Essays · free travel · Uncategorized

Meta Analysis: Free Travel

Free travel is the dream of, well, it’s the dream. To go where you want, when you want, for no cost whatsoever. Before attempting this seemingly impossible (but entirely the opposite) feat, you would want to do some research on just how to go about traveling for free.

I’m here today to save you a little time with something that is, in social sciences, called a “meta analysis.” I have taken information from several well known blogs and compiled it for you below. Summarizing summaries. Researching research.

What I hope to give you is  condensed information, letting you know what you need to know in half the time.

How to travel for free (or cheap)

According to Great Big Scary World, you need five things for basic survival:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Health

While the final one is pretty vague (though will be explained), you do need all of these to basically function. Let’s begin with:

  1. Air

Air is free. Air is everywhere except for underwater and in space. If you need air, breathe. If that doesn’t work, you’re probably dead.

2. Water

In an emergency, almost all water is better than no water. However, clean water is desirable. Accessing clean water is easy enough. You can always simply go inside a building and find some water fountains, should they have them. These are also found at parks. As a last resort, you can drink from rivers or lakes. However, not mentioned by Great Big Scary World is this tip: Drink from moving water sources, like a stream or river. Bacteria doesn’t congregate as easily in moving water vs. still water.

Tip: Carry water bottles to contain what fresh water you can find

3. Food

Matador NetworkEarth Porm, and Great Big Scary World, among many, many others, suggest dumpster diving for food. Each one says that once you get out of the United States, it is easy to attain food using this method. Many smaller shops and gas stations take the perfectly edible food that has not sold that day, and throw it away. That’s basically a giant sign saying “free food” to anyone willing to search a little bit.

Other tips from the above blogs and Nomadic Matt include hoping (but never asking for or expecting) that eating opportunities come along as you hitchhike; If you are offered food, always be gracious and grateful, whether you decline or accept (both are perfectly valid).

Another idea would be to work for your food. This can range anywhere between volunteering in exchange for room and board, to learning a skill useful in a worldly sense in order to busk (street perform) or work, as maybe a bartender or waiter/waitress.

Not addressed in any of the blogs is whether or not you can simply wander into a restaurant and ask for food. I will do a poll of the restaurants in my immediate area to see how the idea is generally accepted, and report back to you.

The final extreme, suggested by Great Big Scary World, is to live on pure carbohydrates, including bread and instant noodles. This is not desirable, and most likely not enjoyable, but will get you through a journey with plenty of energy. just make sure you add in some fiber and whatnot here and there.

4. Sleep

Of the six blogs that I researched (Earth PormHuffington PostThis American GirlGreat Big Scary WorldNomadic Matt, & Matador Network), not a single one failed to mention, in some capacity, Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website that matches users with other users, all in the name of finding a place to stay. You simply create an account, search for the area you intend to travel to or the area you live in, and find people to host or to stay with. Completely for free! Of course, it would show gratitude and be polite to at least help around the house a little bit, but in the end, is not necessary. If you’re a dick.

All of the above blogs also mentioned free-camping, the simple act of camping…for free. Anywhere where the ground is flat. Away from the side of the road, preferably, just to sleep better and not look suspicious. Check the laws of the land that you are in, make sure that free-camping is legal. If it is, you’re in. If it isn’t, sleep under the stars! Just hope it doesn’t rain.

Of course, there are hostels, which aren’t necessarily free, but are in every way cheaper than a hotel. And truth be told, hostels can be free, if you, like mentioned above in the “food” section, work for it.

5. Health

Great Big Scary World is one of the few that mentions anything about maintaining your health. This is through one indispensable investment called “travel insurance.” This spending will kind of ruin the fun of your “no money trip” for a while, until you break your leg falling down a hill, or get pneumonia, and you won’t have to pay your thousands of dollars worth of hospital bills in full; All thanks to your travel insurance. In the end, it’s going to save you money and give you peace of mind.

The article on Matador Network, found here, is all about mental health. If you were to read one article of the ones I have read (Earth PormHuffington PostThis American GirlGreat Big Scary WorldNomadic MattMatador Network), I would suggest This American Girl and Matador Network the highest. The final tip of the latter is,quite beautifully, to simply “embrace serendipity.” I just love that.


Other miscellaneous tips from the above blogs are to work over seas, work as an au pair, bartender, hostel worker, tour guide, waiter/waitress, cruise ship worker, yacht worker, ski instructor, yoga instructor, and ESL (English as a second language) teacher.

Or, if you have the money to get there and back again, but not so much to stay, volunteer with WWOOF, for room and board in exchange for farm labor. The Peace Corps, Volunteer HQGVI, and many, many more (just google volunteer opportunities abroad).


I hope you find this article insightful and helpful, and hopefully it saved you the time you could be using to plan your next trip. Did the information given leave any questions you might have had unanswered? Leave them in the comments below, and thank you for reading. I hope to see you back here soon!