Being the king of the nomads
Traveling on a budget tends to keep you away from expensive places. Good budget management allows you to splurge occasionally on the things you really don’t want to miss. That means: you get to be creative to stay on budget. Creativity is where it all begins. Become a travel expert.
In your search for the most budget-friendly hostel that is also fun and clean, following your gut is always the best option. You might not always have luxurious and state-of-the-art hotels, but that’s not what you really need. Choose a place that feels good and has a decent vibe. This good feeling will get you into the best mental state ever. You’ll discover that your gut feeling was right and it will make you the king of travel, happy about this wonderful, small hostel that has just everything you need. You are a travel hacker pur sang and you know how to get the best deals and the best experience possible. It’s an overwhelming feeling. Once you had it, you’ll want it again. It’s addictive. Many times, after having this experience, you will get proved right. Thanks to your positive attitude you will meet other travelers while your mind is open and positive and your stay gets a good start.
Finding hidden gems
Maybe you did some research on your own, maybe you didn’t. It’s not really an issue because you find the best hideaways on the road, not in a guidebook. Other travelers or locals tell you about it. These are the spots you won’t find on the internet. Every attraction or natural wonder that has been spoken about or advertised online is probably crowded and spoiled. The best places are those where you can be in peace, without hordes of tourists running you over. Sometimes the most emotional memories aren’t even attractions. For me, the hidden gems are hostel gardens, deserted ruins, off the grid locations, … I must admit, the terracotta army and Machu Picchu left great impressions, but it’s a certainty that true magic happens without the crowds. Just enjoying a place that speaks to you without words, is finding a gem.
Learn to fill the night with stories
After experiencing the joy independent travel can bring, anecdotes will stack up on top of each other. Each day brings new adventures. The most common things can change into a life changing memory. A simple trip to the market for vegetables or buying cigarettes at night can turn out to be an extraordinary encounter you won’t forget. During our first months of travel, we mostly listened to majestic stories told by other travelers and answered questions about our itinerary and plans. The locations we had on our list had been visited by other people and we learned a lot about their experiences. We also got plenty of tips and tricks to those destinations. But the longer we traveled, the more we realized that we also had stories to tell. We even got better at telling the stories and people were actually enjoying our stories and anecdotes.
Becoming a country specialist
Getting from one point to another seems so easy when a guide brings you from the hotel to your air conditioned tour bus. People can brag: “Oh yeah, we went here and there”. On the other hand, when you have to find the hostel and the bus station yourself, you become a true specialist. You’ll get to know more of the language, the habits, and local culture. While asking directions and waiting for a bus that doesn’t show up, the real identity of a location pops up.
Enrich yourself with old school wisdom. Get to know yourself and the world we live in. The earth is different beyond your personal comfort zone. Stepping out of that zone is the first move to self-enhancement.
Become worldly wise
When we left home to travel for a year, we didn’t know much, I realize now. We got scammed at the first bus station and harassed by dozens of private shuttle drivers at the airport in Cancun. Even though we did our homework and knew what to expect, we didn’t handle things in the best possible way. We knew there should be a bus terminal at the airport in Cancun, but the drivers assured us there was no bus leaving the airport at this time in the evening. When we landed in Cancun again a few months later, we walked past all the shuttle drivers, straight to the bus terminal. There was no convincing us to take an expensive shuttle when there was a luxurious, but cheap ADO bus just around the corner. We had become more confident and began trusting our gut feeling. The longer we were on the road, the better our instincts became. We learned to read people better, see through the tricks and made better choices. This also affects our life when we are at home, in Belgium. We learned to see things for what they are worth.
Be happy with little
We both grew up in a life of comfort. Every day in our life we’ve had everything we needed and so much more. Long-term budget travel brings you to another life. You don’t spend your days in all-inclusive resorts and tourist attractions where you only see other tourists. A budget traveler stays with locals, eats with locals and enjoys a local beer in a local watering hole. While in some places standards are the same as in Europe, many people didn’t have the privileged childhood we had. They have fewer comfort, but they are happy with whatever trick that solves a problem. When on the road, you learn to do the same. Different things start to matter to you. A hot shower after two weeks of cold water is like heaven on earth. Who needs automatic temperature? Just be happy the water is hot! Finding an ATM that accepts your card and actually gives you your own money. The things we take for granted back home. Most of us don’t even realize how unnatural it is to act the way we do. Central heating, drinking tap water, seeing a doctor for every cough or fart we feel, … We are pretty spoiled and long-term budget travel makes you see that in close up. The real eye-opener will be when you get back to your old life and realize that you can’t keep up appearances. The only thing you want is a simple life and to be happy that the shower is hot.
Live in the moment
At home, there’s always a million things nagging in the back of your head. You have to go to work, pay the bills, go to the grocery store, … It’s a never ending list of chores repeating itself endlessly. When you leave everything behind and wander off into the world, you get to be carefree. Basic needs are to be fulfilled, but nothing else. Your only brainteasers are food, water and a bed. Everything else is an extra. Now you have time to focus on the things you really want and need, without the distractions of the system that holds you.
Get to know yourself in every possible circumstance
Travel is bound to get you into unforeseen circumstances. You’ll be waiting for buses forever or missing the only bus of the day. Maybe the only hostel you can find late at night, is a shithole with fungus crawling up and down the walls. Every traveler knows these moments. You learn to manage yourself in different ways. In fact, these times of displeasure are the times I remember best and which I recollect with a grin on my face. Remember that time when we could only find this fungus infected hostel? Remember how we needed a shower badly, but we thought that the shower would just get us more dirty. How about that time when a guy was trying to get us to smuggle drugs into Cuba?
Have the best time of your life
Imagine the wonders out there. Then imagine yourself being there. Budget travel allows you to travel slow and see the places you want to see. By staying in hostels and meeting other travelers, your experience will be mind blowing. Meeting a fellow traveler on the other side of the world never lacks inspiration for long talks and maybe even a joined venture. Covering distance with like minded people is one of the advantages that come with the trip. Friendships born on the road, are different than meeting someone in the streets of your home town. In a foreign country, you and your new friend are looking out for each other. You’re in the same situation on new territory.
That’s how long term budget travel enriches your life
Maybe I just like the original explorer idea: being the first to set foot somewhere. That is probably the drive of so many explorers today. Everybody would like to be the first or the only one trying something new and extraordinary. Truth is: we’re not the first at many things. While roaming the internet, I can only concur that so many great things have been done before us. But still so many lie ahead. There’s no need to go do stuff nobody has ever done before. The main goal is to live our lives. That is actually the only goal. So no matter how you dream of filling your precious days, just go for it and grab every day with both hands until you accomplish what you believe holds eternal happiness.