How to travel for free
“I’ve done some couch surfing and hitchhiking, and I have a little experience with urban and wild camping. Nothing’s stopping you from traveling for free.
The only thing is… you need massive grizzled testicles. There’s a lot of courage required to silence all those voices in your head saying stuff like; “You can’t sleep here! It’s not secure! People will see you!!” or “Don’t eat that. It’s from a dumpster!!! I don’t care if it smells fine!!”. Once you get the ball rolling those things fade and discomfort becomes the norm and you don’t even think twice. At first though, every new thing is terrifying.
Be resourceful: What was once a taken for granted as an “icky public restroom” will become free drinking water, free bath, free toilet, a chance to see your reflection to get less hobo-ey, and a moment of actual privacy. A dirty shoelace you found at a campsite will bind that umbrella and cardboard to your pack. I carried a bucket everywhere. Yeah I looked weird, but I never went without a: seat, hat, container, drum, table, or conversation starter.
Be sociable: That kind of dirty but smiley traveler is much less likely to be asked to leave than the smelly reclusive grouch. You’re less of a threat when you show you can interact with people properly and you are a friendly face. Small talk will become a major tool to casually figure out the best gas station to catch a ride at, if the public transit is cheatable, and a great way to make friends that might just invite you to ride with them, or even have a nice dinner at their place. (One time in Belgium this one kind of sketchy guy I caught a ride with offered to have me over for dinner and let me crash at his place. Turns out he was really friendly and cool just shy. Also he had two gorgeous daughters my age, gave me a tour of the WWI battlegrounds in his home town and gave me Trappist beer. If I wasn’t so likable and friendly, he probably would have just dropped me off at his exit.) Talk to other travelers especially. They know the good or cheap spots and usually have fun stories. Sometimes you even meet temporary traveling partners. It does get lonely out there.
Practice something cool to perform: I told myself “I’ll fine tune my harmonica skills on the road”. Sure I practiced and got better, but I didn’t have the confidence to start busking. Be good at it before you start. Go watch street performers. I got to go to a street performing festival in Berlin, and it is waaay more than pick a spot, do cool stuff, get money. Study your craft first.
Bring a phone: For real… yeah it’s cool to be off the grid and stuff, but I missed the internet, and my music and I liked to share my stories with friends and family. A cheap smartphone will let you do all this for free wherever you can sniff out wifi instead of having to hunt down and pay for internet cafes. Not to mention if you’re between towns and you break a leg you’re dead, unless you have a phone.
Test runs with your gear: Those anti-microbial underwear… you wanna be sure before you embark with one set of skivies. That pack… If it doesn’t fit just right, you will be in hell. Them shoes… If they can’t handle intense usage or your feet can’t handle them, you’re dead in the water. One time I went on a sailing/camping expedition on the Texas Intercoastal Waterway, and on the first night I discovered that my tent was just the rain cover. Luckily I was traveling with my grandpa/ sensei who helped me fashion a new tent out of four sticks, two homemade steaks, a found rope, and a mosquito net. All before nightfall too.
Ease your way into it: Don’t leave the house on your first journey and expect to jump right into: hitchiking, camping, dumpster diving, and busking all at once. It will whip your ass and sending you home to shamefully explain to everyone how you couldn’t handle it. I don’t care how tough or zen you are. Master one maybe two things at once. When you feel comfortable take something new on. No one is a master frugal traveler over night.
Don’t be afraid to ‘Wing it’, but enjoy planning it: Opportunities will present themselves. You might meet some radical Czech dude that shares his pot, who wants to go to Amsterdam, but is afraid to learn to hitchkike by himself. However planning will give you something to get excited about. It will keep your mind focused on your goal. Learn about possible cool stuff ahead of time. Get familiar with online resources like hostelbooker.com (trust me, you will have a shit day eventually and really want a hot shower, and a soft bed one night) or tripadvisor.com.
Be confident: Don’t look like a victim or you will become one. Also you become more likable. If you need to look pathetic, be clumsy and smiley about it. The hopeless dolt is more likely to get assistance than the pity party.
Be creative, there’s a potential solution to any problems you find. Don’t forget to meditate on what you did that day as you go to sleep. You might take how cool what you’re doing is for granted if you don’t stop to think about it. “Holy shit. That whole ‘time zone change miss the train kerfuffle’ is quite the story.” Keep pen and pad around. Don’t talk about your travels too much. Learn about the local laws for practicality, and politics for fun. People love explaining their politics to foreigners.
Good luck and safe travels!!”