Why budget travels easily make the most exciting trips

Me and a friend in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Me and a friend in Koh Phangan, Thailand

“This notion—that material investment is somehow more important to life than personal investment—is exactly what leads so many of us to believe we could never afford to go vagabonding.”

Can you afford to go long-term travelling?

Chances are, your immediate answer was no. But if you do have any type of income coming in, it’s very likely that you can. It’s just a matter of changing your perspective on how you travel and what you choose to keep spending your money on. (And of course, a little patience while you take the time to save.)

A lot of us make travel a lot more expensive than it needs to be. When I went to Thailand for a month, I had £400. That wasn’t just spending money, that was for my accommodation, food and transport around the country (this was before the great-pound-drop post-Brexit). It included 48-hour journeys across the country on some dodgy buses, nights in shared dorms with no air-con and some dodgy cheap dinners from road-side stalls - and it was the best time of my life.

My point is that your budget doesn’t hinder you. It actually heightens your experience. Your best memories won’t be lying on a sun lounger in a luxury resort. They’ll be the time you surprised yourself by being bold as you explored a new place, the night you stayed on a beach and watched the sunrise or the friendships you made after spontaneously putting trust in some local strangers and had a completely random -but brilliant - evening with them.

Don’t let your budget hold you back. Here’s why having limited funds can lead to the best experiences.

 

You meet more people

When you’re travelling cheap, shared accommodation is your saviour. Hostels, shared Airbnb’s, couchsurfing (free!) -  there are numerous options available to us now that are actually nice options too. You can get some pretty cool hostels that I would genuinely choose over a hotel any day, but it’s not how cool these places are. What really makes them are the people that you’ll meet. The best parts of many trips are the connections you make with complete strangers - people that you would never normally get to know back at home - yet here you are dining out with them and telling them all about your troubles back home. Staying in shared accommodation means you’re always meeting new people who will quite often invite you out with them onto some adventures, which just wouldn’t happen if you were staying somewhere private.
 

You get to truly experience the country that you’re visiting

You know what really bugs me? People who pay hundreds and hundreds of pounds on flights to a faraway destination - only to stay within a resort and not actually see any of the culture that they’re visiting. Why go so far in the first place? When you’re saving money, you have to live as locals do. You take the local bus instead of getting a taxi. You eat from a cheap local shop rather than a luxury restaurant. You walk and get lost in side streets and discover hidden gems, rather than pay for overcrowded tourist-traps. What better way to actually get to experience the place you’re visiting, from a locals viewpoint rather than a tourists.

 

You open yourself up to possibility

Between these local experiences and the people that you meet, you’ll find that travelling cheaper opens your trip up to possibility. When you’re doing the luxury travel route, you generally know what you’re going to get. When you’re cutting costs you don’t - anything can happen. Sure, some of them might not always be good, but it’s all part of the adventure. Most likely, it will be the spontaneous moments and decisions that will be the best stories you bring back home. Just go with it and say yes to whatever’s thrown your way.

 

You’re forced to leave your comfort zone

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt while trying to decode life-changing trips, it’s that the best things happen when you get out of your comfort zone. If you think of people who changed through travel, it will usually be that they did something that challenged them. The first story that springs to mind is Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild), who spent 3 months walking the coast of America after her mother dying, dalliances with heroin and a messy divorce. Of course it doesn’t have to be something as challenging as what she did, and everyone will have different things that they find challenging. If you have social anxiety it may be meeting other travellers that scares you. But once you do it - whatever your personal challenge is - you’ll see a whole new side to yourself that you didn’t know existed.