Have you ever thought about packing up all you have to just go and explore our beautiful world but never quite found the funds to make that first step out there?
Would you like to know how all these wandering souls make their millions to live that dream?
Well they don’t, really. Truth is the nomadic lifestyle is much cheaper than that of those who live the ‘normal’ life, or at least it can be if you want it to.
Since Team Podstel have just travelled across 12 countries in Europe on an extreme shoestring I thought I’d put together some advice on how you can do it too.
First thing’s first – the Triangle of Costs.
It’s often said that there is a triangle of 3 major costs while travelling: accommodation, transport and food. Through our adventures, we’ve proven, it is possible to eliminate all three of these costs leading to a completely free and sustainable lifestyle.
To touch briefly on the latter two, transport costs can be diminished through hitch hiking, walking, cycling or any form of non-motorised vehicle and, although a bit trickier, food costs can be taken away too through volunteering your time in exchange for food, dumpster diving or growing your own.
However, for this article I will focus on Accommodation.
This can be the biggest expense of travel if you let it which is frustrating because sleeping is the time when you are experiencing the least yet there’s no escaping it.
However, you can indeed escape are the costs associated with it.
There are endless possibilities for scouting out a good place to rest your head for the night. Here’s my top ten tips:
1. Invest in a tent
This would be my number one top tip. Never travel without a tent, especially in the winter months. Come rain or shine a tent will always protect you from the elements. To have it with you reassures you that whatever the day might hold, when the sun goes down your best bud is there to put some shelter over your head.
You can literally pitch a tent anywhere – patches of grass, fields, olive tree plantations, forests, parks, racecourses, you get the picture. Just anywhere with a piece of semi flat land big enough for your tent. Be respectful by always leaving the area as you found it and that way even if you suspect it was private land, no one will ever know your secret.
2. Abandoned Buildings
These are easier to find in some countries than others. Greece, I have discovered, is a great country for finding half constructed buildings. And what perfect sleeping spots they make.
My advice when you find one is to first take a look around the place to check it’s not already been claimed by someone else. If not then it’s unlikely that someone will come in through the night which means it’s home sweet home for you. Consider putting up your tent inside the building for extra protection if the weather isn’t great.
Hitchhiking is not only a great form of free transport but it also opens up the opportunity to meet some of the kindest people ever, who just might offer you a bed. This isn’t a reliable way of sourcing accommodation and not why I do it but sometimes it’s an added bonus of the hitching experience. This has happened a few times for Podstel on the road. One time, we hitched a ride with a guy who owns a Ju Jitsu academy who has let all four of our travelling team stay in the academy gym, as well as throwing in a free jiu jitsu lesson.
Can you think of any other scenario where that would happen?
Beaches, in the eyes of a nomad, are one huge mattress. The sand provides a memory foam style cushioning while the sound from ocean’s waves help you drift off into a peaceful sleep. If you haven’t already witnessed the sun sink into the sea in the evening then you will be greeted by a magnificent sunrise in the morning. Pure heaven.
There’s only two things to watch out for when sleeping on the beach. Firstly, know the tide. Waking up on cast away island because the tide came in and swept you away through the night might sound all very tropical and nice but in reality it’s probably more hassle than it’s worth. So, my advice is to check what time is high tide and know how far up the beach it comes.
An easy way to find out if you don’t have internet access is to dig deep into the sand and if it’s still dry then the tide probably doesn’t reach that far up the beach. The other concern is valuables. You don’t want anything getting buried and lost in the sand so put all valuables inside your sleeping bag. I’d advise this for anywhere you sleep when outside anyway, just incase of thieves.
When you’re caught out in a big city with nowhere to rest your head for the night, parks are a good option. Here you will always be able to find a patch of grass to pitch your tent, or if you know it’s not going to rain and want to be more subtle then it’s fine to just jump in your sleeping bag.
Parks are ok sleeping spots. I have to admit they’re not my favourite. You can be quite exposed, especially in a big city and as a girl (not that guys are any less exposed), I personally would only use this option as a last resort.
6. Speak to people
Socialise. Go into a bar, a cafe, sit on a bench next to a lady, whatever. Don’t be afraid to start up a conversation with someone. The vast majority of the time people will be happy to chat. The perfect situation for doing this (although by no means limited to) is when you’re a backpacker in a small or remote town where tourists, especially from outside of that country are few and far between. The locals are usually very intrigued to meet a foreigner. A nice friendly smile with a wave and the ice is broken.
From there you can chat away, explain your situation; that you’re looking for somewhere to stay and see what comes of it. If you don’t speak the language a good idea is to prepare some translation cards before you set off to communicate by cards, sign language and a happy face.
Bus stations, train stations, coach stations, fire stations or any kind of station will usually provide a safe shelter for the night. I’ve never had any problems sleeping in them and in the past I’ve even made friends with the homeless who stay there on a more regular basis. Admittedly they’re not always the most comfortable or peaceful locations but they do offer facilities, a roof and there are often night workers walking around to offer safety.
This is probably the most obvious and well know way of finding a free bed for the night but I didn’t want to put it near the top for reasons I’ll explain in a minute. Couchsurfing is the longest running of these sites.
More recently (though still a long established network of people) is BeWelcome and the new up and coming site is TrustRoots, which is more specifically geared towards hitchhikers and so works well for those who can’t be sure when or where they will arrive until last minute.
Although all these sites do essentially provide a free bed for travellers it’s extremely important not to treat it like that. There is so much more to it. By staying with locals you get to know the town or city from an insider’s perspective – from finding the best places to grab the traditional dishes, the shortcuts around the streets, local politics/attitudes and much, much more.
Above all for me, these sites provide a platform to make tonnes of new friends. And maybe your paths will cross again, and if so, that’s amazing but at the very least you will have created lasting memories with people from all around the world.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of these websites yet, Google them. They’re great. Basically a few hours of work per week earns you free food and accommodation. A nice comfy bed, shower, hot meals; the works. All the luxuries from home packed onto the road, with working options ranging from a week to a year plus. There’s opportunities to try all sorts of new trades and who knows you might even find your niche in life.
Last but not least you can always try social networking sites. Maybe you want to leave a status to see if any of your friends can help you out or know someone who can. This works well once you’ve got your connections all around the world. It could lead to a long awaited reunion.
Another option is to post something in a travellers facebook group, maybe a hitchhiking or nomads group. It’s important to remember these groups aren’t aimed at providing accommodation exchange but you never know who might help you out.
Wrapping it Up…
So there you have it 10 of my favourite free sleeping options. There’s loads more and plenty I’ve not yet experienced. Get yourself out there, be inventive and soon you’ll start to see the world as one big bed.
I’d love to hear all your beautiful comments. Feel free to post away below.
Happy travelling and sweet dreams.