How to Win Free Travel (Hint: You’ll Have to Get Creative)

Like free travel? Of course you do. There are a few contests you should enter, especially if you are a seasoned business traveler or a bubbly sociable traveler. Like most online contests, they will require social media savvy and some old-fashioned popularity contest-winning charm, but hey, you could win free travel!

-Jauntaroo’s Best Job Around the World: The vacation matchmaker site is looking for a “Chief World Explorer” to travel the world for one year (or at least a few exciting destinations like Berlin and the Maldives), with all expenses paid. You’ll be representing Jauntaroo and creating social content, and earning a $100k salary for your trouble. There’s also a “voluntourism” component, promoting the site’s partner charities and “travel with a cause” motto. To enter, upload a 60-second video detailing why you should win by September 15 and get your friends to like it, as only the final five will make it to the interview.

-“American Way” Road Warrior: Already been around the world, with an expertly-packed carry-on and the efficiency of George Clooney in “Up in the Air”? If you’re a true “road warrior” you know that “American Way” is the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, and they have an annual contest to award the ultimate business traveler. The grand prize includes a half million AAdvantage miles and a trip to Curacao, plus a slew of other prizes befitting a frequent flier, such as noise-canceling headphones. Fill out the application (sample question: what makes you a true road warrior?) by August 31, and the five finalists will be posted online for the public to vote on the top three winners.

Like a more honest day’s travel work? Check out a few unusual travel jobs.

Travel All The Time With Jobs Like These

Those who travel all the time can go to far away places as routinely as others might go to buy groceries. They have somehow managed to be employed in an occupation that requires travel as part of what they do. Commonly, we might think of sales people who hit the road to get face time with regular or prospective customers, and many do. People with the word “travel,” or something like it, in their job title are normally on the move a lot too. Travel writers, flight crews and astronauts come to mind.

But there are a number of other occupations that include travel as a key element of the job description. Some travel occasionally and for others, the job is on the road. If a traveling job sounds like a good fit, consider thinking along these lines:

Education Professionals
Pick your topic (one that you love would be a good choice), get credentialed and throw your hat in the ring to teach anywhere on the planet. TeachAbroad can tell you all about it here.

The idea for this post actually came from a teacher. Also the photographer on last Saturday’s Photo of the Day, Lauren Irons is TheTravelingTeacher and her travel/work has seen Cambodia, Malaysia, Morocco, India and other countries around the world. Irons takes fans along for the ride via her blog, rich in colorful photos and first-hand accounts of her adventure.

Military members
“Join the Navy, See the world” is still a very viable option for an occupation that might have a great amount of travel, and not always into battle zones. The U.S. Navy, even today, touts the travel opportunities available:

“If you enjoy traveling, you will be able to take advantage of flying for free on military aircraft as they travel to different destinations around the world. You will even be able to hook up with lodging at the different Navy bases and other military bases, which are under an American flag. This will allow you to see even more great places while you are enlisted in the US Navy.”

Medical people other than doctors
Don’t get me wrong; there are traveling doctors too. Doctors Without Borders will be quite happy to tell you about their volunteer opportunities. But Nurses, aides, technicians and others are in high demand worldwide.

“In college I dreamed of having an international career,” writes Caroline Polt, RN at Transitions Abroad, an online source that helps people work, live, study and/or volunteer abroad. “Several years after my sister ventured off to foreign lands to teach English, I decided to pursue the same route,” continues Polt, noting, “healthcare organizations worldwide are scrambling to recruit nurses.”

Travel Agents
Part of being a travel agent is experiencing destinations, modes of travel and other elements of booking travel that require personal contact.

These days, webinars have taken the place of a lot of what travel agents commonly saw on familiarization trips, hosted by a tour operator, resort, cruise line or other travel source. Still, there are a whole lot of free or reduced-price options that can get you traveling all the time.

Location Independents
These are people that are experts in their field so they travel to share their knowledge/gifts with others. For example, someone who is an expert on repairing a certain amusement ride at Disney World is an invaluable resource. Someone who is an expert at repairing amusement rides in general will be on the road a lot.

Work On A Cruise Ship
Jobs are available and cruise lines are hiring now. AllCruiseJobs lists job openings, currently boasting 665 cruise ship jobs from 49 recruiters. Think working on a floating hotel is something you might like to do? A reality check is in order.

“They eat, sleep and live on the two crew-only decks when they are off-duty, and only enter passenger areas to work,” says Paul Motter from CruiseMates in a FoxNews report. Yes, they do sail to exotic destinations all over the world, but on the ship, they are in a world quite different than paying passengers when not working.

“The crew area also includes a bar, usually open every night for varying hours for drinks and dancing, and a deck area with a small swimming pool and deck chairs,” says Motter. “Everyone works seven days a week, but the number of hours varies a great deal depending on the particular job. “

Or Any Other Job On The Planet
The key, it seems, is to actively search for the job that will have the right amount of travel for you. Want to be home on the weekends? There are jobs that can make that happen. Want to travel just in the United States? Other jobs do that too.

Maybe travel is not the number one priority when looking for a job. Indeed, for many, any job in a tough job market will do. But that surely does not mean that we can’t make our jobs what we want them to be, eventually.

[Photo credit – Chris Owen]

Choosing Your Credit Card: Do Airline Or Bank Cards Yield Better Deals For Travelers?

Who doesn’t love free flights? We sure do. ShopSmart magazine, a Consumer Reports publication, has tracked the best credit cards and methods to accrue points towards free flights in its latest issue, and some of these tips are extremely relevant for readers.

While choosing a loyalty carrier or airline credit card is often a personal matter – if your home city is a hub for American Airlines, it might not make sense to choose a United card, for example – these tips are relevant to most travelers and first-time card activators.

“You’ve got more options than ever for credit cards that let you rack up points for free travel,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart in a release. “But finding one that will score you free tickets the fastest can be tricky. Depending on your travel and spending patterns, sometimes airline cards are best but sometimes you’re better off with bank cards.”Choosing Your Card

Choose an airline card if:
· You’re loyal to a particular airline
· You travel a lot
· You want a free trip fast
· You like to wheel and deal

Airline cards usually aren’t as generous with points, but may be worth it for those who can score a decent up-front bonus. Airline card users should check offers listed on an airline’s website and use them as a starting bid when calling the airline directly to negotiate a deal or to ask for double points. A notable caveat: blackout dates and other restrictions can be an issue with airline cards.

Choose a bank card if:
· You fly based on price
· You don’t want to deal with blackout dates
· You are enrolled in several frequent flier programs

Users can earn points on purchases and spend them on any airline they choose – points are usually tied to the price of the ticket, so the lower the price, the fewer the points needed. Bank cards are a better option for those concerned about when they can fly and how much time they have to use their points. Some cards allow users to transfer earned points to a variety of airline programs.

ShopSmart suggests the following as particularly worthy card selections:

1.) American Express Premier Rewards Gold. This bank card rewards shoppers with three points per $1 spent for airfare; two points per $1 spent on gas and groceries; one point per $1 spent elsewhere. Users who spend $2,000 in the first three months can earn 25,000 bonus points. There’s no interest charge; users pay balances in full every month. No annual fee is charged for the first year, then $175.

2.) Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa or MasterCard. These bank cards reward shoppers with two points per $1 spent for travel and dining; one point per $1 elsewhere and a seven percent yearly bonus on points. Users who spend $3,000 in the first three months earn 40,000 bonus points (worth $500 on travel booked through Chase). APR for purchases is 15.24%; the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

3.) Delta SkyMiles American Express Gold. This airline card rewards shoppers with two miles per $1 spent on Delta; one mile per $1 spent elsewhere. Users get a free checked bag for up to 9 people in a reservation; 20% savings on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases. APR for purchases is 15.24%, 17.24%, or 19.24%; the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.

Do you have a bank card or an airline card? Both? Neither? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Tell us why you love your card or why you chose what you chose.

[Image Credit: Flickr user 401 (k) 2013]

Daniel Suelo, The Man Who Quit Money, On Living And Traveling For Free

Daniel Suelo is easily the most famous homeless person in America. His story has been featured in Details, ABC News, BBC, The Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Oregonian, and a host of other publications. And last year, a division of Penguin Books published a book about Suelo’s life, “The Man Who Quit Money.”

Suelo, 51, who changed his given name from Shellabarger, (Suelo means “soil” in Spanish) spends most of his time sleeping in a cave but he’s not your ordinary homeless person. He’s a college graduate (University of Colorado Boulder) who served in the Peace Corps and once held regular 9-5 jobs before completely swearing off money in the Fall of 2000. In fact, society might view him as homeless, but in fact, he has two homes – one inside a small cave near Arches National Park and a small tent site on private property within the city limits of Moab, Utah.

Since he gave up using money, people from around the world have made the pilgrimage to Moab to seek Suelo’s advice on how to live for free. He runs his website from the public library in Moab and is happy to share his living without money survival skills with anyone who cares to listen.

Suelo and I were supposed to meet up while I was in Moab last week but since he has no phone, he isn’t the easiest person to reach. I caught up with him on the phone while he was house sitting for a friend to ask him about living and traveling without money and how his life has changed since “The Man Who Quit Money” was published.

It was freezing at night in Moab last week. I know you do some house sitting for people in the winter, but are you still sleeping outdoors even in this weather?

Right now I’m house sitting but I was living out just a few weeks ago. It’s not that bad when I’m in my sleeping bag and tent; it’s not as bad as people think it is.

What kind of sleeping bag and tent do you have?

I’ve had different sleeping bags. I find them in dumpsters or just lying around. I double up sleeping bags in the winter.

I imagine you have to sleep with quite a few layers of clothing?

Not really. I take my pants off and just sleep with a shirt and underwear.

So when you have a house-sitting gig, you don’t dread going back to your cave when it’s over?

No, not at all. I feel more liberated when I sleep outside. This is the first year I’ve used a tent. I used to just use a tarp. I found two tents – and I put the small one inside the larger one and it’s actually quite insulated in there. I light two or three candles and I’m amazed how warm it is. I’m warmer in there than in a house.

Has your life changed since the book came out?

In a lot of ways, it has. I went on half of the book tour with the author and I’ve had a lot more visitors.

How was the book tour?

We didn’t stay in any hotels. Penguin Books gave Mark a very low budget for the tour. He wanted me to come along so we crashed with friends and strangers. Sometimes we didn’t know where we were going to sleep that night and someone would always offer us a place and we camped out a few times. It was really fun. It’s fun not knowing where you’re going to sleep at night.

Do you think he envies your lifestyle?

In some ways, I think he does. He used to kind of live this way himself, so it’s nostalgic for him.

You both worked at a restaurant in Moab together, right?

Right – we worked at a natural foods restaurant together that isn’t here any more.

Have you had to move to a different cave since the book came out?

No. People still can’t find that place. Over the past decade, I’m always camping in different places, but I have this one cave that’s been pretty stable for me.

In the book, there’s a scene where a ranger evicted you from a cave. So after you were evicted did you move to a new cave?

Yeah, I switched caves. I found a much more stealth one.


Tell me about your cave?

It’s way back in one of the canyons here. It’s way up on a ledge. It’s quite stealth. I’d say it’s about an hour walk from the nearest road.

But you also have a crash pad set up outside on someone’s private property in Moab, right?

Right. I have a tent there too.

What’s your cave like?

It goes back about 15-20 feet. It’s like a crevice in a cliff. It’s about 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, 15 feet back. I have a few buckets of food in there, plus my sleeping bag, some books, and I built a little wood stove from a cookie tin. And I have candles and oil lamps too.

What percentage of what you eat comes from garbage bins?

When I’m here in Moab, 80% of my food is castoffs, stuff from dumpsters. The rest I forage – wild edibles and people give me things, though I discourage people from buying me anything.

So if I bought you some muffins you wouldn’t eat them?

I do it but I discourage people from doing that.

Is the stuff you find in garbage bins mostly expired?

Most of it is past the sell-by date but not the eat-by date. I don’t think I eat more expired food than anyone else. A lot of the food I find in dumpsters isn’t even expired.

I know you love to travel. What kind of travel tips can you offer?

Traveling is easy. I travel more now than I did when I had money. I just go out and hitchhike.

Is it hard to get rides?

It’s harder than it used to be but it depends on where you’re going.

How long do you usually wait for rides?

I would say it’s usually half hour to an hour. My hair is gray now and when you’re hitchhiking at this age, people wonder why. Why you aren’t settled down with a job and a car? A young person is out for adventure but when you’re older people think you might be mentally ill. Sometimes people will say, ‘You’re not an ax murderer are you?’

But if you were, you probably wouldn’t admit it, would you?

That’s what I tell them.

And they still let you in the car?

Yeah. It’s just a release of tension. A joke.

So how does one avoid looking like an ax murderer while hitchhiking?

Just be yourself. Smiling is good if it’s genuine. Be clean. A couple years ago, I found a guitar in a dumpster, and I’ve found that people are more likely to pick you up if you’re carrying a guitar.

You can’t be an ax murderer if you’re carrying a guitar, right?


Do you travel with a tent and a sleeping bag?

I don’t carry a tent – that’s too bulky. I just bring a tarp and a sleeping bag usually. There are so many places to sleep. I usually just find a grove of trees somewhere, or in abandoned houses, or the roof of a building, places like that. Someone gave me a hammock and one time, the people I was with, we strung hammocks up in a park in San Diego between trees about 20-30 feet high and no one thinks to look up, so you’re stealth sleeping up there.

Most of the reviews of the book were positive, but some people said you were a mooch or a parasite.

We braced ourselves before the book tour for that because there’s been so many nasty comments about me on the Internet but people were positive on the book tour. It’s easier to be nasty when you’re anonymous on the Internet.

In a lot of ways, the negativity feels confirming though. I’m glad I’m riling people up, making them think. People aren’t going to think unless they’re upset.

I read in the book that people are sometimes hostile toward you when they encounter you dumpster diving?

Sometimes I ignore people, other times I challenge them. Why is it that throwing away food is fine but retrieving it in a world where people are starving is bad?

Will you have to retire from this lifestyle when you get too old?

I don’t want to go back to using money. Worrying about the future is the worst thing you can do. The Peace Pilgrim was my hero – she walked the country for almost 30 years and she was like 80 and was still healthy. She was in an auto accident; otherwise she could have kept going.

When you follow your heart and don’t baby your body too much, you’re healthier than someone who’s sitting in a nursing home. I’m a strong believer in natural selection though. When it’s my time to go, I’ll go.

I know you do some volunteer work but how do you spend your time when you’re not on the road?

I do a lot of reading and writing. I hike.

I’m sure Mark Sundeen didn’t get rich writing this book, but he did make money off of your story. Does that make you uncomfortable?

Not really. Most authors don’t make much. He’s struggling like everyone else. I feel good about helping him make a living. People say you aren’t contributing to society, well what is contributing to society? Why does there have to have a monetary value for it to be considered a contribution?

How do you contribute to society?

I guess I would ask somebody, ‘What does a tree or a dog or a bird contribute to society? Is stopping to talk to someone in the street contributing to society?’ Or if they don’t have time to stop and talk because they have to get to work, are they contributing to society?

Have you been tempted to use money over the last 10-12 years?

I’ve taken things people bought for me – more for their sake than mine. People want to be generous and they like to give. Most of the time, I get too much and I want less.

You don’t ever walk by a bakery, for example, and see something in the window and think – that looks delicious; I wish I could go inside and buy that?

Honestly, I don’t feel that way. There’s a grand feeling of gratitude when things come on their own time. In the money culture, we spoil that sense of fun and gratitude. I like the feeling of hunger when I experience it, but I don’t experience it that often.

Do you hope that people will follow our example in living without money?

Deep down, I like the idea that my example might inspire people but I won’t worry about it if people don’t want to do it. I do like to proselyte though.

Why do you love to travel?

This is why I live the way I do – I don’t like to be tied down. I feel more free to travel now than when I had money even though it’s harder to get places. I just get up and go when I want to. I like the sense of freedom that travel offers. Especially when the travel is random. Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going. I have no idea what’s around the next corner. And I like that.

[Photo credits: Daniel Suelo, GQ]

Travel Smarter 2012: Use CouchSurfing to ditch your hotel addiction

Hotels are so passé.

How many times have you visited an exciting destination only to find you’re staying in a generic hotel room completely lacking in local flavor? When I visited Greece last month, I stayed in affordable, centrally located hotels in Athens and Sparta. While they offered good service at a fair price, they could have just as easily been in Los Angeles, London, or Cairo.

CouchSurfing offers a better way. With a bit of online networking you can stay in a local home, and it’s free! CouchSurfing is a social networking site linking up friendly people around the world. Once you’ve created a profile, you can search through profiles in your destination and request to sleep in their spare room or couch. No money changes hands, although guests often bring an inexpensive gift from their home countries or take their host out to dinner. It’s a fun way to make friends and makes traveling a richer and less lonely experience.

As I’ve mentioned before, even though I’ve never actually surfed a couch, CouchSurfing has been hugely helpful to me. When I moved to Santander in northern Spain, the local CouchSurfers threw my wife and I a welcome party and 25 people showed up. Soon we knew the best barrios to get an apartment, where to shop, and they hooked me up with a hiking group. The group for Cantabria is pretty active and in the four months I’ve been here I’ve been to several meetings and met lots of people.More recently, local CouchSurfers gave me a ton of information that helped inform my travel series on Greece. One memorable night, two Athenians showed me around the Exarchia neighborhood. We visited some great bars I probably would have never found on my own and I got insights into the life of an area noted for its activism. The two CouchSurfers showed me a park that had been slated to become an ugly parking garage until the locals took it over and turned it into a garden.

On a more somber note, they also showed me the spot where a fifteen-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by a policeman during a demonstration in 2008. The cop is serving time for murder and the spot where his victim died is now a shrine and political rallying point. Try getting that sort of information from your hotel’s concierge.

Couches can be found in some surprising places. One Gadling blogger has tried CouchSurfing in Haiti, and while I was in Ethiopia, I met someone who was going to stay with some expats in Somaliland.

CouchSurfing had a big year in 2011 that’s making 2012 the start of a new era for the organization. After having its 501(c)(3) charity status rejected, its owners decided to become a for-profit corporation. Currently, all revenues come from the verification service, in which members donate money in order to have their address verified, thus making them more trustworthy in the eyes of other members. There’s no word yet on how else the new corporation plans to make money. This change has not gone without protest, with many members pointing out that the website and network were built communally for free, and therefore should not be used for profit.

A more popular move last year was the creation of the CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange Fund, which offers grants for cultural exchanges between refugee groups and their new communities, classroom-based international information exchange and relationship building programs, and cultural understanding between ethnically or racially disparate communities.

CouchSurfing now has more than three million profiles in about 250 countries and territories–not bad for a group that only started in 2003. While you should always keep safety in mind when dealing with strangers, I highly recommend you try it. I’ve had nothing but good experiences.

[flickr image via CaseyDavid]