Since we turned our lives upside down back in 2016, budget travel has opened our eyes to so many things and made us appreciate the world around us more.
Try it and you will see. It might be hard at times, but in the long run not only will it make you a travel budgeting expert, but a better person too.
Our 8 month trip around Southeast Asia in 2016 saw us travelling comfortably most of the time at around $50 ($25 pp) per day. The only exceptions were Singapore and Luang Prabang in Laos where we got a little weak at the knees due to the incredible food scene.
The $50 a day budget included food, transportation (including flights at times), accommodation and sightseeing. On days when we stayed in, worked on our blog and cooked at home we didn’t spend a penny, cent or dong!
So what exactly have we gained from travelling on a budget and why should you give it a go?
1. Budget Travel Makes You Money Savvy
It’s true. When you travel without tracking your expenses, like we did many times before, you can’t really appreciate your own money, because you don’t think about it too much. You spend your hard-earned pennies on anything and everything without giving it a second thought.
But travelling on a budget suddenly makes you realise that there are so many things that you don’t actually need to spend money on.
We are often told that the best way to learn is by doing. This is exactly what travelling on a budget will do, teach you budgeting first hand. You will quickly start realising that if you spend more money one day, you will have to cut short the next.
Otherwise, your travels will be over way before time. Boo.
Thankfully budgeting is an easy thing to get the hang of. You can either create a simple spreadsheet where you will record your expenses against your income (savings), or you can use apps to do so.
Today we have so many amazing travel planning resources, created by the travellers themselves, to help us be a little bit more money savvy.
Our favourite budgeting app while travelling was the Trail Wallet created by a nomadic couple Never Ending Voyage. The app is easy to use on the go unless your phone battery is low.
Then you do it the old school way, use a pen and a notebook and add-in into the app later. This way you’ll never lose track of your travel expenses.
2. It Changes Your Mindset
I strongly believe that once you budget travel even in your own country, it will change your perception of travelling altogether. The world is not so scary as many may think and it doesn’t cost an arm and leg to explore it.
Most of people are friendly and helpful wherever you go just like they probably are where you live right now.
What saddens me the most is that travellers consciously spend beyond their means. For example, in my lovely home country Lithuania, some people are still going on holiday in debt. In other words, a travel agency loans them a trip to an exotic destination on an exciting prospect of paying for it later.
To us, this is the worst way of travelling because it doesn’t have to be this expensive. The thought of paying instalments for the next 6 months for a holiday that has already happened is heartbreaking.
Another perceived issue that puts a lot of people off of independent travel is the language barrier and fear of unseen foreign lands.
There are a fair amount of travellers in our age category who are ready to roll by the infinity pool in a faraway land rather than explore the amazing countries just around the corner such as Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, on a decent budget.
No debts required.
3. It Makes You More Adventurous
There’s no fun in travelling on a never-ending budget, at least to us. While it might sound lovely and comfortable, being adventurous is what travelling is all about.
There will always be funny stories to tell. Even if it seemed like everything is going horribly wrong at the time, you will look back and laugh about it over a cold drink.
While we are not intending on taking another 3rd class train in Thailand, it was an experience we will never forget. Our 9-hour journey from Chumphon, South Thailand back to Bangkok saw us sitting squashed in a carriage with zero legroom.
If we hadn’t tried to stick to the budget, we would have never seen how the locals travel and that’s a truly valuable experience to have.
But you don’t have to travel in Thailand or anywhere in SE Asia uncomfortably if you book your train journeys in advance. 12goAsia.com is a brilliant website which we trust and used throughout our travels around SE Asia. And you don’t even need to print the ticket, just show it on your smartphone!
Or that time in Hawaii, when we decided to hitchhike to the summit of Mauna Kea, a million-year-old volcano. Not only have me made it to the tallest peak in Hawaii and befriended a lovely Swiss couple but also realised that there’s always a way to do things you want wherever you are.
Watching the sunset from the snowy peaks at 13,000 feet high was one of the most incredible experiences to date. It happened because we went out of our comfort zone and asked for help from strangers.
4. Budget Travel Sparks Creativity
It’s been proven that travelling drives creativity, especially when you embrace the local culture and traditions. The places you see and the inspiring people you meet will naturally expand your way of thinking without you even noticing it.
And if you decide to stay on the road and start thinking about earning money, that’s when the real creativity kicks in. Finding ways to make money whilst travelling, utilising and learning new skills will become your day to day routine. You will begin to reinvent yourself in ways you didn’t think you could.
When we first started guest posting for the couple who inspired us to travel, we were a little unsure whether we will be able to keep up. Five articles per month is no joke for beginners.
But somehow we kept ongoing for months, even finding new writing opportunities to add to our blogging lives. It really pushed us to do more with what we have right now.
5. It Teaches You Appreciation
Once you travelled on a budget even if for a short while, you will start appreciating the things you have. Depending on your destination, you can still feel like a millionaire with your $50 per day.
But sooner or later you will start seeing things around you and feeling incredibly lucky to have the cash and freedom to explore the world!
Travelling on a budget opens your eyes and shows you how little you need to survive. You will also start appreciating the resources available and having limited budget will make you think twice whether you really need to buy that 5th t-shirt. Probably not!
In Bangkok, we rented a cosy one-bedroom apartment, via Airbnb, to the north of the centre in the Bang Sue district. I don’t think we ever lived in such a tiny space, but this cute space was more than enough for us to work, sleep and eat.
We had one pan, 2 bowls, 2 mugs and an electric hob in our kitchen, but we still look back at this flat as one of our favourite digital nomad bases while travelling.
And once you come back home, you will start looking at spending money in a different light. We sure feel the change and now only buy things we really need.
For example, we hate wasting food and will only buy what we are going to use in a couple of days. It might look strange to our friends that our fridge is empty most of the time, but we can assure you we are not starving if anything we are eating healthier.
6. Budget Travel Encourages Gratefulness
In Hoi An, we rented an apartment in a residential area with a building site next door. Every day we saw the locals, even the tiny Vietnamese women dragging bricks, laying the house foundation and doing all the other physically exhausting building work in the scorching 40C heat!
We felt so lucky and privileged, all we had to do is sit and work on our blog. Every time we caught ourselves complaining about the heat or anything else, we looked through the window at the hard-working Vietnamese, shut our mouths and carried on doing what we set out to do.
Yes, budget travel can be tough at times but just take one look around at how hard some people have to work to get by and you’ll soon feel grateful for the opportunities you have.
As Nomadic Matt says, global travel for leisure is a privilege, even on a shoestring, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
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