When you travel creatively, you wind up with unexpected adventures, friends and memories to last a lifetime. And another excellent perk of creative travel plans? It’s much cheaper or even free! Here are some ideas to help you put together a unique and fun-filled trip in the Czech Republic or abroad.
Want to pick olives in Tuscany, help on a lavender farm in Portugal, learn how to make cheese in France, or work at a children’s art camp right here in the Czech Republic? With the Workaway program, the deal is that you get free food and accommodation from the host in exchange for about 4 or 5 hours of helping out a day, 5 days a week. Usually, weekends are free for you to explore the area, travel or just hang out with the international community of volunteers who you’ll be staying with. The only fee you pay is for a membership that lasts for 2 years, and you can sign up as a solo volunteer for just CZK 500 or with a second person for CZK 700. Currently, there are 6 Workaway hosts in the Czech Republic, but this number fluctuates all the time, and you can cheaply get to countries with many more hosts, like Germany (160) or Italy (300).
The concept of crashing on a stranger’s couch in a strange land? Not so strange, since millions of people are doing it in over 93,000 cities in 207 countries. When you’re a tourist staying with a local, not only do you get to explore and understand the city from a truly local point of view, you can also make new friendships to last a lifetime. Sign up is free on CouchSurfing.org, and most cities, including Prague, host weekly or monthly CS meetings and activities.
Local NGOs Duha and Trochujinak (http://www.trochujinak.cz/en/wherewego/tamjdem-2)are behind monthly group volunteer trips called Tamjdem. Described as a “micro workcamp”, this trip gives about 12 volunteers the chance to spend the weekend somewhere outside of Prague working on a unique project with another NGO or active organization. Examples of trips include helping out at an eco retreat, painting an experimental house, or working with an alternative theater company. A cost of about CZK 250 covers accommodation and food for the weekend, as well as a one-way transport ticket with the group, but you are usually expected to bring a sleeping bag and some food as well.
Taking care of someone’s home while they’re away can be an excellent way to discover a new city or region. Usually, you will be asked to do very simple things, like water plants, feed pets, maintain the garden, and keep the house in a tidy condition. Some owners will leave their car for you, while others require that you have your own transport, since many house sitting positions tend to be in rural and remote locations without public transport. You can go through websites like Mindmyhouse.com, Trustedhousesitters.com, or SabbaticalHomes.com, or just do an online search for house sitting in the Czech Republic. The costs involved include signing up to have a house sitter profile on the website, but the fees are as low as CZK 400 for a membership with Mind My House. You might also be expected to pay for your electricity consumption during your stay, but this will depend on the house owner. The summer and winter holidays are a good time to look for house sitting opportunities, as home owners, who are often expats, will travel back to their home country.
If you own a home or apartment and are willing to experiment a little, you could try swapping houses with someone who wants to visit the Czech Republic. The storyline of rom-com flick “The Holiday” is based on this concept: a woman from L.A. and a woman with a cottage outside of London exchange homes for the winter holidays. That’s the basic idea of house exchange, minus Jude Law knocking on your door in the middle of the night (oh well). It does require a lot of trust, of course, from both parties, and it’s also best to have a written agreement beforehand. There are many websites out there to choose from, so read reviews and do careful research to be sure that the website is legit. Some good sites to try include SabbaticalHomes.com, HomeExchange.com, or HomeForExchange.com. The Guardian newspaper offers its own home swapping site and newsletter: www.guardianhomexchange.co.uk.
Ride the rails
Train travel in the Czech Republic is incredibly inexpensive and a perfect way to see different regions of the country. For example, a beautifully scenic 80 minute train journey from Prague to Tynec nad Sazavou (an excellent point to start a Sazava hiking adventure) costs a crazy CZK 75 for 2 people with a PID (Prague Integrated Transport) pass. If you stay within PID Zone 1, you can travel for free and explore little villages like Kolovraty where a secret fish restaurant hides inside a forest, or Roztoky u Prahy, where you can cross the river on a very unique ferry boat.
What better way to break up the boredom of a very long road trip than to share the journey with a group of people? That’s what ridesharing is all about. You are usually expected to share the cost of the petrol, and the going rate across much of Europe is about 5 euro per 100 km. For example, a recent 4 hour trip from Prague to Berlin cost 20 euro. Try http://www.carpooling.co.uk/ or the Rideshare section of the classifieds on Expats.cz.
Book tickets locally
Besides flying on low cost airlines, booking through local agencies can also save you a lot of money. For great discounts (especially for students and youth) on airfare and bus fare, try StudentAgency.cz and Pelikan.cz. But before confirming your booking, be sure to pay attention to the departure and arrival cities, which can place you in a completely different (and not even necessarily nearby) city than you expected. Of course, that’s what creative travel is all about—being flexible and ready for anything.
What other methods of creative travel have you experienced locally or abroad?