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.