I never meant for this Long Way Home to happen, so if this can happen to me by accident, you can surely make it happen on purpose. Below is a list of resources, but know that the most important tools in your arsenal are not monetary. I left the US with $500 and a one-way ticket. That’s it.
All you need is the courage (or the frustration) to say “no” to the norm, some cultural sensitivity, and the ability to build relationships. At its core, that’s all this is. So make some magic happen. The world offers itself freely.
Skyscanner is a flight search engine that allows users to browse for flights via price and location. Compare flight prices of any given route over a month period, or the price of weekend flights from any given city.
Pros: Skyscanner’s proprietary indexing technology means that search results can be found much more quickly than with meta-search engines, as there is no need to scrape third party pages for information every time a search is made, which makes it distinctly different from some of the other flight finding websites.
Cons: Usually, on discount flight like those found here, you can’t get Frequent Flier miles. Check to be sure though.
Vagabond Tip: When looking at listings, select “Flexible Dates” to see a full months worth of flight prices and compare easily.
Booking Buddy allows you to compare multiple online booking sites to find the cheapest prices for flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and vacation packages.
Pros: Special offers made for hotels and car bookings when coupled with a flight. Sign up for email alerts on your desired flight routes.
Cons: Sometimes the server is slow, so when you click on a booking it could be unavailable.
Best Travel Store allows users to search and book airplane tickets to international destinations, as well as, hotels, cars, cruises, and package deals.
Pros: Routes and special offers to great destinations in Asia and Africa. Great for destinations to far off places at a cheap price. They have a great Customer Call Center Support, including reservation tracking, customer service agent messaging, and reservation document exchange with outside vendors.
Cons: They are based in L.A. (holla!) so if your looking to call them while abroad, good luck. Some, but not all, of their deal are within a couple months of departure. Some people can’t be ready that quickly.
Ryanair operates aircraft on over 1,100 routes across Europe and Morocco from 44 bases. Ryanair is Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, the 2nd-largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger numbers and the largest in the world in terms of international passenger numbers.
Pros: Cheap, especially on last-minute flights. Frequent flights within Europe.
Cons: Bases are typically further away from the city center of your destination. Also, beware that the baggage allowance on RyanAir is less than other airlines, so pack accordingly. Little or no food is served on board.
Vagabond Tips: Try not to be hungover for these flights. It sucks. And eat beforehand. Even if the flight is short, your bus/taxi/train to the city center will take more time, too.
EasyJet carries more passengers than any other United Kingdom-based airline, operating domestic and international scheduled services on 500 routes between 118 European, North African, and West Asian airports. EasyJet is the second-largest low-cost carrier in Europe, behind Ryanair.
Pros: Really cheap. Routes not just within Europe, but to Africa and Asia. Frequent flight schedules.
Cons: Bases are outside the city, they have a smaller baggage allowance, and serve little or no food.
Vagabond Tip: Try not to be late for these discount flight. Refunds are given usually only under extreme circumstances.
Vueling serves destinations in Europe and the western Mediterranean. It is also the second largest airline in Spain after Iberia, with flights to Barcelona, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Madrid, Bilbao, Seville, Toulouse, and Valencia, among others.
Pros: When all other flights are booked, Vueling is usually not. Great for tours of Spain, where land travel can be tiring.
Cons: Same same. These European discount airlines dont fly into the city, have small baggage allowance, and serve little or no food.
Vagabond Tip: Last time I flew with these guys the plane interior was this obscene, dizzying bright yellow. Everywhere. Bring sunglasses. Or something.
MakeMyTrip aggregates the best deals on international flights from and within India including comparative flight listings, trains, and buses to all corners of India, as well as, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India’s Andaman Islands.
Pros: Without this, and cleartrip.com (below), travel within India for foreigners would be a nightmare. Search includes comparative listings for multiple days and train classes. Trust by Indians and foreigners alike. Cheaper, if not the same price as going to a local travel agent, usually.
Cons: Accepts foreign credit and debit cards, but the system can be really temperamental sometimes.
Vagabond Tip: Better to book ahead of time to avoid being “waitlisted” on a train. That can get really irritating, really fast.
Cleartrip offers reservation services for flights, hotels, and tours in India. Quite similar to MakeMyTrip, it lays out clearly the train and flight routes to multiple destinations within India.
Pros: I love cleartrip! The tables or clear and easy to read and you can compare prices without navigating to another search page. They are are most trustworthy when it comes to processing international credit and debit cards.
Cons: Their system can sometimes be slow to respond. Refunds are made in a timely manner automatically when needed. Option to cancel booking just hours before departure.
Vagabond Tips: Same as above. Try to book at least a couple days ahead to avoid being waitlisted. It could result in a General class or Sleeper Class ticket. Not pleasant. If you are waitlisted, you pay half at the train station ticket counter, half on board. This is normal.
CouchSurfing is a hospitality exchange network and website. With almost 2.5 million members in 245 countries and territories, CouchSurfing allow its users - hosts and surfers alike - to created an online community of travel buddies.
Pros: Extensive profiles allow users to check get to know their hosts beforehand. Don’t be fooled: you won’t always be on a couch. Some hosts offer your own room. Hosts also include background check. Looking at this sight just opens to world up to you in a brand new way. Surf with a local and get a unique local cultural experience found nowhere in Lonely Planet.
Cons: Some people don’t feel comfortable stay with people they haven’t met before. But, hell, people go on dates they haven’t met before!
Vagabond Tip: Fill out your profile in full with photos, facts, etc, and make it interesting. Hosts and surfers alike want to see your personality.
Hostel World offers bookings at hostels all over the world. The site also contains city guides with information on backpacker accommodations, pubs, clubs, coffee shops, and sights.
Pros: Listings for all over the world! Reviews of accommodations make finding the right place easy. Staying on the sight means getting good reviews, so hosts usually are nicer. Also includes hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs, not just hostels. Offers cancellation insurance.
Cons: I haven’t found any yet. Honestly.
Vagabond Tip: Ask to work in exchange for free accommodation. Works sometimes.
WWOOF is a world wide network of organizations. They link volunteers with organic farmers, and help people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles - all for free. (Small membership fee required for website, but it’s good for the whole world, even your own if you can’t travel too far.)
Pros: Learn how to sustain life, live well, and be part of a thriving community of those interested in nurturing the earth and our time on it.
Cons: None. Some availability depends on season, but not always.
Vagabond Tip: Just be open. This kind of work is not only engaging, but necessary. We take so much from the world, we must also give back.
Workaway is a site that brings together travelers and language learners with families or organizations that offer food and accommodation in exchange for a few hours light work per day.
Pros: Listings all over the world. Get a unique experience living and working with locals and expats alike. Hands-on contributions to ongoing projects. Learn new skills for future use.
Cons: Membership to Workaway is not free. Some hosts may require a fee. Language barriers may make the experience a bit more of a challenge. Sometimes hosts require a lot more work than one would be willing to do on a “vacation”.
Vagabond Tips: Fill out a detailed profile, preferably with photos. Check with the seasons, especially for agricultural and permaculture work which depend on the weather.
Disclaimer: Working abroad requires a work Visa. Real jobby jobs will usually not hire you without one. Some will, particularly NGO and other non-profits that really need people. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Also, finding work abroad really depends on your skill level and willingness to work, as well as your availability. Most importantly, however, getting a job means building relationships. Most jobs I have gotten abroad happened simply because I was out and about, told another expat that I was looking to work, they gave me a number, and that was that. If your skills match their needs, you’re in. (Feel free to embellish a bit. We all do.)
Expat Forum includes resources, books, and chat functions, especially for expatriates. With over 85,000 members, it is the largest forum for expatriates and spans a myriad of countries. Get insider information on what it means to work and live abroad in the country of your choosing. Browse job listings and get housing information and make connections before you even arrive.
Pros: Building relationships abroad is important. Expat Forum gives you a head start. Relevant and current information from those with similar interests and experience.
Cons: Getting responses to questions can take time, as it depends on who is online and available/able to answer your question.
Vagabond Tips: Keep your questions clear and concise. The less text heavy, the more likely your post will be read and answered.
Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, services, community, gigs, and discussion forums.
Pros: Includes many countries and is targeted specifically for the expat, so most listing are in English. Jobs usually dont require too high a skill level. Can be a good way to connect with people even if they cant offer you a job.
Cons: Not all countries are big on Craigslist. Some have less listing than others. Beware of bogus listings and sexual deviants. Unless you’re into that kinda thing. No judgment.
Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to both traditional landline telephones and mobile phones can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features which include instant messaging, file transfer, and video conferencing.
Pros: Reverse culture shock is real. Staying in touch with friends and family back home is important. Even if you don’t bring your computer, a lot internet cafe abroad have webcams and you can Skype there for really cheap.
Cons: Connections can be slow depending where you are, as this application requires a large bandwidth.
Vagabond Tips: If you use it often, set up your card to automatically renew credit on your account to save time and money.
Facebook is Facebook. And everyone has it.
Pros: Even if you hate it, it’s a great tool for travelers. Connect with people you meet and BAM! you have a new place to stay next time you travel. Those friends go home and can then offer you a place to stay, work, or even a relationship (hey).
Cons: Facebook is Facebook. Privacy settings, ads, blah blah blah… it can be a bit much for some people.
Vagabond Tips: Keep your “Current City” up to date. You never know what old friend of dude you went on a trek with might be coming your way. Travel buddies are the jam! And they have their own unique insights as well.
Start a blog. There are so many to choose from that make it easy to keep family and friends back home in the loop. Tumblr makes it the easiest, I feel, with additional feature like voice calls that post straight to you blog and hundreds of customizable and free themes with great graphics and layouts.
Pros: Build an online presence, keep all your travel mementos is one place. Stay connected with readers with comments and kudos. Make money with your blog by featuring ads.
Cons: Info is public, but you can make it private too, only viewable by certain people with the password. The time it takes to upload things might take a while depending on the connection.
Vagabond Tips: Select the theme and features right for you before you leave so you don’t have to worry about it while traveling.
World Nomads provides specialist long-term adventure travel insurance in 44 countries. Get a free quote, depending on where you want to go. Extensive insurance offers peace of mind when traveling, especially if you’re planning on doing anything life threatening.
Pros: Cheap and affordable for the budget traveler. If you do need medical services, you usually have to pay up front and then your insurance affiliate with reimburse you.
Cons: Not much. Insurance is good.
Vagabond Tips: Save all your receipts if you get medical care you have to pay for. Bring a list of medications and why you need them from your doctor, if applicable.
Dropbox is the easiest way to store, sync, and, share files online. There’s no complicated interface to learn. Dropbox works seamlessly with your operating system and automatically makes sure your files are up-to-date. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Pros: Back up your photos, video, and anything else online and avoid losing all those brilliant memories. Easy to use and you can even share with other people online.
Cons: For a higher memory space you gotta pay up. Sometimes things can take a while to upload.
Vagabond Tip: Just get it. Losing your photos and videos sucks.
Got a Tip in your Toolkit?
Feel free to share and email me.