Social Change / Travel Advice / Travel Stories

How I Learned to Travel Amazingly Adventurously For Free

by Emily Sussell

In my seven months abroad the single most interesting thing I encountered was a thirty-nine page zine entitled “How to Live An Amazingly Adventurous Life For Zero Dollars a Day.”

I found this brilliant work on the bookshelf of my second host, Kim, in Adelaide, South Australia. Kim, a permaculture activist, conveniently happened to be the author.

Kim’s house, my second Couchsurfing location

It was my first week of backpacking Australia without any plan whatsoever, and although I had plenty of money, I felt hesitant to spend it. I’d been saving up for a year and when the time came to travel I felt like a child guarding her piggy bank. It didn’t seem necessary to spend. I wasn’t being frugal; I actually wasn’t interested in doing anything costly. I mainly wanted to Couchsurf, meet interesting people, and see beautiful outdoor places. Meanwhile, a cunning afterthought was telling me to blow it all on hot air balloon rides.

Somewhere in my consciousness was an ingrained belief that travel and spending were synonymous. I felt resistance to accepting this as true.

The beautiful beach I enjoyed exploring for free, near Kim’s house

Kim’s zine was a powerfully written confirmation to me that it is not necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a meaningful travel experience, or any life experience for that matter.

“How to Live an Amazingly Adventurous Life for Zero Dollars a Day” is a radical re-examination of our world’s monetary economic system. It proposes the possibility of creating a lifestyle, and eventually world, where money no longer exists.

Kim explores different necessities (and finer things) in life that we typically rely on money for such as food, shelter, health, transportation, clothing, entertainment, and  culture. She describes an alternative consciousness that  cuts down spending to zero in each of these areas. She suggests growing food, dumpster diving, exchanging work for accommodation and riding used bicycles, to name a few.

The notion is that if we change the way we think about resources and open our eyes to the abundance in the world, everything we need becomes available at no cost. 

As a backpacker, the section on “Adventure,” was most relevant to me. She supported Couchsurfing and WWOOFing for free accommodation, and made suggestions for free entertainment from Wilderness Survival to Talk to people on the street” andPee outside.”  I recall that I did enjoy the adrenaline rush of popping a squat behind a tree near a major road later that week as I explored Kim’s neighborhood.

During my stay I had the opportunity to fully experience this lifestyle Kim preaches and practices. It was the most delightfully unusual place I’ve ever been a guest. Kim exchanges foraging and gardening to her roommate for accommodation.  Their water bill is virtually zero, as they pee in their garden (free fertilizer), poop in a homemade compost toilet (more free fertilizer), and drink rain water.

Perfectly edible fruit and veg found in Woolworth's dumpster

Perfectly edible fruit and veg found on my first dumpster dive

Kim and I rode bikes everywhere, picked a wild plant from suburban wasteland and cooked it for dinner, and enjoyed French film at a theater where she volunteers (all for free). Kim taught me to dumpster dive. I was astounded to discover the amount of fresh, edible food being thrown in dumpsters behind grocery stores. I continued to dumpster dive later in my travels, and enjoyed passing it on to other travelers.

My week in Adelaide was fun, adventurous, and practically free. I believe In total I spent  $10AUD, on tacky secondhand clothes for a ridiculous party we went to.

Kim and friend, Karlien, experiencing the zen of dumpster diving.

     When I left Kim’s home in Adelaide and traveled into the outback of Australia, I carried the zine in my backpack and it’s wisdom in my heart. From then on, I felt assured in my identity as a traveler. I was simply not a tourist willing to spend heinous amounts of money on expensive attractions. I was an amazingly adventurous backpacker! In the next few months I surrounded myself with interesting people, spent time in beautiful places, and let my imagination run wild in the spirit of true adventure.

In Kim’s words,

     I’m not saying that I spent zero dollars in my months of traveling. I spent money with awareness. I practiced the philosophy of this zine as much as I was comfortable with. For me that meant Couchsurfing, doing exchanges, and substituting activities like organized tours and  shopping with ones like connecting with friends and exploring new places independently. These choices helped me stretch my budget a long way, enabled me to travel for a long time, and enhanced my experience with authenticity and substance.


Inspired? Please share your thoughts!

  • Describe a priceless (literally and figuratively) experience you’ve had, or an experience you can’t believe people waste money on.
  • Do you think it’s truly possible to live/travel without money? Have you done it? Are you doing it now?
  • How might we be the change in the world to stop letting money control and limit everything?

6 thoughts on “How I Learned to Travel Amazingly Adventurously For Free

  1. Pingback: Yes, Couch Surfing is Safe! (And Awesome) « Fly Away World

  2. Hey Emily! I really enjoyed reading this post- it is absolutely essential to get the word out there about alternative travel stratedgies! The trips I’ve learned the most from, grown the most during, and had the most fun on haven’t involved hotels, restaurants, or paying for much of anything at all. Hitchhiking, sleeping on beaches, and sharing meals with strangers beats being a tourist anyday!

    • Hi Katie 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I’d love to hear more about your adventures and your thoughts on developing this blog and a culture of alternative travel in the U.S!


  3. This is great information! Travelling is a wonderful thing, but I have noticed it to be a big hit to the pocket. I’m psyched to use some of this wisdom for my next travel endeavors. Thanks Emily!

  4. I feel like this can be easily translated to fit the life of a college student as well. I can’t believe the food you found dumpster diving!

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