I’m often asked how I can afford to travel, especially since I don’t have a full-time job. And when I travel I slow travel meaning I “live” in my destination for several months.
It’s not as difficult or expensive as you might think. Of course, you need money to travel. But you also need money to live. But the first step like with everything else is to decide what you want.
Let me explain, before I started slow traveling I paid $2700 per month for a 3-bedroom apartment in New York City. I decided after four years that was enough. I also became an empty nester.
After that, I spent $1500 per month on a studio. Very nice place overlooking the Frasier River but I couldn’t do much else on a limited budget.
In contrast, while slow traveling in Mexico, I paid $400 per month sharing a two-bedroom apartment in a secured building with a swimming pool and a garden. And I got to walk to the beach anytime I wanted!
So I gave up the comfort and security of home and the associated expenses so I can slow travel. I sometimes joke with my kids that I spent most of my life as a solo mom fighting homelessness. Yet here I am choosing to slow travel instead of settling down in one location.
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Traveling on a budget requires finesse and some sacrifices. But the sacrifices I make are worth it. For example, I’ve learned to live without luxuries like a soaker tub or a slow juicer. My solution for the soaker tub is to spend one night every so often in a nice hotel. To make up for the slow juicer, I travel with my Nutribullet. I also use a strainer after blending if I want celery or beet juice.
So there are ways to make adjustments so you don’t have to give up too many creature comforts.
The truth is I love traveling but I don’t have the inclination or the budget to stay in exclusive resorts and fancy hotels. As a semi-retired solo mom, it’s hard to balance moving to and from different places while not going broke. But if you’re not tied down by a 9–5, your boss will let you work remotely, or you are retired or between careers, here are some tips for saving your money while expanding your slow travel experience.
What is slow travel?
Slow travel is traveling while fully experiencing and immersing yourself in your destination by staying longer, instead of rushing through exclusive resorts. You live like a local while learning about the culture, food, and people around you.
Your experience while slow traveling may include taking walking tours, riding local transportation, or staying in the homes of locals. You can learn more about the places you visit and create more meaningful memories if you travel with intention. Slow travel opens the door to a more authentic experience in the places you visit.
Benefits of slow travel
Slow travel allows you to live in different communities while getting to know the people and culture of your destination. Studies show that traveling offers many benefits including improved mental health, enhanced creativity and inspiration, and reduce stress and anxiety.
You can deepen the benefits of traveling when you slow travel, especially when you stay in a destination that fulfills your intended goal such as learning a new language or experiencing a new cuisine.
Stay in a hostel
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but many backpackers and digital nomads swear by hostels like The Flying Pig in Amsterdam or the Ember Hostel in Denver, CO. Staying in a hostel can be strange especially if you’re used to living on your own. But the advantages may far outweigh the negatives especially if you’re up for the adventure.
What is a hostel?
A hostel is an affordable accommodation with dorm-style beds and private rooms. Bathrooms and common areas like the kitchen are often shared. Hostels are budget-friendly options for travelers who want to meet other travelers from all over the world with whom they can make new friends.
As slow traveling becomes more popular, hostels are fast becoming the accommodation of choice. Not only because they are affordable but because they offer the opportunity to meet new people and form lasting connections in a transient community.
Hostels regularly offer something unique and social that you can’t find in other types of lodging. They are a great way to save money while traveling and are perfect for backpackers and solo travelers.
Expert Tip: Save even more by volunteering at hostels worldwide through platforms like Worldpackers.
Pros & cons of staying in a hostel
- Hostels are usually much cheaper than hotels or Airbnb making them a great choice for the budget-conscious.
- Hostels are a great place to socialize with travelers from around the world.
- Many hostels are located in the city center making it easier to get around and to enjoy local amenities.
- Often offer free wi-fi, storage lockers, and a communal space for cooking and working.
- Lack of privacy. Dorm-style sleeping means you have multiple roommates, many if not all of whom are strangers.
- Multiple strangers create safety risks and property theft.
- Noise from inconsiderate travelers can make your stay less enjoyable.
Hang with the locals
Instead of spending money on exclusive hotels or fancy Airbnb rentals, rent from a local homeowner. You’ll most likely pay less and gain knowledge about your new community. It will also give you an opportunity to get to know how the locals live.
This is an excellent option especially if you want to learn the local language and become familiar with the culture.
To find locals when visiting a new location, book an Airbnb for a week or month depending on how long you plan to stay. Then while you’re there renegotiate your rent or get recommendations for local rentals.
However, this option might not be for everyone depending on the country you visit. For example, in Mexico, the locals enjoy regular get-togethers with loud music which could last into the wee hours of the morning. So choose wisely!
- Further immerse yourself in local culture
- Great way to learn a new language and native dialect
- Make freinds with members of the community
- Local culture may not jive with your lifestyle
- Sometimes may not be the “best” part of town
Become a house sitter
One way travelers like Stephanie Perry save money while traveling is to become a housesitter. You can house sit with sites like…Housecarers.com or trusted housesitters where it’s a straight exchange of housing for you taking care of a pet or just watching the house. But duties may also include gardening and taking care of livestock as well.
What is a housesitter?
A housesitter is someone who looks after a person’s home while they are away on vacation or business in exchange for free housing. It’s like being a temporary homeowner! The housesitter’s job is to ensure that the house is safe and secure and that everything is taken care of, such as feeding and walking pets, watering plants, and collecting mail.
It’s an important responsibility because homeowners rely on the housesitter to ensure that their home is in good hands while they’re away. It can be a fun experience for housesitters as well, as they get to stay in a new place for free and explore new neighborhoods.
You will seldom get paid for housesitting but sometimes you can, especially if you snag a gig like the ones on housesitter.com,
As you can see, housesitting is a great way to slow travel while you save money.
- Free housing in exchange for taking care of a home or pet
- Opportunity to live around and meet locals
- Unique experience of staying in nice homes or communities
- Lack of flexibility as you need to accommodate the homeowner’s needs
- Responsibility for someone else’s home and possessions
Get a roommate
The experience of getting to know someone from a different country can be very rewarding. Get a roommate who can share the expenses while you live in a nice home. For example, for a couple of months while staying in Mexico I shared a two-bedroom two bath apartment with a woman from Germany.
We saved money by pooling our resources and money for rent, utilities, and food expenses. Living like this gives you a feeling of home while slow traveling and getting to know how things work in a particular country.
- Live in a nicer home because you share the rent
- Keeps you from being lonely
- Safety in numbers
- Having someone that will know where you are and can notify others in case of emergency
- May be stuck with a lease if you don’t get along with your roomate
- You’ll be on the hook if your rommmate does not fulfill their obligations
- Reduced privacy
Do a Workaway or join Worldpacker
Many opportunities exist for you to volunteer in exchange for food or accommodation in hostels and organizations around the world. Workaway and Worldpackers offer such opportunities.
A Workaway is for someone who wants to contribute to a community while visiting and learning about another culture. The only payment is usually in the form of room and board.
Workaways occur on farms, in hostels, and in community organizations to name a few. Work range from guest check-in to gardening to working in sustainable agriculture.
Like the Workaway program, as a Worldpacker you will volunteer with the host where you will provide services in exchange for room and board.
Worldpackers is a collaborative community where you exchange your skills for accommodation and other benefits. It’s another great way to meet new people and expand your cultural experience, in return for volunteering your skills and getting a transformative experience that lasts a lifetime.
This is another great slow travel experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture while learning new skills and meeting new people from all over the world.
Opportunities exist in many countries so you can work away in your own country as well as in foreign lands.
- Free room and board
- Make connections with like-minded individuals
- Excellent cultural immersion
- You may not enjoy the assignment or location
Bonus: Reduce Airbnb rate
One final way you can save money while slow traveling as I mentioned above, is to renegotiate your Airbnb rate with your host. So you book your host through Airbnb. But if you decide you want to stay longer you can renegotiate the rate directly with your host. Not all hosts will want to deal directly with you and that’s ok. Try it. They save the Airbnb fees and you get a reduction in rent. This method is especially beneficial if you decide you want to stay longer than 3 months.
Other ways to save while you slow travel
While accommodations may be the biggest expense you save while you slow travel other expenses can eat up your budget if you do not plan and spend with intention. Here are some quick tips to help you save money and stay on budget:
- Shop where the locals shop especially for groceries.
- Cook your own meals if you have a way to do so.
- Book flights as far in advance as you can to get the lowest fares but also search for flights with platforms like Google Flights and Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights).
- Research flights for your next destination. It could be cheaper than you think. For instance, you can fly from Cancun to Bogata for under $100 on Booking.com, without booking in advance. However, flights to most other destinations could be way more if you can’t book in advance.
Whether you’re retired, a remote worker, or a digital nomad you can find ways to save money by being creative about your accommodation. Sharing with others or volunteering your time in exchange for food and accommodation can be an effective way to fulfill your dream of traveling while maintaining a sense of financial independence.
So stretch your imagination and be open to new possibilities!
Are you slow traveling? Have you tried any of these methods? Comment below to share your experience with us. Thanks.