Do you buy into the vacation myth? Or do you know how to actually travel on a budget?
This is the myth that a vacation must involve some kind of 5-star resort, with masseuses, and various suburban luxuries. The worst I’ve seen: people in far-away, exotic places who spend the entire time in the safe confines of their hotel room ordering room-service and watching pay-per-view movies. Come on! You can do this from home. The real purpose of traveling should always be to immerse yourself in some new flavor of culture and lifestyle. If you’re not doing this, you’re not traveling right, and you’re probably wasting thousands of dollars on the vacation myth.
The method I teach is about how to be a vagabond (part-time, unless the job market really, really sinks– in which case, it might be more than part-time). My most fulfilling travel experiences have used this model, and you generally save about 70-80% of the cost, with the main expense being airline tickets (if you’re going out of country).
Why You Should Learn How To Become a Vagabond
Before I delve deeper, I do want to mention how this topic relates to the themes of this site. A serious issue people in materialistic societies deal with is what I call dependent-happiness. Your sense of self, and your well-being, depends on various things around you. From your car, to your job, to your house, we become the sum of our physical parts. This is dangerous because as soon as something is taken away from us, we hit rock-bottom. Any material state, whether a status (a job, a title, a recognition) to an object (car, house, toy) could, at anytime, disappear. And, then you become one of those Wall Street guys taking a swan dive from the top level of his office building.
People who are truly dynamic have the power to transcend these things, and remain in a state of relative, collected happiness whether all the stars are aligned perfectly or not. I believe the reason Eastern philosophies (and when you think about it, Western Christianity, too) always pushes the message to relinquish your physical attachments is because this problem dates back to the beginning of history, and it’s always created issues in society.
The antidote is to learn how to occasionally cut yourself off from the flow of material attachments. One way to do this is to travel on an extreme budget, or to essentially learn how to become a vagabond. Here’s my outline on how to do it:
– If you have a job, plan this around your two-week vacation. See if you can’t extend it. If you have a spouse, see if he/she is interested in this type of thing, too. If you guys are totally on different pages, then this is a separate issue to discuss.
– If you are one of the 20% in the USA who is unemployed, or part of the other 80% who is worried about their employment future, remember that you can use this opportunity to explore a new city and build new connections and opportunities.
– Best air-faire comes about through planning well in advance. However, you should make it a point to care less about where you’re going, when the plane lands, etc. You’re not taking a suburban vacation. This way you can probably save some money.
– Have a backup reserve of a credit card with space on it, or cash hidden somewhere very carefully.
– If going out of country, alert family and friends, scan copies of your passport and important documents and leave them with someone back at home.
– Pack LIGHT. Only what you need to take. Avoid taking a laptop or trying to do business on the road. A small satchel for personal hygiene, a few changes of clothes, and some emergency items is all you need. As a rule of thumb, don’t pack more then what you can fit in one backpack.
– If it’s within your country or a neighboring country, just take your car.
– Book your stay through hostelworld.com and couchsurfing.com, and if either of those options fail: sleep in your car. Some things to note: the Hostel experience can be strange if it’s your first time, and the couchsurfing experience even stranger. Understand the point is NOT to immerse yourself in luxuries, but to push yourself into new situations, with new people.
– Through both hostels, and staying on peoples couches, you are forced to interact with new people. This is part of your goal. Get over the fear of being in new or potentially strange situations. Your people-skills will radically increase, and you’ll really need to keep your wits about you. This is a great learning experience.
– Do research hostels ahead of time. Some are very bad, and some are simply amazing. Note that there are very cheap hostels, as well as party-hostels where many international, serial-vagabonds and college partiers escape to. Decide what environment you want to be around.
– You’ll discover that real, great experiences happen when you are meeting new people and discovering new places. And that, best of all, you don’t need any modern luxuries or a high income to have such adventures. This is the thesis of your trip, to learn to enjoy life WITHOUT 90% of what you’re used to, WITHOUT many modern amenities, while staying fixed outside of your comfort zone.
– In your new environment, do online research to find out-of-the-way places to discover. Go off the beaten path. Make it a point, most importantly, to MEET LOCALS. Join online meetup groups, go into shops and stores and ask people what there is to do in the town, even straight up see if people will take you around.
– STAY ON GUARD! The world is not as scary a place as people make it out to be, but there are still dangers. Don’t be naive, and follow your intuition. Keep valuables near you, and don’t bring anything you’d be devastated if you lost. Be careful if any situation, with any person, doesn’t feel right. Seek to make friends first with people around you, but take time to evaluate your company and make sure there are no unscrupulous people in your midst.
You’ll discover that traveling the vagabond way allows you to go to normally very expensive places and completely immerse yourself in the local culture, experiencing things 95% of tourists miss out on, while saving 80%+ more cash. For instance: North Italy. Check out the hostels around Rome, Florence, etc. for an experience of your life. You won’t have to spend a dime on expensive hotels or tourist-trap “guided tours”, and you’ll have a better experience.