GUEST POST: Through blogging, we’ve had the pleasure to meet [the very awesome] Hannah + Taran of Nomad’erHowFar. They’re backpackers and experientialists who have lived their fair share of spontaneous adventure. While many think of budget travel as a consolation for those who can’t afford luxury, these guys know different. We invited them to share why budget travel is about a whole lot more than just saving money, and how you can do it too!
It’s the norm that most people travelling perpetually are going to be doing so on a budget, because that’s the only way to really sustain it right?
But even if you are only travelling for a short time, from a week, a month, to a year, budget travel might still be the optimal way to have a unique, memorable and potentially life-changing experience.
You might be tempted to splurge and spend more on random things, from food and drink, to expensive tours, if you know that you are only on the road briefly…
But what if you actually end up missing out on really valuable experiences that us cheap-skate long-termers get to have?
I get that some people would rather save up to visit the most expensive places and momentarily immerse themselves in luxury; that is how many view a holiday, as something different than the norm, so they understandably don’t want to travel in circumstances that are less comfortable than the daily lifestyle they are accustomed to.
Conversely, always going for luxury or favouring more expensive options is like buying a human bubble-wrap suit; it’s the safe option, one where you might have your expectations met, but never exceeded beyond what you can imagine. It may feel easy every step of the way, but you won’t see the possibilities that come with an element of spontaneous risk.
If you only ever keep to the places and routes which ensure the highest quality of food or accommodation, favouring luxury over ‘roughing it’ at every turn, you set yourself on a course that neglects all the greatness to be found just outside where it’s comfortable to be.
If you only take part in the tried and tested pre-arranged tours, you are sure to experience something good, but also something thousands of others have. Thousands of others have been given a brief small taster of something, limited to the plans and decisions of external sources like a tour guide or company.
Maybe you want your travel experience to be a neat package that calms any fears of unpredictability, but what if I told you I’ve known the unknown, and it’s really quite amazing?
I say this as someone who can appreciate the positives of following conventional, safe and more expensive options, which make travel possible for those who are inexperienced, alone, young or anxious. I am actually a wholly anxious person who suffers with mild OCD, all culminating in making me a nervous and cynical person, so you can imagine what a challenge extreme budget measures like hitch-hiking has been for me…
But if I was able to overcome that and the result has been wholly beneficial then I am sure others who want to, can do so too, and I urge you to try.
4 Micro-Budget Travel Experiences
Our aim for finding cheap rides with fellow travellers, in exchange for a small fuel contribution, might be to get from A – B, but the exchange is often so much more than that.
We travelled the 10 hours from Melbourne to Sydney thanks an Aussie rideshare site, Co-seats, who helped us connect with an Aussie couple travelling that same route. All we had to do was sign up to the website, post an ad stating our route and the price we were willing to pay per seat (in fuel) and then be at the end of the phone. We travelled with Gabriella, who was driving to a music festival with her boyfriend. Straight away when they picked us up from the side of an early morning city street, they were friendly, easy-going and talkative. You wouldn’t expect people who willingly want to share a long drive to be unsociable, but it’s still refreshing when you can find common ground; we talked about music, switched between each person’s Spotify playlist, and made a few stops in totally random places to stretch our legs.
COST: We both spent about $40 in fuel, which felt like nothing compared to the long distance we covered and the total comfort of being a nice air-conditioned car with two super cool people.
We both felt rightfully worried to hitch-hike before we came to Australia, so we tested the water in the U.K. and had two equally kind people help us traverse the tiny Isle of Wight to get to the remote part where we would be paragliding.
When things got real and we finally arrived ‘down under’, we still felt nervy, but much more assured that more often than not, sticking out your thumb gives people the chance to do a good deed. Hitching is as much as about the drivers experience as it is a zero cost way for us to travel. The people we have met hitching impacted us with their stories and we made a small part of their day a bit more interesting.
One particular day of hitching sticks out the most to us. It was our first full day of standing by the roadside wielding a cardboard sign, and we had a 3 hour distance to travel, which resulted in 7 separate rides from 7 radically different people. There was a mildly creepy couple who asked us in even creepier tone of voice, if we believe in karma (internal response: we do so please proceed to not murder us), an elderly man, a really young one, a drunken lady passenger cradling a bottle of wine and a heavily tattooed guy in a 4×4. There was also the time a couple offered us a lift when we weren’t even thumbing, and took us right to our hostel door, as well as a young family man who took us on a tour of his whole city.
But the one that was the most bizarre was two Indian men who pulled up along the curb leaving a service station, wound down their window to look at us, and said absolutely nothing, they just stared. We somehow communicated our destination and they somehow let us get in, rearranging their backseat’s covered in stuff. We felt a little bit on edge, and it appeared our drivers did also, but it was most likely the result of neither them or us knowing each other’s language; and there might have been mysterious tubs in the back that I construed as holding drugs or body parts, thanks to my wildly overactive imagination. But generosity and kindness clearly transcend cultural barriers in this instance, and we were safely driven an hour nearer to our destination.
COST: Zero, just time and energy expended standing on the side of a road. Worth it!
3. Work for Food and Accommodation:
How does this sound: living in a luxury eco-resort, with access to chef cooked dinners, a full breakfast, a heated pool, all just 5 minutes from the beach, entirely for free!
I wouldn’t have believed it was possible if we hadn’t done it for 6 weeks in Australia. A mixture of luck and knowing this amazing place existed via family helped us connect with them, agreeing to come and stay, all in return for 4 hours of easy work each day; 4 hours of work for 2 meals, a large 2 bedroom villa with veranda, unlimited heated pool and tennis time, something many pay a high price for. But I get why, because it is so fun to be a part of that luxury even briefly, with only basic free labour expected of us.
I don’t know how many places of this calibre offer this, but this particular one was also advertised via HelpX, a site dedicated to linking up small businesses and farms with people wanting to sustain their travels whilst also giving something back.
Cost: Zero, 4 hours work per day in hospitality which also helped build our resumes.
We have spent much of our time in Australia living out of a tent, whether it was on a remote island for 2 months or just as a way to save on hostel fees. We have proven that you don’t need a vehicle to camp as we carry our tent and blow-up bed on our backs along with everything else we own. We have even camped in places right alongside other travellers staying in the luxury of a dorm room (which can set you back $30 each a night as opposed to our $20-30 a night for two people).
One of the most memorable experiences we had doing this was one of our first times camping in Australia, in the beach town Port Stephens. A total hidden gem, with stunning coastlines and a laid back vibe, we camped at Melaleuca Surfside, a hostel with a difference; with buildings resembling something out of the Swiss-family robinson, connected by wooden walkways amongst the trees, its owners rehabilitated a range of cute animals, from dogs to cockatoos to a Kangaroo named Josie. Josie was incredibly special in that she was very tame and tolerant of people, as long as you treat her with respect, gently stroking her chin and just hanging out. We got to know Josie’s personality quite well in our 10 days there, and one night in particular the cheeky girl came alongside our tent, her silhouette visible in the moonlight, as she tried, for the 2nd time, to eat a part of our tent! I knocked from the inside and said “No Josie leave it!” and off she proceeded to hop, her shadow disappearing into the night. It was so surreal that just days before we had never seen a Roo up close and here we were, telling one off as if it was our own pet. Josie wasn’t satisfied with this however and the next morning I awoke to find she had chewed my bikini straps down, both to almost nothing, albeit she chewed them to the same length meaning it was still wearable…
This camping session was actually cut short by a massive storm which saw our tents flooded and us moved indoors (for free) by our kind hosts. We and our friend Innis pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, spending 2 days without electricity or any ability to communicate with the outside world, but our lovely hosts brought in gas cookers and lights to see us through, offering us beds in the warm dorm rooms. It turned out to be really fun despite the initial annoyance of being flooded, with our friends tent ruined and poor Josie taking refuge by sticking her tale under one of the tents still standing as the rain and wind refused to let up. In the end we all survived 3 crazy days and we will never ever forget our time spent cosily waiting out mother nature in this awesome setting.
COST: Around $10-40 dollars a night for two people dependent on the campsite or hostel.
We believe there’s plenty of time to live in comfort and luxury, having spent the past 3 months staying in a house with our own cosy bedroom and a myriad of other lovely things like free internet, free laundry and our very own kitchen to enjoying baking in. But we still only pay a small weekly fee for this, and are living this way only whilst we work and build our savings. When on the road we balance our travels out with hostel stays along the way so we certainly aren’t averse to ever choosing the more expensive options, and we know that we wouldn’t be able to sustain the budget mindset if we tolerated the rougher side of it 24/7.
Our micro-budget and desire to travel more than we work, hasn’t been a restriction, and we don’t feel as if we have missed out on anything at all. We in fact feel that our budget approach has got us closer to the raw action, the real people and the beautiful creatures Australia has in abundance.
Budget travel isn’t all about just the saving money part, it’s about the true essence of travel; the kind that is worth doing even if only briefly, the kind with the potential to change you, awaken your senses and show you what amazement awaits on the other side of fear.
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Don’t forget to check out tips from Taran + Hannah on nomadic living, budget travel, and long term travel over at Nomad’er How Far!