I am not an avid traveler, but I do travel. In fact, I make it a point to travel to somewhere near once a year, or more if my bank account allows me to. But for now, once a year is good.
2013 marked the beginning of my ‘once a year’ travel promise that I made to myself. I started at Laos with a budget of RM600 for my whole 5 days, 4 nights trip. Then in 2014, it was Manila, Philippines with a budget of RM300 (just because I callously did not bank out money for my trip and it just so happens that ALL the ATMs in the airport was down prior to my flight :/) for 4 days, 3 nights.
So, how did I manage to travel (and survive) on such tight budget?
1. Be realistic
Choose countries that you know you can afford. As much as we would like to travel to another continent all together, sometimes, our monthly income or savings do not permit us to do so, especially if you have plans to travel within the year. If you don’t mind being patient and save up for a few years in order for you to travel, then that’s awesome! But if you are someone like me who is impatiently and always ready for an adventure wherever that adventure maybe but know very well that you can’t afford some of the countries you had in mind, don’t let that put you down. Choose another country that is very much affordable for you and make a point to visit them.
I use to think that countries in South East Asia are the same as that of Malaysia. We are neighbours after all, what difference would it make anyway? But boy, was I wrong! My first trip to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam made all the difference!
Sometimes, visiting a country in your own continent is not that bad at all! You learn a lot and get to experience a lot too! My friend Alvin and his sister, Audrey, spent three weeks backpacking in Indochina and they had great fun! I would love to do that too one of these days! Fingers cross!
Why not go a step further and travel in your own country! Go do normal touristy things or go for an international festival that is hosted in your own country! That’s always fun!
2. Change your lifestyle
Want to save money for your travels but don’t know how? Easy, change your lifestyle. I heard a friend said once and this is me putting what she said in my own words,
“People who travel a lot aren’t well off, they just have different priorities. While you spend on things like clothes and fancy eats, they save up for their next trip.”
I think this is pretty self explanatory.
Backpacking is definitely the way to travel, especially if you’re still young and capable to do just that! I have saved a TON of money by backpacking; staying in dorms or cheap (but safe) hotels with shared bathroom and toilets. I don’t need the luxury when I travel, what I need is the experience of the travel!
Best part about backpacking is that you get to meet new lifelong friends who you can share travel stories and experiences with! I made so much friends from backpacking, it’s insane! We still keep in touch via Facebook!
Keyword here ladies and gentlemen, BACKPACK!
4. Be one of the locals!
Another way to enjoy your travel is by learning more about the place that you are traveling in. This does not only include going to the museums but also actually be one of the locals by indulging in as much culture as you can while saving some money doing just that!
Food is definitely the best way to get to know a country. Opt for street food instead of your normal fast food joint. Come on, you can get McDonalds back home, why travel all the way to a new country and try out the same thing?
Street foods are not only cheap, but very yummy too! If you have a sensitive tummy, then come prepared. Have your medication with you at all time and most importantly, choose clean eateries to eat in. Be careful on where and what type of food you consume, you don’t want to spend the rest of your trip being sick! In saying this however, street foods are a definite must in any country you visit!
Then there’s the public transport. When we were in Manila, we took the jeepney everywhere we go. It was our number one go-to travel ride as taxi were expensive. Plus, we did a whole lot of walking while we’re there so comfy shoes is a number one priority while traveling!
Bonus tip: Travel for free! (Well, kinda!)
In 2010, I got a chance of a lifetime to travel to England to attend the Young Women World Forum under the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Not only was I given the chance to meet inspiring young women my own age from various parts of the world, but I also got to travel to England, which was pretty darn awesome!
As much as I had the doors opened for me, I knew I had to have a little push to get the funds in. I had to work extra hard to earn the trust and respect of people who eventually was kind enough to donate and sponsor for my trip. If you want kind help, you need to work for it! I was super glad I was able to go in the end and represented Malaysia (and Sabah!) internationally!
There are many similar programs, forums or conferences that you can join that enables you to travel to different parts of the world for free or at a minimal cost. I know a friend spent her whole secondary school and university by attending different forums and conferences to not only travel, but also filling up her resume with all these wonderful and rich experiences.
Example of programs include the Mosaic International Leadership Programme (which unfortunately just ended), 2015 Community Solutions Program under the US Embassy (closing date for application is 27th Oct), AFS Program, YES Program (for 15 – 18 year olds) and many more!
Many of these programs are either fully or partially paid for one way or another. Please check each individual programs for full details. There are many other programs that are similar to these too, Google them!
Best yet, why not travel with your school? I know that many colleges and universities offer cultural exchange-type trips for students. In fact, I will be going to Makassar and Toraja this November for a study trip under my university!
So the quote, “Where there is a will, there is a way” may just ring true for many of us.
Good luck and happy traveling!