Thinking about life on the road before I started traveling, my two biggest fears were from heading into the unknown, and – lack of money.
How I was meeting people who have traveled themselves, these fears were slowly disappearing, primarily thanks to the advice that these travelers shared with me:
1. You do not have to be brave to travel. You only need to take the first step, do not think too much about the negative aspects of such adventures, and just go. The rest of the courage you find on the way, naturally, spontaneously.
2. You do not have to have a lot of money to travel. You just need to know your priorities, educate yourself, make some compromises, to adapt to the situation and – to travel.
As I embarked on my first trips, I became convinced of the accuracy of these statements. I wrote about courage HERE, and about various ways to cheap travels HERE, and even gave tips on how to earn money while traveling.
But in this article I want to dedicate to one idea that would seem illogical to many, and that is:
TRAVELING ON A LOW BUDGET HAS MANY ADVANTAGES
OVER TRAVELING WITH UNLIMITED FUNDS
To be clear, low budget travel is not for everyone, and people who travel with high budget are by no means inferior or less valuable. I just wanted to show you, from my own experience, after trying out both ways – where I can see the advantages of not having a lot of money for travels.
Anyone who has the money can travel.
It’s very simple – go to the bus/train station, airport or just sit in your own car, and head for the direction you choose. Settle into a ho(s)tel, go on an organized tour, try a local dish in a restaurant that has good reviews, wash all that with a pint of local beer, upload photos on Facebook, and go to sleep in a warm bed.
That is the way the vast majority of people travel, and its just fine. You do not need a lot of effort, you will see much of what’s there to see in a specific destination, find out a lot about the history and culture, you will enjoy fine food and drinks, and have a good nights sleep before tomorrow’s new adventure.
But, if you do not have money, you have to work hard to reach your goal.
You need to figure out how you get to your destination – whether you hitchhike, walk, cycle, wait for a phenomenal last minute offer of low-cost airlines. Where do you sleep when you arrive at your destination – will you find locals via some of the social networks, will you try to exchange homes or try out house sitting, or will you have to find a spot where you can pitch your tent without any fear of humans and wild animals?
When you are hungry, will you buy the cheapest biscuits at the supermarket and those brownish bananas on sale, pasta and basic sauce to cook something with your host, or you will go before the closing time to the stores and ask if they can give you the food they intend to throw away? Will you be able to find free wi-fi so you can contact your friends and your parents?
Overcoming the challenges will be, along with the journey, your daily routine. You will learn bunch of things, you will become a master of coping with new situations, you will find courage because you will not allow shame or cowardice to leave you hungry or without a place to spend the night.
You will become more grateful.
It is very difficult to be constantly grateful for all that we have most of the time – family, friends, health, home, and so on. A lot of people take such things for granted. Including me.
A similar story happens while traveling without financial constraints – transport, accommodation, food, guides, most of it we take for granted, and concentrate on what we see around us – nature, monuments, works of art, cuisine, and the like.
But when you don’t have some things, or when you are aware that you can easily lose them – gratitude tends to intensify.
While traveling on a low budget you appreciate the little things such as hot meals, soft beds, transportation after a few hours of waiting in the sun. You are grateful for little things you are not thinking about when you can afford three meals a day, the shelter has already been pre-arranged, and you know a way to get to your destination. You are grateful for all the miracles that, inevitably, occur daily.
I don’t know about you, but I eat when I have something to eat, drink when I have a cold beer in the fridge, watch TV when its in front of me, I surf online when I have nothing else to do, and when the free wi-fi is close by. And all of this I do – excessively. I eat even when I’m not hungry, I sometimes drink too much, I can spend hours in front of the TV, and days in front of my laptop.
The perfect way to achieve self-control, at least in my case – is not having all these things at your disposal. Lack of choice. Eat only when you are hungry, drink moderately, give priority to the people instead of a variety of technological gadgets.
Lack of money is a great motivator.
Budget travel can also have consequences to your body.
By dragging a heavy backpack on your back, walking many kilometres to get to a good place for hitchhiking, moderation in eating and drinking – all this will leave a mark. In a positive sense.
One personal example – when I was going on my trip around the world, I had 96 kilograms. Seven months later, in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand – 78. A few months after returning from the trip, thanks to the unlimited amounts of food and drink in my mum’s kitchen and having enough money to afford anything I wanted – the scale is already close to the three-digit figure.
Money makes me lazy.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE LOCALS
The best thing about traveling on a low budget is the fact that you live like a local, and experiencing everyday life, such as those around you.
Travelling on a low budget means experiencing the destination just the way it is, behind the tourist slogans and curtains – you experience the harsh reality. People are hospitable because they are hospitable, not because you give them money in exchange for the hospitality.
When you have a limited budget, it is very likely that you will stay at destinations for longer periods of time, volunteer, get a job, maybe one day call some place a home. And people that you meet there – your family.
But, let’s face it – traveling on a low budget has its flaws, primarily related to possible health complications. What if you get sick?
On my travels I had few of those situations – while traveling through Iran, Pakistan and India I constantly had digestive problems, in India I got a few stitches on my head after the surfing accident, in Thailand I took out one tooth, in Peru I struggled with altitude sickness. But all that was resolved either by visiting a pharmacy or going to the doctor.
Fortunately, I got sick in poor countries where medical services are not expensive, but they are very good quality. So if you’re going to travel and intend to be sick, do it in the poor part of the world. : P
And – try to get travel insurance before departure. Just in case.
Also, with the lack of money comes lack of options. Although its great to be hungry at times, sleep in parks, not taking showers, be a hippy – there are limits to everything.
Often, maybe even each day spent on the road, I wished that I have a bunch of money and that I can afford anything I want, without much effort. Because it would be easier. From time to time I even had the idea of giving up.
But then, when out of the blue, a car stops, I find out that I have a place to sleep that night, get a piece of bread after a day of fasting, make friends with random people after a few days of solitude – all the efforts start having meaning.
And the beauty of travel in this way comes to light.
But then again, maybe its just me.
I’m sure there are plenty of you that travel with relatively high budgets, and make the most of it. I’m sure there are plenty of you that found some great middle, a way to have the best of both worlds.
I haven’t. My way is simply – not having that much money.
What is yours?