Claire Sturzaker, a solo backpacker, has been to 40 countries, and she often travels for free.
Sturzaker saves on accommodation by pet-sitting and participating in work-exchange programs.
She also seeks out travel activities that don't cost money, from free tours to people-watching.
Claire Sturzaker took her first solo backpacking trip for free. Now, she's been to 40 countries and has tips for other budget travelers like her.
Sturzaker, who's originally from the UK, typically travels solo. She took her first solo trip to a ranch in Wisconsin when she was 19. She spent a summer exploring a new country, working on a ranch, and getting paid.
"I'd never worked on a ranch before. I was really excited by the idea of riding some horses in this cool country and earning money while doing it," she said. "So, in theory, it was basically a free trip. I earned enough money to pay for it, and I really enjoyed it."
Twenty years later, Sturzaker is still traveling the world — and saving money while doing it.
Sturzaker recommends finding a program through which you can work for a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation and other perks.
Sturzaker told Insider that she doesn't use travel hacks for flights, so she usually ends up paying more for them. But she saves on accommodation by doing work-exchange programs similar to the ranch in Wisconsin.
"You work a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation," she said, adding that there were often other benefits, too, such as free food, language lessons, and tours.
Sturzaker said she'd done work-exchange programs in the US, the UK, Mexico, and Peru. She's worked as a writer for a travel blog and as a receptionist at multiple hostels, including one in Mexico City.
"I stayed in Mexico City for a couple of months because I loved it so much. I was welcoming the guests, showing them where stuff was, cleaning the kitchens, and changing the beds."
Sturzaker said she enjoyed these programs, and she still had plenty of time to explore her destination.
"You do your work for a few hours, and then you go off exploring. Then you have days off," she said.
Sturzaker said she's gotten free stays through pet-sitting and house-sitting.
Sturzaker told Insider she's done pet-sitting a couple of times for friends in Barcelona and the US.
"You can get free accommodation — you just have to try to keep the cat alive," she joked.
Sturzaker also recently joined TrustedHousesitters, which is a community where pet and homeowners can find sitters who will work in exchange for staying at their place. TrustedHousesitters advises on its website that travelers should check the immigration policies of the countries they plan to visit, as rules around how long you can stay on a tourist visa vary from place to place. The company also offers letters written by immigration lawyers that it says can help border control workers "understand that we don't regard house-sitting as work."
Sturzaker said pet-sitting gave her the opportunity to treat herself in ways she typically couldn't.
"Getting to feel like I actually own my own house is quite nice," she said, adding that she can cook dinners, have a guest over, or just watch a film on the couch.
"I don't get to do that when I'm in hostels," she said.
Sturzaker also said she liked pet-sitting and work-exchange programs because she felt as if both sides get something out of it.
"I'm not a 'begpacker.' I'm not asking for money from people who can't afford to spare anything," she said. "But I feel like when either you're working for free accommodation or someone's on holiday, so you get to stay in the house and look after their pet, it's a fair exchange."
Sturzaker said when it comes to exploring, there's plenty of free stuff to do wherever you go.
When you're not working or pet-sitting, Sturzaker recommends spending your free time exploring — for free.
"Do free stuff wherever you are," Sturzaker said, adding that many destinations have free tours and free museums. Sturzaker also enjoys people-watching and getting to know locals.
"I think sometimes people assume that travel has to be expensive for it to be an amazing experience, and actually I've found the opposite to be true," Sturzaker said. "If you can have a conversation with people or go for a meal in someone's house, that doesn't necessarily cost anything — but it feels far more valuable than staying in some fancy hotel."
Read the original article on Insider