A month-long holiday for free
(Listen to the music while reading blog post.)
Okay, okay, the title is slightly headline-chaser. But you clicked on it, right?
Certainly, nothing is for free, everything on the globe has its value and compensation, even if it’s not always money. So I don’t promise to redeem the world and don’t promise either that you will be able to do that. But if redeeming the world is not your aim, just want to have a nice holiday spending money converging to zero, I gladly share my ideas on this subject and hopefully can provide you with some inspiration.
Let’s see systematically what main costs you usually have when you’re going on a holiday: (1) you need to get somehow to your desired place (and back home, but this is not the most heartwarming part), (2) you have to find some spot where you can get some sleep, (3) of course, you might need to discover local cuisine… and signature drinks and (4) do something aventurous while you are there and not just sitting at your accommodation.
We’ll use my last one-month journey to the amazing island of Madeira as a veterinary horse.
Flight ticket. Nowadays you can do a lot of tricks during searching for and buying a flight ticket, sometimes if you are lucky, you can get tickets ridiculously cheap. Certainly, you’ll need to be flexible, but in this case you can save a big amount of money. Search for cheap destinations and make your holiday surprise you! There are a couple of pages where you can find flight+accommodation offers selected for best price (my fav is Utazómajom, available at the moment in Hungarian only as far as I know). In case you’d like to do it on your own, rome2rio can be your best friend in ground, water and air transport between places, it lists the low-cost airlines as well – but please note that in case of certain airlines, if you search for the same route, price might be higher and higher with every new inquiry.
My most beloved technique to save money on flight ticket is to travel light, only with a hand luggage without any hold luggages. No, it is not impossible to travel for a month with only a 28 l backpack. Just remember, how much clothes you didn’t even wear once, last time when you packed your big baggage. See?! The secret lies in a reasonable packing list, keeping your needs low and a compression bag. Not to mention how revealing is that you have to carry only a small backpack instead of a huge trolley bag, exacerbated with three hand luggage and tearing your hair off.
Accommodation. Usually the most expensive part of the journey. ‘Course the theory on flexibility is valid here too, that means if you are happy sleeping in the white sand by the sea covered with only a mosquito net, you are the best and finding a budget accommodation won’t be a problem for you. But in case you are a bit more comfortable than this, a possible solution might be volunteering or house sitting, especially for longer holidays. I experienced the former (article about volunteering here), five working hours per day, two day-offs per week and in exchange you don’t have to spend any money on accommodation and food. And you have the very comforting feeling that you helped somebody, that you did something useful, something that count. Win-win.
Volunteering is relatively easy, the only thing you have to do is to sign up to a website connecting hosts and volunteers for a small amount of yearly fee (I use workaway). In opposite to the usual holidays volunteering has the advantage of exploring an unknown place slowly, comfortably, without any rush and you can connect with locals instead of tourist hordes.
Food. If you are lucky you’ll have a nice host who cooks for his/her family anyway, so eventually you may get lunch and dinner as well so you don’t have to spend money on food either. Not to mention that you can eat healthy and local food from the most authentic source possible. Worst case scenario, you need to do the wash-up, but please show me anybody who is not willing to do it for a nice espatada.
Transportation. If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll get more and more adventures. You are on a low budget, so you don’t rent a car, anyway, it’s a tiny little island in the middle of the Atlantic. The bus service is occasional, but at least it takes forever to get to the other end of the island, and you still don’t want to spend much on bus tickets. So, time to hitchhike. Okay, I might have been raised in Alice’s wonderland, but haven’t tried hitchhiking before Madeira. But on this island this seemed to be more than normal. We used it as the only mean of transportation, it was simply obvious and I was truly looking forward the next adventure, the next shauffeur to come (most memorable was to hitchhike a police car). A good series of awesome encounters, of nice conversations made these journeys sweet, in funnier cases we communicated in our own languages trying to understand each other. The unpredictability was the most appealing in these stories, for sure.
Adventures. It took me a while to understand that for me ticking the different tourist attractions off of my list is not number one priority, and that you can’t see everything so rushing is unnecessary. Now I like to explore slowly through people and stories, adventures and food and not necessarily visiting all the popular sights. I don’t say this is the road to Nirvana, but for me this fits much. On the top of all, you usually don’t have to pay for these kind of experiences which makes them even more attractive for me.
It’s not accidentally that you won’t find posts in this blog with the title like this “10 sights you shouldn’t miss in Madeira”, there are tons of them anyway. I believe that experiences are tend rather to come from a picnic by the ocean, from a long and tiring hiking in the mountains, from a nice dinner with locals, from a couple of good conversations lasting all night, and sometimes from paragliding above amazing land, and not from watching the interior of a church or spending boring hours in a museum. Certainly these can be nice as well, but I’d bet not the most expensive adventures are the best ones.
So where are we now? We bought a return flight ticket, did volunteering, didn’t spend a cent on accommodation, neither on food, we hitchhiked instead of renting a car and we didn’t find adventures in tourist traps. But we still have a decent amount of money to spend, so how is this free?
And now comes the final trick, my personal favourite, and what’s more, it’s in perfect harmony with the theory of minimalism which I also like very much recently.
In each and every households you can find a truckload of things which is unused or unnecessary. Just think about the stuff hidden in the attic, that you haven’t used for ages, clothes you haven’t wear for the last decade or so, but you preserve them hoping for better times (that won’t come). The small stuff, memories, things you keep holding for no reason, your almost-forgotten jewelry, the out-of-date gadgets, the sport equipments you don’t use anymore, the unnecessarily big amount of kitchenwear, your purses and so on. Anything doesn’t hold value for you but still might be useful for somebody else. Well, collect them, organise them, take photos of them, make ads and sell them. It’s of utmost importance that you should collect the money you get in a “my-travel-fund” box or similar, not to spend it before time. With a little patience and time spent on this, you can make enough money to buy your flight tickets getting rid of your unused stuff and making someone else happy at the same time. Another win-win situation.
And with volunteering and with selling some of your stuff, going for a month-long holiday can be reachable for almost anybody for free. You only have to step out of your comfort zone and be a bit flexible. This is all you need. Money? You don’t.