If you haven’t heard by now I kicked off my round-the-world trip in June, which isn’t special in itself. What is strange was the decision to travel in my own country instead of opting for a full blown escape overseas. Most travelers stretch their budgets by leaving their homeland, so where do I get the authority to stay put?

Some points to consider when traveling in your own country.

Rely On the Kindness of Friends

I’ve been lucky enough to see a fair number of provinces in Canada. I also have an army of friends and family stationed from the Rockies to the salty East Coast. One way to save money is to stay where you know people. They also have to love you enough to put up with you.

Don’t view this as free loading though, always show appreciation for their hosptiality by buying dinner, cleaning up, offering to do laundry. Just because you’re related or have known them since age 3 doesn’t qualify for thoughtless behavior.

The tally:

  • Calgary – brother and visit my mommy.
  • Toronto – old friend and fantastic new gal pal.
  • Montreal – new friend, but I did pay for a hostel for 5 days, $18 per night.
  • Saint John – best friend.

Do Weight Watchers Unintentionally

When eating out or drinking, having to pay in your own currency is undesirable. My recommendations:

  • Order a lot of salad. They are generally the cheapest item on a menu and can be filling.
  • Share appetizers – a good way to be satisfied and split the bill.
  • Restrict how often you eat out.
  • Suggest drinking at a friend’s place. Alcohol is cheaper in liquor stores and goes longer. A bottle of vodka or rum will last me two weeks.
  • If you do drink for a social event, try to limit it to 1 or 2. Stick with pubs instead of nightclubs. Most clubs have a steep cover charge.
  • Self-cater. I try to spend a good portion of my budget on groceries and cook rather than eat out. I also attempt to eat all the dishes I make so nothing goes to waste.

CouchSurf or House Sit

Besides staying with friends or family, another way to pinch dollars is CouchSurfing. An old tune, well played on other travel sites, but it actually does work! I decided to leave my friend’s abode in Laval and stay on my own in Montreal with a mix of hosteling and CouchSurfing. The hostel was an unexpected budget surge, but not a regrettable choice.

CouchSurfing in Montreal is ridiculously easy, the city boasts a strong community, and I met fabulous people who I hope to see again.

House sitting is another fantastic option. Some of my favorite resources:

  • Mind My House – International online resource to find a house sitter or home owner. It only costs $21 CDN for a yearly membership. I noticed a good concentration of North American house sitting opportunities.
  • House Carers – Same concept as Mind My House. Yearly membership is slightly more, $51 CDN per year, but there’s a broad spectrum of countries to choose from.
  • How to Use Your Network – Sherry Ott offers some ideas on how to find short-term house sitting stints.

Keep the Transportation Low Key

Renting a car is an expensive prospect to enjoy the sights, unless you plan on splitting costs amongst friends. I always take local buses or subways, even walking works wonders. Once in a while your network of friends and family are kind enough to lend you a vehicle. Again, always gas up to show thanks. Also, ensure your driver’s license hasn’t expired.

As for travel across the country?

If you plan on busing – book early! This way you avoid paying more than you should. I booked Calgary to Toronto at $77 CDN (+ taxes), an extensive trip of 19 hours. Two major bus companies:

  • Greyhound – useful for all North American travel. I mainly used it in Western Canada.
  • Megabus – Double decker buses with wifi on board. Priced competitively to Greyhound. A one-way ticket from Toronto to Montreal is $29 CDN. Cheap!

How about car pooling? What a concept!

  • eRideShare – a website for carpooling or travel. Create a free profile, list a trip or find matches for where you plan to go. A terrific avenue for solo travelers to meet new people and share the gas costs!
  • digihitch – a detailed resource for those interested in hitchhiking or rail hopping. Tips on how to do this smartly and safely.
  • Hitchwiki – online portal for information about hitchhiking. Maintained by active hitchhikers.

I’m not eliminating air travel, once in a while you can procure a decent deal. I managed to find a $99 seat sale from Vancouver to Calgary. Slightly more than Greyhound, yet faster. Mostly though, I stick to overland as a general rule and money saver.

Quick note, I did grab a taxi once in a while in Montreal, because the Metro shuts down at 1:30 am. Sometimes fun just spills past your curfew.

To give you a clearer idea, my overall budget in Canada is:

Food (Dinners, Groceries, Snacks, Coffees) $980
Lodging $0
Thank You Costs $300
Transport $450
Local Transit + Gas $167

*Over a 3 month period.

Not as trim as a Southeast Asia budget, but passable for North America.

Last minute things to consider:

  • Be discriminating with tourist draws. Sometimes opportunities crop up, and usually of landmarks that you didn’t even have in mind. I was granted a free visit to the ROM, thanks to my CouchSurfing hostess (she’s a member). Or find gems that don’t cost much. The Notre-Dame Basilica was a mere $5 for a tour and time to linger and snap photos.
  • Camping. Some people swear by this. It can be cost saving, but involves logistics in purchasing a camper van and than paying for insurance and gas. Although, it is a terrific way to suss out provincial or state parks.
  • Coupons. Use them for grocery shopping or even restaurant excursions. Trust. Your friends will have extras lying around and some establishments hand them out.

Before you purchase a dirt cheap ticket to third world longevity, consider nomadism in your hood, it’s not only possible, but a way to enjoy your roots.