I am writing this on my iPad overlooking happy families, kayakers, and overly romantic couples on the edges of Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua. |Paradise| With increasing regularity, I have been receiving Instagram comments, private messages and texts with the not-so-subtle, "so are you working out there or, what are you doing exactly? I mean, how can you afford it?" In light of my new, mindset upgrade to seeing everything as glass half full, I perceive these questions not as low-key judgments, but rather as genuine interest and concern for my existence. Thus, I shall tell the masses some of my ways :)
What follows are the ways in which I have afforded backpacking only, from Australia 2014 to MesoAmerica 2014-2015, Europe 2016, Australia again and Sicily in 2017.
1. Choosing locations in which my dollar can go far. By far, I mean: a place where it's common to get a full meal for $6 or less, have accommodation for $10 or less per night, take public transportation for several cents, rent a bike for a day for $5 or less,and so on. (This wasn't Australia, but I had different benefits for those trips). When I'm home, I do my best to work daily for gig-type jobs in the evening and I substitute taught during the days. I have always been excellent at saving nickels and dimes, and when I'm saving for a trip, I am Queen of Frugality. I don't go anywhere, don't shop and may even pick up a side job.
2. Searching for work-away, volunteer opportunities or house sitting, which cuts the cost of accommodation (i.e., that second jaunt to Oz). Working away may also cut the food and laundry costs. For instance, I worked away in November and December of 2014 in Mexico and I spent about $200USD in each month. Mainly for ancillary and unnecessary stuff that kept my sanity, like a nice meal out or buckets of Nutella.
3. Couchsurfing. I couchsurfed at least five times between Oaxaca, Mexico southward to San Salvador, El Salvador. Being able to receive all the amenities that I would get at home with my family is NICE. I love couchsurfing. The main cost there is purchasing groceries to cook for yourself and your host at least one meal, or maybe even all of them (which I like doing). Sometimes they treat you entirely and nothing comes out of your pocket. #Lit. Also, staying in hostels for $10 or less nightly, that offer you a full kitchen are the absolute best. You save SO much by cooking for yourself and buying from local markets, if possible.
4. I also have a debit card that refunds me all my ATM fees on a monthly basis and a rewards credit card where I get travel credit (I have two credit cards that offer rewards). These types of cards in particular can help you A LOT.
5. Another aspect I recommend is avoiding tours like the plague. In some circumstances they are great, like when there's a language barrier and you feel you need to know the whole story. Fine, go for it. But I promise that you can go to a national park on your own, pay the negligible entrance fee, meander aimlessly for hours and get more out of it than someone who did a tour package for a measly two hours and had a poor tour guide that didn't even fully translate. I bet you can tell that that scene was a bitter lesson learned.
HOWEVER, free city tours are typically a good move. Big ups to Dino at Sofia City Tour
6. Refilling a non-plastic (cancer causing) water bottle instead of consistently buying anew
7. Carrying my own wet wipes - you can do all the things with these, including a makeshift shower. #Essential
8. Bringing sunblock and repellent from home (better yet -- make your own)
9. Bringing just a carry-on sized bag and smaller personal bag - if you’re backpacking and not living for months at a time!
10. Unlocking your smartphone and only using it when there's Wifi available or buy a local sim card
11. Budget. I use the website and app, Mint
12. Keep these essential oils on deck for any & all reasons: Tea Tree, Lemon, Lavender, Clove.
13. Hitchhiking is a common form of transit in many countries -- just be sensible. Don't be a solo female trying to find a ride at midnight and you can't speak the language.
*Originally posted on adventuresofv.com
Vik’s penchant for travel may or may not have truly begun with her 1st place win of the 5th grade Geography Bee. Semester at Sea & solo backpacking may have solidified the whole thing though ;) With 57 countries and 40 U.S. states on her passport, the tried and true ideal of 9-5 traditional adulting simply doesn’t fit. She’ll be in Australia in early 2017 perfecting her coffee snob proclivities, Aussie accent, & playing lots of beach volleyball. Later, if you’re so inclined, find her working as a program leader with Remote Year traversing the globe on: adventuresofv.com & @adventuresOFv. She hopes to hear from you!