Travel the world for free? Possible, according to Michael Wigge

Hitchiking, working our way around the world or couchsurfing are all good ways to save some money on the road, but being able to travel without spending anything has always seemed impossible to me. As Anna recently posted, we may  get free flights with credit cards’ air miles; however, as far as I know, travelling without spending a single cent is a dream. And believe me, I am one who really stretches his pennies as only few would do.

Let me tell you, I was wrong: I discovered that Michael Wigge, a German TV travel comedian, has actually succeeded. His efforts are documented in the self published book and DVD aptly titled  “How to travel the world for free”.  Check a video trailer here.

According to Wigge, as travelling 25.000 miles from Europe to Antarctica wasn’t challenging enough on a budget, he decided to attempt it without a single cent: as the book’s synopsis states, “on his journey, Michael immerses himself into fascinating subcultures, sleeps on the street with homeless people and nourishes himself with flowers”.

Michael’s trip is a story of determination and adventure: by crossing the Atlantic working on a container ship, being hosted by the Amish community in Ohio and reaching Antarctica employed as a luxury cruise’s crew member, it seems like he found the real recipe for free travelling around the globe.

Nevertheless, as this sounded too good to be true, I decided to reach him and ask a few clarifying questions.

First of all, why did he do this? Michael says that he mostly wanted to show other travellers how such an accomplishment is possible. “I decided to travel moneyless to Antarctica since it has always been my dream to let things behind me, including all worries about money… Antarctica was pretty much a dream for a long time, as normally it can only be reached paying a lot. I started planning this trip for almost a year, researching contacts and developing ideas how to travel for free”.

Michael supports the idea that, wherever you go, you will always be able to find help from good people: “I crossed eleven countries. My experiences where overall really good: people were willing to help me out in my special situation. The best example happened in Colombia: I knocked at a house’s door in Cartagena and directly asked for free accommodation. A family of 13 didn’t even bother to ask why I was in such a needy situation. They just offered me a place to stay, although their house was already super crowded…”

Of course, having no money to travel at all also put Michael in some challenging, nasty situations. He confesses that “the worst penniless situation happened in Las Vegas: as the tap water contains too much chlorine overthere, my lips got heavily burned. Consequently, in order to drink I had to resort to a used McDonald cup I fished out of the rubbish, refilling it at the restaurant. After a couple of days, I got caught by a Mc Donald’s worker!! It also sucked to sleep on Waikiki Beach, Honolulu and get some of my things stolen”.

Ok, yet another travel beggar, you may think. Instead, this answer led me to ask Michael how he managed to survive in such a world where money has, sadly, the uttermost importance. His answer is simple: of course, he had to work. Instead of money, however, he applied a concept which has been lost in the sands of time. “The principle is easy: always use the barter system”.

Barter was the way he got around the big life necessities such as food and accommodation. Michael gives some interesting suggestions, indeed: “I got free food in shops or restaurants in trade for a good story, floor cleaning or dish washing. This strategy worked 80% of the times. I also had a netbook with me and could use many free wi-fi networks and use Couchsurfing. Here, same strategy: I helped out in the household in trade for free accommodation. Lastly, I got free transport hitchhiking, working on a cargo ship across the Atlantic and on a luxury cruise ship from Ushuaia to Antarctica.

And when he had to work for cash, the jobs he invented were some of the craziest and funniest I have ever heard from a traveller: “I was a Hill Helper, or better I pushed tourists up the steep hills of San Francisco for 1 US $. I also did Pillow Fighting by offering a decent fight for a dollar. 300 people joined me within a couple of days, and I earned enough money to fly from San Francisco to Costa Rica. I was also a Human Sofa: tired tourists could sit on my back in Las Vegas to relax for just a dollar. Moreover, I have been a butler for the German Ambassador in Panama: as I worked for the great man, he helped me buy a plane ticket to Colombia. The worst nightmare of a job though was working as a porter at Machu Picchu, to see it for free!!!”

Michael Wigge’s story may not be the ideal trip for most travellers and vagabonds, but clearly shows how resourcefulness, hard work and sharp wits can actually get us closer to our dreams. He concludes saying that he hopes his story would motivate other people to travel and explore the world, because his approach can be used by anybody, anywhere in the world. With or without money.

What do you think? Would you be able to travel the world for free as Micheal Wigge did and promotes? Please write your comments below. Hate him or love him, we surely have to check his book out.

4 Responses to “Travel the world for free? Possible, according to Michael Wigge”

  1. Matt Says:

    I imagine being able to play a tune or two would also be a big help, usually a few extra guitars around here and there.

  2. Alir Says:

    I think traveling is the most happiest thing to do …. however it is hitchhiking or a destitution. I love to travel in other country and in my country too… this article is so good … and i admire his traveling the world for free …. i wish i can … !