Firstly there is no right way or wrong way to travel (with a caveat on travel safety of course).
That said however this is my personal travel doctrine viewed through my unique lens. Other than passing on useful information, entertaining you with my writing and travel philosophy, I really wanted to share the core concept behind what I am doing.
I get asked two questions the most;
Why would I spend longer than a week at most in any city, let alone a month and how on earth can I afford to travel like this?
The answer to both? It’s less stressful and its cheaper.
Living for a month in another country should not cost more than an average month in your home city.
“But the airline ticket costs more than that!”
This is true, the ticket is the largest single cost incurred, next to hotel accommodation.
The only way to get around this is to travel longer. It may seem counter intuitive but once the urgency is removed, your travel costs decrease.
My last 5 months in Portugal and Spain in total, is on parity with what I spent traveling through Italy for 3 weeks in 2013.
Let that sink in for a second.
The way I am traveling currently is not for everyone, there is no one size fits all. Much like everything else in life, it depends greatly on your disposition, your commitments and priorities and most of all, if it works for you.
If you are setting out on an OE, a Career break, or just some extended leave this article may hold something for you.
My brief was simple.
I wanted to travel for a long time.
I wanted to see many things.
I wanted to meet locals and other travelers and learn about them and their cities.
I wanted to be able to change my plans as needed.
I wanted to live in a home where-ever I stayed.
I identified with it as Decompressed Travel.
I’m not sure if through internet osmosis or my own fevered imagination coined the term Decompressed Travel. Probably the infinite legion of monkeys bashing at typewriters (called the internet) has already trademarked it, written a Wikipedia page and has the T-Shirt rights. Much like my site, I don’t care as long as it’s beautiful.
This is my take on Decompressed Travel.
To me my previous travel experiences were compressed.
Before, I always had a timeframe. How much leave do I have, How many nights can I afford that hotel. How many things can I see before I have to go to the next location. What flight is the most direct?
And the cost, most of all why does it have to cost so much?
I found if you are committed to traveling, it really doesn’t have to cost much and still live a comfortable life on your journey.
The somewhat irony is, once I removed the restrictions of time on travel by resigning from my job, the primary obstacle of travel spend reduced too.
Some of the highlights so far are:
Freedom from time constraints (other than Visa limits)
Ability to make changes in direction spontaneously.
Getting to know a city well enough you can navigate it on foot by recognising streets and discovering new ones. It’s something that has saved me when my phone runs out of battery.
Being able to cook with local ingredients and prepare fresh foods at least 4 nights a week as much for my own enjoyment than budget. You could survive pretty well on 5 euro kebab combos, but that gets old pretty quick.
Learing enough of the language to get by and then some. I am not conversational in Portuguese, Spanish or Italian by any stretch but I could probably give most native speaking toddlers a run for their applesauce.
Discounts by renting at monthly/weekly rates. Hostels are the go to for the budget traveler, for weekly rates in a dorm you might get a good deal and there is the social aspect of meeting other travelers.
For longer term travel however the comfort and convenience of living in an AirBnb home is more attractive and cost-effective to me. Not worrying about forming a long queue for kitchens or bathrooms, having easy access to the comforts of a home environment and most importantly local knowledge from local people has made AirBnB a fantastic experience so far.
Keeping a daily budget diary, just to record your spend, even if to the nearest Euro. Much like how calorie counting becomes second nature to dieters so does budgeting to travelers. Looking for savings where you can, Menu’s of the day when you are hungry and want a good deal while avoiding the tourist trap prices by walking to the next street from the nearby attractions.
Being budget conscious and budget beholden are 2 different things. I would not risk my health, safety or sanity trying to save a buck. I realised this when almost booking a flight to Porto that would have required the Heathrow/Gatwick transfer to save a few hundred dollars. The direct flight to Lisbon later dropped in price to the same cost and rail travel in Portugal was very inexpensive if you book early and take advantage of the specials.
The longer the travel timeframe the longer of an average you will have to work with. I know France is likely to be expensive and to spike up my costs considerably, it still won’t dissuade me from traveling there, I know I will have a couple cheap months further down the line somewhere to even it out.
I realize to many the option to not work for an extended period of time just to travel is a situation of privilege.
“You are so lucky!” Is a common response when I mention what I am doing. Luck had very little to do with it in my case, just working and saving with some planning and foresight.
There seems to be a myth associated with travel you either need to be a homeless gypsy or a millionaire. “If I had no obligations or responsibilities, I could go anywhere.” “If I won the lottery I would travel the world.” Everyone has had those daydreams at least once in their lives.
But the part of that myth being you have to be a carefree on the road nomad by choice or a millionaire James Bond type is romantically out of touch with reality.
On my current projected travel budget I can travel per year for only slightly more than most people spend on just existing back home. Factoring in rent, food, expenses and entertainment it was nearly on par, except I could be in any country or city that I feel like.
I know my decision to go nomad is a luxury not everyone shares, but it is attainable to those that want it.
It was years of hard work and saving to have that led me here. At the time I didn’t even know what I was saving for, maybe a business or a house. But when I examined the prospect of doubling down for a deposit on a 20 year mortgage, for a house I would someday completely own in my 60’s, while I daydreamed about far off places I would perhaps never see, taking a leap into the unknown felt more compelling.
Perhaps if I had jumped onto the property ladder in my early 20’s before the rampant housing speculation exploded in my hometown of Auckland, things now may well have gone a different way. No better or worse, just different. But probably more location dependant.
I found myself at a point in life where I was metaphorically traveling light. I am single with no dependents and felt I could take a risk with my finances in return for an enriching experience.
Longterm travel is one of the most important things I have committed to in my life, of this I am certain.
I was hardly sleepwalking through my existence before, but at times it sure felt like it.
Prior to my current adventures as a writer and traveler I have been a Music producer and performer, an animator trained by Warner Bros, artist and illustrator, a Video Games designer and Telecommunications Manager in a large corporation.
Now, with only the contents of my backpack and a new city at my doorstep each month do I feel more at home with myself.
It is strangely zen when the person with nothing is seen as privileged by those with everything.