Since my budget is pretty much within the “nothing to under $5” range at the moment with a dwindling savings account and very unreliable “paychecks,” I’ve been trying to get creative and spend as many days spending NO money as possible (besides transportation prices). I’ve compiled a list of my favorite free things I have been doing that are accessible in almost city or country…
1. Language Exchange: I meet two Colombian girls every morning for coffee (almost free) and conversation. We spend one hour in Spanish (OK, Spanglish) and one hour in English. Not only is it the best practice I have for my iffy Spanish, but it is a great way to make local friends. It’s easy to find someone that is dying to practice their English in just about ANY country, so simply ask if they want to sit down and chat away.
2. Museums: Almost every major city has at least one free museum. I have been to my fair share of great museums in Colombia. Some of the highlights are Museo Nacional in Bogotá and Museo de Antioquia in Medellín.
3. Trade Music: Carry around a USB drive with your favorite music “from home” and have a beer or coffee and trade tunes. I’ve been introduced to some of my favorite bands and artists here in this fashion.. Gotan Project, Bebe, and Bajofondo Tango Club to name a few. And, Colombians are slowly warming up to the idea of Bluegrass and Folk music…
4. Yoga: Yes, I know I write about yoga whenever I have the ability, but you can do it anywhere, anytime, and with no equipment. It’s helpful to have a yoga mat, but not necessary. I also have been able to find at least one free or donation yoga class option in any city I have visited. Ask around, I’m sure there is somewhere to cheaply or freely practice. Also, yoga clothes are perfect travel clothes.. comfortable, durable, and easy to pack.
5. Pick up the Local Paper: Yes, right now I can only read a few pages at a time, but it is always beneficial to see what is happening in the city. Aside from practicing the language and learning more about local news and issues, I have found free concerts, movies, and festivals. An added perk…when you’re done reading, cut out the pictures and decorate your walls.. free wallpaper!
6. Play Photographer: All travelers take photos, but sometimes it is hard to force yourself to take photos when you’re stationed in one place for a while. I have been trying to take my camera with me on random days to capture daily life in Colombia. Those pictures are oftentimes more memorable than the tourist photos anyways.
7. Dance: Easy in Latin America.. everyone loves to dance and dancing here does not require alcohol as it often does in the US.
8. Say “Yes” to Any (Safe) Invitation: I’ve been invited to coffee, every type of meal, a farm, and a city in the mountains by Colombians and I have said “yes” to all. Locals are generally bending over backwards to show foreigners a good time and are happy to show us something unique.
9. Food Markets: In Colombia, you can literally spend hours marveling at all of the fruits and vegetables that don’t exist in the US. Most of them I can’t pronounce the name and even more I don’t know how to open or consume. Plenty of samples. Plenty of things to look at. Plenty of things to learn. I usually end up buying something, but always worth it (if I can figure out how to properly eat it…)
10. People-watch: Hands-down my favorite activity in the world. Sit me on a bench in any city and I can sit for hours watching people, making up stories about them, and pretending to analyze them. You really never know what you will find.