Many believe that low cost travel is impossible, and this is exactly why many people would like to travel more but see lack of money as an insurmountable obstacle. They think that without an above average bank account they will never be able to explore the world and so men and women of all ages are convinced that they cannot afford anything beyond a week in the middle of August in a tourist village.
I used to have this kind of vision too. I thought that traveling was for the rich and I remember well that even after living in Australia and Canada I had a little trace of that way of thinking. I thought that the idea of “ traveling low cost ” was a publicity stunt, a beautiful and good illusion.
I remember that for my first trip to Southeast Asia I made sure to put aside a disproportionate amount, because I was still thinking according to old patterns (also because of the experience in Australia, a very dear country where, as I tell in my book , I had risked finding myself completely broke ).
When I returned home after three months in Asia, I found that I had spent about a fifth of what I thought.
Traveling low cost means traveling more
I have returned to Asia every year since that first time and now I live here (currently I am on the Thai island of Koh Chang, but I usually base in Bali), not only for economic reasons but because I fell in love with this part of the world .
What I have discovered in recent years is that economic nations often exist and are also the most authentic and interesting ones. I found much more beauty wandering around Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and so on compared to those “prestigious”, dear and considered by all “unmissable” destinations.
With the life that I have built for myself, I can work traveling and therefore live anywhere in the world, yet I continue to prefer those areas where life costs less. Because? Partly because I feel very comfortable living simply, in close contact with people who (like me) don’t need much to be happy.
But it is also a practical matter: if a week in London costs me the same amount as I would spend living and traveling for a month and a half in Thailand, why should I choose to travel less? To have some extra comfort? Traveling is a matter of adventure, not security!
7 ways to travel low cost and live great
And yes, it is true, I am in love with Thailand, it is useless to deny it, but the fact remains that if you need a long journey to disconnect from everything and everyone, find the coordinates of your happiness , there are nations that allow you to do so. regardless of your financial condition.
Is it really possible to live in a wonderful place, eating delicious food and traveling far and wide for very little money?
The answer is yes. You just have to know how to do it and if you don’t know where to start these are my 7 rules for traveling on a budget and living big.
1. Record all your expenses
I know that when reading this advice, many people will think it is stingy behavior , something to be ashamed of. They do this because they have been accustomed from an early age to think that it is right to waste money and flaunt one’s wealth with stupid purchases , as if our value depended on what we have.
In reality there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of to monitor how much money we spend, indeed, it is an attitude that I personally consider typical of people who are very aware of a great truth: money represents our time.
As I explained in this article and in my book , every time we spend money we are trading in hours we spent working to buy an item or experience . If you start thinking in this light, you understand that money has a very specific value: if you earn € 8 per hour, a pair of € 80 shoes represents 10 hours of your life.
If you adopt this mindset and start marking your every expense , you will find yourself saving a lot of money, because you will understand how many purchases are unnecessary. A notebook or a note on your smartphone where you can take into account your remaining budget, calculate your expenses and plan for the future are really essential to start spending less on the road.
2. Live like a local
The more I travel, the more I realize that more and more people don’t like being the classic tourist who lets himself be pampered and revered as if he were a divinity descended to earth . I know, especially among young people, the desire to live genuine experiences and immerse themselves completely in local realities. We do not want to do tours on abused elephants, but to walk the streets of a market among unknown scents, colors and languages.
Living like a local is a conscious way to travel that I recommend to anyone, but it’s also a great way to travel on a budget . Because it means eating in restaurants where the locals eat, sleeping in guesthouses in close contact with families who have always lived there, visiting temples and places of worship far from the tourist routes but populated by locals. And above all, do not get plucked by taxi drivers, hotels, tourist agencies and so on.
During one of my travels, a Polish girl who had been around the world for three years told me a phrase that embodies the essence of the low cost traveler: “Live like a local and you will travel forever”.
3. Share as much as possible
Sharing is a concept at the base of any low cost trip. This is because sharing does not only mean living extraordinary experiences with people often met on the road, but also sharing the costs of the trip itself.
For example, instead of taking a taxi alone or as a couple, you can look around for some other traveler to share the ride with. Or you can use sharing economy platforms such as Uber, Couchsurfing, AirBnb (by the way, if you sign up from this link you get 25 euros as a gift on your next stay) to save a lot of money.
Sharing is also fundamental from another point of view: that of information . Don’t be lone wolves on the go, but talk to others , whether they are travelers or locals , because in return you will receive very useful information to save money while traveling.
You will find those who will tell you to avoid a certain destination because it is too touristy, who will explain how to reach a beautiful and uncrowded waterfall, who will show you where to eat the best local dish …
Sharing is one of the most important and underestimated aspects, in life and on the road.
4. Choose well where to travel low cost
You can travel low cost to any destination but low cost travel in Cambodia is very different from low cost travel in California or France . There are countries where life costs very little and if your desire is (as for me) to explore new places, people and cultures without having mental stakes, I recommend that you only aim for countries that are notoriously cheaper.
If you want to travel low cost, avoid Western Europe, North America and Oceania. Instead, focus on Southeast Asia , Africa , Eastern Europe and the less touristy countries of South America .
I am a huge fan of Southeast Asia and I can assure you that in many countries you can live and travel for less than € 500 a month. I know this because I did it in Thailand , Indonesia , Laos , Cambodia and Vietnam . Obviously you have to follow the previous rules (pay attention to all expenses, live like a local and share) but by doing so you can really travel even for a whole year by spending a few thousand euros. The same amount that you would spend for two weeks on a holiday in a very popular location in Europe
“If your desire is simply to travel , know that there are many alternatives to a week-long holiday in an expensive and“ prestigious ”destination. Explore the periphery of the world and choose less popular countries. Not only will you spend less but you will also fall in love with places you didn’t even know existed (as I explain in my book , it happened to me in Pai in Thailand and Cat Ba in Vietnam, for example).
5. Find a way to work while traveling
If you want to live a free existence, try becoming a digital nomad . It is who I am, that is a person who can work remotely on his PC and have an office wherever he has a computer and an internet connection. Obviously it’s not a walk in the park and in my book I explain in detail how hard it is but at the same time within everyone’s reach (I really started from scratch: zero money, zero knowledge, zero degrees and zero experience). I also talked about it in this article .
But I understand that this advice is more “long-term” (it took me a year to work while traveling), so I have one in the short term: you can work while traveling without even knowing how to turn on a computer. I have many friends who do this: through platforms such as Workaway they travel the world by being hosted and receiving free food in exchange for a few hours of work. So you can really stretch your travels for months, if not years.
6. Don’t overestimate the tourist attractions
If you go to India you must visit the Taj Mahal. If you go to Cambodia you must visit Angkor Wat. If you go to Thailand you have to visit the floating markets. If you go to Peru you must visit the Macchu Picchu. If you go to Brazil you have to visit Christ the Redeemer.
But who said it? Who said that the essence of a place is found in its most tourist attractions ?
I myself was enchanted by the majesty and magic of Angkor, but Cambodia is so much more . It is a concept that we Europeans understand when it comes to destinations close to us (we all know that Paris is not just the Eiffel Tower) but that we often ignore when we leave.
Not getting obsessed with tourist attractions is a good way to turn your attention to alternative places where the authenticity of a culture is still preserved but also to spend less. Because avoiding the places you ” absolutely must see when you visit a certification ” will save you a lot of money. Money that you can then use to stay on the road much longer.
7. Always remember that memories are the best souvenirs
Why do we travel? Maybe to collect postcards and fridge magnets? I do not think so. Certainly there are souvenirs that are worth taking home but the best souvenirs are not objects, but memories.
So travel and experience your travels with the aim of generating extraordinary memories . Talk to people, become a “yes man” or a “yes woman” , get out of your comfort zone , don’t be afraid to venture into unknown horizons. It is precisely by losing yourself that you will experience the strongest and most intense emotions.