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The most rewarding part of the journey is being completely immersed in a different world, being overwhelmed by the differences in culture, feeling the rhythm of a new city, struggling to communicate in a foreign tongue having all your senses are overloaded.
I’m not going to go into depth about how to immerse yourself into a new culture – it is different for everyone. If you’ve done your homework you should be fine, there is no right or wrong when it comes to traveling epically, your only goal is to grow and that can only happen if you surrender yourself to the experience and embrace that anything can happen. Use common sense where you can to avoid getting yourself into serious trouble, everything else just follow your heart and go with the flow.
This final chapter of this article is all about making the most of living life on the road
Here is the fun part, here are all the ways to squeeze every dollar, make the most of every moment and make it epic. I will start off with some relatively common sense tips then move on to some more unique ways to make the most of it. This is by no means an exhaustive list but an addition to your current arsenal of tools to travel the world.
Currency & Exchange
- Exchanges: Most of the time it is far better to exchange at the destination country rather than your own as the rates are more competitive. Always do your research to find out the best places to exchange money and exchange in bulk if you can as desperate exchanges from the ATM can cost you a fortune in transaction fees. Always do your best to minimize ATM transactions!
- Find an international credit card that doesn’t charge hefty international fees for purchases and withdrawals. Check out if you have access to travel cards/multi-currency cash passports that allow you to load various currencies into your card and use it overseas at a predetermined rate (0% commission and 0% interest). This is great if you are traveling various countries and don’t want to keep exchanging money.
- Travel pouch: If you are traveling alone it might be a great idea to get a travel pouch that can safely store your money and valuables i.e. passport. My sister had a couple instances where people tried to rob her, luckily she kept her valuables concealed in a pouch under her clothes. If you don't have one, you can either order it or make one yourself!
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- SIM cards: Most countries have traveler’s SIM cards sold at convenience stores so that shouldn’t be a problem, however if you are planning for a longer stay it would be wise to find a local SIM card as the rates on traveler’s SIM cards are far more expensive in the long-run than the short-term.
- Internet: In most developed countries finding free WIFI isn’t going to be a problem (most coffee chains and modern shopping malls have free WIFI), however for those less developed countries it might prove more challenging but not impossible. Investing in a SIM card might be the smarter choice to have mobile internet access, alternatively you can purchases data cards or mobile broadband SIMs if you have that feature.
- Social Media Applications: Applications such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Viber etc. are great ways to keep in contact with people all over the world for free. Most of the time you can get by without even having a mobile phone number as these social media applications have all the features you need to keep in touch globally for free, all you need is internet access.
Socializing & Language
There’s no better way to learn about a city than to hang out with locals. Apart from making great friends, locals are like an express train to immersing yourself into a culture. You can learn the customs, language and all the great places to see
- Social groups: A great website to meet people from all over the world wherever you are is Meetup.com. Whatever you are interested in you can always find people with similar interests in all parts of the world to meet up with. It is free to use and most of the time the meet ups are free – some charge a small fee to cover venue hire, materials etc. Try using expat websites, social websites or even online dating to meet people, you will expand your network and learn so much faster.
- Language exchange websites: If you are really keen to blend in with the locals, learning the official language(s) will open hearts and doors like there is no tomorrow. It may take a lot of hard work in the beginning however with the right guidance and consistent practice you will have learnt enough to communicate with the locals in their tongue. Look at this way, if you learn their language you have the potential to talk and connect to millions of people than if you didn’t. English is a great language to exchange, especially in countries that don’t have it as an official language. Check out the many free language exchange websites out there that can help you learn almost any language you want.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”
~ Nelson Mandela
- Booking flights: Wherever possible look for sales or use budget airlines – sign up for promotions and you will always get a better deal than booking normally. Don’t bother with travel services. Learn to find the cheapest tickets and book from them directly to avoid unnecessary commission fees.
- Researching train/bus tickets: Could save you a fortune (and time) if you find alternative forms of transport to get to certain destinations
- Travel passes: Opt for local travel passes if you are staying longer than a few days as it will save you money
Alternative Epic ways to save on transport
Rent/borrow car: It may be possible some times to borrow a car and travel, that really depends on your host or how much you are willing to expend on renting a car.
Bike: Cycling is extremely cheap and flexible, you can go wherever you want with reasonable efficiency provided you are traveling light. You can always get a second hand bike or hire a bike and go where the road takes you.
Hitch Hike: Depending on which country you are in you can try hitch-hiking – just go on a busy road, sign or thumb out and wait. Be wary of getting in a car with someone that seems suspicious, if your gut feeling tells you that something is wrong then just refuse politely and wait for the next one.
Walk: For short distances it might be appropriate to walk. I personally like to walk to most places when exploring as it gives you the versatility to take your own routes. The road less traveled is usually far more interesting and filled with unique gems just waiting to be discovered.
Here is the biggest drain to funds. Accommodation is possibly the most expensive necessity for epic traveling. Thankfully there are literally hundreds of ways to get accommodation at a fraction of the cost. All you need to do is to keep your mind open, lower your standards and be a deep sleeper (it helps).
I’ve been blessed when it comes to accommodation, for the past year and a half I’ve been extremely lucky to have met people that have taken me in and welcomed me to their homes for free. These places were large and comfortable to stay in as well, and the hosts were very accommodating. This is where your qualities as person come to play as well as your luck. People will bend over backwards for people they like (I’m quite likeable I have to admit) and that was the case for me where 3 different individuals let me stay at their places indefinitely without paying rent – of course I would offer to pay rent, utilities and food bills but in most instances they insisted that I didn’t, lucky me right? My point is that if you are genuinely a person filled with empathy, enthusiasm and honesty people are far more likely to do things out of the kindness of their hearts than if you saw them as a commodity.
Here are some alternative ways to travel epically on the road without spending a fortune – remember open your mind and lower your standards accordingly.
- Hotels/Motels/Holiday Inns: Usually the most expensive however for short-term stays however depending on the country you can potentially find some great deals. Try discounted hotel booking sites that accommodate based on seasonal occupancy.
- AirBnb/Roomarama: For those who are higher maintenance, this is a good alternative to staying at hotels. Essentially living in someone else’s home for a short period of time with almost everything you need. The only down-fall is that it is potentially very expensive (dependent on destination) and that there is no one to take you around.
- Renting: Not exactly the best way to save on accommodation however if you are looking to stay extended periods of time and have some kind of source of income or disposable savings then renting can be a worthwhile investment. Avoid using agents as the fees are usually inflated to account for commission and other fees. You can always look for break-lease accommodation which are basically leases in which people have not yet fulfilled and the landlord is looking for someone to finish the rest of the lease. The rates are lower and you don’t have to sign a one-year contract if you are staying short-term.
- Back packer inns and hostels: Cheap and nasty but does the job. I’ve stayed in these places on a short-term basis but I would never live in them for long-term stays. It’s also a great way to meet fellow travelers whilst having many of the basic essentials at a low-cost.
- Couch Surfing: This trend is catching on very fast – essentially it is an online service that facilitates short-term stays between travelers from all parts of the world. As the name suggests, you get to stay on a ‘couch’ (or bed) for a short-period of time for free and potentially have a local take you around. This is all done in good faith so that in the future you can potentially return the favor.
- Friends and Relatives: If you’re lucky enough to have friends or relatives in a destination country then you’ve got your accommodation sort out – just be wary that your presence may alter people’s routines and cause some inconveniences so I wouldn’t abuse this privilege.
- House minding: There are a few websites out there such as mindmyhouse.com (small registration fee) that offer a house minding service for either a small fee, exchange of service or for free. This is like the jackpot if you can score a place in a destination you want and at a good travel period. These arrangements can be short to long-term so it really depends on your luck, nevertheless it is a super great deal if you land one.
Here is where it gets a nastier. Not necessarily ideal but may lead to an interesting experience or story - try these out if you are daring enough!
- Internet Cafes: These places are usually open all night and have special discounts if you decide to ‘play’ all night. You could pay the discounted flat-rate and sleep at the computer booth – not exactly a bed but beats sleeping on the streets.
- Squatting: If you manage to find an abandoned place then you could always stay there indefinitely. You have to be careful as there might be some unwanted company in those places.
- My sister stayed at an abandoned house where there was a community of squatters who all collaborated with their unique skill-sets such as tapping into electricity and hacking WIFI networks to create an almost fully functional home for squatters!
- Sleeping bag: Irrespective of whether you have a place or not, a sleeping bag is a great addition to those on the road travelers. If you can’t find a place to stay for the night you can always sleep at a park or something.
- Nature: If you’re taking the scenic tour of life there will be plenty of awesome places to setup camp at night so why not trade sleeping under a roof for the beauty of a night sky – you might need some gear to keep you safe and comfortable.
- Public spaces: If all things fail you can always just sleep on the street for a night. I’ve slept on park benches, beaches, hotel lobbies (a bit tricky), and other public areas.
I had a friend sleep on a round-about for accommodation, talk about not attracting any attention.
The idea behind living epically is to be open and versatile. Most of these options are cost-saving solutions to traditionally expensive accommodation however leaves you with more funds to keep going on your adventures, besides it is bound to attract some interesting situations.
I will only list the epic ways of saving money on dining out and eating in general. Here are the less common ways to save on food:
- Buy in bulk from supermarkets: Eating out frequently is a sure way to drain all your funds (and possibly compromise your health). If you are staying for the long-term try buying bulk and cooking at home if possible, you can always get some good recipes online and cook in batches as to save time and money.
- Go bargain hunting: Bargains are everywhere you just need to know where to look, go exploring and you will see that every few shops will have a sale or discounted goods at certain times, take advantage of this! Try going when shops are just about to close and stock up on some greatly discounted food – and you’ve got dinner, midnight snack and breakfast covered!
- Grow your own food: If you’ve got a green thumb and going to stay long-term I would invest in a small vegetable patch. I don’t mean having a farm more like a little herb garden with easy to grow vegetables/fruits/herbs that can be a great addition to your home cooked meals. It’s easy, cheap and you will have constant supply of fresh food.
- Coupons: There are literally hundreds of websites out there that offers coupons with massive savings. Use these to your advantage by signing up to as many as you can and search for the coupons that are relevant to your needs. Coupon spending is an awesome way to try new things whilst saving a lot of money – just be aware that most of the time they have some kind of ‘hook’ to encourage you to purchase larger packages after trialling. Also, some coupons are only limited to locals so you might need the help of a local friend or host to get you the deals.
- Volunteer at soup kitchens/food stalls: If you are looking to do something good for society whilst meeting good-natured people and getting fed then you could always use your time to get paid in food. I would even go as far as volunteering at cafes and restaurants (especially if you have experience) for a few hours just to get fed. Keep an open mind and enthusiastic attitude and I’m sure most people would most likely trade food for your time. Who knows, you might even get a job!
- Dumpster dive: Yes you heard me! It’s not as bad as it sounds. A lot of the time restaurants and other food related businesses are obligated to throw out food due to regulations. So just before they throw it out (or slightly after) you can literally grab yourself a bargain. The food is still relatively fresh (a few hours old) and wrapped up so still sanitary. If you are picky about your food then this is definitely not for you.
I used to work in the food industry and was appalled over the amount of good food that is thrown out simply due to regulations. Alternatively you can always find out which places are throwing out food and ask them permission to keep it for yourself before they throw it out.
See it isn’t as bad as it sounds~
Other Epic Tips
Volunteer: Give back to society and feel great as well as meet some awesome people and potentially get lots of freebies. This is definitely a great way to expand your network and open many doors – you never know what can come when you give without expectations.
Setup term deposits: If you’ve saved up a decent amount of funds you can always set up term-deposits to let your money grow whilst you travel – Just take out what you need and save the rest.
If you do decide to deposit funds into an account make sure you find an account with no monthly fees, keep transactions to a minimum and if possible find an account that offers a debit credit card – which means that it functions as a credit card without accruing any interest.
- Learn to purchase things online: Online shopping can dramatically save on your expenditure since most businesses these days prefer a virtual presence rather than a brick-and-mortars presence. Things such as clothes, gadgets, books, tickets etc. can often be bought online at a fraction of the cost if you bought it at a store.
- Go to co-op stores: These are shops that sell a range of goods that are often donated or second-hand goods. The goods are usually in decent to perfect condition but at a significantly reduced price.
- Join rewards programs: There are many reward programs that offer points for purchases you make (i.e. frequent flyers). These all add up and can offer some great rewards such as free travel or goods.
- Attractions: In terms of what’s going on, look online to find what’s going on in your destination city – there’s always something going on just have to do the research. It’s a great way to socialize and get to know the city.
- Get lost: There’s nothing more rewarding than getting lost when you are in a new city especially when you have time to explore. You will find and do things you will never have done if you just stayed in your comfort zone. I have found countless gems (quirky cafes, stores, shortcuts, art galleries etc.) by just getting lost and not caring what happens. Embrace your adventurous spirit and see where the road takes you.
Follow Your Dreams
Well there you have it, a whole list of epic tips to save you money and make the most of traveling on the road. Not all the tips are for everyone however they are sure to create some amazing memories and experiences to share.
Remember the key to living epically is to be open minded and embracing whatever opportunities that arise. Follow your internal rhythm rather than what society dictates, that way you flow with life rather against it and see what amazing fortunes await you when you take chances and grow as a person.
At the end of the day, your life is the sum of your experiences – you only get more experience from doing new things instead of doing the same routine day in day out. Go on, be brave, be bold and be adventurous you only have one life to live.
As a final gift to you, here is a trailer from the movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" - which might inspire some of you to go on a journey, nevertheless a great movie for those who need a reason for wanderlust.
Have an epic life on the road~