Last year I traveled around the world on just $2000. I hitchiked, Village hopped, couchsurfed through more then 20 countries. It took me 12 months and by the end of the year I arrived near where I started.
Before I explain how I did it, let me first thank those who helped me during the year. So to everyone who gave me ideas, rides, housing, food, entertainment, friendship and so much more. If you are reading this, thank you.
I spent 1 year traveling, visited 21 countries, and I did it on less than the average wage that the median American earns in one month (before taxes). How much exactly did I spend? I will never know, but let me give you the blurry details.
I finished my last contract in February 2012 and because of all the stories I had heard from couch surfers, I decided to travel the world. Because of their advice I knew how to save and I knew hitchhiking was safe. (If you want to read about my awesome couchsurfers Click Here ) I was already in Phnom Penh Cambodia so the next natural stop was Bangkok.
In Bangkok I bought the first of my necessities, a backpack. I think for most people, you should expect to pay around $150 for your backpack. I mean a real heavy duty backpack, one that works for all climates and will hold up after at least a year of abuse. Make sure you have clothes to put in the backpack and to travel with later, if you need more clothes you can get them at thrift/second hand stores along the way. That is if people just don’t outright give cloths to you. They did to me.
Backpack $150. Check, where next.
Food in Thailand is cheap, and here is another one of my great strategies. By traveling in lesser developed countries, which I did most of the time, food was always cheap. In Thailand a good meal at a restraint would be $1. While that was good in a culture where everyone eats out, it doesn’t always work like that. To really survive cheaply it is important to find what foods are cheap in each country that you are in. You can do that best by visiting and asking people “what foods are cheap here” ( I am not patronizing you, people just don’t seem to get that this is an option). In Turkey a HUGE watermelon, one of the biggest I’ve ever seen, and defiantly the biggest I’ve carried up a steep hill cost me only 2$. In Armenia, organic goat cheese was 50 cents to the pound. In Transnistria big, thick, juicy, violate grapes and endless pears were rotting off the trees, so of course everyone gave me as many as I could fit into my belly. In Europe, bell peppers, were only 1$ for a pack of three (all different colors too) – in Europe I had lots of stir fried peppers and rice. In Georgia (the country) I could stuff myself with delicious cheese bread for a dollar and a half. In India all food is cheap, delicious, oily, spicy but cheap cheap cheap. In Bulgaria, HUGE slices of pizza are only 60 cents, and they are good! My monthly food budget was $100. I almost never went over this, and sometimes stayed way under.
So let’s say last year I spent $1000 on food.
Inexpensive food saved me a lot of money. Yes my diet changed in every country. When I could I ate the local fruit when it was in season, as the fruit was always super cheap (or free) then. But I had another huge bonus to my food cost. People kept giving me food. When they saw me on the street, when they picked me up hitchhiking, when I slept in their homes or visited their buildings, they kept feeding me. I loved it and it did save me a bit of money.
I started hitchhiking around Thailand, exploring the area and then I went to India and did the same. In India, My brother and I traveled through India, to small villages, to big cities, through sand storms and jungles. It was easy to get a ride, but the weather was a killer, it hovered around 45C, 115F for most of the days we were hitchhiking. Lucky after hitchhiking through India in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record it could only get cooler. From Armenia to France I hitchhiked, for 5 months, zigzagging and crossing an entire continent. Hitchhiking was indescribably easy (sometimes the first car on a busy road stopped for me) this saved me money, lots of it. Oh and for you paranoid people, I never had a single bad person pick me up while hitchhiking, or doing anything else in my trip. My only trouble was with the police in Pennsylvania, USA who refused to accept that Hitchhiking was legal and then drove me to the next county so I could hitch a ride there.
My total land transportation cost for my ENTIRE trip (this doesn’t include planes, we will get to that soon) must have been less than 100$
When I hitchhike, people often invite me home. About 20% of my year was spent with people who had done just this. They invited me, and I accepted. Usually they will insist on washing your obviously dirty cloths, giving you a good home cooked meal, and when they set you out the next day they often give you some extra food for the road. When I know where I am going, which isn’t too often, I use Couch surfing to make friends and find a place to stay. Couchsurfing.org is a great site, I’ve made lots of lasting friendships from the people I’ve met, and I’ve been able to avoid hotels and hostels, especially in the more costly countries like those in Western Europe or the USA. If I don’t know where I am going, then I do what I call “Village Hopping”. Before I tell you what it is, and you’re going to say it is impossible, let me tell you where I have done it. I have done it in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Thailand, and Cambodia. Yes they are all lesser developed countries, but I would hope this would work anywhere.
So what I do is I hitch hike as far as I can, and if when night falls the driver doesn’t offer me a place I get out at a random village and go to the first door I find or person I meet and tell them “ Hello, I am a foreigner(although my genetics and colorful cloths made them relies that long before) and I need a place to sleep for the night, I have a sleeping bag, could I sleep on your floor.” It works all the time, people are nice, they and loving in every way and they invite me in. They teach me their culture, their history, their language, they also offer me food, and this is the best part, the food in villages in these counties is always locally made, organic and SO GOOD. I don’t mean good for you, which it is, but food that hasn’t been mass-produced is infinitely more delicious than the crap we eat in the west. I love Village Hopping! ( To read more about Village Hopping Click Here)
Of course I did pay for housing a few times, especially in India where 3$ gets you a room with 2 beds overlooking the Ganga river. Yes the room was terrible in nearly every other aspect, but it was good enough, and it came with monkeys who would take candy from my hands.
My total expense for housing during my year trip was also under 100$
What about fun? Sometimes I will tell people about the $2000 it took me to travel and they will say, wow that’s what I spend on drinks in a month(or maybe a little more time but seriously they spend a lot on drinks). “How much do you spend on drinks?” They will ask, and I like a whip, my answer is there “almost none.” Telling them this disappoints them, and they quickly tell me they couldn’t travel like me. The truth is I do sometimes drink. When the culture I am in drinks, I drink. I try to adapt to the culture I am in. I learn all I can, which sometimes includes the language, the history and their culture food. No burgers for me. I get my entertainment from being with these people. They teach me their customs: how to milk a goat, cut a coconut open, farm rice, make bread, dance their cultures dance and sometimes drink. They drink a lot in the Caucasus. I also spend too much of my free time and spare money eating ice cream, so much time that it is more of a pastime of mine than a treat. Really, I’m not joking, and to prove it I will write an article on it. There it is on my “to do” list.
I also love to hike through virgin forests, jungles, over mountain tops and through cities. When all of the above can’t be had. I pick up my Ebook reader. It is a great device and while Hitchhiking I often read, I finish several books a month.
I would say my fun cost me 200$ last year.
I was doing a good job on costs until I made it to Western Europe. Things are more pricy here. I still traveled and stayed for free, but food went up in cost. Luckily it seems like vegetables are subsidized in Europe and when I did have to make my own food it often cost me less than 5$ per day. It was healthy (no instant food, all freshly cooked meals I had learned to cook around the world) and tasty too. Next I had a few friends living in Europe, and the ones who lived in squats also knew about dumpster diving. Not eating half eaten sandwiches, only super clean dumpster diving. We only got out vegetables, which were separated into another container, one that only contained clean vegies. They were not bad, just slightly old and discolored. Too ripe to sell, but defiantly not to eat. They were so clean that many of them were wrapped up in their own little plastic bag. I cleaned them thoroughly when I got back to where I was staying. Overall that jackpot saved me a LOT of money!
So you are hopefully a bit shocked, but still wondering how did I managed to get across the oceans for cheap. Well when it comes to the Atlantic, my plan was to make it to the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain, then try to hop a freighter across the Atlantic. I have met a few people who have done this. It’s not hard to do, it just takes time. The sailors will gladly trade a free passage for some good world travel stories, or so I hear. Time was something I didn’t have, so I chose to get a plane ticket instead. I searched and in the end I got my one way ticket from Paris to New York City for about $200. Crazy right? Nah, I just followed a searching formula I knew, one that I will write about in another article. I had already used my formula to get a few flights for myself and others, so it wasn’t hard to do it again. Later I used my formula more and grabbed a flight across the pacific. (If you want to know how I find cheap flights Click Here )
My total cost of flights for the year were less than $800
Some countries still require Visas to visit them. Not the Credit card, but an entry visa. I wait for the day that they are only a memory of the past, but for now we must deal with their silliness Visas, a cost I hate to pay, were not too bad. My visa for Karabah $7(3 weeks), My visa to Armenia $7(3 weeks), my visa to India 130(6 months), my visa to China $140(one year).
My total Visa Costs were $284.
So let’s total everything up.
Oh no! That is more than $2000! I must be lying! You have proof!
Well Kind of. But a few things I didn’t mention yet. I also made money. In Thailand I took good care of a friend’s guesthouse for a few weeks, that earned me $400. I also did a small 2-day training on the Thai/Burmese border, earning myself a few dollars there. In India I spent $50 buying books, then another $100 sending them to the USA. I sold the books for $600, making a net profit of $450.
Please don’t consider what I did as work, it wasn’t and it was far from it. It was just more fun exploration of the world and what it possible within. So if we count these positive income experiences, then in reality my cost last year for myself was less than $2000.
I hope I inspired you with how I traveled the world on so little money. I am not the only one who has done this. I have friends who traveled on less than me, who visited different places, who experienced different adventures. They all loved their trips and many plan to go back out and see the world, some have even decided to continue their adventure abroad for the rest of their lives. With all the excitement, adventure and great jobs available abroad, this makes sense.
If you want to read about my story, you can! I have several chapters and chapter excerpts of my travel memoir Globalizing Love posted on my blog!
You too can travel like I did, you can make the world yours and you will change yourself. I want to help you make those steps. Click here. And tell me why you can’t travel, and I’ll get back to you with the clearest bit of truth I can offer, it might help erode any fear you have. Also if you’re interested in how I am different now, Click here.
To read interviews with other worldly travelers Click Here.