The two questions I get most often: How do you afford to travel long term? What’s your favorite place? Having been on the road for a year (whoa, one year….) it’s impossible for me to pick one place that I love more than the rest. I have special memories and experiences from each place and there isn’t a single place that I wouldn’t go back to. That’s neither here nor there, because this post is all about the backpacker life. For me, wisely choosing accommodation, transportation and what I eat/drink makes budget travel easy.
Accommodation: Let me start by saying I have slept in school busses, on transport busses, on the floor in studio apartments, in tents, in a dorm with 24 other people and even in airports (see facebook.com/ichasedreamstravelblog for the full photo gallery of places I've slept). Being flexible with sleeping situations has opened up a world of opportunity for me to travel. Prior to booking any flights or transport, I jump on Couchsurfing and Workaway to see if there are hosts in the country I am planning to visit. I’ll poke around trying to find a good location, reviews, someone with whom I have common interests. If I’m lucky I book my stay and then look for transport after, which I’ll talk about later. Couchsurfing and Workaway = free stay, can’t beat that. If I don’t find something in the general vicinity that works, then jump to hostel world/booking.com and repeat the same process. Depending on country prices are anywhere from $5/night to $20/ (Taiwan, Singapore), with a goal of landing somewhere below $10/night. The last two nights I stayed in a hostel (amazing place called The Block in Bangkok) for $8 per night, and today and tomorrow I am couch surfing $0.
Transportation: Again, flexibility is key. Is your goal to travel long term as comfortable as possible, or just blowing out a 2 week vacation with no budget? Long term means public transport, overnight busses, ferries, and a lot of walking. Flights in South America might be $90 for an inter-country flight in Argentina. Not bad, BUT, the overnight bus is only $15 and they are actually pretty damn comfortable. Not only that, overnight bus means you don’t have to pay for accommodation that night, big bonus! The same applies for overnight ferries and red eye flights/early morning flights. When it comes to cheap flights, I use sky scanner to search for flights ‘everywhere’ just to see what is the cheapest. Yes, you can put in your local airport, select destination ‘everywhere’ and cheapest month as the criteria. When I find the cheapest connection, I usually go a step further and search the legs of the flight individually to see if thats cheapest. I just bagged a one way ticket to Israel with a 26 hour stop over in Paris for $300. $200 from LA to Paris landing at 10:30 am and a separate flight from there to Tel Aviv the next afternoon for $100. Once I land a cheap flight, like the one I just took from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok for $25, whats next? Arrive at DMK airport in Bangkok, and you have some options. Rent a car, hire a taxi, take the bus to train station and then train to closest stop and walk. This one might sound petty, but I opt for the bus which costs $1 to the Train ($1.50), instead of taking a $7 taxi ride. That $4.50 savings buys me dinner and a large bottle of water two days in a row.
Diet: By no means do you have to eat oatmeal and cook for yourself everyday to travel long term (although, this is by far the cheapest method), but food and drink is the biggest expenditureother than transport. Night markets and street vendors are the best way to get a tasty meal at a fraction of the cost. In Thailand, I can go to a restaurant and grab some chicken pad thai for roughly $5, pretty cheap. I can also buy pad thai from street vendor, for a whopping $1.20 and it’s absolutely delicious. I do the same thing for breakfast and lunch while exploring the city. Tip: always ask the hostel/hotels or locals for recommendations of quality vendors, that way you don’t end up playing the butt trumpet at 3 am. Another way to save is by avoiding meals at the big tourist areas, walking just a couple of streets away can save over 30% on food costs. On average I spend about $7 on food and drinks per day, some days being less than $5, some being more like $12. It’s only that low, because I have more or less stopped drinking alcohol. I might have one or two nights a month where I go out and buy a beer at a restaurant, but if it’s more than $1.50 I generally don’t buy it. Australians seem to be the kryptonite of my sobriety, and they always lead to a night out, a headache the day after, and a solemn reminder of why I don’t drink that much. If I can find beer for less than $1 I will buy a couple on occasion just to celebrate the end of a long day on my feet.
In conclusion, I try and keep spending to less than $20 a day while in South East Asia. I’m heading to a workaway in a few days on Koh Phangan island. It’s going to cost me $30 to get to the resort from Bangkok, but I will have free food and stay for two weeks. In exchange I will be making the resort and dive school a few promotional videos, oh yeah, free diving too. It’s been a wild year of traveling the world, learning new skills, and now capitalizing on those skills in order to continue traveling. Stop making excuses about why you can’t travel, and just do it. If you want some help booking stuff shoot me an email or comment and I will do my best to help you out. Thanks for tuning in my friends, let me know if this is insightful for you!