Budget

part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

i’m a pretty cheap traveler. i mean, let’s face it. if you’re just a regular joe (or, in my case, a regular jon) and like to travel as much as i do, you can’t have champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

something i hardly ever spend money on: souvenirs. i used to get stuff, but really, it’s just going to take up extra room in your suitcase and i’m the type of person to let it just sit on the shelf for years and never look at it again (*eyeing dusty fez and cobwebby lantern from morocco*). that’s not to say i’ll never. if something really catches my eye, i will get it, but for the most part, they’re a waste of hard-earned moolah.

something i’m willing to scrimp on: lodging. when i was a grad student traveling around europe (shh, it was an easy program) i’d have no problem staying in hostels. traveling in winter was the best because they’d be virtually empty—i’ve had entire rooms to myself on several occasions (e.g., picture above). but even though i have a job that pays more than a Hiwi again, i prefer to stay cheap. if i didn’t have to tote my work laptop with me everywhere i went (and maybe have to work, even on vacation), i would still do the hostel thing. so, i now do the cheap hotel thing. well, the cheap-but-still-highly-rated-on-tripadvisor thing. 

many of you will gasp, but i’m willing to be stingy about food. i will have fast food for several meals if that means being able to get the occasional nice meal. i mean, yes, i could probably afford non-fast food meals, but i balk at spending so much money. so yes, that means i have eaten at quick more times than i care to remember. silver lining? sometimes the tastiest food is cheap street food. one word: döner. also, the best sausage i ever had (har har, all you people with dirty minds, i’m serious) was from some random subway station stand in prague. cheapskate or not, i’m traveling to explore, so i make it a point to at least have a nice, typical meal at least every other dinner, if not more often.

speaking of subways, it’s key to do research to see what sort of public transportation deals there are at your destination, like all-day transit passes or discount combination tickets, etc. if i can help it, i will not rent a car or take a cab. public transit all the way! it’s cheaper, you don’t have to deal with driving/parking/speeding tickets, and, most important to me, i feel more connected with the place i’m in.

and speaking of transportation, flights. do. your. research. kayak and hipmunk are your friends. imho, definitely just go cheap, with a caveat. i am willing to spend slightly more (my cutoff is usually around 10-15% of the ticket cost) to stick with a single alliance (in my case, star alliance) because i can accrue miles on one airline while flying different carriers to different parts of the globe. and once you get those miles? USE THEM. no point in hoarding (burn baby burn, as they say). and when you have an unpredictable work schedule like i do, miles are like gold. even at the last minute, off-peak travel is usually easy to get at the lowest redemption option, and the flexibility with an award ticket really helps. i’ve had to reschedule tomorrow’s trip to japan three times, but because it’s an award ticket, changing the dates has been free! (although costs are dependent on airline and any elite status, and are subject to availability, yadda yadda)

so. what am i willing to spend money on? experiences. i will, and have, traveled for the express purpose of one thing (usually a long weekend trip for a concert):

oh, the easiest way to save money on travel? be lucky enough to have a job that will pay for you to go places. i don’t travel much on company dime, but my boss knows about my wanderlust so i’ve been fortunate enough to go to milan (which i extended to visit germany and luxembourg), buenos aires, and south africa. at least that way you get the plane ticket for free! for the same reason, i don’t mind traveling with my parents (spain and portugal, france [no pics, was too lazy to upload], and china are the most recent). usually they pay for the plane ticket or the hotel, and either way, they almost always pay for food—and they eat well! yes, i’m 34 but hey, if you can milk it, milk it. 😉 (p.s. love ya mom!)

and there you have it. this blog post ended up being a lot longer than i thought (i was expecting one paragraph), but i’m procrastinating packing…

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Nothing Like a Hostel Room All To Yourself on Flickr.

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Quote

Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.

Mohammed

part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

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Passion

part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

clearly i have an interminable case of wanderlust and there are only a few things in life that even come close to my love of travel. i suppose i’m a railfan (mostly high speed rail and public transit) and an aviation geek, but those are sort of in a feedback loop with the whole travel thing, so on a macro scale they almost merge.

perhaps i’ve become jaded in my 34 years? there’s nothing else with that thrilling synergy of exploration, eager anticipation, learning, history, community, excitement, and escapism that going somewhere provides, whether it’s the next town over or somewhere over the ocean. each of those individual things alone are nice, but together? hot damn. i thrive on that magic mash-up. 

and as i say, i live to travel and travel to live. easy as that.

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Baggage

part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

i’ve had this trusty little 35L backpack (with a curious george patch that i sewed on all by myself!) for almost 7 years now. from my first solo trip to the czech republic in january of 2005 to a long weekend in cambodia just a couple months ago, it’s been with me all across the globe. it’s perfect because i’ve never had to check it (except maybe once or twice because it didn’t meet german low-cost carrier definitions of an acceptable carry-on) and thus never have to wait at baggage claim. plus, no pesky wheels like with a regular roll-aboard to get stuck in the mud or go clack-clack-clack on cobblestone streets at 6 AM when you are trying to catch the bus to take you to the airport.

unfortunately it’s not too conducive for long trips since i am too lazy/busy to do laundry and i don’t like to rewear clothes, although i did once manage to make it work for an 8-day trip to stockholm, helsinki, and tallinn (don’t ask how).

if i don’t use this, i have a large wheeled duffel bag that’s my other primary piece of luggage. it doesn’t look big, but it can definitely hold a lot (though a vuvuzela was a bit tricky with 2 weeks’ worth of clothes in there)

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(via packed up Ye Olde Backepacke (ahh, such good times i’ve had w… on Twitpic)

City

part of the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

every now and then i reflect on the places i’ve been and wonder which is my favorite. part of me is convinced that it should be a hard decision, since i have yet to find a city that i absolutely detest and there is always something enjoyable about every place i’ve been to.

that said, it’s actually a very easy decision. there is nothing that can top New York City. every time i go (and i try to go at least annually, if not more often), i am awestruck at the energy that flows through its streets, through its subway lines, through its people (speed)walking on the pavement.

that “center of the universe” nickname is quite apt. the confluence of cultures, the awe-inspiring skyscrapers, the amazing food and art scenes…how could you not get swept up in the hustle and bustle of it all? there is something electrifying about being there—like you truly are at the epicenter of everything. life doesn’t pass you by—you are alive.

and when the concrete jungle gets to be too much, so many free options to momentarily get away from it all: central park, the high line, the staten island ferry…

and last but not least, i have great friends there who i look forward to seeing every time i’m in town, especially for some haktata tonton!

yep, i’m a new york city boy.

p.s. the only other city in contention for this blog post? Paris.

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picture: Atlas on Flickr.