Money and Finances

5 Ways to Travel For Free: Apply for Grants

This is the fourth post of a five-part series about how you can travel the world for free. Be sure to check out the first post, second post, and third post.

As we all know, traveling can be astronomically expensive. If there is a subject you are very passionate about, you may be able to travel for free by winning grants.

The purpose of grants is usually to research, teach, or study something, or to document a subject through reporting or photography. Many grants are for teachers and students, but there are also grants for journalists, photographers, scientists, and more.

Here is an example of a fantastic grant experience. My mother is a high school English teacher. Each year, her school district offers several grants to teachers. Grants like these are untapped resources; many of the teachers aren’t aware they exist, or never bother to apply. To apply, you must submit a proposal on where and what you want to study, in addition to explaining how you will document the experience. She proposed going to Scotland and England in order to research the Romantic poets, and to document it in real-time with a blog. She beat out the competition and won the grant. They funded an unforgettable two-week trip that took her through Edinburgh, the Scottish borders, and the beautiful Lake District of England. I tagged along for the first week (on my own dime) and had a ball seeing her visit the poets’ homes, graves, and settings.

Two summers later, they paid for her to spend a week studying in Oxford. Several years before that, another teacher in the district won a grant to study Shakespeare in London for a few weeks. They were given a set amount of funds, so it was their responsibility to stick to the budget (or pay what went over it), but what a cool way to travel without spending any money.

Many other types of grants exist. A good friend’s mother is a lifelong journalist, and as a single empty-nester, wanted some adventure. She won a government-funded grant that allowed her to spend a year living in Algeria teaching fledgling journalists. They provided her with accommodations, a driver, etc.

The U.S. Department of State runs the well-known and competitive  Fulbright Program, which sends students, scholars, and accomplished professionals abroad in cultural exchanges. There are opportunities to study, teach, research, and exchange ideas all across the world.

Travelocity runs a grant to fund volunteer vacations, and Roadtrip Nation offers a grant for travelers who want to hit the road, explore the country, and interview people across the way (you have to document it either through a blog or video). If you just do some Googling, you will be shocked how many types grants are available for travel. Don’t think that you have to be a published researcher or accomplished scholar; there are many grants for young people.

Grants are often highly competitive, so before you apply to a grant, spend some time thinking of a subject that you are passionate about and spend a lot of time carefully crafting your proposal. Have a few friends read it before you send it in. For major grants, be prepared to obtain several reference letters.

Here are several places where you can find information about grants:

  • Travel grants for Student Travel on (you don’t have to be a student for many of these)
  • University of California, Berkeley’s list of travel funding programs (by discipline)
  • Pulitzer Center travel grants

Have you ever applied for or won a grant that allows you to travel for free?

A generation 'y'er from Ireland, living his dreams and convincing you to do the same. Traveling through more than 90 countries around the world and showing no signs of slowing down