Travelling is horrendously expensive, even if you replace five-star hotels in Paris with rat-infested Czech hostels. It’s the sort of thing that makes you regret giving up your parents’ love, affection, and moderate-wealth for semi-independence. Gosh I’m poor. Anyway, enough of my family troubles: here is a small list of things you can do to get by in your travels when you’ve spent all your money on hand jobs in Barcelona or bail money in Texas.
Plate scraping: or, ‘Is this what my life has become?’
Plate scraping, much like dumpster diving (an alternative name for plate scraping is table-diving), sounds fairly disgusting, and 60% of the time is as degrading as it sounds. However, once you pass through the barrier of ‘shame’ and start reading freegan-anarchist theory on why you aren’t a useless university student if you do this, it becomes a bit easier to swallow (get it?). Plate scraping basically refers to the practice of hanging around restaurants, waiting for customers to leave bits of their food after their meal, and – well – taking it. Make sure you aren’t allergic to anything on the plate! If you’re charismatic enough, you may even get away with asking some of the wait-staff if they’ll cover for you, and maybe customers will feel enough pity for you they’ll leave food for you to eat. Charisma or no charisma, police and management won’t like you for it, so tread lightly and you’ll get away with it.
Sleeping around: or, ‘I hope I’m alive tomorrow’
While most hostels aren’t too expensive, sometimes that extra cash is so desperately needed for a bus ride to the airport or some food that you’ll give up a bedbug-infested bunk for general vagrancy. Handy hint: don’t sleep in a gutter or a park, regardless of what country you’re in.
There are alternatives, although not all are risk-free. One option is to literally stay up all night if you’re planning on getting a flight or ride the next morning. This can involve taking your backpack/suitcase to a club and partying all night long. Logistics regarding your possessions can be complicated, but going to a chilled out place with people you don’t necessarily not trust is better.
That, or – if you have the cash – putting your luggage in a locker at the station can be useful. This avenue can possibly pleasantly surprise you with a more luxurious offering: staying the night at a stranger’s house. Just make sure you use protection! Also make sure you aren’t kicked out on to the street straight after. If you are, keep an eye on your stuff at 4am in the morning in a foreign country. Oops. Staying at an ex’s place may be interchangeable, but possibly more risky.
However, the most common (and ironically the most dangerous) is to sleep in a public building. If you’re in an airport, among other people, around security guards who don’t mind you sleeping, you’ll be fine. If you’re in a train station, you should be more wary. A good way of getting through the night with some things left over is to lie down close to your stuff, read a book, and drift in and out of sleep. You’ll be tired in the morning, but you’ll be awake enough to make sure corrupt foreigners don’t steal your clothes. Sounds like an ordeal? It is – get overnight transport instead.
The worst part of all this? You’ll still need to get out of your hostel/hotel by checkout time, which may be 10am to 12pm, if you’re lucky. What are you going to do for…twelve hours? Museums get boring, quickly. Take up a religion and stay in a mosque or church, some of which may even be 24/7, giving you a place to relax and rest. Occupy sites are good too.
Shoplifting: or, DON’T DO THIS
Don’t do this. Seriously. Don’t. Remember last time Honi published shit about shoplifting? Didn’t turn out well. So don’t do it. However, people do it, I guess. Some people just can’t afford food, which is shit. And hey, the country you’re in was probably bailed out by some other country (USA! USA! USA!) recently anyway. Some people use long coats to hide their product. Sounds stupid? Probably, but it works, apparently.
Depending on common sense, it may be good to put stuff in your pockets and buy one or two cheap things, to avoid suspicion. People only wear coats during winter, though. Cheese is expensive, but is filling, tasty, and has relative longevity. Good option. Don’t walk around for too long. Play it cool. Real cool. CCTV is more there to find culprits rather than to catch them – that being said, be wary.
Next time: bartering on the street, busking, and sex work.
P.S. Don’t do anything illegal. Or at least, don’t do anything illegal because of Honi. Also, all of this depends on where you are: sleeping on the streets of Zurich is much different to being a free agent in Saudi Arabia. Check smarttraveller.gov.au on which countries would be safest. Anyway, don’t go travelling without money, you idiot.