“You don’t need a lot of money to travel the world”
You’ve seen those articles about cheap travels all over the web. Just reading them will make you picture yourself as a modern bare feet hippie with dresses the colors of sunset and feathers in your long, golden, wavy hair (yup, even you guys) with a wallet empty of cash but full of inspirational quotes about meditation, positive energies and love. And you’ll travel the world for months just like that, happier than ever. (A bit like this)
‘’If I can travel with less than $10 a day, so can you!’’
Yes, it is possible! I have traveled for less than $100 a month in Brazil. No, not everyone can do it!
I’m sorry if I’ll ruin some of your dreams but – come on – we all know it’s not gonna be fun and games all the time. Let’s be honest, traveling on the cheap is not for everyone.
First of all, forget the shiny feathers in your hair. Unless you’ve just picked up some random chicken feathers on the streets. The wavy hair is probably turning into dreadlocks by the 2nd week you are on the road. As there is no space for fancy clothes in your bag you’ll be wearing the same shorts and t-shirt for weeks. – But we don’t care about that. Let’s focus on the essential here.
If you plan on giving it a try anyways, know that:
- Some people swear they live by cheap travels, then brag about the diving course they took in Thailand. Wait. What? Either that diving course was paid by some extra savings, either they spent the rest of the week eating cockroaches.
- I don’t care if you paid your NYC helicopter flight 250 bucks instead of 400. A good deal doesn’t make it a cheap deal.
- Going to restaurants instead of street-food stands isn’t really part of the plan anymore, regardless of how scared you are of being stuck in the toilet for a week.
All right, still motivated to do it?
This is what I have experienced, am experiencing and will still experience in the future.
As much as trying to find a place to pitch a tent every night, budgeting will become your top priority. You’ll think about it all the time. How much do I have left? Can I afford that? What if I buy this?
If you need any help with that, check out YNAB or a good ol’ Excel file will do.
Be prepared to make concessions.
You dream about seeing the Grand Canyon? Oh, but wait, have you heard about the clear blue waters of the Havasupai Falls? You’d like to see the Machu Picchu next month? Well, know that the most beautiful places all have a price tag and these well-known beauties of the world are rarely cheap. Add up all the entry passes and/or camping fees and you’ll be over 50 dollar before you know. That is, if you do it by yourself. Go through a travel agency and you can triple the price.
Your choices are not unlimited anymore, which can be frustrating at times.
Some of you will say “but it’s always possible to work your way around”. It probably is but again at some cost.
I have tried a couple of times to go on tours or go to places without paying the tourist price while I traveled in Brazil. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve once had to wait 3 days on a harbor, pleading fisherman and tour operators to take us with them at no cost before someone finally took pity of us.
Decide how you want to travel.
When you try to make it through the day with very little money, you’ll most likely have to hitchhike, sleep in a tent, do some Couchsurfing or find shared rides on Craigslist.
[Here’s a very good article about share economy websites while on the road!]
If you’re more the laid-back type who isn’t in a rush, your thumb and tent will be your best friends (I’m sorry if you lost your thumbs.) The only problem here is; planning becomes hard. Because you never know how fast, or how slowly, you will travel. Don’t even think about arriving at an over-crowded place, like the Grand Canyon, and hope to get a permit right away. Nope, months of planning necessary.
If you love planning your trips neatly, it will be a lot easier to find hosts on Couchsurfing. Same with shared rides. On the other hand, you might miss out on amazing experiences because your schedule didn’t allow you to stay that extra not planned night or week. Just like you’ll miss amazing experiences by not having planned and bought the necessary permits in advance.
Either way, you have to find the right balance and think about what you’re really looking for.
You’ll need the power of saying NO to your deepest desires.
You are just about the engage a long and difficult fight against your own brain and its endless armies of psychological cravings. And you are his number one target.
A comfy bed. A warm bath. A juicy hamburger. That new summer dress. You think you NEED them (come on guys…). Not tomorrow, nor the day after. Now.
Willpower. Easier said than done. It’s a constant struggle. Like when you see that big fat reddish and white pimple in the middle of your forehead. You want to give it a nice and firm squeeze, but you know you shouldn’t. Having just a little willpower is hard enough already, and you’ll need a lot of it.
Just imagine the situation:
You ate the worst, cheapest noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past two weeks because you listened to our tips pretty well.
You get into a town and the smell of that crusty four cheese pizza is just pulling you inside the restaurant and you want to get a large pie just for yourself.
NO. Same for that motel with that huge king-size bed after all these super comfy nights on that sleeping pad in your tent.
Keep it cool. Breathe in. (And out. We wouldn’t want you to suffocate)
Living an adventurous lifestyle is great. You meet tons of amazing people, mostly travelers who understand what you are doing and why. And then you meet other people. Some who’ll give you the finger from behind their windshield, or insult you for no apparent other reason than the fact that ‘they don’t like travelers’. You’ll meet weirdos asking you the strangest things, especially when you are a woman. People will think you are homeless and give you disdainful looks.
You’ll have to learn to ignore them and not letting them get to you.
You’ll also meet plenty of people with different opinions than yours. Some you can understand. Some will frustrate you. Some will want you to take their brains out and replace them with fresh ones.
Remember: deep breathing.
Know yourself and your limits. (We’re almost there, hurray!)
By always forcing yourself to say no, or to choose between this or that, you’ll get frustrated. And that’s the risk of traveling on the cheap. Don’t forget that you are on the road to enjoy, not to be unsatisfied and grumpy. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
And lastly, be open for a lot of self -reflection and introspection.
The joys and drawbacks of traveling will make you see the world differently. Realize that you might have had it wrong just a day before for instance. You have qualities but also flaws. Learn to identify them and once you’ve done that, start accepting them.
Traveling will make you grow in a lot of ways. Each day you’ll learn a little bit more. Whether it be about the city you’re in, about history, religion, a friend or yourself.
Am I really ready or made to travel on the cheap?
And if you’re not, there is nothing wrong with that. You’ll just have to save up a little more money.