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Traveling without money, good or bad idea?

Since a few months, we see appearing everywhere in the media articles and reports with catchy title: “he made the World Tour without money”, “she crossed Europe with 0 €”. Is traveling without money a real or false good idea? This is one of the sensitive questions that we asked ourselves … A real question that gave us to think about it, but also collectively!

Meet the broke adventurers

Not being ourselves in the category of nomads “without money”, we listened, read, exchanged with those who made their journey, an adventure based solely on the exchange (give something against a counterparty ) and the donation (giving away something that one possesses, without compensation).

It soon became clear that money is perceived by these nomads as a constraint or even an obstacle to freedom. Among the arguments given is the encouragement of social injustice, the cause of certain conflicts. Money is considered a powerful destructive tool for us and our world, with the pursuit of profit at all costs … These nomads therefore leave with a personal goal, such as new revolutionaries: strictly spending nothing, and proving the viability of a counter-foot in the financial world; another possible alternative to money, in a world governed by monetary exchanges …

We can probably qualify their vision as an utopia; but after all, is it not said that everything begins with an idea?

Traveling without money: a commendable idea?

To find out for ourselves, getting rid of money in some cases proves to be an incredibly rewarding experience: we learn to cope, to repair broken clothes rather than buying new ones, to cultivate our own vegetables to feed ourselves, to barter services when necessary. We end up thinking, to question our own relationship to money: is it worthwhile to buy that? …

By bypassing the economic system and its faults, exchanges are more human, healthier, more egalitarian. Whether you are young or old, experienced or not, everyone has unique resources that they can use in an exchange: the traveler can trade his skills against a bed and / or meal by example. In addition to the satisfaction of having saved money, we learn to give and receive in a joyful spirit of mutual help, bypassing the social barriers imposed by money. We (re) discover the others, his friends, his neighbors; we do ourselves a favor, we have fun, we learn and finally, we come out happier and more grown up.

To all this is added the exploration of a new world, a world of barter and unconditional giving. because if economists and big financiers are in control of money and its codes, its institutions, its value and its use; who can describe and master another system, a “no money” alternative? The broke travelers therefore have a certain legitimacy in the discovery, the description and the transmission of the values of this financial counter-system; and their personal experience allows a great breakthrough in the field – like the French adventurer Benjamin Lesage, whose journey “without money” has laid the foundations of the ecovillage Eotopia.

… or a bad idea?

At some point, broke travelers will still face the problem of money. A trip, in its preparation, requires a minimum of financial investment – for obtaining passport and visas, for health costs such as vaccinations required, for an even light equipment (technical clothing, hiking bag, trekking equipment).

We must also learn to distinguish adventurers of the donation from another category of backpackers supposedly broke (but well connected!) Who do not hesitate to put themselves forward, encouraged by virtual “like” on social networks. Their goal? A search for celebrity rather than a real search for alternatives …

And we can believe that the “trip without money” has also become a trend. Nowadays, there have been many titles touting “the adventure without money” in order to attract the eye of the reader and generate the click … Unfortunately, this kind of enticing article contributes to think, at first sight, that anyone can travel without money so simply, overnight. This type of Information can affect all kinds of people; from the most detached to the one who does not have the necessary tools to decipher it and will take everything in the first degree. Some therefore go traveling thinking to combine travel and free; and taking all that men are able to give, despising the ethical, cultural or religious dimensions of giving.

However, where some admire these backpackers, others perceive their practices very negatively. This is the case in some Asian countries where hitchhiking, not very widespread, leads the local population to see a bad eye these “white tourists” use their thumb, paying no transport. This is reminiscent of some excesses, like some begpackers… The result is a very negative perception of these travelers by some locals: indignation, injustice, even a feeling of neo-colonialism – results against the constructive expectations of exchange and sharing …

And then, it happens to us to have the feeling of attending a race where the winner would be the one who spends nothing. How many of us have witnessed the failure of penniless travelers who, pushed to the limit, become bad when hospitality or any form of donation is denied? Are they aware that by spending nothing, others will necessarily have to do it for them? Because yes, depending on the donation on a trip only moves the problem of using money, not solving it …

What conclusion?

Before concluding, we wanted to remember that there is no rule, a definition of the “travel without money”. In this area, everything remains to be done, to explore! When asking the generosity of the locals, this very personal act remains a private matter and is agreed between two parties (the traveler and the donor): no one else besides these two parties should judge whether the donation or sharing is fair, fair or not!

On a personal level, and after many debates and moments of reflection, we remain convinced of the merits of our minimalist and low-budget approach, without taking the label of “travelers without money” that we do not really appreciate. When you search a little, you quickly realize that all travelers without exception have used money. It is also evident that by traveling in the long term, the broke traveler is more likely to fall into perversion: exhaustion, deprivation, depression; it is in these extreme cases in the face of fear and despair that the backpacker will take a much less moral approach to achieve his ends. This is the limit we do not want to cross!

And still according to our own experience, we have set ourselves this little ethical charter:

  • For us, it is preferable and in the interest of all, to learn about the practices and customs of each people so as not to offend anyone (like the Ta’arof in Iran, or the perception by other cultures of a woman traveling alone). In some cases, it is better to politely refuse an offer that can put yourself in an embarrassing or even dangerous situation.
  • Regarding donation, the trip was for us the opportunity to learn to give and to receive, that is to say to take just what we need and give everything we can, to receive with humility to give better!
  • Finally, do not go in search of the donation at any price: it must remain a sincere and spontaneous gesture to be appreciated! Nevertheless, to live a highly human and enriching experience, do not hesitate to go ahead by offering your help, cooking a meal, giving language lessons or exchanging other skills against hospitality and / or a meal, as we try to do. In short, alternate the experiences of sharing and giving, without ever falling into profit!


But where is really the limit between “money-less” and “extremely low-budget” travelers like us? Very complex question, since everyone has their own ethical limits. We will conclude by telling you that no matter the budget or the way of traveling, as long as it is made in the respect of all!

* Post written according to our personal experience *

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