Is travel without money possible?

Everyone’s telling me it can’t be done. No money? Travel? It’ll either end in death, or tears.

Without fail, every time I mention the idea of this experiment to anyone, I’m met with one of two looks; pity, or utter confusion.

I told a friend yesterday; his response was to laugh and casually inform me; ‘you’re going to die’. Cheers Craig. I told my barber today; he stopped cutting, and blankly stared at me, entirely taken aback at the concept of travel without money.

Is it just me here who thinks maybe, just maybe, this whole thing might be possible? I feel some need to justify this obviously ridiculous idea, if not to anyone else, then to myself.

Travel without money used to be a norm

Generation upon generation of people have travelled and explored for free. Marco Polo, Seneca, Jack Kerouac. Back then it was the done thing. Reliant on other’s hospitality, and their own wit and charm, they could fend off bad fortune, and managed to propel their travels by whatever means necessary.

Granted times have changed. Money’s now a far more important currency than it was then, but it isn’t yet the ‘be all and end all’. It’s getting there, but there’s a wee bit of room for manoeuvre. The US and the UK are both countries with massive (I mean HUGE) amounts of emphasis on the importance of money. But as soon as one’s face to face with a culture with less of an emphasis on this restraining commodity, one’s mind opens like a little flower, to realise it’s not an objective fact that travel without money is impossible. It’s simply that we’ve been largely pushed and shoved into that way of thinking by the society we grew up in.

And so with ingenuity and imagination, and an effort to think slightly differently, I really do believe one can survive with the minimal amount of money in their back pocket. This is because…

People are more hospitable than you think.

When I hitch-hiked from the UK to Morocco, the hospitality of virtually everyone (yes, that even includes the French) was enough to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. We were given free food, free places to stay, and, of course, free rides for 1700 miles.

I can’t remember one incident of any rudeness, nor any time I felt unsafe (even when sleeping behind some bins round the back of a Spanish train station).

But that’s not to say finding this hospitality is easy. All over Europe, people have their guards well and truly up. Sometimes just going up and talking to someone will be responded to with a look of horror and you can see the thoughts running through your victims mind. ‘A stranger. Talking to me?! What is this?? Where’s my purse? Lock the doors. Escape!’.

But as soon as they realise you’re not a thief, murderer or rapist, their guard comes down, and you’re met with (wait for this)… a real human being!

When that guard’s come down even a tiny amount, it’s surprising how much people are willing to put themselves out for you. How much they want to help you and talk to you. This is the side of people I’m relying on for this trip. I just hope it hasn’t disappeared in the past couple of years.

We’re more capable than you might think

When placed in an uncomfortable situation, the capabilities of the human body and mind are astonishing. Just look at the achievements of any explorer, adventurer or endurance athlete, and you’ll see what I mean.

You simply don’t know where your limit is until you’ve passed it. So unless we try something, we can never know if it’s at our mental, physical or emotional limit.

This is precisely the reason why I try not to listen to those who laugh at this idea, or who tell me it’s impossible. These are people who have never tried it. They’ve probably never pushed themselves to their limit, so how are they to know what’s doable, and what isn’t?

The resources are there

Couchsurfing, Organic farming opportunities. The resources to travel for free, or for virtually no money, are there if you put in a bit of effort to find them.

Walking, hitch-hiking and cycling are free ways to move around, and it’s possible to work for food (if you’re that skint), or find food that’s being thrown out of shops and bakeries at the end of the day.

But the most valuable resource is ourselves. To get anything in life, you have to put yourself out there. I don’t expect to sit on a park bench for a couple of hours, before someone offers me a room for the night. I have to put in the effort. I have to speak to people, make friends, open opportunities. Without this, free travel probably is impossible.

But mix all of this together and the resources are hardly scarce if you have the energy to utilise them.

THEREFORE

With all of this available, it seems hard to see why travelling with very little money wouldn’t be possible. Yes, it’ll be hard, but it’s doable. And that’s all I need. As long as there’s that hint of hope that I can do this, I’ll give it a shot, if not for any other reason than to prove everyone else wrong!

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