Everyone has different fetishes; some people love shoes, some love electronics, watches or clothes. I love travelling. I find travelling to be life long journey. A journey that teaches me quite a bit about myself. A journey that shows me the path untravelled is the one worth taking. It is these journeys that help shape, and define me. My family travelled around when we were younger; I have lived in 7 countries by the age of 12. That’s seven countries with seven different sets of friends, and at least seven different places we called home. I am the oldest of my clan, therefore, my memories are the most vivid.
I have lived in Rio de Janeiro, Sri Lanka, Holland, Germany and a few other places along the way. I love something about every single one of those places. Or least I think I do. Maybe my memories have glossed over the unpleasant parts, maybe I only remember the fun times involving street vendors and art shows, and playing hide and seek in the park with the kids from the neighbourhood. Maybe I made up of them of these memories. I was under 10 for most them so I don’t really know. One thing I do know is that I love travelling, it is in my blood. I love the thrill of it, I love the excitement of going to newly found non-touristy places, I love the new friends and the joys of running into old, but not-forgotten, friends. Mostly, I love discovering myself.
The thing that I dislike about travelling are the costs. Like it or not, it gets pricey to travel. Over the last 5 years, I have travelled throughout the globe, and I have learned a few ways to save money. There are quite a few different places where I can travel for under $50. This is not counting my flight of course, but believe it or not, it is possible to travel on a budget.
Europe is certainly one of my favourite places in the world. The art and the culture alone make me want to go back, although the shopping is fantastic there, too. Hostels were my best friend in Italy, France, Spain; hostels, and really great walking shoes. And perhaps a friendly local. It helps that my skin tone and features make me look somewhat Italian, or Spanish or Greek, and people are generally helpful. It is also helpful to travel with an Italian, provided that they know how to speak the language, but I digress. Sicily, Venice, Florence, and the surrounding towns are all easily accessible by train. The trick here is to find the smaller non-touristy spots to stay at. When in Venice for example, I stay off the island, in Lido.The rooms are 50% cheaper and you are a 10 min boat ride away.
Ask anyone who might knows me and they will tell you that I love Santorini, Greece. It is as close to perfection as I have seen. You can rent an entire villa on the shore side of the island for under $30 a day? Thats a 4 person villa with a kitchen and a pool. A pool!
Did I mention that you are steps away from the water. By contrast, I hate Athens; its crowded, smelly, and the hostels are expensive for no reason. This is one of those situations where a little bit of research can lead to some fantastic discoveries.
If Thailand is where you want to head- you can rent an entire guest house, with a personal assistant, for under $20. I always opt out of having the assistant.
Regardless of where I stay in Italy, the key to smart travelling is to find the closest grocery store. Instead of spending $40-$50 a day on food, I spend $8-$11. Some places have really cheap dining options; Greece is one of those places. Turkey is another. You can get meals under $3 in some of the coastal towns like Goreme and Selcuk. Thailand is a gem for culture and adventure. I have a full meal for $1. You can’t get any better than sitting in a restaurant by the water, with fabulous company. Some of these places requires an iron stomach and a great sense of adventure. But hey- WHEN IN ROME!
EuroRail passes are my best friend. This obviously only applies to Europe, but these suckers let you pick certain amount of trips at a rates far lower than what you would pay otherwise. Europe also has some really cheap budget airlines where you can fly from one country to another for under $10. No, I didn’t miss a zero. India, for example, has really cheap and flexible options for trains and buses, and even their flights are reasonable. We took the bus to Agra and the Red Fort.
I always research flights for a few weeks before taking off. Sometimes its cheaper to fly into a different city, or fly from a different city. Sometimes it makes more sense to switch the countries around. I like Priceline and Hipmunk.
There are days where the travel bug strikes me and being as impulsive as I am I spend a good 25 minutes checking all inclusive trips. Sometimes these are the best options for a quick, thoughtless getaway. I use these are re-charge weekends. I am the known among my friends as needing the least amount of time to get ready. The shortest time was 12 hours. I saw the trip thursday night, booked it and was on the plane friday morning to Cuba. It was cheap, quick, and I came back tanned. Just what I needed.
Of course these are only some of the ways that I can save money travelling. I can always use travel points, or fit in travel at the end of business trips, but somehow nothing feels as good as grabbing a backpack and a map and showing up at the train station in whatever country I happen to be in and let the train schedules decide my faith.
I plan to go to South America for a few weeks. I feel my soul craving the rush of being in a foreign land, the feeling of being lost, yet knowing that I am exactly where I want to be. I want to be that old lady who has stories to tell. I want my travels to shape those stories.
So if you have some time and want to grab some coffee, lets meet up and I can you tell all about being stranded in an empty train station in Belgium, losing a family member in Sri Lanka, or meeting a pro football player in Greece. These are my stories and they shape me.
What are yours?