Ask GoMad Nomad: Little money, still want to travel

Dear GoMad Nomad:

I’m low on cash but still want to travel, what should I do? Go into further debt and live life in the moment, or do the prudent thing and save up my money?

-Broke In Brooklyn

Dear Broke in Brooklyn:

My first advice is to get the heck out of Brooklyn! You’ll save up more money living in the sticks. But, yeah, yeah, I know you want to be at the epicenter of Hipsterdom.

Anyhow, to answer your question: Don’t go into debt! But…you can still travel on very limited funds. The options are limitless.

Since you don’t have money, I’m assuming you have time.  You can spend that extra time that you normally spend nursing PBRs on Bedford Ave, researching and planning out your travel.

First thing you’ll have to understand about cheap/budget travel is that it happens very slowly. You’ll have to opt for the pueblo bus over the bullet train; and if you’re going to hitch, you’ll have a lot of time to perfect your hacky sack skills while waiting for your free rides. So I’d reserve anywhere from two months to a year for this expedition.

If you just happen to have graduated from college and don’t know what to do, check out this fantastic post over at Almost Fearless.

Since you have the time, I would highly recommend volunteering, “helping,” working, and temporarily residing in the places you plan on visiting. This will allow you to actually experience the place and get to know the people you have traveled so far to visit.


This one is tricky. You want to avoid paying a fee to volunteer. I don’t mind helping others, but I don’t like to have to pay for that privilege, and neither should you. Check out these awesome articles for low-cost or free volunteering opportunities in Nepal, the West Bank, and Spain. Transitions Abroad Magazine is also an incredible resource for volunteering abroad info.

Help Exchange

Before I started teaching English in Madrid, I almost took a gig helping an English couple in Brittany restore an old train station into a B & B. I would have helped them for four hours a day and they would have fed me and given me a room in their home. The rest of the day I could spend working on my writing projects with the help of their wireless internet. I used Help Exchange to connect with these people in need of a helper. But the dream was never realized.


Get to the Caribbean or cross the Atlantic while working aboard a yacht. Skippers in ports far and wide are always looking for a crew that preferably speaks their language and may or may not have sailing experience. Good sites to connect skippers and crew: Crewfinders, Yacht Crew Register, or Dovaston Crew.

Temporarily Residing

A great option is house sitting. I kind of want to make a career out of this, except it doesn’t pay very well. Why not take care of the perritos and water Señora Torres’ garden for the month August while she’s vacationing at her other home on the Canaries? You’ll probably need a good reference before strangers will entrust you with their home and animals. Use Mind My House, House Careers, or House Sit World.

So if you combine a little traveling in between some of these ideas, you’ll have a well-rounded trip.  Use couchsurfing for accommodation read up on hitchhiking before you leave.


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2 thoughts on “Ask GoMad Nomad: Little money, still want to travel”

  1. You really gave some good advice and options you can use to travel cheaply. As long as you have enough money to get there, you should be able to do it. There is also working on organic farms through WWOOF that people can try. I know some people who have used that and said it worked really good.

  2. On my recent “chicken bus” tour of Central America one of my more enjoyable work trades was with an expensive tour guide on the border of Belize in San Ignacio. My girlfriend and I couldn’t afford his $70 cave tour so we ended up striking a deal to help him build the foundation of his new tienda in his backyard to sell snacks out of. This took about 4 hours a day doing cement and metal work that he taught us and we in trade got a free room to sleep in and a simple breakfast every morning. Later that week he invited us along on a tour for the cost of fuel, $5.00 each. His wife and kid were great, we met a number of locals and travelers and got to see one of my favorite Mayan ruins in that small town, Cahal Pech. The options really are limitless.

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