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How to Travel Around Asia on Five Dollars a Day.

It doesn’t have to be any more expensive than that.

Photo by Mike Swigunski on Unsplash

I’m going to cut right to the point. Working, living and travelling abroad is so much easier than people realise. No published article, secret method or expensive Zoom seminar is going to prove it otherwise.

In all honesty, two elements that everybody should have, are all you need.

  1. An open mindset
  2. Understanding the practicalities of the word ‘yes’

Also, there is a couple of household items required, but they’re pretty self-explanatory; decent computer, internet connection, common sense…

It’s true. A one-syllable word can ultimately change your life. But in this article, you probably want a little more information than just a three-letter philosophy.

Written deep within the context and language of this article, I have detailed three methods, that coincide with one another, that you would need in order to travel on as little as five dollars a day.

Please bear in mind that these methods worked for me, and although very obtainable for most people, may result in different outcomes.

What would you prefer? A new iPad or the chance to explore and enjoy new cultures and experiences.

I inevitably leant towards the latter, which resulted in the best decision I ever made.

Volunteering

We started off our first night sleeping on a hard wooden floor, swatting the mosquitos away every time they drew close. This was the sacrifice we made in order to explore the region on a meagre budget. While the mosquitos made the nights unbearable, it was an acceptable price to pay for the experience we gained during the day.

Although accommodation in the countryside was not entirely up to scratch, every day spent here offered a learning experience that you couldn’t get from a hotel room.

From learning about the anatomy of local fauna to educating local school children, a volunteering experience couldn’t come any more rewarding.

So how does one start volunteering overseas?

There are a few websites that offer individual volunteering options; however, I would highly recommend WorkAway.

There is a small fee to create an account to start applying for positions, but in the swing of things, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Once registered, you can apply and contact with people who have placements. These placements are usually at farms, houses or language cafes. However, we did find the occasional beach house retreat, but they often had quite an extensive waiting list.

TIP: Make sure you get all of the details written down and confirmed with an alternate employee (one that speaks English at a reasonably standard level).

You do not want to be stuck lying on the floor of a farmhouse without having eaten food for a week because the local store is 2 hours away by car.

Volunteering is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture. The work is often relatively easy and requires little to no prior experience.

I once worked with a French guy who taught English in a language cafe. He could barely speak English himself.

The tasks that are assigned to you are usually calculated on what you are receiving in return. If you are working as an Au Pair, you may work four days on with three days off. Or if you are working on a farm, you may do four hour days five days a week in exchange for food and accommodation.

My biggest piece of advice when applying for volunteering positions is to make sure you do your research.

Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.

Dust of the old map or buy one in a store and get a visual sense of where you are staying and commuting to and from. Having a tangible map rather than relying on a phone is far better, as you’ll either have no service or no battery by the end of the day.

Ensure you’ve done sufficient research into the visa(s) required and any local costs that may arise.

When you’ve acquired all of your information, write it all down in a book and keep it with you. As I mentioned, technology is not always trustworthy.

Volunteering, in my opinion, is far better than travelling and staying in hotels or hostels. Not only do you meet like-minded people, but you get the chance to really immerse yourself in the culture. You may even learn a thing or two about yourself.

Teaching

Volunteering sorted the accommodation and food, how about travel expenses and other costs?

After our savings ran out from unexpected costs, we had to come up with a new plan to keep food in our bellies and a roof over our heads.

Along came Online Teaching.

Teaching online, or if you get the opportunity in local schools, is a great way to earn income while travelling abroad.

  1. It doesn’t require a lot of effort to set up and run.
  2. No prior experience needed.
  3. You can honestly teach from anywhere in the world just as long as you have a stable internet connection and a decent pair of headphones or mic.

I had experience teaching students from my previous job, but that wasn’t going to help me land a position in the back forests of Asia. A few sleepless nights later, I had managed to open accounts on a few different platforms.

Preply.

A great all-rounder. This website allows you to choose from various subjects and interacts with students before getting your first lesson. There is quite a lot of work involved in maintaining a consistent schedule and lots of homework and material that need to be sent, but in the crux of the lesson, you meet some lovely people and earn decent money.

Positives:

Various subject availability, opportunity to acquire more students, set your own price, easy account creation.

Negatives:

Very competitive — you will find yourself competing with other teachers to get a single student. Commission based work — Preply takes a small percentage of each lesson you teach as well as the first lesson.

Cambly.

I didn’t get a lot of work through Cambly, and I do believe that it is very hit and miss, but the pragmatics of the company allows for easy access when travelling.

Positives:

Audio Only — simply plug in your earphones and have a conversation with a student via your mobile phone. You could be walking around Tokyo, talking on your phone and getting paid.

Negatives:

Hard to register — often takes a few months for an employee to accept your account. Low rate of pay — highest amount per hour is about ten dollars.

PalFish.

Great incentives for newcomers. PalFish is a Chinese based company where the majority of students are anywhere between two to ten years old. Seriously had to teach two-year-old at one point and got paid fifteen dollars.

Positives:

Great pay and bonus incentives for student conversions. Twenty-five-minute lessons. Get paid for trial lessons. The company sends you students depending on your availability. All classes are conducted from a smartphone or tablet.

Negatives:

Very particular about what you have in the background — must be a child-friendly environment. It takes time to get more students and often hard to convert trial lessons. Payment made once a month.

The reason I joined all three is that one is simply not sustainable. Not because of the rates each company pays, instead, the releasing of earnings can range from one day to one month, and the number of students you have within each company can vary drastically.

As mentioned in the previous section, it is important to do your research, and I would highly recommend creating accounts with online platforms BEFORE you travel overseas. This is to ensure you can set up schedules appropriately and upload that awesome profile picture.

TIP: Other companies that you may come across in your research require a video introduction. Preply is an example of this. Have an awesome video introduction preloaded on your phone so that if you are applying for a new company overseas, it’s ready to upload.

Loyalty Points

This method may be cheating slightly but in the spirit of things could potentially enhance your trip, by making sure you don’t have to spend an exuberant amount of money on flights.

Make sure that you accumulate loyalty points everywhere you go before you travel. This might take some careful planning, but as I outlined in the article below, can easily be achieved a year in advance.

While preparation is needed to ensure that this trip works effectively, planning ahead can reward you even further.

There are many credit card companies that offer bonus points when joining and spending a minimum amount. If you have to buy the flight or insurance, perhaps a new backpack, use the credit card to unlock the points. Then, pay off the credit card the moment before you travel so that you don’t have any credit while away.

With accumulated points, you’ll then have the flexibility to enjoy discounted or next to nothing flights from one country to the next, depending on the airline.

Don’t take loyalty points for granted. Instead of spending them on discounted grocery shopping or a new pair of headphones, save them overtime to transfer to an airline to reduce or eliminate the price of your ticket.

Use your frequent flyer miles sparingly; they may just save you wallet in times of need.

In Summary

Travelling overseas is on everyone’s to-do list. Before you travel, there are so many things to check off, the most important being to ensure you have enough money.

As we’ve seen, and experienced, travelling does not have to be expensive, time-consuming or majorly planned. Instead, it can be as simple as making a couple of five-dollars a day choices.

  • Volunteer in exchange for accommodation and food. A great way to learn languages, experience culture and enhance various skills.
  • Teach online on a variety of platforms; usually one is not enough. Take time to manage your lessons, and don’t just show up and speak.
  • Loyalty Points should be savoured not spent.

Why spend time figuring out passive income streams or writing an ebook? Book that ticket and go, the best way to make the most out of the experience is to resolve your problems on the way, not before they’ve happened.

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