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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5 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. I’m a budget traveler myself, but once in a while one really must splurge a little, don’t you think? I hope it was perfectly luxurious in the best sense of the word.

  4. 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.

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