I’m living in Florence. It’s been about three weeks now and I have spent a little less than 200 euros. If I tell you that you can lodge in Florence for free or better yet live here gratis and spend little-to-no money on a daily basis exploring this great metropolis, would you believe me?
Florence. The city of #arte exhibiting 75 museums, where the Renaissance was born, called the “Athens of the Middle Ages,” and one of the richest cities during the medieval European trade. It became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982, has been ranked one of the top 51 fashion capitals of the world and one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.
After quitting my job in New York and buying a roundtrip ticket for Greece, I made the decision to stay in Europe for three months. (This is how long a U.S citizen can stay in the Schengen area without a visa.) Luckily, I saved enough money while I was working by using my travel saving formula.
Disclaimer: I understand some of you may pay rent or have other responsibilities that may not allow you to travel for long but this is an inclusive conversation around how to make travel affordable and enjoyable, whether you are doing it for one week or one year.
While I was in Greece, I decided I wanted to stay in Italy for two months to learn it’s rich history, work and try a distinctive way of budget traveling. Two years ago, I registered for a work-trade site called Workaway.info, where you can apply for jobs around the world who provide free accommodations and meals. However, the time never seemed right to explore this alternative possibility.
A few days before leaving New York, I received an email from the website reminding me that my membership had expired. Perspective set in.
I registered for the site again, 23 euros for two years, and applied to positions around Italy. The site lists a variety of jobs like teaching English, working on a farm or au pair. My preference was working at a guesthouse or hostel in an urban city. Each profile job has a description of what you will do and what you will get in return. The length of Workaway positions are very flexible ranging from one week to six months or more. (Another similar website is helpx.net.)
But please, don’t misinterpret me! I wasn’t applying solely for the free accommodations and food—that was the incentive. I did it because of everything that comes with this great opportunity. I wanted to learn how to work in another culture, meet people from around the world and create a full temporary life without feeling like I just came to look at the city. I wanted to become part of the city.
After about a week of applying I received the only response from a guesthouse in Florence. It was a new owner who was opening up her AirBnB business. In exchange for maintaining the five-bedroom house, five hours a day, Monday through Friday (weekends free), I would get my own room and 50 euros a week for groceries.
I would be 20 minutes walking distance from the center of Florence with a supermarket a minute away, access to a bike, a big park nearby, a fully equipped kitchen, WiFi and direct contact with guests everyday!
I arrived on Friday, October 1st in Firenze where I met the guesthouse’s owner and another Workawayer, Julia from Brazil who after two weeks became a truly, great friend.
I have met people from all around the world: Japan, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Brazil, Spain, Russia, the United States and even Italy itself. We’ve shared meals, laughs and stories. I’ve connected with people I never thought I could, all because of saving money while traveling and not being afraid of the alternative.
Check out my next piece on things to do in beautiful Firenze.