A vista overlooking a turquoise sea, white sands stretching out into the distance under the broad palm leaves. Great bright villas with their balcony views look out onto pools and lounge beds, the air salty and hot. Shiny jets and stuffy airports take us to places which we see on travel guides, picture perfect postcard retreats. We change money at the travel booths, handing over notes, getting limit-use cards and coins, insubstantial paper notes and confusing coins. We buy trinkets, get into the top attractions, pay our way through the metro systems and down the rivers, into restaurants and bars.
It all seems less simple on a strict budget. Budget travel is often seen as something to be avoided, something to be mocked even. Flights are tinny and cramped, packed full of too many people, unreliable and delayed. Hotels turn to hostels and private rooms become shared dorms. The private space and luxury becomes communal living with six strangers in dusty bunks. How do we travel on a strict budget while still experiencing everything we want from the travel experience?
A budget doesn’t have to be a limitation. In fact, as a rule it can be a good idea to set a strict budget in order to change up your travel experience. Whether you’re used to luxury travel, spending a month’s pay check on a holiday, or you’re used to only spending the change left in your wallet on a quick trip- you can find a new experience from budget travel.
Changing your concept of what travel should be is key to travelling on a budget. If we hold the core belief that travel should be luxurious and exclusive (a concept which has primarily been sold to us by travel companies since widespread travel has been more readily accessible) then we will likely find budget travel dissatisfying. However, if we can recognise, and learn through experience, that travel should be about new experiences, exploring, and learning about new places- that’s when budget travel begins to make sense.
Travelling on a strict budget encourages us to involve ourselves in a local space in a way which luxury travel does not. When we are encouraged to engage in the complex environment of a hostel, rather than the confines of a resort, we are more readily able to venture out into the city and meet new people. When we go to the cheap local food markets we are more likely to experience local dishes than we are at the expensive tourist-friendly restaurant. When we travel on a budget, we force ourselves out of our comfort zone, freeing us from the confines of resorts and allowing us to be involved in the experience of travel.
Do you travel on a budget? What have been your best budget travel experiences?
Featured image: Chris Lawton via Unsplash.