If you’re anything like me, your heart dreams of traveling full-time, but your wallet is telling you to sit your butt down. Unfortunately, we need to face the reality that traveling isn’t free. You do have to work hard and save for months. I haven’t been handed any of my exotic trips on a golden platter. I have planned and researched very carefully to find the best and cheapest deals possible.

I get asked different travel questions all the time, so I am here to answer some of them!

  • How do you afford to travel? 

I wish I could say that all my money just grew on a tree, but NO. I have slaved and saved for years before I started traveling. I’m going to explain how I have afforded to travel the last two years. When I left for SE Asia for my first solo backpacking trip in 2015, I considered different options to save money along the way. I knew I wanted to travel for 6+ months but wasn’t sure if I could afford it.

This is when I came up with the idea to volunteer for free accommodation. I found two different organizations in Thailand working with animals that offered just that. Therefore, I saved 2 and a half months of accommodation cost in exchange for working and helping animals. The accommodation was VERY basic, but you can’t expect much when it is free.

After travelling SE Asia for 6 months, my bank account was looking a little sour. This is when I made the best decision of my life. I did my research, and before I knew it, I was applying online for my Australia working holiday visa. This is also another reason I have been able to afford my travel lifestyle.

As some of you may or may not know, Australia is amazing. The beaches, the people, the lifestyle, oh and the PAY RATES! Minimum wage in Australia is roughly $18 an hour. In my experience of working in hospitality there, you made roughly $27 an hour. Plus, on holidays you got “holiday pay”, meaning you make roughly $60 an hour. I loved working during the holidays….

I worked 50-60 weeks for most of my yearlong working holiday visa. Meaning I saved up a fair bit to continue my travels to Europe and Fiji.

So how do I afford to travel? I save and work my butt off.  My motto is “Work hard but play harder!” I live without the newest iPhone. I realized that I didn’t need materialistic things to make me happy. I found cheap/free ways to have accommodations abroad. The biggest factor is searching the internet for the best deals and having flexible travel dates. Above all else, anything is possible if you follow your dreams and put in a lot of effort.

  • What websites do you like to use to book plane tickets and hotels? 

So, let’s say I am dying for a last-minute weekend getaway to Vegas or a cheeky trip to Cancun. My go-to website for plane tickets is www.skyscanner.com! However, sometimes this site isn’t the cheapest. I have found that occasionally it is better to go directly to the airline’s sites to see if they are running any sales/deals. For example, we scored $84 flights from Dallas to New York in June, because American Airlines was doing a wicked sale. Usually, Skyscanner is the best start to your research though. It will tell you which airline has the cheapest tickets flying routes to your destination. Then from there, google the airline’s main website, and search your travel dates on there. See what deals or promotions that are running. It is all about just looking around at the different airlines and having flexible travel dates. I never book any flights during the weekend, as prices always seem higher. Monday and Tuesday are the best day in my opinion to book a flight. Mid-day, during those days are even better. Another one of my favorite websites is www.airbnb.com! Airbnb is a site that lets people from all over the world rent out their homes to everyday individuals. There have been some heated debates lately about how safe it is. However, from my experience, everything was fine, and I always felt safe. We have stayed in Airbnb’s in over 15 countries. You really feel like you’re living like a local. Plus, it is A LOT cheaper than a hotel.

If I can’t find any Airbnb’s I like, I move onto my next favorite website, www.bookings.com! I have found some pretty sweet deals over the years on this site. Sometimes they are offering certain deals if you book it thru them. For example, 20% off if you book more than 3 nights. Sometimes, like the airlines, you have to just go straight to the hotel’s site to book the room for the best deal. Just think, www.bookings.com wants to make their commission. Therefore, make sure you check both sites.

  • Where would you recommend going abroad on a budget? 

Well after living in Thailand for four months, I am a little biased. I found for roughly $1,200 USD a month, I could live it up in Thailand. If you don’t mind eating street food, know how to ride a motorbike/scooter, and don’t mind to staying in a hostel, then THAILAND IS THE PLACE FOR YOU!

Example of prices:

Pad Thai- 100 baht ($2.82USD)

Scooter rental/day- 100-250 baht ($2.82-$7.05USD)

Hostel/ night- It varies, but $5-$20USD

Beer/cocktails- ~100-300 baht ($2.82-$8.46USD)

Don’t get me wrong, you can go to Thailand and spend a lot of money if you really try…. But overall Thailand is cheap, and nothing short of amazing. I can’t even describe Thailand other than, you always feel like you’re living life on the edge (but in a good way)! From diving with whale sharks to the Full moon party on the beach, there are so many actives to choose from.

  • Do you recommend volunteering? 

YES! It is a very rewarding experience, and something I will remember for the rest of my life. I volunteered at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand for 3 weeks. This is a place of great controversy for many, but this was something I wanted to see with my own eyes to form my own opinion. Getting to wake up and take care of baby tigers was a dream that I got to accomplish that. Not only that, but I got to live at a Buddhist Monk Temple. We had to follow all of the rules of the religion while there, as well as, go to the 30-minute monk prayer/chant each day.

Originally, I was supposed to stay a full month. However, the Thai Government came to the temple about 2 weeks into my stay. Then I started noticing some things I didn’t agree with. (NO, not that they drugged them! I never saw anything like that.) I finally made the decision that I was in control of my life and destiny, and my time was up there. To be 100% honest, I felt like I was living like the people on Survivor. The accommodation was very BASIC, no aircon, dirty, but none the less FREE. And again, I got to wake up knowing that I was going to spend my day with tigers which made it all worth it.

I made my way up to Northern Thailand for a couple of weeks after leaving the Tiger Temple. I had a set date for my next volunteer project in Koh Phangan, Thailand. I volunteered at PAC, which is an emergency vet hospital in the southern Thai islands. I had free accommodations here too. However, this accommodation was WAY better. I had a cute little bungalow surrounded by palm trees to stay in, and a free motorbike to use for a month. I ended up staying here longer than planned, because I loved it so much. Everyone I worked with was amazing, and these people really loved helping and saving animals like me. I not only got to help save animals but met some amazing people while living on Koh Phangan.

Luckily, these two organizations I volunteered for were free, and offered free accommodations, which is a win-win situation. I found that a lot of volunteer programs want YOU to pay THEM, and it is not cheap. My best advice if you want to volunteer, is read other people’s experience with whatever organization you choose. Contact the organization well in advance, and make sure to ask a lot of questions. It takes a lot of planning ahead, but in my experience, was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. You really feel like you make a difference in the world. There are volunteer opportunities all around the world. A couple of websites I would recommend checking are: http://grassrootsvolunteering.org/ and http://www.wildlifevolunteer.org/ and http://www.goabroad.com/

I always recommend to people that don’t want to volunteer, to check into working abroad. A lot of countries offer 1-2 year working holiday visas for people under 30. Some examples for Americans are Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. This gives you the experience working in different job fields and see what it is like to live in another country. This too takes some planning like volunteering abroad but is a very rewarding experience as well. If you want to look into your working holiday visa in Australia check out this website: http://www.australia.gov.au/help-and-contact/faqs/visas-and-immigration

  • What camera do you use while traveling? 

We aren’t the high-tech type of travelers, although we do like traveling with two types of cameras. We prefer small cameras, that are lightweight, and don’t take up a lot of room. We love multi-use cameras as well. One of these is my lifeline while abroad which is my iPhone. This phone amazes me at some of the photos it can take. The reason I love traveling with my phone is it has so many uses. A phone, video recorder, and camera all in one.

Make sure before you leave to travel, you have a quality phone. It is even better if you can bring a phone that has an awesome camera. That will save you some room in your bag.

The second camera we love to travel with is our GoPro. This was the one thing I was missing on my SE Asia trip, and I regret not having. It is a little bit of an investment but does some amazing things. The videos we have been able to record on it are just flat out amazing. There are heaps of good cameras on the market so like always do your research and read other people’s reviews on them.