People offer a lot of reasons for not traveling more often, with lack of funds usually topping every list. At Uproxx, our basic argument is that traveling is more worthwhile than most of the other crap we spend our money on. Still, even though we firmly believe that travel is cheaper than most people realize, we have to admit it isn’t free. Usually.
This summer there are some sneaky ways to snag yourself a one of a kind travel experience without having to tag along on your parents’ annual cruise. Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, an eco-warrior, or a potential au pair, here are six ways to choose your own FREE (!) travel adventure this summer.
Be a Wildsam Fellow
Hip guidebook company Wildsam is looking for travelers to take a 10-day research trip this summer as “Travel Fellows.” The goal of the program is “1) to discover and document the broad and diverse narrative of the US; and 2) to inspire a deep sense of curiosity in our Travel Fellows.” The WildSam fellowship was inspired by The Federal Writers’ Project, commissioned by the U.S. government during the Great Depression to send writers, artists, photographers, and journalists out to share the American story.
Last year’s Wildsam Travel Fellows documented the cultural heritage of New England and the Desert Southwest with interviews from locals, explorations of tiny back roads, and hundreds of photographs. Each of the two travelers selected for the program receives a stipend to fully cover travel expenses.
Apply for the program here before May 25.
Find Your Park
In celebration of their 100th anniversary, The National Park Service is offering free admission on 16 days in 2016. Which means you can hike through caves made of lava tubes, experience the hottest area in North America and go sound bathing at no cost this summer. And that’s just in California.
Check out one of the 127 national parks that normally charge an entrance fee for free on August 25-28, September 24 or November 11. We’re betting you can track down a friend with a tent for the more camping friendly park options like Joshua Tree and Yosemite but if not, there’s always CouchSurfing.com.
Work Work Work Work Work
Work for trade opportunities abound for the traveler who isn’t afraid to use a little elbow grease. WWOOF offers young vagabonds the chance to work on organic farms around the world in exchange for free housing and food, making you a friend to the environment as well as a savvy penny saver. Opportunities usually require around four to six hours of work per day, at least two days a week. So it’s not insane.
If farm life isn’t for you, there are plenty of other volunteer and cultural exchange opportunities on Workaway or HelpX. Experiences vary from working at a hostel and teaching yoga, to helping build a house, splitting coconuts, and walking dogs at a South American animal sanctuary.
Be A Summer Au Pair
Put those neighborhood babysitting skills to good use as an international au pair. Websites like Au Pair World connect you with families looking for live-in childcare that will give you the opportunity to improve your language skills and get to know a new culture while living with a host family. Not only will your room and board be covered, you actually get paid for this one. You’ll have more luck looking for a family in the Northern Hemisphere right now — in the Southern Hemisphere summer is not until January and they’ll be more likely to want a long-term au pair placement right now rather than a few months of relief from their out of school and under-foot children.
If you’re a pet lover, TrustedHouseSitters.com is about to rock your world. The website will connect you with a place to stay for free in return for caring for someone’s pets while they’re out of town. It’s basically Airbnb but you have to walk the dog in the morning. If you own your own place, trading homes with someone is another way to score yourself a free place to stay while traveling. Yes, like Kate Winslet in The Holiday and yes, you’ll totally fall in love with the person you house trade with. Use HomeExhange.com to browse options in 150 countries.
Get In Touch With Your Roots
You’ve probably heard about Birthright Israel trips. What you may not have heard of is Birthright Armenia, a volunteer internship program which reimburses travel expenses to people of Armenian descent who commit to two months interning or volunteering at approved organizations including hospitals, news agencies, government offices, and environmental NGOs. Meaning this travel opportunity is also a cultural goldmine, not bad on your resume, and will probably make your grandparents really, really proud. Win-win-win.