Life Lessons Learned from Traveling Without Money

traveling without money

In Spain, like once a month, there’s a holiday that falls on a Friday. These holidays translate into two things for me: a day without waking up early for school (because it’s closed) and an extra day for traveling. It’s hard to really get to know a place during a weekend, so an extra day is an opportunity to explore more. And always an opportunity to spend more money.

During this last break, we decided to go south of Madrid to the region of Andalucía, known for its warm and inviting people, Flamenco, architecture, and beautiful beaches. We visited the cities of Seville and Rota. Sevilla (or Seville, for the non-Spanish) is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. Rota is a town in the province of Cádiz and is most known for its naval base.

This vacation was a little bit different than my other vacations in the sense that I went into it without a budget. Let me expand on that a little more…I went on this trip with a super tight budget, which meant I literally did not have a budget. I have written articles and have given advice about how to travel cheaply, and I took this trip as a challenge to see how far I could get without spending a lot of money.

Friday was our Seville day. We took an overnight bus from Madrid for super cheap and arrived in Seville around 6:15 in the morning.

Side note on overnight buses—I highly recommend them. You get on the bus and fall asleep and wake up in your desired location. Just make sure you wake up at your stop.

Anyway, we’re in Seville at 6:15 am. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s new (for me at least, my boyfriend has been to Seville about 50 times). So what do two people do at 6:15 am? We walked. We walked all over the city before the sun had even risen, and then when the sun rose, we walked all over the city again. Walking is free, and we chose to walk instead of use public transport.

traveling without money
The plaza in Seville.

In the daylight, we explored the cathedral, the downtown, the Plaza de España, the Triana bridge, and an international food market, which were all free activities that took up the most of our day. When we were tired, we sat and watched all the horse drawn carriages go by and snuck into a bookstore to read. The only things we really paid for were some pieces of toast and the entrance fee for the Setas, which is a mushroom shaped lookout offering a wonderful view of Seville.

We took a cheap BlaBlacar to Rota, where we stayed with a friend of my boyfriend. In Rota, we did the same thing we did in Seville: walked around the city. Rota is way smaller than Seville, but we walked along the beach, saw the lighthouse, did the infamous “Rota crawl” on Friday night, and even ventured into the ocean. In Rota, we weren’t really tourists; we were just old friends hanging out at a barbecue (so much American food…my belly was so full and happy).

traveling without money
Rota, a sweet little beach town.

I made it through my long weekend and took home with me two postcards, several memories, a saltwater and sand-soaked sports bra, and some newfound knowledge.

I had set out on this vacation hoping to spend the least amount of money I could, which meant making some sacrifices. I learned that life really is all about choices. Did I want to buy that ice cream or would I rather get into a monument? Am I really thirsty enough to buy a water bottle or can I wait until I see a water fountain? When traveling without money, all of the choices you make revolve around money. You really have to prioritize what the most important things are to you, making it so your trip is the most meaningful.

I also learned that while staying with friends is always the cheapest option, it’s also the best for social reasons. While we didn’t stay with my friends, I made some new friends on this trip. When you stay with friends, regardless whether they’re your best friend now, or were your friend in high school, or however it may be, it gives you time to reconnect. Plus, your friends can give you tips about the best places to go and things to do…sometimes they’ll even go with!

I did struggle on this trip though, feeling a little bit like a leech. But I realized that when you’re traveling and really don’t have any money to travel with, you have to take advantage of the resources available to you. I couldn’t offer our hosts any money, but I offered them housing if and when they came to Madrid. I also offered my sincere thanks to them for hosting. Sometimes all you need to do is remember to say thank you.

Also published on Medium.