Wouldn’t it be cool to travel to countries like Canada, Malaysia, and Turkey without spending a dollar (or a Loonie, Ringgit, or Lira)?
Rhetorical question…It is!
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to all the countries above, as well as various cities within the U.S., for free and (in some cases) even for profit on a few trips.
How is this possible?
I wish I knew the fancy travel-hacking techniques the pros use to do this and much, much more (it’s actually one of my “Gap Year Experiments” to learn how to do so…), but I can share from previous experiences how I’ve been able to travel for free so far.
Text me when you land!!!
1) Get a Job That Flies You Places
While you won’t get the same lifestyle freedom that you would on self-supported travel, some jobs come with cool perks, like being flown out for conferences or “important” meetings. Even as an intern working for 15Five, there were a couple times where I was flown for free cross-country to help work the booth at an event like LAUNCH Festival, or even paid to come stay in San Francisco for a summer to work with the rest of the start-up’s team in-person. With Keith Ferrazzi, I’ve been flown to L.A. for a week of final interviews (where I also got to stay for a week in his beautiful Hollywood Hills home), as well as for the occasional all-hands-on-deck, everyone-come-to-L.A. meeting (Ferrazzi Greenlight has two or three offices across the country). There’s a lot of jobs that will fly you all over the world on the company’s dime, and it isn’t the worst way to travel-hack…although I also really like these other options.
2) Become a Professional Speaker
Even before you build up enough of a portfolio to start charging for your speaking engagements, a lot of conferences, companies, and event organizers will pay for your travel expenses to have you come speak to their group if you know what valuable content or experience you provide and can offer your time and skills to share that information. I’ve been flown and hosted in Gainesville, New York, Chattanooga, and even Turkey to speak at various events, and it’s honestly a great way to travel! Better yet, if you batch trips, you can use the arrival or departure part of your paid travel arrangements to save money on another destination (which I’ve done multiple times to save half my travel costs as well for separate, but closely-timed trips.
3) Apply To and Attend Events That Cover Travel Expenses
I’ve attended events in Malaysia (Global Startup Youth, a side event to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit), Canada (the Awesome Summit put on by The Awesome Foundation), and domestically that cover most or all of the expenses associated with traveling to, staying at, and attending the conference or event.
Crazy, I know!!!
However, if you look hard enough, and keep a circle of travel-hacking friends who send you awesome opportunities when they see them, you can find unique opportunities to travel all around the world and get neat opportunities to learn and meet new people, all on the credit card of the event’s organizers and/or sponsors! One resource I’d recommend for students is a site called Hey Success, which brands itself as the “Hub for Student Opportunities”. They curate many of the international conference, internship, scholarship, and competition opportunities for students of almost any age to get involved in, and some of the events posted cover all travel and participation expenses, which some will give out stipends. The Awesome Foundation gave me a $300 travel stipend for my flights (and had hosts to take care of our lodging for free..so kind!), and I was flying in from a speaking engagement in New York, where March of Dimes flew me from Florida to White Plains, NY to speak to their National Youth Council, and then to Canada for the Awesome Summit, so I only had to buy a one-way ticket from Ottawa back to Florida and ended up making money traveling internationally!
4) Get Your Trips Sponsored
This one is a little trickier, but is well worth it if you can pull it off. Right now, my brother travels around the country for free because he plays for Orlando S.C.’s Youth Academy team, which is the youth team to a MLS team! When I was younger, I played two years in the JCC Maccabi Games, and was able to raise sponsorship dollars for my trips to San Francisco and Denver, respectively. Of course, it took mailing out hundreds of letters, and lots of door-to-door candy selling (hey, when you’re thirteen, you have the “innocence” thing going for you), but I got most or all of my trips paid for, and got some really interesting experiences out those trips, as well as an appreciation for fundraising. If you really want to learn how to get your stuff sponsored, follow my buddy Jason SurfrApp. This dude built an entire business off wearing other companies’ T-shirts and promoting them via social media outlets each day, made $70,000 off a self-published book before writing a single word by selling sponsor messages at the bottom of each page of the book, and even pimped out his last name two years in a row for almost $45,000 and $50,000! He’s actually funded a cross-country road-trip through his sponsorship-raising ninja hacks, and if he can rack in over $1 million through sponsorships in his various businesses, you can land a few hundred (or a few thousand) dollars for your travels if you provide enough value to potential sponsors.
Again, these are just simple ways to get paid to travel (or get flown around for free)…Check back in to The Gap Year Experiment as I learn how to travel-hack like the pros do throughout the year.
If you have any other travel-hacking tips or tricks to share, please leave your thoughts and resources in the comments section!