Besides hoarding your frequent flier miles, there are actually other methods of scoring free travel—and some of these ways also throw in free accommodation and maybe a bit of a stipend. Intrigued? If you have some scholarly and/or artistic talents, if you can fill out an application like you mean it, or if you are just too damn creative for your own good, then read on…
If you are artistically inclined, then look no further than the wild and wacky world of Artist Residencies and Artist Colonies. There are thousands of these art-happy dwellings and communities set up all over the world, some more prestigious and competitive than others. Not all are completely free, so you’ll need to hunt down the ones that are. Also, a residency can sometimes last a year, but typically it will run from a few weeks to a few months.
In order to exploit your artistic talents, you will need a clearly defined project proposal–how are you going to spend your time at the artist residency?–and some proven experience/background in your area of expertise (writing, painting, music, sculpture, video art, etc) is highly beneficial and usually required.
Here are several terrific websites with databases of residencies and lists of updated application deadlines:
Although the Mira’s List website is no longer updated, it still serves as an excellent starting point with its HUGE collection of solid resources. Her Facebook page, however, is still updated regularly and always has plenty of juicy offerings.
On the other hand, if you are more academically inclined, there are many ways to have yourself shipped off overseas. But, most of those scholarships and fellowships require you to be currently enrolled in a university. If you freed yourself from those shackles years ago, there’s still a very generous scholarship that you are eligible for:
The prestigious Fulbright grant sends out plenty of qualified individuals all over the world each year to work on a wide variety of projects. The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to be a current college student or even a recent graduate. You can also apply as an AT LARGE candidate, which means you can be a working professional and still apply for something non-academic. The English teaching openings are numerous for most countries, so you have a better chance if you are willing to do that (hey, you were gonna teach English abroad anyways, so at least now you’re getting FREE airfare, room & board!). But have no fear, teaching English is NOT the only option–you can also apply to research an independent project or do creative work, like writing a book or screenplay. These grants are of course more competitive, but you should take a look at the website and find out if this is real possibility for you. If you win the grant, you usually receive a very generous amount of money to cover your flights, research costs, and living stipend for 10 months. If you are accompanied by a spouse/partner, they often throw in a bit extra per month. Can’t beat that!
Whatever you aim for, be sincere and thorough when you apply—this is FREE TRAVEL MONEY we are talking about. It won’t be given away easily, and there will be hundreds, if not thousands of people competing with you for that luscious prize. So apply to as many programs as you can handle, and if you don’t get in somewhere, try again or try somewhere else. It’s just a numbers game after all…