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Free Accommodation To Save Travel Funds

An astute reader left a clever comment on the travelogue entry, Work for Travel Money at Labor Ready: “When describing how you save money for travel, don’t neglect that you enjoy rent free accomodations with your in-laws. $6-8/hour wouldn’t go far if were dropping close to a grand every month on rent the way many [...]

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An astute reader left a clever comment on the travelogue entry, Work for Travel Money at Labor Ready:

“When describing how you save money for travel, don’t neglect that you enjoy rent free accomodations with your in-laws. $6-8/hour wouldn’t go far if were dropping close to a grand every month on rent the way many of us are.”

I am not under the impression that I necessarily neglected the fact that I am living rent free, but this is a very good point:

To make money to travel, you need to save money; to save money, you need to cut expenses.

Perhaps the largest expense that anyone has is for accommodation.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Bangor, ME USA- June 16, 2009
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To save money to travel, you need to either work well paying jobs, or find a way to cut the cost of accommodation out of your living expenses.

To save money to travel, it is essential to find cheap or free accommodation

From my experience, this is not very difficult to do. For seven years, I would travel internationally for eight or nine months a year and then return to the USA and work on the road at contractor professions that paid for my living expenses.

Such contractor professions include:

  • Archaeology fieldwork
  • Land surveying
  • Construction
  • Pipe fitting
  • Industrial scuba diving
  • Environmental inspections
  • Anything to do with pipeline work
  • Many misc jobs with developers
  • Geology fieldwork
  • Geomorph/ soil scientist work
  • Inspection work on development projects
  • Oil production work that involves living on rigs in the ocean or on projects at drilling sites.
  • International contractor work

The list goes on. Basically, any profession that focuses on development projects often requires that people travel to work, and, if a job requires that you travel, your living expenses are often paid for.

This means that you can bank your full paychecks, and save every dime that you make.

This kind of employment is good for a traveler, as you not only get a decent paycheck and your living expenses paid for, but you get to travel for work. I do not know of a better work arrangement.

It is not extremely uncomfortable commuting to work from a tent in the woods — I have done this on numerous occasions, including one stint in the summer of 2007 where I slept in a tent for over 70 consecutive nights while working, so that I could save as much money as possible

There are also a lot of other professions that offer free accommodation that are too numerous to mention. Maybe readers can submit some ideas in the comments below?

Some ideas on jobs that may offer free accommodation:

  • Nanny.
  • House keepers – Many people want people to watch their houses when they go out of town long term
  • Pet sitting- It is often cheaper to give a trustworthy person the keys to a house than pay for a kennel
  • Seasonal work in tourist destinations
  • Trail crew and other jobs that you work in the forest
  • Farm work
  • House cleaner
  • Traveling salesperson — many kids travel around the USA selling posters on university campuses
  • Gardening — large estates sometimes have quarters for gardeners
  • Flight attendants can stay in airline operated hostels cheaply or for free
  • Overseas English teaching positions often offer free accommodation

Where I am sitting now, I have three options for free places to live:

  1. In my law’s cabin and/ or apartment
  2. I was offered a place to stay rent free +$500 to watch over a guy’s house and feed his cat while he works out of town for the summer.
  3. I took a job at a farm that has a worker’s cabin and places to camp.

Free places to stay are not rare, they just need to be found.

Tips for finding free places to live:

  1. Find work that gives you a free place to stay
  2. Offer everyone you know to trade housecleaning services for a couch
  3. Offer everyone you know to trade childcare services for a spare room
  4. Explain your situation to you family, maybe they can help or know someone who can
  5. Search newspaper ads or Craigslist for people looking for house/pet sitters
  6. Live in a tent in the woods — not joking, I have done this to save money to travel
  7. Go between the couches of friends in a rotation — though offer something in return (Note: if you clean the toilets in a punkhouse you can stay for as long as you want)
  8. Squat an abandon building — again, not joking
  9. Ask on the community message boards of Couchsurfing.org if there is anyone willing to host you for a few months if you agree to do house chores
  10. Ask at farms for jobs — very often they have a place for migrant workers to stay
  11. Put up ads in coffee shops saying that you are trying to save money to travel the world and are willing to exchange work for a place to stay — it is unbelievable how many people are happy to help travelers (“just want to pay back a little of what I was given when I was on the road”)
  12. Go to a place that has a warm climate and sleep outside
  13. If you have a car, live in it!
  14. Offer to refurbish someone’s basement/ attic/ garage in exchange for the right to stay there until you are finished
  15. Find an activist house that allows volunteers to live there free
  16. Offer to work in hostels/ hotels in exchange for a bed or a room
  17. Build a hut on public land
  18. Trade work at a monastery for a free place to stay

There are many options for limiting or eliminating accommodation expenses while you save up money to travel. Not paying rent is one of the most essential steps to saving money.

The quote that opens up this entry is right on:

You cannot save up money to travel while spending $1,000 a month on rent.

Traveling starts long before you leave home. Abruptly moving out of your expensive apartment and living on the fly is not only good preparation for travel, it is travel.

Working temp jobs and jumping between couches is travel.

Getting land surveying certification and taking contractor jobs around the USA is travel.

Doing a term on an oil rig is travel.

Setting up a tent in a friends backyard so that you can avoid paying rent is travel.

Planning out daily where you are going to sleep at night is travel.

Learning to trust your instincts is travel

Trusting that everything will be alright forever and ever and ever is travel

No matter what, you will find a way.

It is my experience that traveling is not only the physical process of moving from place to place, but also the mental processes that goes along with it. Traveling provokes an almost primal sort of mindset in which you are constantly making conscious decisions based on what you need to survive: the resources to obtain water, food, shelter as cheaply as possible.

This is part of the fun of the Open Road.

I find no reason to wait until you are traveling to begin living like a traveler. Exploring new ways to make and save up your bean money can be as fun and interesting as traveling itself.

It is my impression that a lifestyle is not something that someone is stuck with, but is something that a person chooses every single day.

I will end this entry with another quote, this one lent impetuous to Richard Halliburton’s Royal Road to Romance, and was taken from Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey:

“Realize your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, or giving your life away to the ignorant and the common. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. “Live ” live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing. There is such a little time that your youth will last- such a little time.”

If anybody has any more suggestions on how someone could save money to travel by not paying for accommodation, please comment below. If anyone is willing to put up a prospective traveler in their homes to help them on their journey, email me at Vagabondsong@gmail.com.

Avoid paying rent by living in a hole if you have to.

Vagabond Journey How to Make Money to Travel Project

Work for Travel Money at Labor Ready

Free Accommodation To Save Travel Funds

Filed under: Accommodation, Travel Preparation, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Jeremiah Shackelford September 28, 2009, 7:41 pm

    I am an over-the-road truck driver. The initial training does cost something (up to $4,000) but once you get going, that is paid of very quickly and yoa can live in your truck (quite comfortably I might add) and save a ton of money very quickly.
    Drivers are also very much in demand even in the present economy.

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  • Nancy Vinal December 24, 2010, 6:31 pm

    I have 40+ acres with a stone (no plumbing) house in San Marcos Nicargua.. up in the mountains (coffee climate/cool) about 27 miles from the international airport in the capital city of Managua. Have owned the finca for almost 12 years. It is 100% owned and the taxes are paid up to date.
    I am searching for adventursome people who have some moderate amount of rapidly depreciating US dollars that they would like to put into a “safe haven” from the coming deluge here in the continental US.
    People with creative ideas to make use of an OPEN political society.. where there are no cameras or people tracking… and lots of people who desperately need work. The house needs to be wired and plumbed.. the land is currently growing vegetables, citrus, mango, banana (3 varieties) and is located 5 miles outside the municipality of San Marcos (a university city) at the intersection of 4 roads. Very desireable location.
    I need financial help to create whatever is feasible.. an alternative health / herbal / spa clinic. (Good doctors and nurses abound plus doctors from Cuba and alternative approaches to healing are used now and welcomed.)… many opportunities for teaching skills such as construction and agriculture .. (the alternative Panama canal is already funded from the east coast (Bluefields area) to the west coast on the river that forms the border with Costa Rica… and construction of the ports on the east side has already begun).
    Anyone interested drop me a line.. and I will answer … englishvinal@yahoo.com

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