A THRIFTY traveller who hitchhiked through 50 countries has revealed her secrets to exploring the world on a shoestring budget.
Iris Veldwijk, 24, quit her studies and left her home in the Netherlands five years ago to thumb-it across Europe, Asia and even Iran.
Currently, the intrepid explorer is in Argentina, having hitched down South America over the past five months.
Iris travels with her guitar which she uses to busk for food money and keeps her eyes peeled for odd local jobs.
In cities at night she either couch surfs or finds a hostel offering free accommodation in return for work.
And she takes a tent with her for wild camping when she’s in rural locations.
She said: “In the beginning the appeal was saving money, I didn’t think about safety issues.
“Now I really prefer it to other travelling because I feel like I see life through the eyes of a local person or family.
“Travelling alone works well for me because it’s hard to find people who are looking for the same thing I am.
“I would like to travel with another woman though.”
However, Iris admitted that hitch hiking solo is not without its hazards.
She added: “There’s been situation where I have not felt safe.
“Some people think I am a prostitute. I have to lie about having boyfriend, and I have ring I can put in my finger.”
One of Iris’ biggest surprises was how easy it was to travel through Iran.
She revealed: “I heard all the warnings, people said it was my funeral.
“But it was probably the friendliest country. People were so curious because I was a woman travelling alone which is unheard of there.”
Usually Iris spends at least three weeks in each country, returning to her home town for Christmas.
However, for her current trip which began in November 2015, Iris plans to be gone for a few years.
The young woman admitted her family struggled to come to turns with her vagabond lifestyle.
She said: “They used to be unsupportive. I quit my studies to do this because I was unhappy there.
“They didn’t like that and they still don’t love that I miss birthdays and family events. Family is really important to us.
“When my grandfather passed away, I had to hitchhike back from Serbia and it took me one and a half days. That was hard.”
Iris has to be back in her home in Utrecht by 2020 to complete her studies but plans to hitchhike until then.
She added: “I’m not looking forward to going back. I love my life, meeting new people and seeing new countries.
“My friends know that if I am around, I’m in need of a shower and food. It will be hard to fit back in at home life.”