Friends and Resources:
The owner Nancy is a total badass. She created The Bunkhouse from the ground up, and runs it with an inclusive attitude all about community and adventure. Family feasts and outings on the regular! She encouraged us, the staff, to use our housing exchange time wisely to work towards our goals and think about maybe starting our own businesses. As far as being a guest goes - The Bunkhouse is just about the only affordable lodging in the Vail Valley. Most people who come to Vail Resorts and Beaver Creek are doing the five-star thing, while the skiers and snowboarders coming for the adventure and the love of it get priced out. At least, that was before The Bunkhouse.
Base Camp Anchorage
Olé, the owner, is an enigma. When not on some kind of extreme paragliding trip, he would quietly bless us all with wise insights on living your best life, like a true yogi. Base Camp Hostel is a house in downtown Anchorage (Spenard) with a few dorm rooms, a private room, and a yard where campers can pitch their tents. I've never met so many interesting people in one place. Hikers, motorcyclists, fishing boat workers, mountain climbers (including the youngest girl to attempt the 7 peaks, Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru), van-dwellers, the list goes on. There is endless exploring to do in Alaska and staff were encouraged to experience it all. The saddest part was becoming so familiar with cool guests and then having to say goodbye, again and again.
Seattle, San Francisco, + USA bus tours
I stayed here in Seattle and loved the vibe - it has a unique aesthetic and feels super welcoming. Convenient amenities in the common areas (like computers) were extra helpful to me at the time, plus the hostel is centrally located in Pike's Place. The funny coincidence is that once I got to Base Camp in Alaska, I found the Green Tortoise Adventure Bus parked outside! Green Tortoise has a "mobile hostel", you might say, in addition to their two brick-and-mortar locations, with a handful of different multi-stop trips that can last from a few days to almost a month. If you take the Green Tortoise Alaska trip, you might meet the Base Camp crew.
HostelLing International (HI)
Hostelling International is a chain of hostels with locations in many cities. If the local boutique options seem sketchy in a particular area, you can always rely on HI to be a tried-and-true option. I stayed at their Seattle location and one of their Portland locations, which was beautiful - a cozy house in the heart of the Hawthorne district with a huge backyard and a commitment to sustainability. They have an EcoRoof that repurposes rainwater!
I've used this quite a few times when I don't feel like spending money and am not familiar enough with the area I'm in to know where I'm allowed to camp. When I didn't feel like paying for a hostel in Portland and wanted to be secluded for a little while, I found a great site along the river in Molalla, OR. When I didn't want to stay in Chicago central, I was able to find an awesome beachside campsite at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. I made these kinds of decisions on a whim, often based on where I ended up after being dropped off from hitchhiking, so this site was an invaluable asset. I guess technically you could just try to be sneaky and set up anywhere, but you don't HAVE to go looking for trouble. Note: the photo on the left if where I slept in Seward, AK; we didn't find this one on FreeCampsites, a local told us about the spot, but the point is that free camping is always a viable option. How beautiful is that river?? It's melt from Exit Glacier.
I learned about Workaway through word of mouth - I was standing on a train platform getting ready to board the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, when a girl noticed my massive pack and asked me about my travels. Turns out she traveled and worked seasonally for a living, and was returning to Big Sur where she lives in a little cabin for free in exchange for being a caretaker for the property. Before this she lived in a yurt in the Redwoods in exchange for working at a Bed & Breakfast, and before that she lived in Costa Rica while volunteering at hostels and teaching english. She recommended Workaway to me, which I would later use to find Base Camp. It includes all kinds of work/live exchange opportunities, not just hostels/B&Bs, so there's something for everyone.
Sounds bougie, I know, but you can find any kind of campsite your heart desires on Hipcamp. There are glamping options but there's also tent camping, safe parking spots to pull over and sleep in your car, sustainable living communities, nudist colonies, whatever you're into. I've never paid more than $30 a night and I always find the perfect spot for my needs - once it was for night photography, once I was looking for a private spot near my hike but away from the typically busy state campsites. It works basically like AirBnB where your host offers up their land or amenities and people are able to leave reviews so you know what you're getting into.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
WWOOF is kind of like Workaway, but focuses on farming, gardening, and livestock. You get the chance to learn new and practical skills while living rent free and helping small businesses thrive. I only tried this once but I don't think my experience was representative of what WWOOFing is typically like (that's a wild story for another time) - there are hundreds of amazing hosts out there and I'd love to try more of them!
I think every hostel that exists in the entire world must be on this site. Any location I go to and try to google local hostels, the first results that come up are Hostelworld links. I believe aggregators like this do take a percentage of the fee out of the hostel's earnings whenever you book through them instead of direct with the hostel, but the ease of searching all your options in one place, where the way they list the amenities is clear and cohesive and you get to see reviews from past guests, is pretty nice.
Squat The Planet
Tips and tricks from and for people doing this full time, traveling via bike/hike/hitchhike/boating/van-dwelling/train-hopping/you-name-it. You can even find other people to meet up with who are traveling the same direction as you. I've gotten rides from people after searching online, which is sometimes safer to coordinate than sticking a thumb out depending on where you are. Lots of adventurous ideas were planted in my brain by those in the forum, and I've also been able to research tons of advice about keeping safe and being efficient while on the road, from people who have been there/done that.
Zero To Travel Podcast
The topics covered by host Jason Moore, and the different travelers he interviews every episode, span a wide range. There are episodes on seasonal work, remote work, freelancing, van living, digital nomading, coworking spaces, being an Au Pair, safety tips on the road, budgeting, culture shock, and location-specific recommendations, to name a few. He's charismatic and knowledgable, but he also brings in guests who are extra experienced in whatever your niche interest is. Each episode provides a thorough, well-rounded perspective, and notably - some practical advice (as compared to a lot of other podcasts that only speak in the abstract).
I haven't used these yet, but they may be helpful to you:
Find interesting seasonal jobs throughout America.
Job board for remote work.
Facilitates travel and accommodation for people working remotely.
Give back and get paid.
Similar to Workaway.
I never stayed here but we went to parties there, this place ruled.
In Fairbanks; great for dog sledding and viewing Aurora Borealis. On my bucket list.
"The poor man's cruise"; it's not actually that cheap, but can you imagine seeing the stars at night from your tent on the deck?
Find your brethren.
"The last free place in America."
It was like a movie all the time. Everybody around me was a great story that never stopped, and for the first time, I realized how much freedom you have to do what you want. - Daniel Johnston