One of my greatest passions has always been traveling, especially for extended periods of time. In fact, my wanderlust has carried me to the temples of Burma, the fertile plains of Kenya and Uganda, the colorful and culturally vibrant streets of Cuba, and locales as remote as Antarctica and even Wyoming! Most of us who are passionate about travel wouldn’t trade the experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to have, or the relationships we’ve made on our adventures, for any amount of money, but if you love to travel as much as I do, then you know it can be costly to do it for extended periods of time.
Many a would-be traveler has been disheartened to the point of paralysis by the logistics and potential costs of embarking on that extended excursion to whatever far-flung land they’ve been dreaming of. But contrary to popular opinion, traveling on a budget can often actually make a journey more rich and unique; it’s been my experience that travel on a budget has opened up roads that I may have otherwise shied away from. Here are a few tips for travelers who want to see the world without breaking the bank.
If your dream is going on an extended adventure abroad, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll constantly be negotiating modes of transportation. Sometimes, depending on the remoteness of the location, there may be only one option for getting to your next destination. Other times, the range of choice in terms of pricing, travel time, comfort and relative safety may seem overwhelming. In addition to your target budget (many travelers aim to spend below a particular threshold per day, or week), one thing to keep in mind when making your decision is the concept of balancing budget against experience. Enjoyment is the key. Without a hint of sarcasm: if you’re traveling through South America and your idea of a good time is bouncing around for hours in an old jalopy of a bus, with the equatorial sun beating down and no air conditioning, then by all means, take the bus! But, if that sounds like a hellish proposition, and you have room in your budget, make a transportation choice that you can live with (and through). Traveling without a set schedule will also free up things, particularly when it comes to air travel; without a concrete itinerary, one can simply book an affordable flight on a budget airline, to the nearest place that sounds intriguing. Allow yourself to be flexible, and if the opportunity presents itself, bike!
One of the biggest obstacles that a traveler will face is securing a variety of lodgings at affordable prices over an extended period of time. Depending on the location, and one’s personal opinion of “roughing it”, camping out could be a fun, rewarding, and cost effective option. If it isn’t, your next best bet might be staying with a friend or family member, a traveler’s hostel (which can range from bare-bones to chic), or Airbnb, which is typically significantly cheaper than a hotel, more private than a hostel, and ideal for booking lodgings on the run. With careful planning, and sometimes, a bit of luck, you can find a space that is perfect for what your stay will require, no more, no less.
For many travelers, one of the most enjoyable aspects of world travel is the diversity of the cuisine that one encounters. Each region is home to its own unique ingredients, and each culture that shapes that region prepares those ingredients in its own way. It’s not uncommon for an adventurer to make the search for amazing food the unifying concept behind the trip. Fortunately for fearless foodies, a lot of the best, and most authentic foods can often be found in the most affordable places. Food carts, hole-in-the-walls, and outdoor food counters (particularly if they’ve been recommended by, or are visibly popular with the locals) are your best friends, and are often the places where some of our most unforgettable connections and memories are made. If you’re traveling with friends, take turns cooking for each other, experiment with ingredients that are native to the region, have an open mind, and always accept invitations from people who invite you to their table. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a five star dining experience or a decadent night on the town every once in a while, if you offset those expenses with inexpensive meals along the way.
Working Through It
Some travelers aren’t satisfied unless they can make meaningful human connections and be as immersed as possible in the cultures of the places they visit. One great way to do that, particularly for those who are planning journeys of 6 months to a year in duration, is to find employment along the way. While this may not sound like an appetizing solution for everybody, many travelers would have it no other way. If you’re considering working your way through a region, make sure to research the types of work available available ahead of time, consider the possibility of a language barrier, and be honest with yourself about your abilities and the jobs you would be willing to do. There’s no point in traveling to a beautiful country only to spend all of your waking hours doing a job you loathe. Look for work that you can enjoy, with people whose company you enjoy. Keep in mind that this method of travel might entail staying in one location for two to three months at a time.
If you’re planning a trip for an extend length of time, get traveler’s insurance; on a long trip, you won’t regret it. Always tell at least one person where you are, or where you’re going. Come up with a rough daily expense budget, and make a game out of sticking to it. Make a point of enjoying the simple things, like a long hike through the mountains, a walk on a beach you’ve never been to, the sights and smells of a new city, or a long afternoon in a cafe. Take a boat ride, take pictures, become engrossed in conversation. Wake up early each morning, try to experience each day to the fullest, drink plenty of water, and you will have an adventure you’ll never forget. Happy trails!