“If travelling was free you’d never see me again”. That’s what most travelers used to say. Well travelling is indeed not for free (and never will be) but it also doesn’t have to be expensive. Depending on the way you do it. Over the last seven months I spend around 8400 EUR (~ 12,000 AUD). Travelling with my sisters (not that I blame them ;)) already took 7100 EUR (~ 10,000 AUD), meaning I only spend 1300 EUR (~ 2000 AUD) during the three months I had on my own. So a bit more than 400 EUR (650 AUD) each months (that’s not even half of what I would have spend on rent only back home). At this point it is probably fair to say that I don’t have the most expensive lifestyle. I barely drink, I don’t feel the need to eat outside each and every day (sometimes I don’t even feel the need to eat at all ;))and I don’t have expensive hobbies (most of what I like to do is free). My only vice – if you wanna call it that – are smoothies but I got myself a smoothie maker by now so I only have to pay for the ingredients (which should be cheaper than buying one at a juice bar).
But that’s basically it so here are some reasons why travelling doesn’t have to be expensive:
- If you are travelling slow you are saving money on transport
Moving from one place to the other is what kills your budget. If you wanna see as much as you can in a short amount of time than there is no way around that but if you are not in a hurry (which you obviously not if you are planning on doing that for the rest of your life ;)) staying at one place for as long as it suits you not just gives you the chance of really getting to know the place and the people around, it also gives you the opportunity to wait for the right offer to move on. Maybe you meet people travelling in this direction, maybe you get insider tips for the cheapest bus or train or you find yourself a relocation deal. In “worst” case you can always hitchhike and see where you end up (in some countries it might be the morgue – so be careful with that option ;)).
- While travelling you can always save money on accommodation
The second most expensive thing is accommodation. But that’s something you would probably have back home anyway. The good thing while travelling: There are always ways of cutting back these costs (which isn’t possible when you are on a lease or loan back home). So while travelling you can either
- work for food and accommodation which is mostly not more than 20 to 25 hours a week. Some hosts are asking for more depending on the city you are staying at and the room they have to offer. But you can easily find out if you are being ripped off by using simple maths: Imagine they would pay you for the 20 hours you put in a week. Let’s say they give you 20 AUD per hour that would sum up to 400 AUD a week. If you divide that with 7 (for the seven days you are staying and eating there) you know that the time you put in is worth 57 AUD per day. If that’s something you can live with then do it. If you think you can stay and eat cheaper somewhere else then go and stay somewhere else.
- work only for accommodation. That should probably not be more than 2 hours a day, depending on the location. Usually offered by hostels which makes it easier for you to figure out if it is a good bargain. Let’s say the cheapest bed in the hostel is for 25 AUD a night or 150 AUD a week. Assuming a fair hourly wage of 20 AUD they shouldn’t ask you for more than 8 hours of work a week (if they do ask you for more your hourly wage is decreasing accordingly).
- Crash at friends. That’s the good thing about travelling. You meet heaps of people around the world so why not stay and catch up with them while being in their hometown and returning the favor once they come to visit your home base (where ever that might be in the world).
- Try couch surfing. For the culture exchange some people offer a place to crash for free to strangers. As far as I know it should be easier for girls than for guys to be invited but if that’s because girls are usually more comfortable with female guest while most of the guys offering couch surfing hoping to meet someone to share their own bed with or because women appear to be more tidy is not fully discussed yet (everyone who had ever had a look into a women’s only dorm probably knows the answer ;)).
- Food and beverages doesn’t need to cost you much
If you are already working for accommodation and food you have most of the costs already covered. Of course you are spending some bucks on ice cream, cookies or alcohol once in a while but other than that you barely have any additional costs.
If you are not working for food you can at least save a lot on beverages. Thanks to the Australian government you find tap water almost everywhere. Of course it doesn’t count for every country but even in Guatemala free water was available. So if you fine with drinking water all the time (Adding some lemon or ginger can make it more enjoyable) it is fairly easy to cut back on costs for that. And if you then need once in a while a soft drink or even alcohol go for it. You already saved yourself lots of money at any other time (I won’t tell you to cut back on alcohol completely – even if it is pretty expensive in Australia – cause I am only telling you that travelling doesn’t have to be expensive. How cheap it actually is, is up to you).
So yeah than it comes down to food but again you would have these costs back home anyway. But while travelling you can always have a look in the free shelves most hostels offer. There are usually some goodies to find.
- You basically don’t need any toiletries
While travelling you won’t need to buy toilet paper or detergents cause everything is covered by the hostel you are staying in (including the cleaning…yeahhi). So the only things you might need are shampoo, toothpaste and if required styling gel and sun screen. As far as I concern I would only spend money on toothpaste. For everything else you might get lucky and find it in the free stuff area in the hostels or in case someone left it in the bathroom. If not you will most likely be fine without it. I mean don’t get me wrong I am not telling you to not use shampoo at all but basically your body and hair don’t really need it (unless you smell then please do the world a favor and shower with shampoo and get yourself a deodorant).
(4,5. As a women you need less cosmetics)
Since I have two sisters I know how many cosmetics a women can have (and mine are probably still “behaving” in that matter), but while travelling women start to limit themselves to a minimum and use less than they would need back home. If they are doing that cause they have to carry it, or because they figured that they don’t have to put anything on if there is a high chance of jumping into the water soon remains a mystery but my guess is that it would probably be a fair amount of both (Or they just realized that a smile is the best make up any girl can wear ;)).
- You don’t need to do laundry every week
If you are in the sun and the water all the time (considering you are following the sun like I do) there will be days where you don’t need more than your board shorts or bikini. So it takes longer until you will have to do laundry. While staying in a beach resort in Byron Bay in March I had troubles doing a laundry since it was usually just my board shorts that needed a wash while everything else was basically unworn. And that’s already another thing: Once you are travelling you come to realize that you don’t need a new shirt every day (some days you don’t even need underwear, but we already covered that ;)). When I was building a house in Guatemala I packed 15 T-Shirts cause I thought I would want to wear a new one each day. But only one day in I figured that every new shirt will get dirty in no time anyway and that is it ok to put on the dirty one again as long as it isn’t smelling. So I came back with unworn T-Shirts. And even my sister managed to travel through Australia without doing her laundry at all within two months (that’s probably the benefit of bringing 23 Kilo with you on a road trip ;)).
- When you are travelling you need less clothes
So after you being in line with the fact that it is not necessary to change your clothes every day (again unless they smell) you probably also agree that you need way less clothes than you would put in your wardrobe back home. For once: You only have one backpack/suitcase that is usually not allowed to contain more than 23 kilo (otherwise it costs you extra on flights plus you have to be able to carry it after all) and since you are meeting new people almost every day you don’t feel the need to buy lots of new clothes (cause let’s be honest back home we usually buy new stuff so the people around us don’t get the idea that we are wearing the same things over and over again).
So over the last seven months I bought exactly:
- One pair of closed shoes since I used my old ones for landscaping (but they wouldn’t have lasted long anymore anyway)
- two pairs of thongs
- four board shorts (I know no one wants to know but if you are chasing temperatures around 27/28 degrees you don’t need more than that)
- two new sun glasses (I usually buy cheap ones so I can step on them ;))
- two new shirts since I didn’t come to doing laundry (but two days later I sold two to some guys who didn’t manage to get into a club with their tank tops…so that’s balanced)
- You most likely don’t need to spend money on drugs (meds ;))
Even if you are chasing the good weather you probably will get sick at some point during a year (it happened to me twice when I hadn’t paid attention to the climate change from day to night and caught a cold). But instead of pushing hard to get well again soon (or having the feeling of being well again by taking pain killers, flu meds etc.) you can take your time and let your body do the work (he is more than capable of that). So instead of worrying about getting back to work as soon as possible you can take your time and have a proper rest. Your body will pay you back later.
So that’s basically my seven (and a half) reasons why travelling doesn’t have to be expensive (or why it isn’t expensive for me). In the end it is more or less comparing what you would spend back home and what you are spending while travelling until you come to realize that travelling doesn’t have to cost you more than back home. With all the obligations for paying rent, electricity, water, gas, … you probably spend even less than that during your travels. Sure you would probably also have a job back home but as far as I concern I will probably have spend around 10000 til 12000 EUR (14,500 AUD – 17,000 AUD) at the end of my then probably 10 months trip. And finding one or several jobs that bring in this amount of money doesn’t sound too hard. Cause in the end we probably all agree that we don’t need to be rich. We just need to be able to live our lives on our terms (and considering that we are travelling that’s probably a more valuable richness).