Screw Work, Go Travelling: How to see the world with a low bank balance

I signed into my Internet banking and for a moment my heart stopped. I was in Florence, Italy, and my bank balance was not pretty. After eating one too many pricey pizzas and having my fair share of happy moments on classy red wines, it had all caught up with me. What about budgeting? Foreign concept – I understand it as much as the Italian language.

I was two weeks into a six-week trip around Italy and Germany. I had to make it to Germany as I had prepaid for an Oktoberfest tour, and I wasn’t ready to miss out on my dirndl moment.

Four weeks later I was back in London. With limited funds I made it to all my planned destinations. Was it stressful? Hell yes. I’m afraid I aged a lot, I'm now in need of botox, but I survived.

When the reality of my bank balance hit, Google was my friend. As a result of ending up in financial strife in the middle of the land of pasta I learnt a thing or two about travelling with little money. Many people who work from nine to five dream of escaping the rat race to travel the globe, but many believe they don’t have the money to do it. Having a lot of money while travelling is the ideal situation, but that’s not always possible. As it turns out there are ways to see the globe with limited funding.

Surfing couches

The idea of sleeping on strangers’ couches may scare you a little. This is natural. However, it is an amazing way to see the world and make a few international friends while you’re at it. Couchsurfing is an online community of people all around the world who let travelers sleep on their couches for free. You may come across a few crazies. You may also be asked if you’re keen on prostitution – to which your answer should always be no (unless you really are). The cost of accommodation hits you hard while travelling, it’s where the majority of your money goes. Not only did couchsurfing through Italy and Germany stop me from sleeping on the streets, I also found the couchsurfing community to be full of awesome, interesting and giving people.

Exchanging help

Imagine staying with an artist in Venice for free. Imagine spending your days exploring the island city, while not paying a cent for food and accommodation. What’s the catch, right? I spent a few hours a day helping out at the artist’s studio and house. It was an amazing time and Venice does not disappoint. It’s just as you imagine it to be. Through a website called Helpx you can find places to do help exchanges all around the world. Although there may be people who abuse the system for cheap labor, I am yet to come across them. Doing a help exchange was a life saver during my trip.

Car sharing

I caught a ride with a single mum for one leg of my trip through Italy, and it was cheaper than a train ticket. I’m guessing since the invention of the automobile, car pulling has been a way to save money. Now there are websites like Bla Bla Car where you can car share throughout the world. On the website drivers post their trips and how much money they would like passengers to contribute. To avoid featuring in the ‘missing’ section of the newspaper always read the reviews on the profiles of people offering rides. The more positive reviews a driver has, the more likely the ride will take you to a destination you wish to visit.

Would I recommend travelling with hardly any money? Not necessarily. It can be very stressful knowing that you only have enough money in your account for one slice of pizza. However, my trip is proof that you don’t need to be rolling in moolah to make your dreams of travelling the world a reality. To avoid a few wrinkles make sure you have enough money in the bank for at least two slices of pizza.

Photo credit: Giovanni Novara