People say you can’t travel if you don’t have cash. This is false. You can travel on nothing. Hell, you can travel on debt even. I’ve spent plenty of time without cash on me. It makes the journey more interesting in many respects. However, I am never without money in one of two internationally recognized bank accounts. How’s that for vagabondish?
Food and work go together because food might be the only thing you spend money on. Sure, every once in a while there’s an odd expense that you’ll have to spend on, but those are few and quite far between. It’s not like you’ll have bike parts to replace.
How to work and eat hitchhiking is something you learn by the doing of it. Here are some things that happen:
Save Up: Before I left Eugene in August 2009, I’d saved up over the years working in various jobs and never spending gifted money on trivial things. I had it in my mind to hit the road with a bundle. It’s a good idea to save money, especially if you “don’t know what you want to do with your life”.
Spend Little: This means what it says; spend as little as possible. Sometimes this means sacrificing nutrients, but to tell you the truth, I’ve never thought in terms of proteins, carbs or any of that. Then again, I haven’t had a physical in a while so maybe it’s taking its toll. Anyway, spend little. Find out the cheap eats in a country, and whether it’s cheaper to buy in a super market or small store, whether it’s worth cooking or not, etc. Go into a place with the money you’re willing to spend and say “give me the most amount of any food you can for this.”
Gifted Money: Hitchhiking brings a new fact of life to the fore. People give you money. It can be anything from a few cents to hundreds of dollars. I have a rule about this, because it should indeed strike shame into the heart of the unthoughtful. My rule is that I always refuse it, and only accept if it is insisted upon me over again.
Get a trade: I write this as though it’s a main form of income. I have only sold a few drawings, because it turns out that it doesn’t work so well. It’s an interesting way to mix things up in the day to day life of a traveler, which, I should say, is far from routine. I also have a thumb piano to play, but the volume is insufficient for street tunes.
Writing: I make money these days by writing copy for companies looking for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) articles. I also write travel copy. I owe much to content mill writing websites, where I find projects; but I prefer to meet employers and work for them outside of these websites. They pay me directly into a paypal account, from where I transfer into my bank accounts for which I have two debit cards.
Restaurant work: On the road, when I get hungry I’ll often go to any restaurant and ask to work for food. “I’ll work for some rice or bread or anything,” is the typical phrase that will bring the typical fare. Many people say no. Many say yes. Sometimes they give you minimal food, sometimes a whole meal. Sometimes, they give you a meal freely. NEVER feel ashamed to accept free food.
Live as a Guest: I often find myself in the homes of random people who I have met on the road. On many occasions I’ve stayed days, or even weeks. In most cases, they provide me food, and in exchange I help out in any way I can on the farm, property or what have you. These are the best experiences; don’t seek them–they come to you.
Gifted Meals: Hitchhiking will bring many invites to dine from rides. Most of the time I accept, and I try to express my gratitude every time. After so much invited food over the years, it can be hard to feel the same level of gratitude every time. However, every single act of kindness promotes a measure of positive karma in the world. I hope to give back.
Pick up the Scraps: If I’m in the right place at the right time, I will see food left over on the plates of tables yet to be cleared in a restaurant. I am not ashamed to ask for the remains, which would otherwise be thrown out. However, I don’t look for these opportunities, I simply accept them as they come. Poorer countries are far less likely to provide viable recycling options, but on the other hand, meals are probably relatively cheap.
Dumpster Diving: As with the above, this option is more viable in richer countries and more moneyed establishments. Trashwiki gives a global overview of dumpster diving possibilities. The US is a mecca of dumpster diving hotspots.