This is my bed under the Eiffel Tower… and another bed with a view of the Eiffel Tower. The one on the right certainly looks more comfortable than mine, but mine was absolutely free.
There are many different ways to see the world and no single way is right – but there are certain ways that are more appropriate for certain people. Over the past few years I have chosen to travel (mostly, but not exclusively) in a very low cost way. There are two important reasons why I have chosen to do this.
Reason One: Time
I have undertaken a wide range of work over the past few years, but most of it has been somewhat casual and as such, not particularly well paid. I like my time on the road and in order to have more time on the road, you either need to make more money or travel cheaper. I chose to travel cheaper and have been able to maximise my time on the road by minimising my spending. I find I fall into a natural rhythm of spending whatever it is that I have – after working in Australia for a year, I took more luxurious trips in Indonesia and elsewhere because I had more finance available to me. My bed under the Eiffel Tower cost no minutes of work and could be done by anyone – the nice hotel room on the right, certainly would have cost a few pennies.
Reason Two: Experience
I’m not adverse to luxury – not that I have experienced it much – but when you aren’t in five star hotels, driven around by taxi drivers, and guided through cities by a tour guide, everything is very unplanned. I have met people I wouldn’t normally meet (especially through hitchhiking) and shared experiences that I would not otherwise experienced if I had a fixed itinerary. I enjoy this spontaneity and the memories that result from it. Sleeping under the Eiffel Tower was an experience that I enjoyed and will always remember – I wouldn’t want to sleep in a tent every day of my life, but it was exhilarating being in the tent (largely because of a huge thunderstorm that struck that night).
Ultra-Budget Is Not for Everyone
Travelling in an ultra budget way isn’t for everyone. Some people wouldn’t like my experiences of struggling to find a place to hide their tent at night, not getting picked up for three hours whilst hitchhiking, or generally not having a plan of what is going on. But it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t still find a way to travel on a lower budget. The internet is the most powerful resource that has ever existed to help you save money. You can compare flight prices to get the cheapest deal going, and you can check use booking sites to get a place to sleep that fits your budget. With the level of competition being high, you can take advantage of offers – the Hotels.com discount code from Dealslands UK gives you all sorts of varying offers throughout the year, actually letting you get a discount on the already competitive prices offered on Hotels.com. And every little helps, allowing you to do and experience more with what you have.
How Much Would I Normally Spend?
Whatever I have!
When I was teaching English in South Korea, I had more money than I had ever had, so I did my best to spend it all. On a three night trip to Japan, I spent around GBP£700 all up. And that was while staying in hostels and using public transport – Japan is the most expensive country I have ever been to and we did miss an important bus, but that is a huge amount of money and could now last me months (literally). I think this is (by far) the highest daily spend I have ever had on any trip.
On most trips I travel slow and I don’t hit tourist attractions (although I am often close), but when I set out to hitchhike around Europe four years ago, my view on how much travel has to cost was significantly altered. I met a guy who traveled on a zero budget for multiple years (literally spending NO money) and I had many days where I spent nothing at all. But in general, my preference is not to travel on nothing – it is to travel on a small budget that allows me to enjoy myself whilst still being able to afford extended travel. For example, when Leah and I travelled from Istanbul to the UK, we spent an average of €2.36 a day (as shown in the video below) – we ate pizza, visited the mountains, explored Venice, and did many other things that we loved that couldn’t have been done on a zero budget (but didn’t need anything more than what we spent).
When I walked across Iceland with my brother, the consumables on the trip itself cost about £100 (a whole lot of dried food). Of course we paid for flights to Iceland and we had to get a few new bits of equipment (which we could use again on future trips), but the daily spend was non-existent. At the end of the trip we spent about another £100 staying in a hotel and buying pizzas, but the whole Iceland trip – walking from the south coast to the north – didn’t cost much compared to a traditional holiday, especially when you consider the experience we had (which you can read about in my book, Across the Moon).
Travel is what you make of it and what you want from it – I go low cost for time and experiences, but there really is a whole world of opportunity out there for everyone, whatever your budget.