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How to Travel the World with $5 a Day

Laura Lazzarino and Juan Pablo Villarino are an Argentinian couple who left everything to travel to the world’s most remote places. Their adventure in Latin America was captured in the book “Caminos Invisibles” (Invisible Paths).

Laura Lazzarino y Juan Pablo Villarino pointing at a map

She worked for four years in a travel agency but never bought one of the packages she sold. He was a psychology student who walked the corridors of the university dreaming of maps and travels.

Laura Lazzarino and Juan Pablo Villarino left everything in his homeland Argentina to start backpacking. They met in April 2010 and since then, they travel the world with $5 a day without paying buses, trains… nor boats.

That year in September, they decided to start their first trip together: touring Latin America to later write a book, with the challenge of living from selling their handmade books and moving only by hitch-hiking. They succeeded, and in 2012 “Caminos Invisibles” (Invisible Paths) was born, a chronicle of their 36 thousand kilometres adventure in 18 months, from Antarctica to the Guineas.


“The trip would be an experiment, a bet to all or nothing, to conjugate verbs, travelling, loving and writing (…) rehearsing a lifestyle we dreamed of since we were lonely nomads. No bosses, no offices, no salaries: we would live exclusively on our writing”, says the introduction of their book (if you speak Spanish you can read it here).

It was on the beach in Montañita, Ecuador —one of the destination of their travels—, where they were able to confirm not only that this lifestyle was possible but also that “living while travelling is cheaper than staying at home”, says Lazzarino in an interview, author ot the blog “Los Viajes de Nena” (Nena’s Travels).

In that region of the Ecuadorian coast, where they camped and ate at local food-stalls and not in luxurious restaurants, making home-made books and selling pictures they took in every visited place. “Selling just two books per day, we managed to cover living expenses and to give us an extra pleasure. We never sold less than five”, told in his book.

In the “Montañita” chapter (if you speak Spanish find the chapter below as a gift) tell the revelatory anecdote:

“One night (…) that doubt that I had four years ago in La Paz (Bolivia) became a certainty:

– At this rate I’ll end up earning the same as when I worked at the agency.

– That much?

– Yes, and working only a couple of hours… and I pay no rent.

– And you’re at the beach.

– And I dress the way I want.

– And you have no boss behind”.

viaajeros_juanvillarino; Ecuador latitud 0-0-0

The First Steps

His travelling adventure began long before his tour of South America.

Juan Pablo Villarino proposed himself a mission: “to document world hospitality” travelling just by hitch-hiking and yes, with only a $5 budget per day. Since the beginning of their journey, on May 1st 2005, their experiences were documented in his blog “Los Acrobatas del Camino (The Acrobats of the Road).

Travelling helped me to trust more in humanity, and I think that this materialized when I made my first trip to the Middle East and took in the mission of crossing by hitch-hiking the countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, where I found out that all stereotypes that I had absorbed by the media were very relative”, said Villarino.

Travelling makes us more knowledgeable about the world in which we live, it increases our empathy, we have much more ability to understand the things that happen in the world: therefore, your opinion is not as manageable and manipulable as in the case of people who never left, to which is very easy to convince that all Arabs are terrorists or all Colombians are drug traffickers“, he adds.

The result of this trip was Vagabundeando en el Eje del Mal – Un viaje a dedo en Irak, Irán y Afganistán (Wandering in the Axis of Evil – An hitch-hiking trip to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan), his first book edited and printed, after years of having made and sold only handmade books like the “Manifesto Mochilero” (The Backpacker Manifesto), written in 2003.

A blue old car, a man and a backpack

Until now, after his first voyage —which was in Belfast, Northern Ireland—, has travelled 65 countries, more than 140.000 kilometres on board of all types of vehicles, from Mercedes Benz to a car pulled by a donkey. And staying in the tent he carries everywhere, monasteries, luxury apartments, ice cream shops, castles or stables, as told in his blog.

So, Laura and Juan have proved that to start an adventure like this one, is more about eagerness than money. “I think people are sick of “excusitis”; It is much easier to stay in one place and say ‘she sure has money’. I don’t have a millionaire bank account, what I have is the will and a lot of desire. We must put aside the excuses and have to dare more“, adds Laura.

In her case, she began to travel with very little money and time to Bolivia, then to Mexico, to start a three-month journey through Central America, instead of spending two weeks all-inclusive in Europe.

The key is, she says, in “defining what travel means to each one, because if you want to travel tourist style, with an all-inclusive package, a hotel, food, etc., then yes you will need a lot of money. But travelling is another thing, at least from my perception. If you are restlessness, if you’re a traveller, you don’t even need to buy a plane ticket because you can travel to what you got closer; You need to want it”.

An example of this is the journey that Laura made with Aniko Villalba, another Argentinian travel blogger. They both spent 17 nights in Iceland, one of the most expensive European countries for tourism. There proposed themselves not to ever pay accommodation, they camped; neither they ate in restaurants, they only cooked; they did not pay the costly car rental, but asked rides.

“Not only we had a blast, but took a different trip and spent 6 euros a day“, narrated Lazzarino about this trip, from which she published a guide for backpackers.

In short, according to Laura, the saving strategy is:

  • Travelling by hitch-hiking
  • Using free hosting networks (like Couchsurfing)
  • Always cooking, avoid restaurants.

“We didn’t have a bad time, we were never hungry, we never felt cold, we just found the way to afford it, and to make travelling our way of life“, she concludes.

A woman hitchhiking from Argentina

Making Money while Travelling?

“After 10 years of travels I concluded that to go travelling is better than staying“, said Villarino. And it has even proved possible to make money.

In his blog, in fact, he shared some strategies to make profits, and to resolve some of the travel costs (if you speak Spanish you can read it here).

Some of their recommendations include:

  • Travelling making music
  • Sell food
  • Organizing a travelling circus
  • Making crafts and sell
  • Draw pictures or portraits
  • Sell photos
  • Volunteering

A man hitchhiking

Between September and August of this year, Juan and Laura will begin a journey through Africa, from north to south; this is the first they will documented all in real time through their social networks. You can follow them on Twitter here and here; or on Facebook.

Five days ago, on May 21st, Lazzarino started with the blogger Aniko Villalba the #DesafíoViajeros (Travellers Challenge). Until June 10th they will travel Serbia and Croatia with the following objectives:

  • No pizza in Croatia; try at least 5 local foods
  • Learning to write in Cyrillic alphabet in Serbia
  • Travel by boat in exchange for work to some island
  • Time travel
  • Get the citizenship of the world’s newest country
  • Meet at least two World Heritage sites each
  • Not say no for one day (to anything, and see where it leads)
  • Successfully escape (you’ll see why)
  • Find a treasure with Geocatching
  • Convert Belgrade in a photography set

 This article was originally posted in Animal Politico, see the original article HERE