If you want to see the world a little differently this year, there are now loads of ways to travel more economically without staying in hostels. New phenomenons such as Couch Surfing, WWOOFing, Housesitting and skill swaps are fantastic ways to meet local people, immerse yourself in the culture and learn new skills. Here is a beginners guide to travelling the world for free.
Couch Surfing This well established website enables people to travel internationally with completely free accommodation. Stay on a 'couch' offered by a fellow member in hundreds of countries across the world, from Denmark to Canada. The name of the site is misleading in some cases, as many people actually offer a spare room, tent-pitch in their garden or something entirely unique. Guests can read testimonies from past visitors, and get the opportunity to stay with their host for free whilst potentially making friends. The system relies on the fact that people will offer and accept beds, although it isn't essential that you offer a space back home.
WWOOFing World Wide Opportunities in Organic farming is an international organisation where guests volunteers their services on organic farms in exchange for food and board. There are lists of participating farmers on each country's WWOOF database, from Italy to Ecuador. Usually guests will help out a few hours per day with anything from helping to feed animals and harvesting vegetables to making cheese and jam. Each farm is unique, so you can choose whether you want to visit a modest small-holding or a full working farm. Stay with a local family and learn all about the culture as well as new skills and languages. This is a great way for kids, couples or lone travellers to stay for free and give something back.
House Sitting House sitting websites such as Mind my House include lists of home owners who are going away and want house sitters for the duration of their trip. This could be in anywhere from Cornwall to Australia and Malaysia. House sitters volunteer their services and, if selected, stay in the house for free, perhaps looking after pets or doing odd jobs. Many people have made a travelling career out of house sitting and there are surprisingly few stories of things going wrong. This is the perfect way to travel and stay in one place for a few weeks with free accommodation, as long as you can handle living by somebody else's house rules.
Eco-Tourism Whilst not necessarily free, there are many ecotourism farms, campsites and lodges across the world that offer low cost, family friendly accommodation that is in harmony with the surrounding environment. Communal meals, visitor skill swapping and sustainable energy keeps costs down whilst offering a truly immersive experience for travellers seeking a different perspective.
Got any other ideas about how to travel for free? We would love to hear about them.