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How to travel when you’re a broke college student

Jamie Ballard


Sir Richard Burton once said, “The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.”

He’s right! Traveling is a wonderful way to create once-in-a-lifetime, totally awesome experiences. And everyone older than you has probably told you that the time to do so is now, when you’re young.

The problem is that when you’re young, you’re usually not swimming in excess funds. It can make the concept of traveling seem out of reach or impossible. But fear not! Here are 4 ways you can travel on a shoestring budget.

Take advantage of being a student!
When you’re a student, people are practically lining up to give you discounts on everything from airfare to plane tickets to accommodations to food. Depending on where you want to go and the time of year, StudentUniverse often has some sweet deals on airfare, hotels, and activities in your country of choice. And if you’re really gung-ho about exploring the world, consider studying abroad through your university. Sometimes your financial aid and scholarships can be used towards a semester or summer abroad – it’s worth looking into. Plus, there are tons of study abroad scholarships available to students who are actually taking classes or doing research abroad, rather than just spending a week there.

Have a cultural exchange with Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is a website where you can find people across the world who are willing to provide accommodation in their homes for travelers. It’s a wonderful way to meet a local from the area you’re traveling in, and he or she can often provide advice or suggestions on what to do while you’re there. Though it’s technically free of charge, it’s strongly recommended that you thank your host in some way: make them dinner or bring them a souvenir from your home country, for example. And try not to treat it just as “free accommodation,” many couchsurfing hosts are interested in cultural exchange as well.

Volunteer your time in exchange for a place to sleep
There are so many ways you can volunteer in exchange for accommodation (and sometimes even food or guided tours as well). HelpX is a fantastic resource for this – you decide where you want to go, and what kind of volunteering you want to do: work in a hostel, an organic farm, a construction project, etc. HelpX provides a list of hosts who meet your criteria. Most hosts ask for only a few hours of your time every day, leaving you with plenty of time to explore the area. World Wildlife Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) also offers similar opportunities. Many of these hosts request a longer stay, usually 2 weeks minimum, so this may be a good idea for a summer vacation.

Volunteer with a cause
If you can find an overseas charitable project that speaks to you, pursue it! Organizations that need volunteers to help build a school in Nicaragua, or teach English in the Philippines will often provide you with a place to stay, transportation while you’re there, guided excursions and more. Though there is usually a fee associated with these types of programs, it is (often) a nonprofit group. So you can hold fundraisers and gather donations to help you along your way, which you can’t reasonably do for your spring break trip to Paris, for example.

These are just a few of the ways you can travel around the world without taking out loans or going into debt. If you’re dedicated enough, you’ll find a way to go on the journey of your dreams!

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