Confessions of a Budget Traveler: I Splurged

This time last year, I was in month seven of an 8 month long academic exchange experience in Europe. I spent one semester studying in France, and another in England. During those 8 months, I managed to travel to 19 European states, and I did it all on $40-$50 per day. The cost of tuition and living on campus while studying abroad was already so expensive that I challenged myself to save whenever possible. I purchased a student rate euro-rail pass which really did pay for itself (the total price of purchasing individual tickets almost tripled the cost of the pass), I flashed my student card at every attraction and got discounts at most places, I stayed in hostels that cost an average of $10-$20 per night, I ate street food instead of dining at restaurants, I stayed with friends and even friends of friends to save on accommodation costs, and I opted for self-guided or free walking tours whenever possible.

Being abroad was a great experience and, with plenty of research beforehand, I managed to visit all the places I wanted to and do it all affordably. Afterwards, I became friends with other budget travelers and felt like I found a place for myself within this travel niche. Despite this, a part of me imagined what luxury travel entailed. I browsed through my friends’ Facebook albums of cruises, all-inclusive resorts, and vacation packages with curiosity and, secretly, a bit of envy.

After saving up for three months, I caved with the purchase of an all-inclusive package to Cuba.

The excitement of the trip lasted for about two weeks before I started to question this purchase. I calculated the additional cost of excursions and trips that I would potentially want to go on and compared prices of other types of accommodations. I read other travelers’ disappointing stories of resort vacations that lacked cultural immersion. I cringed at the thought of this 7-day trip costing as much as 1.5-2 months of my trip in Europe.

And I began to wonder, is the type of traveler we are defined by our disposable income, by our lifestyle, or by something else all too innate to us?

Yours, brooding on a beach, in the corner of a resort.
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6 responses to “Confessions of a Budget Traveler: I Splurged

  1. Sounds like your time in Europe has been amazing! Too bad you were not as happy with Cuba. I think it is in the expectation – I love to get out and travel, explore and immerse myself in the new destination. Unfortunately, I also have to work full time and am often under a lot of pressure. As a result, I have taken to the trips to the all-inclusives once a year. Sometimes I feel that I am letting myself down by not getting out more – but then I realized – sometimes you really need to just lay around and veg! Throw in one or two tours (one can only veg so much and hopefully knows their limits!!!) and presto – replenished to throw everything back into work and prepare for the next adventure!

  2. I think that it's more than just income, although that certainly plays a role. I'm with you in the budget traveling, but if I'm going to travel then I want to do what I want to do, and sitting on a beach for a week sounds horrible. After 90 minutes, I would be restless. That type of trip is not for me.

    But everyone has to find what trip is right for them. Hope you enjoyed it.

  3. So little done, so much to do.
    Is there a subject of life – to acquire rich? Those fellows available getting rich might be dancing throughout the real subject of life.

  4. Funny how this post in particular caught my attention! I've been here in Costa Rica now for 3 weeks and one more week to go before I move on to El Salvador and it is one hell of an expensive country! My bf came down to visit and we hosteled it up, cooked meals, found the cheapest options for tours as much as possible. And then we hear of all these other people's fancy shmancy beachside luxury hotels with a pool and 1000-count bedsheets and such, and I wonder, did we skimp out on ourselves? Then I hear the prices they pay and the same tours they took with us which they paid so much more for and then it makes me feel a tad bit better. I just don't see the point in spending an arm and a leg for traveling these days…

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