Get a TEFL

Sorry it’s been a while since my last blog post… I’ve been very busy with a job I’ve picked up on my travels… that is… English Teaching! So I thought I should share some info on how I got into this… with no background in teaching whatsoever…

What is TEFL and TESL? Sounds like some kind of disorder :/ Well no it’s actually short for teaching english as a foreign language (or second language). Getting a TEFL is not hard, you can do an online course in 20 hours and you’ve got the qualification. A TEFL doesn’t actually mean that much technically… there are lots of accrediting bodies… many of which just have companies pay them to get accredited. But, what it is is a ticket. You’ve got a ticket to get a fun, generally well paid and fulfilling job while you travel. Once you’ve got that job its up to you whether you have enthusiasm and skills to keep it and like it. But I’ll say to you this. I like to think I’m fairly personable, that I can make people smile and make people interested. And yes I did OK in English at high school, but so did many other people. I’ll cut to the chase… it’s very achievable for a LOT of people to do this job.

If you find yourself in a country you really like and don’t want to do cafe or kitchn’bitchn or fruit pickn’ try score yourself an English teaching job. In countries where English is not the first language they’re desperate for native speakers. And you can go some incredible places! I’ve had friends take jobs in Korea and Kazakhstan and been offered jobs in crazy places like the middle of Siberia or Mongolia. Don’t just think the gigs are out in the sticks though I find myself now with regular work in the Austrian alps, other friends have been doing it for months in Spain and Italy. It’s a great way to fund yourself while travelling so if you’re planning a big trip with no set destinations, do yourself a favour and get a TEFL today 🙂

A word of warning with picking your TEFL course… Some cost a lot of money and promise experience etc etc., but once you’re in the industry you’re gonna get the experience anyway. Only a CELTA is truly recognised globally and consider getting this if you work in the field for a couple of years and find yourself loving the work. But in the short term, I really recommend just doing an online course, there’s some super cheap ones online, try groupon for deals. Good luck travellers! 🙂

Ps. Like always, if you liked this article you should check out my book! Since starting this blog only a handful have sold and I feel my experience and many who i’ve learned from experiences are being lost. 4.99US for a book that could save you thousands seems a small price to pay, what have you got to lose?

Bargain Flights

Ever thought you could fly from the UK to Australia and back for under 350 euros… well… you can! Companies commonly make errors when they release flight prices, which if you’re quick, you can take advantage of. There’s also last minute deals that airlines offer that get snapped up real quick.

So you ask… how can I beat the crowds to find these deals? I’m a busy person, I don’t have time to be continually trolling the net. Well, you’re in luck, I’m going to give away my favourite 3 sites for finding bargain flights so you can make use of them.

Now, a couple of things about these sites… the fares that come up are random! But that’s the joy of travelling! If an awesome opportunity comes up to go to Zanzibar or Senegal or Cuba, why not take it!?! The following sites are absolute gold:


Did you like this article? Check out the my book page on this site and purchase my full book for sale. It’s now just US4.99! This is for 1 week only so snap it up while you can 🙂

The art of travel hacking…

Have you heard of travel hacking? No? Well, I’m gonna open up your world then baby! In this post I’ll go through how to get yourself a bunch of airmiles or frequent flyer points each year, enough to get free flights, and all without actually flying in the first place!

First of all; You should all register for frequent flyer programs. Its free to sign up and over time you’re gonna be earning points little by little to build for free flights. Sign up whenever you’re about to fly with a new airline and add it to your awardwallet account (worth getting for convenience). Then you’ve got all the information about your different frequent flyer programs in the same place 😉

So, what is travel hacking? It is the practice, no, ‘the art’, of getting air mile or frequent flyer points and using them to score yourself free travel. Flying is a major part of one of the big 3 of travel expenses (food, getting around and accommodation) so if you can take it out of the equation, you’ll save a bunch!

Let’s cut to the chase. How does one get these frequent flyer points or ‘miles’ (for the American travellers)? The answer. Credit Cards. *cue grimaces* But credit cards cost us you say! Read on…

We spend money all the time. Why not use that money to get us something worthwhile in addition to whatever we’re spending it on? This is where having a credit card, or better yet multiple credit cards comes in. Please note though, it’s all fine and well having them, but if you don’t pay them off on time or spend more than you have then you’re crazy, and you’ll find yourself in an unhappy situation. Be responsible. Credit card companies make a lot of their money from people being negligent and not paying on time… That’s not gonna be you! And because of that, you’re gonna be the winner of the arrangement 😉

Many credit companies, especially those affiliated with airline companies, come with a starting bonus of airline miles or points. Not all of them are good. And there is definitely not a plethora of good ones on the market at any one time. The best strategy is to keep an eye out for them and when you see one you like jump on it.

Below are a few I think are worthwhile that are currently on the market…


For the Aussie traveller:

Citi Qantas Signature Card

70,000 bonus points is not to be sniffed at! The reduced annual fee is also a score, as well as the complimentary insurance. There’s a few trivial bonus things to like complimentary wine and airport lounge visits, but hey, they don’t hurt! On the down side you need a lot of money to have this card L

For example it is out of many young travellers reach because you need to show you have an income of over $75,000 per year. Still, if you’re planning to quite your job or you’re just looking for a long holiday from your job this could be the card for you!


For the Brit abroad:

British Airways American Express

This card is much more obtainable for the budget traveller with no annual fee and a sign on bonus of 9000 avios points! You can fly to pretty much any destination in Europe from London with that!

It’s not super rewarding, but on the plus side there’s not really any catches to it, so it’s not too bad a deal for the time being.


For the American (I could list a lot of cards here… damn your countries economic might)

Chase Credit Card

No foreign transaction fees. 60000 bonus points. 5 points per $1 spent. Just a $95 annual fee… Damn it America why can’t you have a card like this for us Aussies!


Now, a few of you who may have followed these links will now be asking – BUT I HAVE TO SPEND $3000+ IN THE FIRST 3 MONTHS!!! Rest assured, the shoestring traveller has considered this. So, how do you get around this issue?

Kinda defeats the purpose of getting these frequent flyer points if you gotta spend right? True… sorta… There are ways to very easily spend that amount of money. Please refer to the dot points below:

  • Pay your taxes with them (tax bills can be pretty big, and here is one way to smash through that 3000+ sum!)
  • Pay for group dinners (put bills on your card and have your friends reimburse you). Statistically this works out even more financially rewarding as groups of people always tend to round up, meaning you’ll get more in cash relative to how much you’re paying on your card!
  • Time your big spends. So you need to spend 3k. Get your card before you get that new laptop, camera, bike, or whatever other big spend that might be coming up.
  • Buy things for friends who are about to make a big purchase. Friends are there to help each other so I’m sure you’ll have some friend or family who need a new table or something. You can pay and they’ll give you the cash back. Simples 🙂


So… That’s how you use credit cards to get airline points, which in turn let you buy those free flights. A note to the reader. I am not a big user of this style of air travel. I feel often for the amount of hassle it is not worth my time investment, especially as an Australian where the deals are just not as good. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it again with a credit card should a good deal come up though! However, you can still save on flights in a big way using other techniques which I’ll write about in my blog in the coming months or you can find in my book, Travelling on a Shoestring. It’s available on Amazon Kindle store 🙂


The legend of dumpster diving…

Ah, Dumpster Diving, probably about as budget as you can get when it comes to obtaining food, but damn you can get some good stuff! Dumpster Diving is relatively simple, with a key few points/skills that are important to know so you:

A). Avoid getting in trouble with the law

B). Avoid getting food poisoning

In the US alone, a staggering 40% of food is thrown away. Anyone who’s worked in a fresh produce department will also know that a huge amount of food is thrown out. It’s not all bad stuff (e.g. a bag of 10 apples with one bad apple!), often much of the food is still salvageable.

When dumpster diving, take care firstly to learn the local laws. At the time of writing this, as far as which countries prohibit dumpster diving, it is only illicit in the UK for a nation as a whole. Other countries, such as Canada and the USA have differing laws depending on the province or state you’re in. Regardless, if a cop saw you doing it, you’d most likely just get a telling off rather than a fine or arrest. Be smart about it though. Don’t dumpster dive in an area where you think you’ll easily get caught and, if you do get caught, don’t outstay your welcome.

Now that you’ve checked out the legalities, you know it can be an effective way of getting free food, and now you’re ready to take the plunge (so to speak); so what next? Pay attention to when rubbish is thrown out. Often bread is thrown out at a certain time of day or the bins are emptied on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, for example. Knowing these times will result in you getting fresher food and avoiding opening an empty bin. You could even just go into a grocery store and ask a worker, it’s that easy.

Target breads, produce, and long life grocery items. Meat and Dairy should be avoided unless you know it was thrown away within half an hour of you retrieving it unless you’re living in a very cold climate. Even then it’s a bit risky and it’s probably only worthwhile procuring red meats, which naturally keep better than fish or poultry. Breads and produce are often in bags and thus are not going to be touched by other contaminated items in the bin. The more hard core dumpster divers may just take items that have are up against rotten material and give it a good wash when they get home.

Note: Some businesses will also pour bleach into the bin to deter dumpster divers. Just like with any chemical, be cautious. If you can smell bleach, save the time and hassle and look elsewhere. Alternately, like in Montreal for example, where dumpster diving is frowned upon, some businesses will ‘assist’ dumpster divers by leaving a bag full of unsellable (but still perfectly ok produce) beside the dumpsters for convenient collection. So, keep an eye out for such bags also.

When it comes to the actual retrieval of goods process, it’s beneficial to wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt. Doing this means you’ll avoid any potential nicks or cuts against rusty edges of metal bins. Also it prevents dirty material getting into cuts that you may already have. Bring a milk crate or small box to stand on so you can lean well over the bin (especially if you’re short!). Alternatively bring reef shoes or similar and wear long pants and you can jump into the bin and pass out good stuff to a dumpster diving buddy. These tips depend obviously on the size of the bin 😉

Lastly try to make sure you aren’t too obvious about your diving. Have a few different supermarkets and bakeries you go too so you’re not always at the same one, and don’t dive when there are lots of people around! And have a good shower when you get home if you’re ever getting into a big bin!

Wait… Free food Sikh Temples?

So I found myself in Vancouver a couple of years ago surfing on a couch with half a dozen other couchsurfers spread across the big living room floor and in the spare room. I was staying at the ‘batcave’ a super cool place in central Van that took A LOT of surfers. Super cool group of girls and guys who rented the place.

One of them tipped off my travel companion Lander and me that there was a Sikh temple down the road that gave out free all you can eat dinners three times a week. Sikh food we thought, hmm, never had that, sounds great! A couple of hours later we stumbled out of the temple bellies stuffed with curry and rice and feeling very satisfied with ourselves J

It was quite an amusing entry we had though as we weren’t sure where abouts at the temple the free food kitchen actually was. This almost ended in terrible embarrassment as we were exceptionally close to walking into the main temple where a bunch of Sikh guys were playing a variety of instruments in the main hall. We thought better of interrupting them to ask where the free food was an continued in our search. Finally we found it downstairs, albeit we were two minutes late resulting in a fiery reception from the Sikh dude running the show. We had to cover our hair, a practice I was obviously not familiar with however I managed in my rushing to grab a used bandana which apparently was extremely unacceptable and resulted in the Sikh guy going a shade close to puce. He was seething and yelled at me to get back and switch. This whole commotion occurred in front of about 100 people already seated and quietly eating. It was a weird experience, compounded by the fact the Sikh guy was Scottish so the whole time he was berating me I was close to laughing at the fact this Scottish guy with his highland accent was garbed out in a full Sikh get up.

Anyway, post this minor fiasco my friend and I quickly grabbed seats, filled out plates with food and were very contented. As I sat and had the meal I obviously came to the conclusion that these type of places exist around the globe. Sure enough if you get on old uncle google you can find many such places around the world in any decent sized city.

I’ve eaten at Sri guru singh temple in London, Torontos Hare Krishna Temple, Peoples Potato Montreal, Mosque Kitchen Edinburgh (2 euros) just to name a few!

Staying in Europe (Schengen area) for more than 90 days…

90 days in Schengen is not enough! Unless you plan on spending no more than 2 days in each country you’ll miss out on large swathes of Europe, so it’s worth figuring out a few ways to get a bit longer time in arguably the world’s greatest continent 🙂

I’ve listed a below a few ways this can be done…

Working holiday Visa (Germany and Italy)

I am not fully up to date on how this works with America, but I’ll give the low down for all Aussie travellers. All visa applications must be lodged in person in Australia. You must make an appointment with your local Italian or German consulate. The working holiday visa programme is a bilateral partnership with Germany and Australia and Australia and Italy. Although considered a working holiday visa you do not actually have to work during your stay! You should apply at least 3 months in advance, and for the Italian visa you have to go to a police headquarters of an Italian city to get a permit to stay. Check out the websites for the full information on how to obtain either visa.


Got an English or European grandparent?

If you’ve got relatives less than 2 degrees of separation away you’re set! Apply for a passport and you can live and work anywhere in EU provided that country is Schengen. I’m half Brit, thanks mum! So I can live and work here 😀


Student visa

This is fairly simple to get in theory… You just have to enrol in a university in a Schengen Country. There will be a fair bit of bureaucracy as you’ll have to get certificates from your home country school, police certificates, passport photos, have residency status, health insurance and explain why you want to be in the course. The university you apply for will give you the full run down on this. Note… Saying because you wanna travel Europe is not a good idea 😉 Different courses obviously cost different amounts but some of the Masters programs are insanely good value (under 1000 euros a semester). So, to get to stay in Europe for a few years, it’s a pretty sweet deal!


Be self employed

If you’re self employed you can get a special visa. As far as I’m aware only Germany offers this (I met a traveller who had one for there). He had one year in the EU but it is available for up to 2. As long as you can show you’re a freelancer of some sort you can get it! So if you’re a copyrighter, ghost writer, web designer, agent or something similar you’re in luck!

To get this visa you must apply when IN Germany. It’s quite quick, generally taking under a week. You’ll need all the usual bureaucratic stuff like a passport, passport photos and bank statements. In addition to that you have to get health insurance in Germany (Super easy, just go to the GKV – it’s a government office – and pay for self insurance), have a copy of your resume (to prove you are a freelance worker), and evidence that you’re living in Germany (any rental agreement is fine). Find a german friend (they’re quiet easy to find, great people, even if they often have a somewhat weird humour 😉 ) to speed the process along and you’re well on your way! Don’t worry too much if yo udo it near the end of your stay of your original 90 day visa, the german government is pretty efficient and if you’re close to the end they’ll give you a 3 month temporary visa to tide you over while the work visa processes.


And… if all else fails… shack up with a European! There’s some very good looking men and women in this part of the world 😉


Wwoof Wwoof!

Working for Accommodation is a growing sensation as a way to travel around the world. There are numerous companies who offer this service with the big boys being Grassroots, Workaway, HelpX and Wwoofing. Most of them are fair with their workload with workers doing 20-30 hours per week. Usually you will get at least 2 full days off to explore the region with your co-workers or going solo.

In this blog post I’m just going to talk about Wwoofing, the one concerned more with organic farming. The others offer a broader range of volunteering opportunities. If you plan on sticking around in a remote part of countryside for a while then working on an organic farm could be for you.

Wwoofing is a great opportunity to learn new skill sets in an interesting and sustainable field of work. If you want to learn organic farming methods this is definitely the type of volunteer work you’d like to do. My wwoofing experiences has included working on horse ranches where I learnt to use a tractor and a chain saw, working on blueberry farms where I learnt how to most effectively compost and about companion planting. At another farm I was at, a sprout farm, I learnt about crop rotation and effective harvesting methods. Should I ever want to have my own organic garden I would bring significantly more success to the crops I’d grow there then had I never Wwoof’ed. Building fences and clearing forest is also extremely rewarding work as you get to see the results in front of you of your labour.

The best part of the Wwoofing that I had though, and what I feel I will always enjoy most, is the comradery with your co-workers. I worked with Austrians, Belgians, Germans, Japanese, English, Swiss, French and Scottish when I wwoofed… and I wwoofed in Canada! It attracts people from around the world who have a sustainable outlook on energy which, if you feel the same way, provides you with a network of people who share some of your interests. I found such people easy to make friends with and had the pleasure of using my free time away from the farm to go canoeing together, hiking up mountains and cycling to nearby waterfalls.

Find this entry useful? Buy my book on Amazon Kindle store for tons more tips on other volunteer work options as well as loads of ways to save money on your travels!


Valemount, BC, Canada… A gorgeous part of the world I’d never have known about without wwoofing. The girl on my guy on my right I travelled with for 6 months between the two of them, all possible as a result of this awesome organisation 🙂

How and where you can by a Van?

So you want to drive around a country and live out of the back of your van… sounds freakin awesome! But where do you start? First of all… I’m not gonna talk about motorhomes… I think its out of the price range of backpackers. I’m talking about a mini van, one that you can easily take the seats out of at the back and put in either a mattress or build yourself a simple bed and put it in. Then you can get yourself a gas stove and a basin and you’re off! For any summer travelling this is all you need. The next stage of doing up your van requires a lot more work and insulating, or buying a big van that you can install kitchens etc.

So… you know what you want so lets figure out the best places to get it! Websites and mechanics are going to be your best bets for getting a value deal. Websites like autotrader (for UK), Kijiji (Canada), craigslist (U.S.A) and gumtree (Australia) is where you’ll find a lot of options. Talk to a local on what the best site is for the country you’re in. This type of information is often changing too hence why asking a local is always best.

The other option of a mechanic can be particularly financially rewarding! Mechanics often get given cars or vans by clients (who like their mechanic) who gives them some money for it and he’s picked up a cheap vehicle. He will then do it up and sell it on. He makes a good turn around and you get a good deal as a result of that! So do a round of the mechanics in town, often you’ll find an industrial area where are a few are clustered, or simply call a bunch up and ask them do they have any vans at the moment.

Barter like hell. If you don’t think you’re getting a good deal you’re definitely not… and even when you’re think you’re getting a good deal you should still barter lower… most people will look frustrated if they truly believe they’re not getting much profit out of it and that’s how you know you’ve got a bargain. Look for specifics about the owner or the vehicle to lower the price. If you know the seller is flying home in a few days or the vehicle has poor paintwork, use this to your advantage in the bartering process.

Something that is critical when you look at your prospective purchase is a few key mechanical things to look for. Take the car for a spin, take it on small back roads to check the steering. Is it clunking on when turning only left? Hit the brakes quickly. How does it respond? Does it make a noise? The car on the highway and give it some revs? Is it coughing and struggling? Whats the car look like under the bonnet? Is there signs of rust? Check the car interior, is the upholstery bad? On the exterior are there signs of significant dents? Park the car on your test drive on a clean section of road and let it idle for a minute or two. Then move the car forward a car length. Look at the road. Do you see anything? Green fluid probably indicates an anti-freeze leak while pink may indicate transmission issues and oil might indicate engine issues which is never a good sign.

Research the make and model you’re looking at. This gives you specialist knowledge into what its worth and common issues it has, which means you can look specifically for them on your inspection.

Check the VIN (vehicle identification number) or whatever the equivalent no. is in another country. This will show up any information about the vehicle title and records. This is easy and important to identify if there has been any previous issues with the vehicle.

So… there’s my tips and you’re on your way. Living out a van is an amazing experience and I go into more detail about it in my book Travelling on a Shoestring which can be found at:


A picture of my friend and I near Mt Robson Provincial Park with his van… cost only 1000 US and went from Vancouver to Wyoming, up to Alaska and back to Vancouver… oh and he sold it for 300 more than he bought it for… he bought it from an Aussie mechanic who liked us simply because I was from Aus 😉


Ah couchsurfing!  A way to travel with the potential to give you some of the best memories of your trip and meet some of the most interesting and cool people you ever might! Couchsurfing has been around a few years now but has really exploded in popularity over the last few years.

The obvious pros of couchsurfing that come to most people’s minds is that it’s free! However, if you couchsurf for this reason alone then you’re going in with the wrong attitude. The best part about couchsurfing is the people you’ll meet and the diverse range of places you’ll stay. No other accommodation really gives you the opportunity to get to know the locals, to get to hear their inside tips of where to go and what to do and to get to stay in someone’s home; to actually experience how they live. Often the host/s will eat with you (maybe even cook a meal for you!), or take you out to town, or to a cool place nearby their home. That’s the joy of couchsurfing, every place has a new person (or persons, when you stay with a couple or some housemates), with new experiences and backgrounds. Couchsurfing hosts are often well travelled people themselves and will have some great stories and travel tips to share. Often they’re quite outgoing and are involved in the local community so you may find yourself being dragged along with them to a local language event, or rock climbing session or even underwater rugby training (yes it’s a real sport!). Make sure you return these hosts’ love/generosity by being involved/interactive with them, it’s not just about getting a free bed!

As to the actual ‘couch’ surfing it varies. You’ll sleep on a mattress amongst a bunch others on their own mattresses in a big living room, to having your own private room (this is actually more common than a couch) and then of course couches of varying quality degrees. Maybe you’ll even get a couch where you have to fight the house dogs off to keep them from trying to sleep with you… I think it might have normally been their bed :/

The main negative that people think of when they think couchsurfing is security, and yes, it is always going to be less secure (in a way), than a hostel or AirB’n’B (although, to be fair, you’re much more likely to be stolen from in a hostel than by a couchsurfing host!). You don’t know the person you’re going to stay with (and conversely, they don’t know you) and the relationship with that person is built on trust. . In saying this, if you research potential hosts you shouldn’t have any issues at all.

The ability to read someone’s profile is there, so it’s simply a matter of reading their profile and references. Once you have done this, you will then decide if you are happy with what you’ve learnt and if you want to stay with them. Profile descriptions are often quite comprehensive. If filled out adequately, just like you would have done when creating your own profile, you will gain good insight into their personal attributes, their philosophy on life, why they are part of the couchsurfing community, their work/study/travel experiences, hobbies, religious beliefs, the type of accommodation they can provide you (e.g. a couch in the loungeroom/your own private bedroom etc.) what they can offer/teach and what they wish to gain/learn in return. We encourage /advise leaving a reference about your interactions with those from the couchsurfing community. By leaving a reference, you are providing other members of the community with more insight towards the credibility and trustworthiness of your host/couchsurfer/travel companion etc. Whether it’s positive/negative feedback, a couple of short sentences or a lengthy paragraph, others can use these references as another means to help with their decision making.

Realistically, the main difficulty with couchsurfing is getting somewhere to stay, especially when you’re new to it. Once you’ve got a few references of your own you won’t have too much trouble finding a place. To get yourself a handful of references without staying with someone, go to a couple of couchsurfing events, meet people, build up some friendships, chances are they’ll write you a reference because they like you, but if you want to press things, just mention you’re completely new to couchsurfing and have no references yet. They’ll get the idea, and once you’ve got a few references you’ll find it easier to find places to stay and you’ll find the references starting to roll in. Alternatively, open up your place to guests before you travel and get yourself a few references from people staying with you. Talking to other travellers may even help you with some ideas for your own trip!

When it comes to writing a request, spend a few moments reading your host’s profile. Note what they like and where they’ve been, and make reference to that when you write to them! Make it personal. If you send out a heap of generic requests to stay somewhere, your potential host may feel that you are just using them and abusing the system. If this doesn’t phase you, then go ahead and good luck. However, you will have a greater chance of staying somewhere, especially with short notice, if you show sincerity and interest in the person and what they can offer.

If you want to read more about couchsurfing and other cheap travel accommodation options you can find lots more in my book on Amazon 🙂


First couch i crashed on in the middle of Vienna… not a bad place to spend a couple of nights 😉