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I had a hard time choosing appropriate adjectives for the title of this post. I chose “extreme” and “crazy” but other people who have already heard these stories may use other adjectives such as “insane” and “dangerous.” The most frequent response I get is, “How are you still alive?!” Anyway, I thought that today I would post some crazy stories from my younger self, back when I was a cheap, frugal backpacker trying to get the most bang for her buck. Here’s a list of the 3 crazy ways to save money (I estimate it’s literally saved me thousands of dollars)!
1. I hitchhiked… over 6,000 km (3,700 miles)!
In 2014, my friend and I decided to quit our jobs and travel. We had no idea how long we would be gone for. We had zero plans and just took things day by day.
We started off in Asia where the cost of living was pretty low. However, when we landed in Western Europe, we were shocked by just how expensive everything was in comparison. We had a lot of ground to cover and the transportation was the largest expense. Train and plane tickets would have costed hundreds or even thousands of euros. The cheapest option for us to get around was by using ride share, but we found it impractical.
In order to keep to a budget and avoid going broke, we jokingly talked about hitchhiking instead of using public transportation. We then met a guy who hitchhiked from Germany to Morocco (and back!) and we were inspired. We decided to try to do the same thing as him.
For 3 months, my friend and I hitchhiked all over Europe. I still remember the first time we tried to hitch a ride. We had no idea where to go and just stood in the middle of the city centre with our thumbs up. We looked like idiots. Needless to say, we failed miserably and ended up paying for a bus ticket (10 euros).
The next day, we educated ourselves and found Hitchwiki which outlines the best spots to hitch in and out of any city. My friend and I became hitchhiker masters! We could literally find rides within seconds of putting our thumbs up in the air. However, there were some horrible days too when we had to wait for hours for a ride to come along.
Anyways, I’m not suggesting that you hitch hike to save money. I think hitch hiking, in general, is much more acceptable in the European culture than in the North American culture. My boyfriend who earns 6-figures at his cushy bank job still hitch hikes from time to time to get around the mountains in his area.
Also, it’s important to exercise safety precautions while hitch hiking. My friend and I were always in pairs and we would never get into a car with someone who looked sketchy. There were a few times when some very drunk and possibly drugged-up guys tried to pick us up. We refused to get into the car. However, another time we got into a passing car without even seeing how the driver looked like (thank goodness he was a good guy!).
In the end, I managed to hitch hike over 6,000 km (3,700 miles) in a dozen countries, half of which I didn’t even speak the local language! To me, that’s a pretty impressive feat. And I survived to tell the story!
All my experiences were positive and not negative. I met so many awesome people through hitch hiking. A lot of times, they were so intrigued by our story that they would offer us a bed in their home and warm food.
People who give lifts to hitch hikers are extremely generous. I hitch hiked with a few Swiss people too and now that I live in Switzerland, I’ve met up with them again. They’re still as warm-hearted as the day they picked me up 4 years ago! <3
2. I couchsurfed
For those of you who don’t know, Couchsurfing is basically like a free version of Airbnb. You send requests to people who have an extra couch or bed for travellers. You leave a review once you’ve stayed with someone or hosted a guest. Some people also use Couchsurfing just to meet locals to hang out with.
I love Couchsurfing and I’ve met so many amazing people from this platform! I have stayed with over 50 hosts and I have only had one negative experience (I’ll talk more about that later).
Whenever I mention that I couchsurf, people always get a bit skeptical. I sometimes wonder why Airbnb has become so mainstream, yet Couchsurfing is still considered taboo. The only difference is that you don’t have to pay when you Couchsurf. What I don’t get about Airbnb is why anyone would pay for something that they could get for free?! Does the fact that we are paying the host make them any safer than if we were not paying them?
Whenever possible, I try to Couchsurf. Sometimes I get too lazy to send requests so I just use Airbnb instead. However, for those who have never tried Couchsurfing, all I can say is that the ambiance is SO much better. These people are welcoming you from the goodness of their heart with no expectation of anything in return. You feel so loved! My Couchsurfing hosts have treated me better than my very own family at times!
Again, I am not writing this post to encourage anyone to Couchsurf if they don’t feel safe doing so. As with any peer-to-peer marketplace, you have to do your research. You have to read the host’s reviews and make sure they’re not sketchy. For instance, I would never stay with a single man who writes that he is only searching for females. Likewise, I would never stay with a man who says “I prefer to walk around nude and all my guests must do so too.” Red flag alert! Make sure to read past reviews and check the profiles of a few people who have left a review too, just to be extra cautious!
A lot of people also think Couchsurfing is about sex. That’s simply not true. I’ve mostly only Couchsurfed in pairs and I have rarely had my hosts hit on me. There were a few on occasion. I think it’s only natural for some level of sexual attraction to develop between two people if they spend so much time together. Personally, I am not interested in using Couchsurfing for sex and I know there are some people who do use it for that reason. Again, exercise precaution and if something looks and smells funny, it’s probably best to steer clear! And keep mind that you can always walk away!
And now to the more negative side of my story. I once was Couchsurfing in Las Vegas with one friend of mine. We found a man who had over 50 positive reviews. He sounded like a great person so we decided to stay with him. He lived in a huge house and offered to pick us up at the airport. We got back to his place late in the night and he started preparing food for us. We were chatting and having a great time.
Things started getting awkward when he kept bringing the topic of sex up in our conversation. My friend and I weren’t very comfortable with talking about this topic and we always tried to laugh it off and change the topic to something else. Then I got tired and went to lay down on the couch. He was sitting on the couch next to me with my friend.
Then, suddenly, out of no where, I felt something touch my lips. I opened my eyes and it was my Couchsurfing host. He had just given me a kiss out of no where! I was super freaked out and angry. My friend was literally sitting right there but she didn’t witness what had happened because she was preoccupied on her phone (lol). My friend and I decided that this man was unsafe so we left his place and reported him to Couchsurfing. His account was shut down within a few days.
The moral of the story is that you can’t trust everyone. A few rotten apples spoil the barrel. The sad part is that, as I mentioned before, I’ve had over 50 positive experiences on Couchsurfing, and only 1 was negative. However, people tend to only remember the bad stories.
Even after reading this post, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Oh gosh, a man randomly kissed this girl, I’m definitely not going to give Couchsurfing a try.” However, you are also forgetting the other 49 awesome experiences I had where I met local people who prepared authentic local dishes for me, introduced me to their culture and language, and showed me around their city/country as if I were a family member.
Even after my horrible experience, I still continued to Couchsurf. I don’t Couchsurf as much now that I’m older because sometimes I just prefer the luxury of getting to choose where I stay and not having to co-ordinate with someone else.
3. I used Tinder
Tinder is a famous dating/hook-up app. However, while we travelled, my friend and I mainly used it as a way to meet up with local people. We wanted to meet locals who could show us the best spots to check out (away from all the tourists), ideally the cheap ones. This also helped us to save money.
I know what you might be thinking. Why didn’t you just go to a bar or something to meet people? Well, I am from the millennial generation and my friend and I just prefer using Tinder where we don’t have to make much effort and we could talk to a bunch of people at the same time. It was the most efficient use of our time.
You may also be thinking, but wait, aren’t these guys only looking for sex? Well, yes and no. We made it very clear on our profiles that we were “Travelling with a friend and looking for locals to show us around. Not interested in dating.” We were extremely platonic in all of our exchanges and we only met up with the guys who were okay with the fact that we were only looking for friends/a local tour guide.
So what kind of experiences have I gotten through Tinder? Well, plenty of guys have met up with my friend and I for drinks, to show us some awesome restaurants, to invite us over for a nice home-cooked meal, and some even offered us free accommodations. The best ones even drove us around and gave us private tours! I even once had a Tinder match review my resume/CV for me and call me for an hour to help me prepare for interviews in Switzerland (this was back when I was still living in Canada)!
I don’t use Tinder anymore but I’ve heard that the quality of men has gone down tremendously over the years. However, back in 2014, it was still possible to meet decent guys who wanted nothing in return besides good company.
Do I feel guilty of “exploiting other people”? Well, no, because I made it very clear from the beginning that we were only looking for friends! It’s best to set expectations early so you avoid any awkward misunderstandings.
Like with my hitch hiking friends and Couchsurfing hosts, there are still a handful of these old “Tinder dates” who I still keep in touch with today.
I thought I would just share some fun stories from my past: extreme and crazy things that I have done to save some money. Do you agree that these are extreme? What was the most extreme or crazy thing that you have done to save money?
One common theme between all these experiences was that I used these experiences to connect with new people. I think life is a process of give and take. In times when I needed it, these strangers came and helped me out. Now that I’m older, whenever I encounter someone who needs a helping hand, I will pay the favour forward. I don’t mind showing someone around my city, or inviting someone to stay over at my place. And if I had a car, I would definitely pick up hitch hikers.
Other articles you may like:
- My Top 8 Biggest Financial Regrets (That I Am Still Regretting Today!)
- How I Save Thousands of Dollars Per Month By Living Frugally
- 62 Ways To Save More Money
- 17 Quick And Easy Ways To Make Money In The Peer-To-Peer Marketplace
- Blogging for Profit: How To Start A Money-Making Blog
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