Feel like you can’t afford to travel? It might be more accessible than you think.
I’m currently on pace to spend about $30 a day for my several-month trip in Bali — allowing me to live on a total of about $1400/month, including financial obligations in the states (student loans, websites, car insurance, etc.). My extended-travel example is particularly dramatic, but even for quick getaways, you might be surprised by how far you can go with a few basic practices:
–Stay for free. In some countries, www.couchsurfing.org has a robust and active culture-sharing community. In others, doing a work-trade 4-5 hours a day in exchange for room and board is your best (and most deeply integrated with locals) way to money-less accomodation. Check www.workaway.info, or www.wwoof.org. There is sometimes a small membership fee to join, and contact hosts, but well worth the meaningful experiences available and hotel money saved.
-Preview Budget accommodation. If you don’t want to work for your bed, or you’re going to a place without a big couchsurfing culture, use the beauty of the sharing economy to find your homestay, guesthouse, or hostel online. www.Airbnb.com is one of my standbys, and I’ve just been introduced to my new best friend in Bali: www.booking.com
-Hack your flights. If you’ve managed to get to a point where you’re not carrying credit card debt, and are comfortable opening and responsibly managing some new cards, you can be rewarded handsomely for your discipline. My first year of travel hacking, I flew to Australia, New York, Puerto Rico, and took a first-class overnight train ride up the west coast, all for less than $300. I’m currently in Bali on a free ticket from LA (acutally about $100 after taxes and fees). There are a ton of great travel hacking blogs and experts out there, but I started learning from Chris Guillibeau.
–Protect yourself from thieving banks back home. Open a Charles Schwab Investor Checking account. ATMs are the “travellers checks” of the modern day, and your Schwab debit card is an international traveller’s best friend. Most banks absolutely gouge you on international ATM withdrawals, with foreign transaction fees and currency conversion fees, in addition to any fees charged by the local ATM itself. Schwab charges neither of those, and actually reimburses any ATM fees occurred anywhere in the world.
(Note that you’ll need to also open a Schwab brokerage account to link it to, but it’s a simple process and you don’t actually need to do anything with the brokerage account. )
HT to Nomadic Matt for this travel game-changer.
-Get Travelers insurance. You never know what will happen. Nothing will drain your future travel budget faster than having to pay out of pocket for an extended hospital stay or medical evacuation service. Don’t do it. This trip, I’m insured with www.InsureandGo.com. Nomadic Matt also has some great insurance guidelines, including a link to a site where you can compare available options.
–Learn How to Say “No Thank You” in your host country’s language. And maybe a few other polite refusals (eg: Not now, maybe later, It’s not my style, etc.)… You’ll be better equipped to cope with pushy street merchants (who will almost always be asking exorbitant prices) if you see it as a chance to practice your language skills, rather than an overwhelming ordeal that confuses you into spending money you didn’t intend to.
-Eat like a local. I’d bet for most travellers, dining in western style restaurants, and filling their nights with fancy cocktails eat away at their travel funds the fastest. Watch where the locals eat, and go there. In Bali, I’m currently eating delicious fried rice and veggie dishes for about $1-$2 per meal. If I’m in a tropical fruit mood (and when are you not?) I can eat my fill for less than $1.
-Research what’s hard to find there, before you go. Apparently good sunscreens and mosquito repellent that don’t feel like they’re eating away the top few layers of your skin are quite expensive to import to Bali. I made sure to pack a couple big bottles of those at home where they’d be cheaper, but held off on shampoo, clothes, etc. knowing all that would be cheaper abroad. Google will easily help you find other travelers recommendations and packing lists.
-Always have a pocket full of snacks. Sharing food is the language of human connection, and enthusiastically feeding people wherever you go creates an unexpected and magic sense of community and opens a ton of doors to opportunities you couldn’t possibly plan or buy through a travel agent. “Us” and “them” thinking is expensive to maintain. Give to the world, and she’ll open up for you.