CHEECHEE LIN
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On Spending

Jun 2018

Wait, but cheechee, how do you afford all that travel?

It's a totally valid thought! I'm not a trust fund baby, and I just graduated college-- so I'm certain all my friends are just scratching their heads from bewilderment on how I managed to pull off a six month long trip abroad.

So voila, today, I am here to demystify how I managed to do it!

A couple of factors I realize are not accessible to everyone, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I recognize my unique situation:

I realize that not everyone is as fortunate nor in the same situation where they can leave school debt free and have multiple paid internships. I had paid my own way through the latter two years of school, so I definitely understand how there is a lot of burden on being able to pay off your education and the pressure to enter the "real world" to start paying off debt.

However, that being said, there were a couple of additional calculations + mindset changes I took into consideration before embarking on my world tour. I also budgeted roughly $55/day (USD)while on the road, all inclusive. Below, I've broken down my tips into the main categories of spending for a traveler: accommodation, activities, transit, and dining.

ACCOMMODATION

As I had ended my lease after graduating and no longer needed a permanent address, I was able to save roughly 1K-2K a month simply by not paying rent. I was okay with staying in the cheapest mixed dorms in hostels if that meant I could save $5 a night. Every penny counts! I also prefer to stay in hostels when I'm solo traveling/ traveling with a friend that is not a significant other, as it allows me to meet fellow travelers and enjoy a more social atmosphere. Plus, they have usually have a bunch of really cool activities and sometimes even have free breakfast/dinner!

ACTIVITIES

I approached travel less as a "vacation", and more as an opportunity to stretch my dollar-- so I went to countries that were much more affordable.Free walking tours in Europe were absolutely the best, great for meeting travelers and also to see cities on a budget. Highly highly recommend if you haven't done one yet. (These tours operate on a tips basis, so I could squeeze in a lot of sightseeing on a lower budget rather than paying for the overpriced tourist buses). In Southeast Asia + Northern Africa, I bargained a lot before paying for anything, including tours. I was able to snag a 3D2N desert tour with transit to my next city for $90 (30/day), with a $25 upgrade for a more luxurious desert camp with running water and actual beds-- which wasn't bad at all!

TRANSIT

As I had a long span of time, I chose to travel slowly, which meant a lot more time spent on buses and a lot less money spent on planes.Some great ways of getting around:

In addition, traveling with a carry-on sized backpack at around 7kg meant I never had to pay any baggage fees, a sneaky way budget airlines get you to pay double the price for a plane ticket (RyanAir, EasyJet, AirAsia, VietJet etc.). There were some close run-ins with AirAsia as my bag was slightly closer to the 10kg mark, but I am very proud to say I only paid for checking in my bag once through those 6 months I traveled. Pack less!

I also received the Priority Pass as a perk alongside my Chase Sapphire Reserve, which meant on transit days I could save money on meals simply by going to a lounge instead. These lounges also had free alcohol + water and nap pods with power outlets, which was a total score for the weary traveler!

DINING

Sometimes I would just pay for the breakfast buffet (usually 7 euros) and pack a sandwich for lunch instead of dining in a restaurant. This went super far, especially in cities like Copenhagen where the cost of a meal could easily cost upwards of $25! I also cooked in hostels, as I could almost always find another budget traveler willing to split the cost of groceries-- and cook a delicious meal together! This was significantly cheaper than dining out.

In case you were wondering-- I ended up averaging around $42/day in Asia, $65/day in Europe, and $50/day in Egypt + Morocco, all things included.

If I had stayed in California during the same time period, I would've probably spent closer to $70/day (thanks overpriced California rent), and that's on the lower end of my calculations. ($1500 rent/30 days + gas & transit + groceries + eating out and entertainment with friends etc.)

So there you have it! In my case, traveling was certainly more affordable than staying put. In addition, knowing that a day abroad would cost me around $55 made it much easier to not spend that 80 dollars on the expensive item I was eyeing nor on unnecessary objects. Also, only having a 35L bag made it super easy to realize how much I really needed in life ;)

Obviously, budget traveling isn't for everyone. It takes a certain amount of flexibility to be okay with sleeping in hostels where your bunkmate might snore, or to have to trudge super far to get to a bus station when you could just take a taxi so you can save those 5 bucks to go towards your next meal, and also to fit your life into a carry-on sized backpack so you don't pay the extra fees for checking in a suitcase. However, if this does sound like an adventure to you-- budget traveling might just be your thing!

p.s. I read a book prior to planning this trip called How to Travel the World on 50 Dollars a Day, written by Nomadic Matt (another avid backpacker), and it was super useful. I highly encourage everyone thinking about budget traveling to read it-- it has fantastic tips on how to make your budget go further.