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Curing wanderlust: travelling as a student

by Ocean DeRouchie January 19, 2016
Curing wanderlust: travelling as a student

From couch surfing to woofing, there are ways that students can travel the globe on a budget

Show me a student who wants to travel, and I will show them the world.

Travelling helps combat depression and increases overall happiness. Photo by Michelle Gamage.

Travelling helps combat depression and increases overall happiness. Photo by Michelle Gamage.

With globetrotters for parents and a childhood saturated in adventure, I caught the travel bug relatively early. Whether we were roadtripping to the Yukon or spending cumulative months roaming Europe, exploring has always felt like second nature to me. I find myself in wanderlust—constantly needing to explore, travel and experience new cultures.

Nonetheless, as we find ourselves in post-secondary studies, the thought of travelling most likely ends up in the back of our minds.

Travelling during university can be a challenge for a number of reasons: a lack of funds, a lack of time, a lack of know-how. But, if you’re wishing to get out and explore, don’t fret. Though planning a trip is hard work, and may seem impossible to do while completing your studies, it’s totally doable.

The first step is figuring out the logistics. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to go with? What’s your budget? How long do you want to go for? How are you going to save the money for this trip? You must think about these things. Do your research. The more you know in advance, the better off you are.

Protip: other than simply planning a trip, there are plenty of ways to travel with purpose. Go on a student exchange with Concordia, teach English overseas, apply for travel grants and enter competitions. You never know what you could come up with if you put the extra time into seeking out alternative ways to travel.

Whether it’s in your own country or another continent, travelling is a great learning experience. Photo by Cristina Sanza.

Whether it’s in your own country or another continent, travelling is a great learning experience. Photo by Cristina Sanza.

Finding Accommodation

When planning your trip, one of the most important factors is where you are going to be staying. While there is no shortfall when it comes to hotels, they tend to be quite costly, and often lack the true flavour of the country they’re in. Hostels can provide adequate shelter, but not all of them are safe.

However, not all hope is lost as the streamlined introduction of online services such as Couchsurfing or Airbnb become available to amateur adventurers and seasoned globetrotters alike. For one Concordia student, Couchsurfing did the trick.

Alanna Thornhill, a women’s studies student spent  September to December of 2014 with her friend, Rebecca Sutton, adventuring through Europe. “We toured the more pricey destinations first,” said Thornhill. The pair went to London, Paris, Germany and Italy, before hitting Budapest and Prague.

Thornhill and her friend were able to cut costs by using Couchsurfing. Essentially, one has to build a profile and can then begin interacting with hosts all over the world, and requesting to stay with them.

“We couchsurfed mostly in Paris, for two weeks we lived with different people, doing what the locals did,” said Thornhill. “We stayed with an Italian mathematician and went to an Italian cabaret in the middle of Paris. We stayed with him and a Mexican chemical engineer named Roderigo, who made us tacos and played Mario Kart.”

As for the aforementioned Airbnb, the service offers travellers the opportunity to browse temporary rentals for all kinds of accommodations, whether you’re staying for two days or two months. Ranging from off-the-grid cabins to tiny apartments tucked away in bustling neighbourhoods, travellers can find a unique place to stay that fits their needs and their budget. According to Priceonomics, on average, Airbnb apartment rentals are 21.2 per cent less expensive than hotel rooms.

Renting through Airbnb gives you a new way to experience a destination by staying in a real home, and you’ll get to connect with the host, as well. It’s also great for travelling in groups, as you can find entire homes or large apartments to rent.

Protip: While you’re travelling, you can bring in some extra money by offering up your pad to Airbnb visitors.



However, sleeping on strangers’ couches may not be your cup of tea, no matter how comfy that loveseat looks. Perhaps you’d like to put a bit of purpose into your peregrination. Consider working on local organic farms, which in turn will look after you for your efforts. It’s called woofing.

Woofing can be extremely rewarding, as one travel-bugged student discovered. Jesse Rannells, a student residing in Halifax, spent roughly seven weeks in the southern areas of Spain while travelling solo. “I ended up working on an organic farm throughout the majority of my time abroad,” Rannells said. “It was cheap and was a great opportunity to meet people.”

In exchange for helping out, the owners of the farm offered Rannells and five other travellers a nice place to stay and good food to eat.

“My job was to look after the animals, which included milking goats, feeding chickens, and locating [the owner’s] wild horses, who roamed the mountain,” said Rannells.  

During the weekends, woofers had their time to spend as they pleased. Ranells would hike from the farm, to the quaint, nearby town of Cazorla. “Locals were thrilled to share a drink with a Canadian traveller,” she said.

Both Thornhill and Ranells advise packing light. “I probably had close to 50 pounds worth of luggage. If I were to go again, I would carry less stuff. Two dresses, two pairs of pants, two skirts, five shirts, a lightweight coat, a sweater, socks, and two pairs of shoes,” suggests Ranells. Thornhill said that she barely bought anything for herself or her friends back home, the goal of the trip was to consume experiences, rather than souvenirs.

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