The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Budget Travel – How I juggle a full time job and explore the world!

Too many people dismiss the idea of following their adventurous hearts because of lack of funds. The idea of travel seems daunting when you have bills to pay and debts owing. But I want to crush your fears and give you a bit of hope that although you may not earn the big bucks, you too can go explore the world and fulfill that wanderlust within.

The question is where to start?

Being a single woman I can say with all honestly that most of my earnings goes towards my living expenses. This means that I have to strike a fine balance between spending my ‘play’ money on experiencing life at home, while saving for my annual big adventure.img_0285 I truly think it is important that we allow ourselves to go out and enjoy life while at home. Spending dinner out with friends is much more life enhancing and memorable than sitting alone on a couch. But the small things like packing a lunch instead of buying it, or not buying that coffee on the way to work really do add up. I challenge you to cut out the extras in your life and see how much this adds up monthly…you’ll be surprised!

The next question I look at is where in the world I can afford to travel. img_0284With the Canadian dollar currently in the dumps I look at places with a poorer dollar. The United States, Europe or the UK can be much pricier than others at the moment, so sometimes I can stretch my dollar further if I stick to countries with a bit of a weaker economy.

Now let’s look at the type of travel. I have done various forms of travel throughout the years. From volunteering, to all-inclusive resorts, to solo backpacking , to small group tours. I can say without a doubt that the simplest and most cost and time effective form of travel has been small group tours. Now I can hear you moan and roll your eyes at the thought of being hand held in a big group like school children.  Are you picturing a mass of tourists spilling out of a tour bus and following the guide who is holding his brightly coloured umbrella high in the air for all to see? This is NOT the group tour I am talking about. I am talking about small group tours that specialize in sustainable tourism.

One of the G Adventures Tours I took through Africa (this was a larger group that usual)

G Adventures is a prime example of a company that focuses on finding the perfect adventure that specifically meets your needs. And to make it even more affordable they give you the option as a single traveler to share a room with other single travelers on the same tour, which in turn cuts the price down dramatically. In my experiences of small group travel through G Adventures I have never had to worry about the logistics of where I am staying or how I am getting there. Everything is taken care of once I set foot in the country. When you have an unlimited amount of time to backpack around the world, it is okay to get lost and wind up slightly off your projected schedule. But if you are like me and only get a specific amount of time to travel per year, you too will want to maximize what you see and do. I remember a few years ago when I was in Spain, I decided to embark on exploring the country with a couple of friends.  We learned the hard way that we spent too much time booking hotels (and then not being able to find the hotels), and then getting lost on the highways. I spent a lot of time stressing over things that I would prefer not to while on holiday. And to make matters worse, I am 100% sure that I spent more money than had I been traveling in a small group.

My friend and I getting utterly lost in Spain

Being in a small group has even more benefits that help keep the spending at bay. Having your own guide is extremely helpful. They are experts in the area of the world that you are traveling to. They will know the best restaurants and services that are off the beaten track and this almost always will guarantee the cheapest prices. Another advantage to this is that instead of giving your money to big chains that lure you in as you walk by, you are taken to places run by locals, and thus become a key contributor to the local economy.

Traveling on a budget can sometimes require one to be creative, but I am living proof that with very little saved up it is possible to experience this great big world of ours. I believe that it all starts with priorities. Sometimes we have to give up a little in order to get back so much more in memories and experiences. There are options out there and I challenge anyone who is on the fence to jump off and dive in!

Standing at the edge of Table Mountain in Cape Town

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