How I Spent Only $558 on Accommodation While 5 Months Abroad
The topic of personal finances can make people uncomfortable. Me? I’m pretty open about it. Especially when I get to talk about how much money I’m NOT spending – how much money I get to keep in the bank.
When living abroad full time, you’re constantly mindful of your budget because it’s always changing. It can be near impossible to keep it all straight, especially if you’re not a numbers person, like me. You have to confront a revolving door of budgetary scenarios and sometimes simultaneously, for example:
- The currency exchange rate is in flux.
- You could be in one country during peak season and another during off season, which inevitably influences prices.
- There could be a lack of options in a specific location that you didn’t plan for, which always drives up the cost.
- Sometimes it’s because you didn’t do your research in advance and you naturally spend more because you didn’t know any better (that one always hurts).
One thing that will never change though is that accommodation, for me, is always the biggest budget suck, hands down.
So, how have I managed to spend less than a month’s rent on accommodation in total for the past five months? There are four methods I defer to while traveling.
- Couchsurfing – From Strangers to Family Members in 20 Seconds Flat
Sometimes people have more space than they need, or they’re just incredibly generous with their space. To date, I have couchsurfed in Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey. This means I get a couch or bed in a local’s home, anywhere from a night to a couple of weeks. I connected with the warmest, open-minded, giving, and talented people this way. I have a built-in friendship and community without even having to think about it. I just show up. Couchsurfing hosts want to learn, hang out, and provide a safe and comfortable space for you. They’ve made me homemade dinners, given me keys to their place, taken me to concerts, taught me how to kite surf, lent me their motorbike, provided transport to/from airport, and shown me secret nature spots. Sign-up Cost: FREE
- Friends of Friends – Guaranteed Second Degree Safety Net
My boss’ former co-worker, my cousin’s cousin, my mom’s tenant’s college roommate, my couchsurfing host’s hometown friend, a digital nomad’s ex-boyfriend’s best friend. The list goes on and on and on, I kid you not. Your community is 1,000 times larger than you realize. By putting a quick call out on Facebook or just mentioning to others that you haven’t solidified your housing plans yet, it’s baffling how many people will voluntarily reach out to their connections to help you. This word of mouth method is always a safe bet so don’t be shy. The world is smaller than you think – sometimes the unlikeliest of first-degree connections will have an even more unlikely second-degree connection to introduce you to – a connection that gives you their address to write on your customs form when you arrive in England. Sign-up Cost: FREE
- WorkAway – 2-for-1: Build Your Resume and Sleep Soundly
Before I picked up a few clients, I spent more than a month sharing my marketing/PR experience with international entrepreneurs in the tourism industry. In exchange for about 4 hours a day, sometimes more or less, I was given accommodation and food to live onsite and be a part of the team. My sites included 1) a DIY yoga retreat in Bali where I got fresh breakfast every morning and lived in a bungalow and 2) a SUP (stand up paddleboard) ecotourism shop where I bunked with another volunteer and we made family style dinners nearly every night. Similar to WWOOFing, you can volunteer all over the world doing everything from guiding kayaking tours, farming, tutoring, to marketing/PR, social media, and coding. Sign-up Cost: $20 for an annual membership
- TrustedHousesitters – Free Pet Therapy, Laundry, & Solo Recharge
Sometimes, you just want to binge on Netflix, cuddle with a cat, and drink some wine solo. How did I end up in a five-bedroom mansion in Chiang Mai with a salt-water pool, high-speed Internet, daily laundry service and two maids, free of charge? TrustedHousesitters.com. In fact, I’m currently writing from a charming London flat with a refrigerator filled with my groceries that will keep me fed for the rest of the week. This method is incredible, while it doesn’t have a built-in community; this is a great option every other month or so as it allows deep solo recharge time in the comfort of an actual home. My favorite part is unpacking my bag and not having to repack it for days – or being able to cook at night and not doing the dishes until morning. Most often you’re asked to look after a pet or two. So you get the benefits of having your own pet for a week or two, without carrying the long-term responsibility. If you’re an animal person, it’s awesome. TH is a solid exchange program, especially as a digital nomad because work-wise, you can take incoming calls freely, and videoconference without disturbing anybody. If (and when) you go this route, please use this nifty referral link so we both get a few free months of membership. Sign-up Cost: $60 for an annual membership
All of this to say, I want to highlight an important DISCLAIMER. Every decision has its pros and cons – what might be enjoyable for me, might not be enjoyable for you. These methods have worked well for me, and I hope they will be positive for you too! I haven’t had a negative encounter yet, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t down the line either…the same goes for you. Cheers to growth and new experiences though – that’s what life is all about, right?