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Travel Wisdom

Long Term Budget Travel Tips Part 1

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Nobody likes to budget – of this much I’m certain. Well, okay, maybe there are some people out there who enjoy the challenge of doing as much as they can with limitations, knowing they are more clever than others and hating those who squeezed out more like it’s some sort of game (I, on the other hand, like real games). But I think if given the option between figuring out what can be done and being able to do whatever you want, most people would take the whatever option.

Long term travellers have to be especially careful of how much they spend because unless they get a job or have someone topping up their cash stash, they have a finite amount to spend and an almost infinite list of things to spend it on. One of the reasons you travel long term is to experience as much as you can and meet as many new people as possible – so why would you want to limit that by being that person who says no all the time?

Well, you don’t have to be the person who says no all the time if you have a solid budget and stick to it. There are sneaky ways to trim your expenses that at first may seem like nothing but do add up, greatly extending your good times. Here are a few ways below.

 

Keeping in Touch

If you’re travelling long term, you’re likely to run into people who are at various points of their travels or else you’re moving on and they’re staying put – but you want to stay in touch! Oh, and those people back home that care about you… don’t forget about them! In the age of social media, it’s easy to think you’re going to always be in contact but this can quite often be fleeting as status updates don’t count as ‘staying in touch’ – you have to do more! This is where things like email, postcards, webcam chats and phone calls really go a long way towards turning a chance encounter into a friendship you can honestly tell people that you have friends all over the world.

This can be expensive if you don’t do it properly. Try to stay in accommodation with free WiFi access that will allow you to talk over messaging services while keeping up to date on things in the world. Consider getting a data and calling plan if you need to be more mobile but don’t want to rack up outrageous roaming charges. Finally, a simple postcard that will cost you a dollar or so can go much further than electronic communication ever would, as many people keep these as mementos of the thought you put into talking to them.

 

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Save this for a special occasion!

Dining 

Food is super expensive if you don’t plan out properly but even if you don’t eat a ton or dine in decadence, food sometimes sneaks up on you as expense. This is particularly true in places where food is super cheap because you may have the tendency to eat (and drink) to excess and misjudge your funds. Dinners with friends or drinks at the pub can really add up.

Instead of making every night party night, plan responsibly. If it’s important to you to go out at night, even every night, cut back on food during the day or those days where you find yourself alone. Aim to make as much food as you can yourself and eat out only where necessary – have people over to your flat or chill out in a park picnic where everyone brings something small. Chances are, others have to budget as well and will be thankful of your frugality! By cutting back on some days, it will let you spend more on other days – and who doesn’t want that?

You may get bored of sandwiches or pasta but you have to decide what is important to you.  Sometimes depriving yourself of delicacies makes enjoying those things when you can have them all the better. Gelato is amazing but three times a day will make it less enjoyable after a week of that (not to mention on your waistline!). Absence makes the tastebuds grow fonder!

 

The Way Less Travelled

Barcelona for the Wandering Spirit

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Getting lost in this Catalan city is one of my favourite things to do, despite visiting it on numerous occasions and knowing my way around it quite well. There’s something about the way the streets come together, bending through old sectors and new – fusing the old world design with modern conveniences – that just makes me feel this connection to time itself. Even as Barcelona evolves and becomes more of a tourist destination, it still retains much of its traditional charm and makes a great spot for travellers looking to take it as it is, without pre tense or agenda.

72_518534655811_3946_nI can’t begin to tell you how best to see a city like Barcelona but I can give you some suggestions as to the things I enjoy to do whenever I’m in town. I tend to stay away from the super touristy places as I’ve done them before and they can be a bit of a headache (and really adding up if you’re on a tight budget, as I always am) if you’re looking to take a lighter approach to travel. Instead, look at things from afar and if everyone is going one way, look for an alternate route.

Food is one of the great treasures of this city, influenced heavily by the sea and old world dishes like paella that take a little of everything and make a great meal. Every little restaurant you visit will do justice to the dish differently and while I’ve had some I really didn’t care for, there’s never been one that I abhorred. Depending on the day or the time of day you visit, the shopkeepers may be more concerned with the football game on the flatscreen in the corner than their service – don’t take offense to this, it’s just the way things are done here. Be sure to sample the tapas of as many different restaurants as possible, keeping in mind for many people the small dish approach is their entire meal – and what a meal at that.

If there is one touristy location I revisit almost every chance I get, it’s Parc Guell on the hill of El Carmel. From this point you get a fairly good view of the city, some first rate architecture by national institution Antoni Gaudi and a great little walk in a sensational setting. In a way it’s my own little pilgrimage each time I return, as it is quite a walk to get there, but it’s totally worth it once I get to the top.

 

Like I said, I have been to Barcelona many times; I have done the hostel thing, stayed in an apartment, couch surfed and even spent a few nights in a hotel that was way out of my price range and I can honestly say the accommodation makes the trip. So many people seem to go for the couch surfing thing in an effort to save money and ‘connect’ with others, but I have never found this to be true. A really laid back hostel or intimate apartment setting trumps that every time as they give you a great outlet to socialize and mingle with people from all over the world.

A great place to start your stay in Barcelona is with the good folks at Oh-Barcelona, who have a number of first rate places to make your stay in this city, and others, fabulous. Looking back on my first time in Barcelona, it truly was the accommodation that made the trip and inspired my return on so many occasions – and I know it will for you too.

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Best British Road Trip Routes

This is a cool video of an infographic created about the best British road trips. It even shows distance and time!  I have yet to see the whole UK and would love to be able to do it by car.

High fives to http://www.enterprise.co.uk/ for sharing this infographic
Take a look!

The Way Less TravelledTravel Wisdom

Off the Beaten Path Travel – Some Words of Wisdom

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When early explorers set out to uncover the mysteries of the world, they probably had a decent idea that they might not make it back home. There was no such thing as foreign embassies, police or even the complex notions of law that we currently enjoy today to keep us relatively safe while abroad, but that was part of the appeal of setting out into the unknown.

With what they knew at the time, I'd like to see you do better...
With what they knew at the time, I’d like to see you do better…

Did they make mistakes? Uhh… yeah. Tons. Like, they made so many mistakes it would be easier to say what they did right than what they did wrong, but you know, hindsight is 50/50. It’s easy for us to criticize the paternalistic, racist and ignorant ways of the past with our modern eyes but with such man-on-the-spot-ism being the norm for deciding how to act based on your own values and gut reaction, many people were behaving in what they perceived as the right way. First contact is freaking tricky – I don’t look forward to meeting aliens as it will probably be a clusterfuck in itself!

When it comes to modern travel though, many people seek to go ‘off the beaten path’ to see parts of the world not overrun with tourism; isolated little pockets that can in many ways be claimed to be unknown, even in this day and age. Maybe it’s the same urge that motivated long ago explorers to forsake the safe and the predictable – aside from those out for fame and fortune – in any case, the same pitfalls can await.

There is a temptation when you’re away from home to think of where you are as being some safe zone where you can act and do whatever it is you want without fear of reprisal. You may assume that when you’re lumbering through the rainforest of Indonesia or trekking a mountain pass in Nepal that nothing can go wrong because we live in a modern world and have access to technologies and knowledge that can defeat any foe. This just isn’t true!

You have to be very aware of your surrounding if you choose to travel to the isolated and the non-touristy spots because those very things that you think will protect you, won’t. If you come into contact with locals, be prepared for them to be very hospitable to you as a guest – or fearful and hostile towards you. You may not be introducing smallpox to them or be there to steal their way of life, but you are different and as such you may not be aware of their cultural norms and your very existence may pose a threat.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to see the things that most people never do and to recreate that notion of discovery enjoyed by sailers, hikers and wanderers from ages long past, but you also can’t be naive. The whole reason you are drawn to the less-popular means is because of that unknown factor, which also includes personal safety. Travel at your own risk!

Travel In the NewsTravel Wisdom

Has it Ever Been Safe to Travel?

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We live in an age where we pretty much expect to be able to go anywhere we want so long as we can afford it. Gone are the days when certain countries are off limits or the very notion of leaving your home was a foolhardy and one-way-trip endeavour, because as masters of technology and tolerant of the beliefs of others, the world is open for business when it comes to our desire to see it.

Until you turn on the news.

I predict a riot...
I predict a riot…

On any given night you can see riots in some country, financial instability, suicide bombings in another, disease outbreaks in a few more and religious fanaticism peppered here and there. It’s enough to make you think the world is either getting unsafer by the day or that the media is really focusing on the old adage ‘if it bleeds, it leads’. Suddenly your plans to travel to one of those countries are up in the air and you’re not feeling so confident about your good time.

The simple truth is the world is a dangerous place. Bad things can happen when you least expect it when you’re away from home, and they can happen almost anywhere. There are places that conventional wisdom would tell you to stay away from, such as many central African nations, certain Middle Eastern countries and even certain parts of Europe and Mexico. From drug wars to areas that just aren’t warm to strangers, there are a whole host of threats that caution travellers from making their way here and thwart the naive assumption that the world belongs to all people.

With this in mind, the world is also a fantastic place with great people in every corner of every country on Earth. You will be shown hospitality like you never thought was possible in the unlikeliest of places, from Somalia to North Korea if you do make your way there. There are a lot of people who will never find this out because they choose not to travel there, just the same as there are a lot of people who do what they feel like and disregard any government warning that says otherwise.

It's a picture of olive branches... you know... for peace? Bah nevermind...
It’s a picture of olive branches… you know… for peace? Bah nevermind…

Is the world a different place than it was 500 years ago? Absolutely – attitudes and policies have changed a great deal; technology has made us more aware of each other and taken down many of the artificial barriers that have kept us apart. It’s also put up many new ones and allowed for propaganda and intolerance to spread with new ferocity, fostering a whole host of different issues. You’re far more likely to be able to travel to certain places in the world with the same ease and comfort that you would within your own nation, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe.

Getting back to the original question in the title – was it ever safe to travel? It really depends on what you view as safe. There still exist many dangers like disease, violence and intolerance that can be a real threat if you confront it while abroad, but today is definitely the safest it’s ever been to head out on an adventure. The rules, agencies and changes in thought that exist today to ensure the safe passage of travellers is unparalleled from any other time in history. Feel good about that, because if you’re looking to be guaranteed of your safety, that simply does not exist anywhere – even at home.