Recently Dale has asked me on more than one occasion if I think we would have travelled differently if we’d had a bigger budget at our disposal, what we would have done more of, or which choices we would have made instead.
This made me think a lot and no matter how much I don’t care about money, the fact is that it really makes the world go around and the reality is that without our savings we wouldn’t have been able to quit our jobs and embrace our current travel lifestyle. Having said that, we really didn’t have a huge budget at our disposal and I still cannot believe we’ve made it stretch for as long as we have.
I personally don’t know any other way of travelling that isn’t on a budget, in fact even before meeting and dating Dale I had done my little share of solo travel here and there, visiting friends, taking long weekends, doing nothing too crazy but almost always based on a last minute cheap flight offer or an opportunity that worked for my eternally-limited budget. For instance, the first time I went to Berlin I caught a return flight from the UK for only £20 – gosh I miss those days – I couldn’t have afforded anything once I got there, but that didn’t stop me and I had a great time.
When Dale asked me that question I realized that I wouldn’t even know what to do with a huge amount of money at my disposal because there are things about the way we travel that I simply love and that if we did it differently we simply wouldn’t get the same experience. Probably I would have spent more money into art related activities and I would have gone to see a couple of extra exhibitions, maybe, but I’m not entirely sure.
Money Don’t Buy Memories
Personally, for me travel is immersing myself in local culture as much as possible to really get to know and feel the place I visit, and this is the key to having a more authentic and cultural travelling experience altogether. Being in an hotel by a swimming pool whilst a belly dancer is trying to entertain me whilst the dinner I’ve ordered is prepared isn’t my idea of authentic experience. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make you a bad person if that’s your perfect situation and exactly what you want when traveling – and I guess every now and then is nice to relax and chill out without thinking how much money you are spending – but I find that it can also be very limiting.
What I mean is if we’d had a bigger budget we may or may not have made some of the different choices that have led to a variety of different experiences. For instance if we’d have flown from Thailand to Laos instead of crossing the border by land on the most local and slowest bus ever where we were the only two foreigners on board, we wouldn’t have seen the dusty Lao countryside, we wouldn’t have seen how the locals travelling packed on these buses sitting on their own huge bags of rice, and we wouldn’t have had an authentic experience to share and remember.
If we hadn’t couchsurfed in Daejeon in South Korea we wouldn’t have learnt how to make the Korean gimbap, and this is just one example. If we didn’t use Couchsurfing at all and instead stayed in hotels the time we probably wouldn’t have met all of the amazing locals we have, of which some are now friends for life. They showed us so much about their own lives which is what we’ve always been and still are most interested in when we travel. The local culture and the people really made the best travel experiences we have had and I wouldn’t change that.
Money Drives Our Travel Choices
Somehow I think that the way we travelled has made us make some choices that if we’d had more money we probably wouldn’t have made. Having a lot of money can be as limiting as having too little money. It’s very tricky. I don’t think there is a real balance. I’d like to think that if we had a larger budget at our disposal we would have travelled exactly the same way because I like the way we travel, even if it could be considered “cheap”, it puts us at the same level of the local people, taking the same public transport that they would, eating cheaply as well. But in complete honesty I think that when you do have more money something triggers in your mind and makes you chose the more comfortable option available which isn’t always the more authentic.
Being Local in Everything We Do
Let’s face it, everywhere we went the reality is that the average person isn’t rich, the wealthy are always a minority, therefore if we wanted to have an authentic, local and more cultural experience we wouldn’t have gone crazy eating in expensive restaurants anyway or stay in luxurious resorts. I personally love the street life, grabbing a bite at a tiny bistro or from a street vendor. When we were in Asia the night markets were by far the best places to eat, grabbing the same fresh food that the people around us were eating. When in a new city, we enjoy walking pretty much everywhere and every day – our view the best way to see a city – to discover and to accidentally find hidden gems. If we were taking taxis or any other transport all the time we surely would be missing out on so much.
I like to think that somehow travel on a budget let us experience the real world (at least the bits we saw) and I don’t feel like it limited us that much. As I said we would have probably done a few extra bits and pieces, but not that much more. We definitely learnt a lot from our budget travel style, we always try to make the most of our time in a place without letting the money limit our experience and always finding things we would enjoy doing. I think we are also pretty lucky because in general the kind of activities we like to experience don’t require a lot of money, we like slow travel which is perfectly paired with housesitting, we absolutely adore Couchsurfing, we enjoy car sharing or train trips too. They are all things they fit perfectly with our personality and the way we like to travel.
I’d love to think that when Dale will ask me again the same question, my answer will be the same, that even if we had a bigger budget we would have travelled the same way we have so far. I’m not sure he thinks exactly the same way as me but I personally don’t have any regrets and I also think that travel on a low-budget taught me a lot, challenged us one various occasions and simply made me appreciate the local culture more, and give me a real authentic experience.
Do you think that too much money could limit your travel experiences?