Since I started my studies in Groningen, I’ve met many people that told me that travelling on your own is the best way to discover yourself and the world. That inspired me to hit the road myself. Travelling alone, that meant I had to persuade myself that I actually didn’t need other people. Further on I understood that being alone was not meant literally: people are very eager to make contact with lonely travellers. During my journeys I have always met people on the road who I went on unplanned trips with. Another obstacle that hindered me was the worry about money. As of day one I decided to try the cheap things that everybody was talking about but nobody does, like couchsurfing. And I loved it! Ever since then I dedicated myself to the real, ultimate, cheap travelling experience.
The first part of travelling is to go from one place to another. All research classes turned out to be worth it, because travelling cheap requires one big, long, awesome research of different ways to reach the place you want. So as a true Hanze student traveller, the summary is: Flixbus, Ryanair, Wizzair, Megabus, BlaBlaCar, Eurolines and handy transport offers such as weekend and group tickets. By the way, true adventurers try hitchhiking. It might sound unsafe, but on Hitchwiki you can read very useful information about hitchability and waiting time, straight from other hitchhikers. As for drivers, use your common sense and keep in mind the golden rule: travelling with someone else is safer.
The easiest way is to search for a cheap hostel, but I prefer couchsurfing. You can search for people that are willing to host you for free in their houses in exchange of cultural talks, activities in their town and dinners. Many people are afraid to try it out, but it’s a very secure social platform. People have profiles in which they describe themselves and moreover: you can find recommendations and experiences of previous couch surfers. So far, I have never had bad experiences and I have been a guest of eight different people in different countries and I have been a host myself twice.
On one occasion in Geneva I was staying with a guy who had a private pool in his building. That is better than any hostel in the world! It is true that sometimes you have to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag but you always know that in advance, so it is your own decision. All couch surfing people are amazingly kind to share their private lives, show you their city and have conversations that enrich your life. As long as you are open-minded, respectful and honest, couch surfing will be the best thing you have done.
One month is a long time to be in a new place on your own or to sleep at other people’s houses. So it feels right if you do something in exchange
The first thing I did was becoming an au pair (AKA nanny). The family provides you with food, bed, activities and a small salary. Being an au pair is a job but actually a great way to work and to travel around during weekends. The kids might go out of control sometimes but that is alright. If you are capable of surviving exam periods, you can definitely manage kids. As an au pair, you will be able to experience home-made, local food, have a lot of conversations, learn a new language and, most of all, have fun.
Ever heard of WWOOFing? WWOOF means worldwide opportunities on organic farming. Basically, you choose an organic vegetable, cattle or herb farm in any country around the world. You work for four hours a day in exchange for a bed and food. Actually, WWOOFing brought me new skills as taking care of animals and growing vegetables. Two days a week you have time to travel. In the farm in the French Alps that I chose we stayed with two young French farmers, two Americans, one Frenchman, one Bulgarian and two Australian WWOOFers. We took care of the goats: milked them, made cheese and sold that on the local market in Geneva. So WWOOFing is a great chance to meet other people, eat organic food, travel around and learn something useful.
Most hosts prefer the participants to stay for two or three weeks, so they can get into the routine of either child care or farming. That’s a fair deal, right? More than fair, I would say.