Free. Travel. Fun. Sex. Win. New. Six words that always get our attention.
Last week's national Powerball obsession clearly demonstrates that we all want to win something. And who doesn't want more sex or more travel experiences? Everyone wants to have more fun and loves new experiences. We especially all want everything for free too.
It is one of America's exceptionalisms that we somehow deserve free things. Indeed, many of us actually expect things to be free; never mind the merits, facts or reality -- which is another great form of American exceptionalism.
So, can we really travel for free? Yes, but no.
Travel can be cheap, but it is never free. Couch-surfing is cheap -- but not free. Joining the Peace Corps will allow you to travel, but you have to give up years of your life. House-sitting at Aunt Jennifer's in Boca is cheap, but not free -- think of all those cats. Joining the army and seeing the world requires you to risk your life and limb, among other things. Volunteering in a disaster zone for a NGO requires unique skill sets and a special mental mindset too.
All cheap, but not certainly free. Here are five things you can do to travel cheap -- but not altogether free:
First off, you must radically readjust your material priorities and consumer spending patterns to keep more cash in your pocket, instead of redistributing for seductive consumer-driven products. Focus on your future experiences instead of consuming more stuff now. Ask yourself: on your deathbed, would you rather be a millionaire or a Thrillionaire?
Travel will seem cheaper and almost free if you have the resources to actually, well, travel. Just think of all the stuff you don't need and liquidate it. Think about all your frivolous spending habits: stop buying daily $10 lunches -- make a sandwich! Stop shelling out $5.00 a couple times a day on coffee. Cut your expensive cable cord by using Netflix and use an Internet-only phone versus high-priced service plans. Live in a smaller space. Take mass transit when possible. By readjusting your material priorities, you can focus on your travel experiences.
Second, find a job that calls for extensive travel or become a travel agent and take lots of subsidized (cheaper but not free) FAM trips to exotic destinations. Get your TEFL certificate and teach English abroad. Train to be an au pair and take international positions. You could become a flight attendant for an international carrier, or use your adventurous surfing, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking skills to work at ski resorts in the winter (summer in South America) and kids summer camps all over the world. You could even utilize your budding American Idol entertainer skills by working the cruise ship circuit. All afford cheaper, but not free, travel.
Third: You could win fame and fortune becoming a professional traveler by entering and winning the 2016 edition of the annual world travel championship known as The Global Scavenger Hunt (April 15 - May 7, 2016). Not only would you be crowned "The World's Greatest Travelers" following the three week around the world international travel adventure, but you would also win a free trip defending your title in 2017. That's win, free and travel all in one sentence!
In fact, I Googled "win a free trip" and 229,000 hits came up, from a weekend in San Francisco to a week on a Russian cruise ship. Enter often, but be forewarned, they may not all be as legitimate as winning the world travel championship.
Another viable option if you are somewhat of an extrovert and have good people skills would be to consider becoming a tour guide. If that doesn't pan out, you could try like every other traveler I seem to meet, and become a "travel writer" writing a blog and selling ads, becoming one of those elusive guidebook researchers, or try freelance writing lots of travel destination and travel product puff pieces and hotel reviews for "cooperative" websites. It is a growth industry but the admission price is usually your integrity, and soul on occasion.
Of course you can travel cheaper -- but not free -- by earning and redeeming lots of frequent flyer airline miles by a) maxing out on your credit cards, b) repeatedly getting sign-up bonus points, or c) becoming what is known in the trade as a "mileage junkie." Cheaper, but still not free.
Finally, travelers are known for their creativity -- when there is a will there is a way, right!? -- despite the fact that many of us might have more will than wallet. True travelers are clever, imaginative and resourceful trail blazers. So, take it to the limit (thank you Glenn Frey RIP) and create some crazy scheme for traveling the world that gets you corporate sponsors or be something you can CrowdSource to willing investors, like hopping around the world, or being the first person to use their smartphone in every country -- can you hear me now? -- or research an anthropological tell-all making love to someone in every country of the world.
So many options, but, if all else fails, just move back home and travel for free with your parents or better yet, become an illegal smuggler. Your results will vary -- as will your time served.
Travel can be cheap, but it is never free folks. Tell me your ideas?