Wrapped in a travel money security blanket, I was under the impression that I needed to save enough money to pay for an entire trip to Europe before I would be ready to pack my bags.
Along with saving every penny of my social security check each month, I turned a spare room into a piano studio and started teaching piano lessons to earn money.
As the money I was saving started to accumulate, I got to thinking, “Do I really want to spend all this money on a trip to Europe?” I rationalized that if I did that, it would be gone in no time. I thought a better option would be to take that money and purchase a small, used RV, which I would be able to travel in long term.
One year later, with cash in hand, I began looking around for a reasonably priced RV. When my kids found out what I was up to, they convinced me to get out there and travel the world. “You’ve already done the RV cross country thing a couple of times. Do something different now. Go out and see the world,” they said. They were right.
Still weighing heavily on my mind though, was the questions, “How far will the money I saved get me?”
I began to really pay attention to all the stories I heard and read about people backpacking around the world with very little money in their pocket. Being an older woman though, I didn’t see myself doing that. I kept searching.
Soon enough, all the things I found myself looking into began to make sense to me. All the pieces to what once seemed so puzzling were fitting together nicely. The more I searched for the next piece of advice, the easier it got to see the whole picture. My solution came by way of joining the work exchange communities WorkAway.info and HelpX.net.
Staying with a host family in exchange for helping them with their English or watching after their kids for a couple of hours was something I could certainly do. And so I did.
I searched through the websites, read the profiles and contacted the host families I was most interested in staying with. I usually introduced myself as Travel Grandma and invited them to read my profile and FaceTime or Skype with me in order for us to get to know each other better.
Sounds too easy to be true, doesn’t it? But, honestly, it is true. I’ve met some wonderful people by reaching out to them in this way.
In my experience, I have discovered many benefits of staying with a host family, such as:
- I am greeted with open arms into their homes
- I eat fabulous meals they cook for me
- I have companions to share interesting dinner conversations with
- They teach me about their culture, language and family traditions
- I am invited to join them on family outings and activities
- They serve as local tour guides escorting me to their favorite places
- They are very grateful to have me there which I truly appreciate
When I tell other people how I travel overseas so cheaply they say, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable being taken in by strangers.” But, I don’t look at it that way at all. I like to say, “A stranger is only a stranger if you don’t take the time to get to know a little about them.”
I do my homework. It goes without saying that you need to take precautions before entering someone else’s home. I always inform a family member of my whereabouts and I make sure I give them the host’s name, contact information and address of where I am headed before I arrive.
Sometimes I think we put obstacles in our way instead of looking for opportunities to break through the barriers that hold us back. So far I have had the pleasure of being able to travel to England, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Greece, Croatia, South Korea, Japan and throughout the United States. For me, it’s the people that I have the good fortune of meeting in my travels, not necessarily the places I visit, that interest me the most.
Who would have thought that all it takes to travel abroad is an airline ticket, a welcoming host family to greet me, enough money to fund my own sightseeing adventures, and of course some “in case of emergency” money on hand.
NOTE: To find out more visit the post “No Cost Accommodations with Meals” next.