open for opportunities, and taking advantage of anything that comes your way!
Are you an avid traveller? How do you save up or make money while on the road? What tips or advice would you give to those who have the passport, have the luggage, but still need those last few steps to make their travel dream a reality? Did any of these tips seem helpful to achieving your travel goal? Let me know in the comments below! I am totally up to answer any questions to help out!