Imagine living and working in a British pub on the coast of southern England, eating pub food each day, and in your spare time chilling at the nearby beach? Now imagine all of this came at no cost. Zilch. Nada.
This was the kind of life Meggan Kaiser lived, as she hopscotched some 30 countries, across South America, Europe, Asia and more, for free (or virtually free). It all happened through “travel hacks” – alternative methods to slash costs.
And she insists anyone can do it, irrespective of student or working stiff; whether it’s taking time off from a job, a gap year, or simply getting away from it all.
When she discovered people were clueless about how to score free flights and free accommodations, she decided to chronicle it in a 170-page reference guide, called Everywhere for Nothing: Free Travel for the Modern Nomad.
“Free travel is something that actually, truly needs to be known by people – not just because it’s cool, near, and fun, but because the world, and its people, need to understand that we are all connected, and not enemies,” says Kaiser.
Among the not-so-secret secrets, is “airfare hacking”, amassing credit cards with points, traded in for flights and hotel. Most cards have sign-up bonuses equivalent to free short-distance flights. So long as the statements are paid up, this is like earning free money on everything you spend. (There are other, far cheaper options for accommodations, like couch surfing.)
Living and working abroad can also be the key to eliminating some food and sleep expenses.
Kaiser spent 16 months doing work exchange and “voluntourism”: labour, for room and board.
At age 25 she scored a house-sitting gig in a modern home in Greece, for three weeks. It overlooked olive groves, orange groves, and the sea was within eyeshot. In exchange, she received food, a small allowance, and use of their Land Rover. She did this kind of work exchange with 18 different families in 13 countries.
“I just had the most amazing experiences,” she said. “I always found the people who were the best cooks – because you could find in the descriptions people who honoured food like that. So, I’m getting three meals a day, living in the hills of Tuscany or by the Black Sea in Turkey, and just having to do relatively minimal work. If you are only doing three to five hours a day, it’s a ton of free time for the rest of the week.”
As for ground travel, she outlines how to effectively use peer sharing and carpooling for cheap (or free) rides. Everywhere for Nothing is a veritable cornucopia of shortcuts, advice, ideas, and travel wisdom that anyone can use, and still live the life of a semi-pampered nomad.
Three things indispensable to her travels?
A journal: “I think it’s really important to be able to jot down random thoughts and observations – whatever pops in your head. When you are in new environments and situations, you are going to have thoughts you don’t normally think. You have to catch them.”
Earplugs: “because sleep is the most important thing ever.”
A good book.