How to travel without a job

How to travel without a job

The most important thing while trying to learn the ancient but dying art of travelling full time without a job is that you first learn how to unlearn everything that you have heard/read/seen/understood about travelling & how most people approach travelling in their lives.

The moment someone asks me what I do, instead of beating around the bush I just tell them I’m an unemployed traveller. I love watching humans reacting to it every time because I know they are thinking if they heard it right. The next few questions are pretty much the same everywhere I go. How do you manage the finances? Do you have some travel company sponsoring your travels? Are you a freelance writer? Do you have rich parents? Basically they are curious to know how I manage to travel so much without a job.

The answer is simple. I want to travel so instead of going crazy trying to find ways to earn or find a job & then travel, I just instead focus on finding ways to travel with no or the little money that I do have. Sounds too easy & good to be true right? Well that’s because it is.

I have compiled a list of things you should keep in mind when dreaming of travelling like I do (with no job or money) because that is what I did but it will only work out if you truly understand the bigger picture that I’m trying to share here instead of blindly following these steps.

1. Plan ahead & bring those piggy banks back from the dead!

I remember I was in my last year of masters at NIFT Mumbai when I decided that after finishing college I’m going to start travelling for as long as I can (or as long as the money lasts). Which is why I started to save money for it. As part of my last semester I was expected to do a four-month graduation project with any fashion brand. I knew I would need money to travel so I applied to the two well known brands that were offering a good stipend & luckily I got through one of them. So while most of the interns around me were happily cashing out on their salary slips every month. I would always save it for what I used to call as “The trip of the year!”

By the end of it all I messed up my jury because I ended up telling my department head the real reason behind why I stopped sending her my weekly updates during my internship. I told her how I realized I don’t want to work in the fashion industry & was just going through a lot to concentrate on sending her emails, besides I told her I made up for it by doing a great research project for the jury. Instead of reacting like an adult she reacted well like how most Indian teachers/professors do, threatening to mess up my grades (which btw she did but I couldn’t care less at that point) for explaining my situation to her instead of just quietly listening & admitting I was wrong. Well that’s all together another story but for now the point I’m trying to make is that you will have to wait until you finish school/college & meanwhile plan ahead of ways you could start saving money (doesn’t have to be a big amount). Which brings me to my next point i.e. prioritizing travel (or whatever you dream to do) over everything else in life.

2. Choosing travel over the finer things in life!

As easy & fun my life & travels might look to you on my Instagram, its not. In order to live like me you need to first ask yourself how badly you want something & based on your answer set your priorities in life.

Like everyone else I too loved going out & spending on food, shopping, false illusion of weekends among other things. But when I started saving or even once I started travelling I started choosing travel over the luxury of finer things in life. I would tell myself or my friends that I can’t be using my travel fund on certain things right now as its not going to serve/help me in bringing me closer to living my dream. If they really are your friends, they will understand instead of judging you for not wanting to spend. And if they aren’t then they will just end up judging you & not caring much if you join them or not. Trust me you do not need socializer friends like these in your life at this point. You need real friends who will listen to you & always encourage/support you in all your decisions instead of judging or finding faults in them.

I remember during my internship at Pantaloons Mumbai, post office hours I would sometimes take an auto from the Versova metro station & ask the auto guy to drop me half way at Versova beach where I would watch the sun set ever so casually like its beauty was no big a deal. I would hum to the song city of stars from the movie La La Land while looking dreamily at the skyline of Mumbai that’s often addressed as being the City of Dreams. After which I would happily walk the rest of the stretch back to my flat on Yari Road & thus save 30 rupees everyday. It wasn’t a big amount, but I believe in starting small & working my way upward from there.

3. Look for sponsored travels or travel competitions online.

Yes, I did that. But my luck runs out each time I apply for one of these “participate & win a free trip” online competitions. But that never stops me from applying to all of them. Sounds stupid & like something only a crazy person would do? But hey aren’t you already tagged as being crazy for chasing your dream, so who cares as long as it lets you live your dream.

Start with following as many travel pages & professional travel writers on Instagram, & keep a look out for an opportunity that you could grab on. Join the various travel groups for backpackers, solo women travel groups etc. on Facebook as well. You never know you might end up being the next winner of “Around the world in 80 days”! Also if you are a true traveller it wont matter where you are going as long as its somewhere beyond the place you are currently at.

4. Become a travel volunteer.

When my savings started getting over after the first few months of travelling, I started looking for volunteer work to continue my travels. I was able to travel for almost two and a half months to two different places this way without it being too expensive. For those who aren’t familiar with volunteer work, its simply a modern day barter system where you make yourself available for some work (depending on what you are volunteering for) over a long period of time ranging from one month to a year. In return you are provided with an arrangement of stay & basic meals. The facilities provided to you as a volunteer varies from place to place, some only provide stay or food while some will instead ask you for money to join as a volunteer (these are generally experiential travel tours disguised as volunteering work) so choose wisely. It could be a volunteer position for an NGO, a backpacker hostel anywhere in India, a Buddhist foundation in the Himalayas, a school in a remote location, homestays in a place you always wanted to visit, organic farms in Kerala, animal care shelter in Goa and the list just goes on. Google for volunteer work in India but if you are a new dreamer then you are definitely lazy so don’t worry I already have loads of websites bookmarked for volunteer work which I will be sharing on the blog soon. So stay tuned!

5. Couchsurf your way around different places.

Couchsurfing is a very common term among backpackers & long term travellers. So what is this magical term that helps you travel? Think of it as having friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet. Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travellers. You can get started by creating a profile on their website and start looking through profiles & references to find people you might want to stay with. For more details on how this works & how safe it is, go check out their website at  www.couchsurfing.com

 6. Say yes to short term/odd jobs.

I couldn’t commit to a regular full time job while also travelling full time. Most people would tell me, “Why don’t you take one of those freelance writing work that pays you?” Trust me I tried finding a lot of part time jobs or paid freelance work but it isn’t that easy as most people think it to be. You might also assume that working remotely for few hours & getting paid for it can’t be that difficult. To be honest I will suggest that in the initial months you try and not stress too much over finding or not finding freelance work that pays you.

Just enjoy that freedom that you have worked so hard for (assuming you have followed the first step of planning ahead & saving money). That freedom to just roam around in a strange new city, exploring its lanes, cafes among other things that I like to do & address as the art of chilling. Think of your initial few months of full time travel as the honeymoon period of your new relationship with travelling. Enjoy it while it lasts, because once the initial savings will end you will end up doing this anyway at one point. So until then just enjoy!

Some of the odd jobs I ended up doing included writing dialogues for a Bollywood horror feature film that had more potential as an episode of Pretentious Reviews than any kind of box office success. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a scam where once I had finished writing the remaining scenes of the script, I was asked to go home. They said the scheduled shoot was delayed due to budget issues (the shoot was supposed to be in Goa & Karnataka). They never called me back for the shoot and the cheque they gave me bounced twice. I had learnt my lesson & realised that out of every place I had travelled to solo, the only place that cheated me turned out to be a metropolitan city. Such city experiences make most people fear about encountering cheats & bad people during travelling across India solo. Its not the same everywhere. I have met amazing people who have been generous with their help in whichever way they could during my solo travels. But I like to remember this incident as a cheap thrill in my life that I will one day enjoy sharing with friends as a great story because what is life if not a series of stories based on our memories, experiences & perceptions.

Besides this I did two other short odd jobs which included me working for two Chinese based apps which got some inflow of Gandhi in green in my otherwise empty bank account. I remember when I finally used my ATM after months I had almost forgotten the password for it. My point being, make a list of things/skills you could do & then explore with different opportunities around you that might turn out to be a great story for later or who knows if lucky, it might even turn out to be your calling. Embrace such moments that life will offer when you finally start following your dreams. Where every next moment will be unexpected, unknown, an important lesson & yet exciting for you. This is something that no one will ever tell you about travelling like a true dreamer! Like Rumi said, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” If you follow your heart, then one day you will surely arrive at a place you were always meant to reach when you started off on this journey of yours.

7. Learn to wait & be patient.

Good things come to those who wait. Yes, its that easy yet one of the most difficult thing to achieve in this list. This might not help you directly in financing your travel but I feel it’s the most important point in this entire list for someone who wants to travel full time or anyone who wants to follow their dream.

Think of this whole phase as a craving you sometimes get for eating your favorite dish at your favorite café. You save money & wait all week for the perfect time to visit it. The wait continues until you reach that place. Finally, you place your order but still you have to wait for it while its being cooked for you. All this waiting does make you restless but it always turns out to be worth it in the end, doesn’t it? So why not learn how to wait in life while the good things get personalized just for you to enjoy them at the right time in your life. What’s with the hurry? In the past 8 months of my travels, I too had to wait for two months at home in between while I figured out how to travel again without money & job because unlike you, I did not have a kickass travel blog helping & guiding me through my journey. But hey I got no complaints! It turned out all good in the end for me & if you believe in your dream then it will for you too.

By the way did you know while I waited at home looking for ways to travel more with no money I landed myself with another volunteer work at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival that happens in the 14th cent built Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur. This followed by more volunteer work in Banaras for a month & then for another month in Goa! I waited & was patient and sooner or later things turned out just fine for me. It lead me to this blog, this post, to more dreamers and a new dream for me of a better tomorrow!

8. The great Indian family reunions!

A lot of people think I must be secretly getting my parents to sponsor my travels. I wish that was true. When my parents did not pressurize me into sitting for placements I decided to not be financially dependent on them after graduation out of respect for the freedom they were giving me. But thank god for the great Indian traditional wedding, I ended up getting a lot of easy money added to my travel funds because my sister got married one month before I started travelling & we all know how that must have been like for the sister of the bride!

Besides every time I am in between two trips, I go back home to look for ways to travel again & avoid finishing all my fund. Sometimes when I’m leaving home for a month long trip with just 3000 rupees in my account, my parents being concerned about my wellbeing do end up giving a thousand or two for my safety & in case I get in trouble. I try not to make a habit out of this but once in a while I accept it for the sake of respect & shagun, and because I do need it to travel.

So now that I have shared with you the secret of how I finance my travels, its time you start brainstorming about similar ways that could help you in doing the same. Remember, what worked for me might not work out for you, so do not beat yourself up if things do not work out in the first try. I am always trying to figure out new ways of travelling without money based on how situations & opportunities are presented to me in my life. So get that brain of yours into work mode & make some use of that great Indian jugaadu quality that every Indian is inherently born with!

I’m going to end this post by quoting something my father said to me last year, in the hope that it helps you understand why & how the above points worked out for me & I hope it does the same for you & lets you look at life & your choices in better light,

“Don’t chase money. Chase your dream. And only when you get rid of all the if’s and but’s or any shortcuts  in your head will you be finally able to achieve your dream.”

-Bhawani Singh Bhati





16 Replies to “How to travel without a job”

  1. Nidhi you must write a memoir of your travels, the early days. While reading your write I soon realized that this process is only for those ,whose passion to travel in solitude is very high. I see this being more than advice for traveling but holds good for any other dream that one is highly passionate about. The final quote is the cherry to this wonderful and delicious cake.

    1. Thank you for reading & sharing your views, you are quiet right on your understanding about my writing. Also I do plan to write a memoir of my travels one day. Hope you would like to read that as well.

    1. Thank you sim! Im glad that you enjoyed the read! And yes writing dialogues for a horror movie was a pretty cool incident!

    1. YAYY!! Thats the spirit! I hope you will be able to stand by this for long & keep feeling motivated to save & thus live more through your travels. All the best! 🙂

  2. I loved it, also I could imagine you saying all this to me directly like you do (all in one breath and then laughing). I’m so proud of you. ❤️

  3. Wow. I just love the way you write Nidhi. Follow your dreams and enjoy the life as it is meant to be enjoyed.

    1. Thank you so much aunty for always believing in me, right from the start of my journey, even when most people around me could not see what you were able to see in me! 🙂

  4. Wow,Nidhi,that’s called following your heart.Beautifully written in simple understandable words.Great situations to choose from if one really wants to travel and enjoy the places.

  5. When i found your profile i was amused that somebody is doing something really adventurous. Searched for your website and went through the posts and i really admire for whatever you are doing. Well keep it up and hope you live a life that millions only dream off.

    1. Hey! Im glad you happen to stumble on to this website in an unusual way. Thank you for reading & thank you for your wishes!

  6. Hey . I deleted my Instagram account permanently. I had said that I’d like to meet whenever you come to Goa. Now without an Instagram account I have no other way to contact you. So what do you suggest ?

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