Have you ever heard of one of these numerous projects aiming to prove how cool and adventurous it is to travel for next to no money? Google gives over 315 000 000 records for "traveling for free", so I assume you have. Because, come on, not only traveling, but traveling for free, this must be some kind of magic, right?
Nope. It's simply wrong, it's wrong on so many levels. This topic was surging within me for some time already, but today I saw one more 'fantastic' project about
using people traveling for free and I snapped. Because it's so naive, it's such a worn out concept.
You see, for the past (over) two years I was focusing on my research for dissertation and what's worse, I decided that it's gonna be a damn good dissertation. I spent way too much time reading, interviewing people, researching, talking to backpackers, conducting interviews, researching, reading CS groups and in the end I was told that I have enough material to write a PhD thesis. I'm not writing it to brag, okay, maybe a bit, but you see, I talked to many people about traveling: why they do it, what it gives to them, what's the meaning, when it's easy, when it's difficult. And you know what's the outcome? Surprisingly many people are not very thoughtful about the way they travel,.
Ethical traveling? Reducing your (tourist's) negative influence? Sustainable backpacking? Respect? Forget it. People don't give a crap, they give very noble declarations, but that's all. Sometimes they pretend they do care, but in fact they don't, they just talk about how it gives them freedom and how educative it is. One of the worst things is that so many peopl think that traveling is their right. Guys, you're wrong, it's a damn privilege, it's entertainmnent, it's not a first-need thing. Backpacking is a feel-good tool, it's Disneyland for adults, it's like Prozac, just more expensive. Unless... unless you make it free.
So, here we go. Traveling for free sounds great, but in fact, for free doesn't exist. Someone is going to pay for the hospitability you use. Water, electricity, shared food, gas. Don't get me wrong, I do hitch-hike, I do couchsurf, but I do it in rich countries, where this hospitability is a small burden for my host.
|That's a proof!|
But if you're going to travel the world for free, it means that at some point you're going to use resources (money, time, food) of someone, who needs is more than you, but due to cultural taboos is not able to refuse giving a shelter to some spoiled western brat. Because yeah, hospitality is sanctified and traditionally, a wanderer is a less fortunate one, who needs their help. For you, paying for a hostel or paying for food during your trip means one more month of work back home and saving up. Not a big price for not using people, amirite? So, the alternative scenario is that you are putting your trip one or two months off, save up more, come to your dream destination, pay a fair amount of money to people, who are doing great job running their small buisnesses, restaurants, hostels, food stalls, one-man rickshaw services and boosting their countries' economies... how cool is that?
So, my honest advice: before you go for this illusion, think twice about how much does your traveling for free actually cost.