Low Budget or Free Adventure Travel
“This guide is continually updated. Check back for new information regarding adventure travel as I share it.”
Whether you are looking to travel for adventure and make it a lifestyle or take an indefinite getaway in luxury, you need to make life decisions about it. Now I know that may sound daunting and stressful, but the whole reason you are dreaming about hitting the road, stepping out of your cubicle, or quitting your dead-end 9-5 job, is because you are looking for something in your life that is not yet fulfilled.
Do you yearn for a life of adventure or are you just looking to step away from it all temporarily and experience life?
No one is saying you have to sell all your stuff and hit the road indefinitely, living out of a backpack and roughing it in the dirt. That is definitely an option, but you should take baby steps. Do not do what I did, and sell everything you own, hit the road, and run away from your problems. Even if you have no place to live your problems always find a way of coming back to you and you end up having to live on the run. It is exhausting and many times you look back realizing all the beautiful sights you missed because you were too busy running away from the thoughts clouding your mind.
HAVE A GAME PLAN BEFORE YOU HIT THE ROAD
Instead, have a game plan and take baby steps. Write a list of why you want to get away from it all. What is bothering you? What will travel solve and complete in your life?
- I wanted to get away from society.
- I wanted to run free into the wind and experience new people, new scenery, sleep under the stars, hitch rides, party, take in the sunsets, make new friends and meet like minded people. I wanted the romanticism garnered through the books I read as a kid and an adult. I wanted that freedom of no destination, no plans, just drop where you stop and figure out life day-by-day.
- Travel for me completed my lust for adventure, my inability to stay put in one area, and live a normal life, with a normal boring job and I used it as escapism from my mental health problems.
WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHAT TO SACRIFICE FOR ADVENTURE?
I sacrificed my comfort, sleeping in the cold, in the rain, being hungry, lacking hygiene, outcasting myself from societal norm. I sacrificed steady employment, not always having a lot of money, having to really budget and scavenge for food.
Now if this does not sound like you then that is fine. You do not have to live in the dirt. You can travel with some luxury if you have the money, even if you do not live for capitalism, or the touristy spots. You can create your own tourism. Think outside of the box. You see all those stupid commercials on television telling you that you need to be an elitist to travel and see the world, but realistically, that is not true in the slightest. Wandering gives you the freedom to sail away to new sights and the possibilities are endless. I will not dabble in luxury travel. That is not the objective of this blog.
Instead, you will need to find your own strengths and weaknesses using this guide as a stepping-stone to start adventure travel whether as a lifestyle or for an increase in vacations.
DO YOU OWN A CAR, VAN OR RV?
If yes, you should consider going on a cross-country road trip, or a small weekend trip and really experience what a life of travel is like on a budget. This will give you a great idea if it is something you just need to do now and again, or if you want to make it a lifestyle and start van dwelling or blacktop boondocking.
If you decide to go on a road trip then here are great ways to save money and really get a feel for what indefinite travel will feel like as a lifestyle.
Food can be very reasonably cheap if you choose to make it that way. You just have to sacrifice comfort. DO NOT EAT out at high-end chains, or dine-in restaurants. Limit the amount of fast food you eat, since it is expensive, not filling and definitely not a nutritious supplement to your diet. Instead, buy a cheap cooler at Wal-Mart and stock it with essential camping food. Look for food that is on sale and try to use coupons. Typically, Wal-Mart is the cheapest option, but sometimes other grocery stores beat it on certain goods so get familiar with prices and you will come to remember what is a deal and what is not.
- Canned Vegetables, Chilli Beans and Baked Beans
- Sardines, Tuna Fish, Anchovies, Herring Fillet and Crackers
- Salad & or Salad Dressing
- Ground Beef, Lunch Meats, Bread and Cheese
- Ice, Water, and maybe some Beer
If you are traveling longer than a few days and you are running low on funds
CHURCHES/MISSIONS/ SOUP KITCHENS/FOOD BANKS
Depending on if this bothers you or not you can always check out a mission or soup kitchen in the area along with your food banks. I have only used these options when I really needed to, and you should to, but they are there for a reason. If not most the time the food goes to waste as its comprised of leftover items that are past the sale date, or items that are damaged (like a ding in a can) and cannot be sold in the grocery store.
EBT (FOOD STAMPS)
Depending on your circumstances for traveling you may qualify for EBT. I do not use government funding, as it is a personal choice. Maybe it is my pride or the fact that there are other people out there who need it, but this is another option to get food if you are living out of your car.
This is one of my personal favorites, but it is not always reliable and you really have to be stuck somewhere for a while to figure out when trash is thrown out at a grocery store each night to make it worthwhile. It is not for most people, but I have never had any issues. You can forage some good fruits, vegetables and other goods that are perfectly fine to consume, just use common sense.
Gear is different for each scenario and I do not have a gear guide for car travel or van dwelling, but I know just the area to go where you can read up on gear and some reading material worth your while if you are considering van life or living out of your car.
Some basic gear for your car:
- Sleeping bag, Pillow, Blankets
- Plastic Bin with changes of clothes
- Five Gallon bucket with water for bathing
- The essential toiletry items, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, toilet paper, brush, etc.
- Solar panel to charge your electronics or a car adapter that connects to your phone
- Camping grill or stove
Sometimes you can get FREE gear that is leftover at missions if you really need it, like blankets, sleeping bags, and backpacks. You can also dumpster dive behind REI after a big sale has ended and they are restocking their shelves with new items to score some rad camping gear.
Sleeping in your car is FREE and can make your traveling last longer. Depending on your car, this may not be feasible or comfortable in the slightest. Plus it might open you up to potential violence through the wee hours of the morning depending where you’re at, so tread with caution.
- I would avoid truck stops and Wal-mart parking lots if you plan on blacktop boondocking, but you might be alright depending on the town and how law enforcement is towards travelers.
- You can sleep in your car in casino parking lots. I have found this to work excellently.
- BLM land works too for up to 14 days before you have to move, which could literally be feet, just pack in and pack out. Don’t ruin it for everyone by littering.
- If you have a stealthy van you can sleep in even more spots, but the rest is ingenuitive thinking that will come along with doing it more often.
Another alternative is paying for a cheap campsite that has showers, electricity and a spot to pitch a tent. Note: With the increase in homelessness since the financial crisis, it is a shame that prices are no longer $5 to $10 per night. In the northeast, you will find that many campsites are the equivalent of a Motel 6, charging $30 to $40 a night. If you have the money feel free to splurge a bit or you can check out Free Camp Sites which lists a variety of campgrounds near you that offer free camping. They also have pay sites as well.
Gasoline can become expensive and one way to supplement the costs is by going on a road trip with a few people to split the costs of gas. Think of it as carpooling.
You can also post in Craigslist Rideshare and offer to pick people up in exchange for money.
There is also gas jugging, but I do not advocate it. If you check out Squat the Planet you will understand what I am talking about. There is a lot of information there on homeless travel and ways to stay afloat. Use your own judgement and principles to travel how you want, and do not let others dissuade you from how you want to live. After all, it is your life, but don’t drain resources from actual homeless people unless you are truly broke. No one likes Drainbows.
- Look into acquiring a gym membership to shower.
- Take a Vegas shower in a public restroom, but make sure to clean up after yourself or they will lock the bathrooms for the public.
- Buy a portable shower that uses solar energy to heat the water like a Coleman 5-Gallon Solar Shower
- Jump into a nearby lake, creek, pond, etc.
- Use the showers at a campground.
I do not own a van, nor have I ever owned one or lived in one so it would be pretty brash of me to act like I know the first thing about traveling and living in a van.
If you’re looking into van life than look no further than Cheap RV Living
This guy is a pro. He has been living out of his van for years and he has many how-to guides and posts on van dwelling along with the minimalist gear he uses for his setup. Check it out if you are in the early stages of purchasing a van or if you already own one.
GETTING AN RV
This is definitely a more pricey option and will most likely involve a loan. You’ll see a lot of wealthier snowbirds who live in the slabs who go the RV route. Maybe this is up your alley.
If you’re looking into purchasing an RV check out this guide if you want to go the loan route. I often would advise against this and live by the principle don’t buy anything you can’t afford out of pocket, but you may not be opposed to a small loan under $5,000 to get yourself a small trailer, fifth wheel or slide in camper for your pickup truck. A Guide to Finding an RV Loan
WORK ON THE ROAD
Look into campground host openings, look into working for national parks in the food and beverage industry, look into restaurant gigs in small towns, look into weed trimming gigs, tutoring gigs, craigslist job opportunities, work in the skydiving industry and learn how to pack parachutes, head on up to Alaska and work in a cannery processing fish, WWOOFING, etc.
The list goes on and on and there are tons of resources out there at your disposal to find work to keep you going. Check out Seasonal Work 101 for job opportunities on the road while you are wandering around.
WHAT IF I DO NOT OWN A VEHICLE?
If you do not own a vehicle, but you are still looking to get out there and experience the adventurous aspects of life without having much money, then you can always start out by planning a bicycle tour.
You can buy a cheap 10-speed bicycle on Craigslist or eBay, set it up with panniers, a rear rack, and grab your essential gear to start your adventure on the road. It is that simple. Check out Bicycle Touring 101 for your guide on seeing America by bicycle.
GEAR FOR BICYCLE TOURING
Check out Bicycle Touring Gear for a comprehensive list of essential and optional items you should have before you plan on hitting the road.
Check out Adventure Cycling Association to start planning some of your routes. A membership to the site is only $40.00 USD and gives you access to all the waypoints and GPX coordinates so you can navigate the trail comfortably and know exactly where you are. You can also use the trails as a basis to see how far you are from services if you choose to be a bit more adventurous and go off the route.
What if I cannot afford a vehicle, I do not have enough for a bicycle and I really only have enough for gear? Can I still travel?
Yes, but it takes a special type of person to do this. If you have the guts and you are willing to work then there is no reason you cannot hit the road and travel. You can plan a small trip at first and try hitchhiking out of your town and back, or you can just go for it like I did, whatever you prefer.
GEAR TO HITCHHIKE COMFORTABLY AROUND THE WORLD
This is a good overview of gear that you might want to have before you set out on your travel endeavors – Basic List of Hitchhiking Essentials
With hitchhiking will come all the adventure you could possibly imagine in your life.
If you meet someone out on the road to teach you the ropes of hitching a train, then use this guide as a supplement to your knowledge so you ride safely – Train Hopping 101