I have been a traveler for couple-month stints since 2008, and most recently, I had the best three-month honeymoon (more like backpackmoon) with my husband. I hold no regrets about any money I have spent on travel, even if some ask me why I did not buy a car instead or invest in some fancy gadget. I suppose for me travel wins over both of those items any day. Ironically, the major reason that people cite for traveling is what shaped my style of it: little or no money.
During my first bouts of solo travel, I learned many ways of reducing costs to extend my travel time, meet new people, and see much more. After I broke out of the fear of traveling by myself, I found myself enjoying it more than being with groups. I had nobody to answer to and did not have to spend money on anything I did not want to do. In the process, I became a serial independent budget traveler, and it was through that wanderlust that I met a man on the same page. Together, we came up with this list.
1. You own a backpack rather than a suitcase
If you want to be able to get around to different places, you need to make sure you are mobile! Rolling a suitcase everywhere won’t do the job for a traveler. Not to mention, you become a pro at packing light and being a minimalist.
2. You do not mind sharing your space with a bunch of people to split the costs
Half or a quarter of the price for sharing a room and a bathroom with a bunch of strangers? Sign me up for that! Though as I get older, I do admittedly find myself a little less able to do the dingier end of hostels. Clean bathroom, pretty please! Heck, even the outdoors in a bush might be better than a dirty bathroom.
3. You are willing to take the night-time sleeper bus because you save money on accommodation
It is a bed. It is included in your bus fare, and it is another night that you do not have to pay for a hostel or room. You will wake up when you get there, ready to explore a new place. What an exciting thought!
4. You sneak into five-star hotels to use the gym and pool
Once in a while, when on longer trips, you miss being able to hit the gym. At the same time, you are not going to spend money on a membership in a place you don’t plan to stay in for a long time, nor will you spend double or triple on a fancy hotel. Nobody is in those gyms most of the time anyway.
5. You refuse to stay at overpriced resorts
Resorts feel like paying for a chaperone that charges you colossally high prices when you can get to beaches on your own. Besides, sometimes the beauty of actually enjoying a beach or location with natural beauty is getting to see how locals experience it!
6. You hate big tour groups because you know you can do it colossally cheaper
When a tour guide tries to promise that you will see so much in so little time, you want to puke. Nobody is going to tell you what to do with your schedule, and try to charge you money for it.
7. You love getting your meals from a local grocery store on some days
After a while, you want your simple and cheap meals, especially if you are traveling in more expensive countries, such as those in Scandinavia or Western Europe. While the foodies can post their ridiculously expensive food online, you can settle for your under $1 sandwich.
8. You accepted a dare to try grasshoppers – and they tasted like chips
Not only are they fried, but they are also covered in tons of salt and spice, so you barely notice that they’re really insects. However, you can feel the legs. It does give a strange hurl in your stomach, but then you feel badass for giving it a chance.
9. You have not done your laundry in two weeks
Or maybe even more. Unless you are traveling to countries where your home currency stretches far, the thought of doing your own laundry in sinks seems daunting. You will wait until you get to a place where the laundry is free.
10. When you go home everything feels expensive
This is, again, especially true if you travel in countries where your home currency stretches far. You go to a shopping mall at home and see a top for $20, when you know that you could have easily bought it for almost $2 to $3. It feels difficult for a long time.
11. You don’t mind long bus rides even when the flight is way faster
Sometimes, you get a better view along the way too! When you may not be as restricted on time, you would much rather spend time on the bus ride for a quarter of the price. In some countries, you get to enjoy the dramatic music videos along the way. And then the song gets stuck in your head. Well, at least the beat.
12. You no longer fear street food
When you see all those fancy folks eat their fine dining and Michelin-star restaurant meals with obscenely small portions, you head over to the street stalls. You are full, happy, and spending way less than the restaurant foodies.
[bctt tweet=”When you see all those fancy folks eat their fine dining and Michelin-star restaurant meals with obscenely small portions, you head over to the street stalls” username=”wearethetempest”]
13. You seek only free wi-fi
Paying for wi-fi? What a joke. That is like asking for people to pay for air. Okay, maybe the one exception you might make is if you use free-wifi but at least can get a cup of coffee or some random cookie. Of course, free remains better.
14. Your bargaining skills are top-notch
In countries where prices are never fixed at shops, when the shopkeeper quotes the first price, you think…”Pshhhh.” You immediately quote half of that price, or sometimes less if you really feel daring.
15. Your Airbnb account has a long history
The idea of hotels seems ridiculous after you have experienced Airbnb. Not only does Airbnb have great prices, but you enjoy neighborhoods in a place that hotels can never touch. That means an offbeat local experience!
16. You are willing to take a flight with three or more connections because it’s that much cheaper
The difference of more than $300 is definitely worth those stops. Hey, if possible you might even have a long enough stopover to see another cool city. I remember being disappointed about having a longer layover in Providence, Rhode Island rather than Dublin when my husband and I were coming back from Lisbon. Due to delays, we got to spend a night in Dublin anyway!
17. You carry toilet paper with you everywhere you go
In many countries, toilet paper is not readily available at bathrooms. Or you may be roughing it out and have long days on the road. You are a pro at taking a pit stop anywhere.
18. You go to 7-11 and shopping malls for air conditioning
Sometimes, the country you are traveling in is so hot that you need a break. Rather than go to a restaurant to beat the heat, what better – and free – way to cool down?
19. You rent a scooter even if you may not know how to drive one
It is way cheaper than renting a car, and in some ways feeling the wind in your hair gives another experience. Except when you are going up hills, and it hits you that you are falling off. Not fun.
20. You feel badly ripped off over a dollar, but it is the principle that counts
When that cab driver’s meter goes faster than normal, you have no choice but to finish the ride. Some may tell you not to argue so hard, but no, that is not how much it costs! And you will not let it go.
You love the fact that you get to see a lot of the same things, but without the luxury travel price tag and with hilarious traveler stories. Not to mention, the delight of getting those stamps in your passport keeps you coming for more. And a small final secret: sometimes a little luxury sprinkled into your trip never hurt anybody (at a discounted price, of course!)