Travel Without Money: ‘Travel is my religion, my ideology and life itself’


Hitchhiked a pickup truck in Cambodia

This interview is part of the series of people who travel without money. Let them inspire you! :) This interview is with Xiao Wei. He was born in China, lived for a few years in Leiden and is now traveling the world. 

Hi Wei! Can you tell us something about yourself and your current nomadic travel lifestyle?

I am a 28 year old Chinese guy, who chases his passion for the road and the adventures. I was born and raised in Mainland China. When I was 18, I left my hometown in Shandong for my bachelor study in Tsinghua University in Beijing. Four years later I got my bachelor degree in Biology and headed to the Netherlands for my master and PhD in Biomedical Sciences. I lived in a lovely town called Leiden for six years, which might have been the best years of my life. I know that even after decades, I will still come back to Leiden, in my sweetest dreams.

Coucusurfing with my host in Tabriz, Iran

Coucusurfing with my host in Tabriz, Iran

All these happenings never changed my mentality. You know, the typical Chinese mentality of ‘study well, find a good job and have a successful career’. Until one thing happened, which was one of my two biggest life events: At January 3rd, 2012 I joined Couchsurfing, an internet community and hospitality exchange network of travellers. I went to the meetings and did couchsurfing myself as well.

It fundamentally, if not completely changed my mentality and my philosophy of life.

My study was my interest, but never my passion. In no time I found the biggest passion of my life – traveling and adventures. Not the typical traveling of going to hostels/hotels, sightseeing and returning home with some photos and souvenirs. I mean the nomadic traveling: Hitchhiking, couchsurfing, sleeping in strangers’ houses and keeping an extremely low budget. The BEST things in this world are FREE. I left Leiden in June 2013 and started a nomadic Eurotrip. Couchsurfing and hitchhiking all the time. After Europe I hitchhiked to the Middle East, South-East Asia and now I am in South Asia.

Traveling is not just my passion. It has become my religion, my ideology and life itself.

Having breakfast in a Buddhist monastery, Cambodia

Having breakfast in a Buddhist monastery, Cambodia

What about the money?

I keep my budget as low as possible. When I was traveling in the EU I spend maximum 7 USD per day. In other parts of the world about 3 USD per day and I have traveled periods without money as well.

When I was in Thailand for example, I stayed in a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok and did table diving at the same time. I had no cost for food or accommodation for days! After, I went to Chiangmai by hitchhiking and the driver offered to buy me dinner, so there were no cost either. Next, I arrived in Chiangmai on a rainy night and found the cheapest hostel, which I had looked up on internet. Guess what?! It’s 11 pm and the reception was already closed! Some Australian guys who stayed there asked me: “Do you need a place to sleep? You can stay in our room. We have two people here but I think 3 of us can fit in one bed, no problem.” So I stayed there with them, of course without paying anything for accommodation.

Slept in the kitchen yard of a Buddhist Monastery, Cambodia

Slept in the kitchen yard of a Buddhist Monastery, Cambodia

Another example: When I was hitchhiking in the North of Cambodia, people there were sooo friendly and hospitable that for two nights continuously I stayed with locals. The first night I met a taxi scooter driver on the street and I told him what I was doing (hitchhiking and low-budget traveling). I first wanted to stay in a Buddhist monastery, but the monks were quite reluctant and they did not speak English, so he said: “Do you wanna sleep in my home?”. Why not? I stayed with his lovely family and they were so nice to me! They bought me a nice dinner, gave me the best bed and even offered me cash!!

I got invited by a scooter driver to stay in the house of his family -Cambodia

I got invited by a scooter driver to stay in the house of his family, Cambodia

The second night the last driver I hitchhiked with (on his scooter) offered me some food. Later, he even discussed with his sister and invited me to stay with them. They were really nice and they got me a big dinner!

In the EU, Turkey and Iran I was using Couchsurfing almost all the time, so food and accommodation were money-wise no big problem either.

Wow, what an amazing stories! Strangers can be so kind! About that, what do you think of accepting this kindness from people who might have not that much?

Yes!! That’s the biggest obstacle for me! I can handle rough situations like sleeping outside, killing mosquitoes all night and bargaining with greedy people who want to rip me off. But it’s much harder for me to see kind people suffer because of me! However, I am myself from a poor family of a poor country. I know that for us, although material is important and money is essential, we do have higher values than that.

If the person really offers help with his/her heart and you do not accept it, it hurts them even more.

Of course, I always judge from their homes and vehicles and so on to see how poor they are and how hard I should try to refuse their cash. For example, in Cambodia, the first family was much poorer than the second one. So I did all my best and successfully refused the cash of the first family. However, the second family actually was quite rich and they have a good business, so I accepted their cash after many attempts of refusal.

travel without money

I always think that I can give back this kind of love by other means. Not necessarily at that moment, not necessarily at that spot, even not necessarily to these people, but to others who need help!

To pass on the love and help to other strangers. To those who need my help, now or in the future. That will compensate it and actually make it a much greater thing as well.

Thank you Xiao Wei for your inspiring words! 

If you want to read more about his travels, check out his website as well.

Read also the first interview with Mattias, who decided to travel without money with the purpose to start a new adventure.

If you also want to share your experiences of traveling without money, send me an email at

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