I’m a cheapskate. Honestly. For many people, the words cheapskate and traveling have no place beside one another in a sentence, but I’ve made it work, and have made it to four continents without ever having a ‘real job’. Few people are ever exposed to the inner-workings of my cheap mind, as you would be horrified to see exactly how many minutes I spend debating whether I should buy store brand jam, or splurge for Smucker’s. My ignorance when it comes to fashion can likely be traced back to my unwillingness to consider any pair of jeans that have not been thrice discounted and are now on the way out to the trash bin. While I’m not proud of these things (okay, I’m a little proud), being cheap definitely does has its perks, and it can help you fund that trip that you’ve been dreaming of for years, but never thought you could afford.
So, throwing all dignity to the wind, I’ll show you all the penny pinching ways in which I’ve schemed to get my skinny butt overseas. I’ve spent years talking to travelers, scanning the internet, and reading books in order to find the most cost-effective ways to get out of the country. While for the sake of word count, I am not revealing all my secrets (*cough* check out Spirit Air for obscenely cheap flights to Latin America *cough*), I have posted below some of the highlights from my mental inventory.
So it is with my sincerest desire to help as many people get overseas as possible that I present to you now, printed for the first time ever… The List of Ridiculously Cheap Travel.
1. EPIK/SMOE (Korea) – These programs are how I wound up in Asia, and have a pretty solid reputation. You can apply to the program through a free recruiter based out of an English speaking country. Once in Korea, all English teachers contracted by the Korean government will be reimbursed for their airfare, given a resettlement allowance, free apartment, heath insurance, pension, severance and a pretty decent salary. The only requirements are that you are a native English speaker, and have a bachelor’s degree in any field.
2. WWOOF (Worldwide) – If you’re a crunchy hippie, or just have an interest in farming cabbages or working in an olive grove, then World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms can serve as a great reason to travel. WWOOF, which operates in nations around the globe, gives individuals with an interest in sustainable farming the opportunity to travel overseas and spread the organic love. To join, you have to become a member of your national chapter, and then you will be able to work at any farm overseas, without having to pay for your stay. You live on the farm, eat meals with the family, and play in dirt all day long.
3. Idealist (Worldwide) – I spend a disgusting amount of time browsing the job postings on Idealist. Really, it’s straight up embarrassing. But for anyone with an earnest desire to change the world, this is a really incredible website. Posting anything from job listings, to volunteer opportunities to events, Idealist allows you to search for jobs based on region or nation, all with the common theme of working towards the greater good. You can find schools looking for teachers in Senegal, grassroots organizations in Cambodia, and orphanages who need support in Guatemala.
4. ProWorld Service Corps – Although this is not a low-cost volunteer option, I do have to give them a shout out, because they are the really amazing organization that I studied abroad with in 2008. With a commitment to community development, ProWorld partners with local neighborhoods to provide clean burning stoves, re-forestry projects and even free health campaigns, featuring yours truly as a gynecologist (I’ll write about that later- it’s a story that needs to be told). I highly recommend them to anyone with a sense of adventure, patience and a good heart.
5. Volunteer South America (Latin America) – This website is AMAZING. It’s a comprehensive list of hundreds of organizations in Latin America who you can work with for little to no cost. Some even give you a free meal and housing in exchange for your work, so it’s a really great way to get involved with a community without breaking the bank. Who knows? Volunteering could also lead to more permanent opportunities once you’ve met people inside the country of choice.
6. Student Universe (Worldwide) – Though it’s often overshadowed by the larger and better known STA Travel, I’ve found that Student Universe has great flights prices for college students that can generally beat out what STA has to offer. One of my favorite things about SU is that you can see the prices of flights departing three days before and three days after the date searched, so you can potentially save some real cash money money by flying out on a Wednesday instead of Tuesday, if your schedule’s flexible. SU also shows how many seats are remaining, which is nice if you’re trying to get money together for your flight. The downside, however, is that you have to prove you’re a college student, by registering an account that links to a .edu email. STA offers discounted flights for anyone under 25.
So there you have it. Now that you are fully equipped with information on where to go, what to do, and how to get there on the cheap, there’s no excuse for you to stay at home any longer. This list barely even makes a dent on the many great organizations looking for volunteers, or adventure groups who pull together really awesome trips- there’s just so much out there.
So fly the coop and get abroad! I’ll see you out there.