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. This doesn’t include any previous travel; lets just face it, all previous travel was under the funding of my very gracious parental unit. I won’t lie to you, shoooot. I appreciate them and their way of rearing me in a way that I have come to see travel and immersion as a necessity in life. So, when I confirmed my semi-last minute trip to Australia with my BFF Ness, there was no question that it would be entirely on me. I decided from that trip on, I would ensure that I could personally finance all aspects of any further travel. If I traveled with my parents in trips thereafter, I would just put in for my half. Thus…
I try to choose 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 a different benefit for that trip). When I’m home, I do my best to work daily for gig-type jobs. I have always been excellent at saving nickles 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. I also search for work-away, volunteer opportunities or house sitting, which cuts the cost of accommodation. 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 unneccessary stuff that kept my sanity.
Couchsurfing is another way to keep costs down. I have 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. #ilikeit. 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.
I also have a debit card that refunds me all my ATM fees on a monthly basis ($24 refunded in January) and a rewards credit card where I get travel credit (update Spring 2016: I have two credit cards that offer rewards). For example, I paid for a flight within Mexico with points from the card. Nothing actually came out of my pocket. These types of cards in particular can help you A LOT. I highly recommend researching for one that suits your perfectly.
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.
That’s all folks!
Other little penny-pinching tips:
- Refill a non-plastic (cancer causing) water bottle instead of consistently buying anew
– Carry your own wet wipes
– Bring sunblock and repellent from home (better yet — make your own)
– Bring just a carry-on sized bag and smaller personal bag
– Unlock your smartphone and only using it when there’s Wifi available
- Budget. I use the website and app, Mint
– Keep these essential oils on deck for any & all reasons: Tea Tree, Lemon, Lavender, Clove
– 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.