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Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Articles, Inspirational | 25 comments

Getting paid to travel (or at least traveling for free) in 11 creative ways

Getting paid to travel (or at least traveling for free) in 11 creative ways

Here are 11 creative ways to travel for free or getting paid to travel the world!

** As featured on Thought Catalog ***

When I turned 18 I was decided to move out of my parents home… I wanted to see the world, but I had no money at all. How could I travel the world when I was totally broke?

I found ways to move around in spite of my lack of money. Besides that, I was scared to go out and about totally on my own. Although there was no such thing as internet and there was limited info on youth prgrams, I managed to find out about this thing called “au-pair”. And that´s how my journey began 16 years ago. You can do the same and live your dreams, even if you have no money. :)

Nowadays you DON’T have to be rich to travel the world, you just have to be creative and be proactive. I believe all our dreams can come true if we set ourselves up to success, which means chasing our dreams and believing good things can happen to us as well. Sometimes we put so many obstacles on our path, even before they ever appear that we give up even before trying out.

Set your goals and start your path towards achieving them.

Get out of your comfort zone and start traveling with 11 ways of getting paid to travel.




Au-pair means an extra pair of hands, usually a young foreign person between 18 and 30 years old, who wants to travel the world, learn a new language, experience a new culture and live new adventures. In exchange for that, she offers a maximum of 25/30 hours of help to a local family who provides food and accommodation, plus pocket money.

The au-pair lives with a local family and usually helps with the children. She should be considered a member of the family and treated respectfully. No one becomes an au-pair for the money, you get very little pocket money, but you won´t have any expenses neither, so it´s a win-win situation for everyone.

When I was 18 I moved to London and had a horrible experience. I had a very nasty dysfunctional family,I don´t regreat I did it, since I met so many amazing au-pairs from all over the world and had so much fun out there. I grew a lot from those 2 months and they were worth it.

My next experience was with the Au-pair USA. That turned out to be the BEST experience of my whole life.  I had the chance to travel within the USA and made so many good friends.


become an Au-pair

Au-pair USA year 2000 my first Halloween


My bedroom in Switzerland

When searching for a host family, make sure you are like-minded and have a lot of things in common. That’s the key to a great experience.

Make sure your family is not searching for cheap labor or a legal slave. A lot of host families take advantage of their au-pairs and force them to do long hours or domestic/cleaning work we’re not supposed to do. Make sure you are well aware of the type of work you’re expected to do before you take a decision.

Some families will offer some perks, like your airfares, a language course, a monthly transportation pass, etc. Check which family offers you the best perks, but always keeping in mind that compatibility, similar ethics and lifestyle is way more important than any perk.

I´m now in Switzerland, doing a very short au-pair program. I have a wonderful host family, great children and I´m very glad I had this chance to live in Zurich, while experiencing the culture through the eyes of a local family.

For more details about becoming an Au-pair, check this article I wrote: Live abroad as an Au-pair

If you’re over aged or don’t want to pay and agency post a message on the Couchfurfing website.


Travel the world with no accommodation costs


The very best option to travel the world without having to pay for hostels or hotels is to become a housesitter or petsitter.  I love animals and have been a foster family for many years, so being a pettsitter is actually a pleasure for me. There are houses and apartments worldwide waiting for a sitter: from the most expensive European cities, to the most exotic places like the Caribbean Islands.



Since I don’t like to spend money while traveling, I just signed up with Trusted Housesitters, the biggest housesitting and petssitting website. It cost me €65.88 for a year membership (the price of a hotel night) and I can sign as many housesitting gigs as I want, wherever I want. I signed with them HERE

Couchsurfing is also a wonderful option, with the down side that you can usually stay with a host for 3 days only. So Cs is great for very short stays whereas Trusted Housesitters have longer term opportunities.




Summer camps can be a great opportunity for you to travel to the States and have all your expenses met. Every summer hundreds of American summer camps fill up with children wanting to have a great time. Summer camps are quite popular in the States and some of them hire young foreigners, who want to have a taste of America, meet people from all walks of life in exchange for daily activities with kids. You won’t make a fortune and you might not be able to save much, but you’ll be paid and have zero expenses.

After the summer camps are over,, you have the opportunity to travel all over the United States with the money you made. You’ll probably team up with other people you’ve met at the camp so You won’t be on your own.

I wanted to do summer camps after my Au-pair experience, but my expenses wouldn’t be all covered from Portugal, where I was living at the time, so I ended up not going for it, but I truly think this could be a wonderful experience.




Probably the most profitable work/ travel opportunity out there. If you’re a native speaker, you can just take a short online course or even find countries which won’t require any certificate.
If English is not your native language, you can still do it, but you sould have good English skills. The diploma is a plus!

For more info check ou this blog: Goats on the Road

And this website filled with info: Dave’s ESL cafe




This is hard work and you’ll be living with the people you work with, chich is not always easy, specially if you don’t like or don’t get along with someone. But it’s a great opportunity to travel and making good money at the same time. Your ability to have time off when the ship arrives at a certain port, depdents on your type of job and duties. If you’re in the cleaning department, you might have to work, but if you’re working with other departments like entertainment, massage, hairdresser, etc, you might have time off.

Every year many cruise lines around the world recruit people from all walks of life. If you want to sail across the world, get a CV ready and check for hiring dates.

Make a google search and check which cruise lines fit you better, which routes you’d like to do and who’s recruiting. There are also forums where you can ask questions to people who work or have worked aboard cruises. Good Luck!




Are you extrovert, communicative and have patience to deal with people all day long?
Well, I believe being a tour guide or tour leader can be one of the best ways of exploring the world, get paid and have no expenses. You might get to experience things you wouldn’t otherwise. You’ll meet people from all over the world and live a wonderful adventure.
Some tour companies specialize in adventure travel, budget travel, spring break type of travel…. you’ll find something that relates to you if you search for it.

Contracts usually last for a year or more, so you’ll have to be a very available person with to attachments, no pets, no wife/husband (unless you don’t want to see them more than once a year! hehe). This is easy for the early 20’s, but more complicated for the older folks. I think it’s a chance you could grab if you’re totally free.
Some tour companies who are always hiring:

Tucan tours
G adventures



I’ve done this one as well. I’ve picked up grapes in France for 3 weeks and then I had money to travel for a year (on a super low budget, not luxury traveling for sure!). Besides the usual payment, bosses are required LEGALLY to give you a free daily quota of good quality wine :)

Usualy the money is great and the work is temporary. You’ll meet other people from all over the world, usually travelers who are also gathering some cash together and you usually get a free place to stay and wine.  Everyone I know and who did grape picking in France said the job was super easy, relaxed and fun. I must have been a very unlucky person, because I  really struggled and the bosses were assholes, who tried to fool us with money and the wine quota they are legally required to ofer.

I haven’t repeated this experience, but many friends go to France every year specially for this. Australia and New Zealand usually need temporary workers in these fields, check out info about work holidays in Australia and New Zealand.

Check out for forums online, you might get contacts. I just drove around the country side of France and asked the farmers, if they needed workers.

Agriculture jobs in Europe and australia



Unfortunately I couldn’t find any info about this one online, but I know every year, people go to Holland to pick up tulip flowers and get really great money for it. Do a few google searches, talk to people and try to find out about it!



Have you ever heard about the EVS program? EVS stands for European Volunteer Support and this program sends young people aged between 18-30 years old to participate in all sorts of volunteer work across Europe. The costs of the flights are covered, as well as all expenses. You can chose a wide variety of projects in different countries. Check out the official website for more info:


My home in Thailand while doing work exchange

You won’t be paid as a volunteer, but you should have all expenses covered, while volunteering. I’ve done this and here’s my experience:

I  love the concept of making your way around the world by volunteering, by giving back to the community, while having the expenses paid and getting to know a new culture in deph, but…. My experience is that things are only perfect in theory. Most hosts I contacted while in Tailand wanted to make a business out of this by charging money, which goes totally against the rules of the workaway website.

Then I had that weird experiencein Koh Lanta. I truly believe most hosts want free labor/slavery labor. So if you’re up to it, you pay 20 euros which will grand you a membership of two years. You’ll have access to wonderful projects all over the world. Be very aware of the exploitation by host families and choose your hosts wisely. Don’t overwork, don’t do more hours than the required unless it’s a spontaneous thing. If hosts get away with easy free slave/free exploitative labor, they’ll keep on doing it.
Work-exchange is perfect for people who want to stay a long time in a certain place for free or as a chance to learn a new language.




I’ve met the most amazing people through the CS community. People are usually very open minded and generous. If you want to travel around and have a free place to sleep this is the best option! Remember that hosts homes are not a free hotel, so treat them and their space with respect, offer to cook for them and always keep in mind you’re being welcomed by a very generous person who hosted you out of kindness.

If you want to connect with local people, hang out, make new friends, find company to do activities, check out the events page at the CS website! There’s always something going on!

And… do you have a car or a van and enjy traveling by road? Then combine couchsurfing with bla bla car or some other type of carpooling website and all your travel expenses are met! Bla bla car is an online carpooling/ride share website, where people share expenses and ravel by land. If you take a couple of people, you’re probably be able to cover 100% of the fuel costs. This is a win win situation for all, for the carpoolers who have the convenience of going by car and not having to drive and for you to have the petrol money covered.

I just had a couple of friends who live in Barcelona – Spain coming over for a visit last week and they had 2 full weeks for free in Portugal, by combining this two methods. They didn’t spend a cent!

DON’T HAVE A CAR?? Check the websites bellow anyway, you’ll find a few outstanding cheap rides, you’ll save an incredible amount of money. Often times, there are free rides, some people feel really bored to travel long distances alone and are happy to just have company to chat while driving :)

Bla Bla car ( great for Europe!)





For most of the time I don’t have much money with me. To be honest, my first traveling years were done without money and a lot of creativity. I remember, the year 2002 when I traveled by land from Lisbon to Croatia and back, visiting every single country on the way spending roughly 10€. Later on I did the same from Lisbon to Greece and back (which is a journey I will share with you in the near future!). I admit it was not a comfy adventure, it was rather rough and very few people would manage to do it that way, but there are a few lessons you can learn from it.

I didn’t buy basically any food during those overland trips, I had no cash for that, so what did I do?

Most bakeries, pizza shops, take away restaurants throw away ALL the fresh food they didn’t sell during that day. So I took advantage of that. I remember my trip cross Italy when I ate pizzas non stop, they were free and healthy, filled with veggies and good quality ingredients. In the evening, before the bakeries or pizzerias closed, I’d ask if they had any food they were about to throw away. I usually got more food than I could even carry, leaving me with dinner, breakfast and lunch for next day. People can be extremely generous and they have nothing to lose by offering the food. Be aware this WON’T work with big chains, just small family business!

I also asked around in the markets. I remember in Venezia (Venice – Italy) I got so many fresh tomatoes I had daily delicious sandwiches. I got lots of free fruits as well. MOST market vendors will give you free vegetables and fruit, sometimes more than you can carry! If you have access to a kitchen, for example if you’re couchsurfing, you can eat extremely well without spending a cent!

In France, I got lots of veggie burgers and other 100% organic/bio products from health food stores. They gave me excellent products that were about to expire in a couple of days.

If you’re more adventurous you can also dumpster dive, which I have done as well, but you’ll be able to cover our food with donations alone.





I wrote a very comprehensive guide on how to TRAVEL LONG TERM ON A TIGHT BUDGET, with all secret tips to stay longer on the road!


  1. In Germany, it´s possible for everybody, even foreigners to apply for a Voluntary Social Year, which normally means working with old people or children, and for those who are interested in learning Permaculture, or alternative ways of living, into the same program, there´s the Voluntary Ecological Year, the only requires are a basic knowledge of german, and aged 18-27.

    But I just knew about another one, in the same direction that has no limits, no mather if any german lenguage skills, and the age is until 80!

    Another tip to travel throught Germany in the train, and even earning money, it´s to buy the “great weekend ticket” (Schönes Wochenende Ticket) which allows you to travel along whole Germany, and some of the cities close to the boarders, like Basel in Switzerland. And max. 5 persons. So, as you are just allowed to take the regional trains, better to check most crowded stations, and from there to take people with you, for sharing the ride, you can post your itinerary in the famous carpooling website “” and the rest of the travellers will contact you. Or if you are spontaneous and adventurous, you can ask to people at the stations, and just with lots of enthusiasm you´ll find the right ones, as germans are use to save money, they´ll feel happy to save more than 50% percent of the normal price ticket, and you will help them, while having nice chats 😉

    • Wow Bea, great tips! Thank you for sharing! I was aware of the weekend ticket, but had no idea about the other programs you mentioned :) Nice to know!

  2. What fun tips! I especially love the idea of asking restaurants for food they may throw out before the close of business, brilliant!

    A lot of times hostels will provide free lodging/food in exchange for some light work, too!

    • Yes, most take aways, bakeries and pizzerias are happy to give away the food that would end up in the trash anyways, since they can’t let the food stay overnight. When I was living in Barcelona, I got regular free food from a lady who owned a take away. She was constantly asking me to pass by and take everything she couldn’t sell for lunch or dinner, she felt terrible to waste food. Big chain though, they will NOT give anything away, not even to their own employers. they throw absolutely everything on the trash every day. I hear Starbucks in one of the worse…. they don’t even want the cakes and other foods they didn’t sell inside plastic bags, so homeless people can’t dumpster dive, they spread it all out in the containers…

  3. Hi! I’m interested to do temporary agricultural work preferably in Australia. Do you have any websites/forums links that I can check on? Thanks! :)

    • Hey Josh, I haven’t been to Australia yet, but I’m sure you’ll find lots of info in forums if you do a google search. I will probably do some temporary agriculture work down there in the near future, to finance my travels :) If you find nice info online, come here and share it with us.

      • Wwoofing is volunteer work, do you know anything about places that actually pay for agriculture work out there?

  4. Thanks for the Heads up,i enjoy your writing.When I travel though working will not be part of it,I’ve already worked enough.

  5. Am very happy to have found your blog, me and my bf are just back from a year long independent overland trip, (nooo flying!) from Cape Town to Nairobi where we worked in exchange for bed and board along the way through Workaway. Sorry to hear about your bad workaway experience but your one after it sounds amazing :)

    • Emma, I’m so glad to hear form you. One year traveling overland with no flying? That’s awesome! I took at look at your blog :)
      Yes I had a rough time with Workaway and I feel most hosts actually exploit their volunteers, by either charging money or not offering food, force people to work more than 5 hours 5 days a week. The idea behind it it’s wonderful, but unless the Workaway site manager controls the projects, things just turn into slavery. Since I paid for a 2 year membership I was searching for hosts in central america and all of the basically don’t offer food and overwork the volunteers. I might ask him for my money back.

  6. I only saw this great article just now! very helpful specially that I’m planning a long term travel soon ^_^

  7. Yara, did you actually have something like an insurance or any other regular payments while you’re travelling on such a tight budget? Thank in advance :)

    Great article by the way 😉

    • Hi Etienne, you mean travel insurance or obligations to pay back home?

      • Hi Yara, yes exactly :) Sorry, I could have been more precise.

        • I had obligations and stuff to pay back home yes…. Unfortunately I can’t get away from paying taxes. I take care of everything whenever I visit Portugal and then off I go!

  8. I would also recommend AIESEC (/ They have short term internships (from a minimum of 8 weeks) in almost every possible country in the world. They pay accommodation, meals and sometimes some extra money. It’s great if you want to experience internationalism and also do something impactful in a community.

  9. I’m impressed by the food give away!!!

  10. Thank you for the much needed advice! Just getting started out and I feel so blessed to enjoy the adventures of nomads before!
    Salud, Cheers & Jolly Journeys!



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