Budget Travel: How to be a Traveler (Not Just a Tourist)

Budget Travel: How to be a Traveler (Not Just a Tourist)

Before we left for our travels, many of our friends expressed sentiments similar to the following:

I wish I could do that, but I’m just not that lucky.

We would like to address this post to anybody in a similar situation (especially recent college-grads and other millennials), who would like to travel for an extended period of time but think that they can’t.

There are two reasons that most people give for why they feel like they cannot travel: money and what we call “adult obligations.”

In terms of the “adult obligations,” if you have a family, a mortgage to pay, and other similar “adult” things, then yes, there’s a good chance that long-term travel could be a challenge for you.

If, however, you are a 20-something with a 9-5 job and that is what you call your “adult obligations,” then you probably either don’t want to travel that much or are simply too scared to. Both reasons are valid, but if you’re someone who would love to put working on pause and travel for some time (but feel like it’s impossible), then this post is for you.

In terms of making the leap and letting go of the stability of your current day-to-day, there’s not much we can help you with there other than wishing you luck and assuring you that it’s really not difficult once you do it.

However, where we can offer some solid advice is on budget travel- or how you can afford long-term travel and not just the 5-day vacation once a year.

Here are a few tips to inspire you.

Save Before You Go

This is probably the most important advice we can give and will be what helps you most on your trip. The more you can manage to save before you leave, the easier it will be once you start traveling and the more peace of mind you’ll have knowing that you have a bit of a safety net.

Whether it’s skipping happy hour every week, stopping yourself from unnecessary, indulgence purchases, or getting a roommate to split the rent with, little things can make a big difference. Saving $50 on one night out could mean five nights at a nice hostel in Ecuador. Skipping the shoe shopping spree could mean that, instead, you can afford a backpack and some hiking boots. Being conscious of your expenditures is essential both before and during your trip.

Check Your Options

Doing your research is one of the easiest ways to save money while you’re traveling. This means checking all of your options. Is the first travel agency you went to the best value for your money? Can you do the activity on your own without a tour? Can you negotiate the price? Are there ways you could do it in a non-conventional, non-touristic way – for example, volunteering in exchange for room & board, wwoofing, couchsurfing, etc? Does the hostel you want to stay at have a kitchen where you can cook instead of eating out? Do they serve free breakfast? Can you get to where you want to go by bus instead of taxi?

Travel on a budget: Volunteering
The kitchen at the animal reserve where we volunteered in the Amazon. Exhausted from all the work, we still cooked three meals a day amidst cockroaches and tarantulas and had fun doing it.

Resources like Tripadvisor can be extremely useful when you’re traveling to check reviews of things like tour companies or hostels, so you can make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Also, quickly Google-searching a trek or an activity you’re thinking about doing and reading a few travel blogs can help you decide if it’s something that you absolutely need to do with an organized tour or if it’s cheaper to do it alone. Sometimes, you won’t be able to find out much until you get to the place, but that’s fine too as long as you explore all your options before settling on one.

One of the most invaluable resources for this is other travelers and, oftentimes, the hostel employees. Just by chatting with your dorm-mates you can often discover great tips for your next stop, and usually hostel staff are eager to help and well-informed about the local area.

Be Low-Maintenance

I’m not going to lie, if you’re someone who can’t live without the comforts of a hot shower every day, a comfortable double bed, and a thorough, infallible itinerary, then long-term travel is probably not for you.

The key to being able to travel for a long time is being flexible. 

That’s it. That’s the secret. You don’t need loads of money, only an open mind. Seriously. Whether this means you have to stay in a 14-bed dorm room, deal with a cold shower, change plans at the last minute, sit on a 10-hour bus ride behind a farter, or suffer a number of other discomforts at times, being able to deal with uncertainties is probably one of the most important things that will allow you to continue to travel.

Unless you’re very rich, it is impossible to be a high-maintenance backpacker. You need to be okay with going with the flow. If you’re running low on money, you need to be cool with doing some unconventional things – maybe it’s freelancing for a bit of extra cash, maybe it’s volunteering at the next hostel you stay at to get a free bed, maybe it’s foregoing the restaurant and cooking pasta once again. But if your heart is truly in it, there’s always a way to figure it out and keep going. The hardest part is always jumping in.

– Iris & Roi

Want to travel but feel like you can’t? Have questions or need some advice? Comment and we’ll be happy to try to help!