Travel is one of the purest pleasures on the face of this planet. To experience another culture, exotic foods, new languages and fascinating sights is a blessing. One we should never forget how lucky we are to indulge in.
The advent of cheaper and cheaper airfares means that more people than ever are traveling the world. Just because more people are traveling doesn’t mean they are traveling well however. Quantity, as we know, doesn’t always equate with quality.
Unfortunately a lot of world wanderers simply don’t travel as smartly as they could. The result of this is they often have disappointing experiences and usually spend far more than they should.
Believe it from me, travel when done right doesn’t have to be expensive. In many cases the most memorable experiences are completely and utterly free. They don’t require a credit card only an open mind and an adventurous soul.
Don’t believe me? Well read on below and I’ll let you in on 3 ways you too can travel smarter and cheaper.
Paying for accommodation is old school
The internet has given us many glorious things, from The Dancing Baby (I’m showing my age there), to the Backpack Kid’s fabulous floss dance. But while many of the phenomenons that take the online world by storm are frankly nothing more than a minute or two of mindless entertainment, there are some gems that have revolutionalised the way we can travel. One of these is Couchsurfing.
If you haven’t done it already, you’ve probably at least heard of it. Couchsurfing is online platform that epitomises the so-called ‘sharing economy’. For the uninitiated think, AirBnB but for free. You stay in someone’s home but you don’t hand over a single dollar. The only thing you have to give in exchange for a roof over your head is your time.
Millions of Couchsurfing hosts across the world let complete strangers (known as surfers) into their home for a day, week, or in some cases months, and all they ask for in return is good conversation, tales from your travels and good will.
Couchsurfing, and similar platforms like it, such as Hospitality Club, BeWelcome and Warm Showers to name but a few, are an unbelievable way to save money whilst simultaneously having a more enriching travel experience. Why pay for a bland hotel room when you can stay with a local for free! That’s smart travel.
Volunteer along the way
One of the very best ways to have a more memorable travel experience whilst not breaking the bank is to volunteer some of your time and skills in exchange for room and board.
Speak English do you? Well, then volunteer to help out in a local school desperately in need of some conversational English help. Design websites at home you say? Maybe that local animal rescue charity needs a little help getting their heads around the intricacies of WordPress. The opportunities are endless when you choose to give back.
Volunteering while traveling often opens up experiences that the average traveler with their nose deep in their Lonely Planet would never be able to experience. Giving back by volunteering brings you so much closer to the local community than simply staying in a hostel and getting drunk in a bar with other backpackers could ever do.
Websites such as Workaway have made volunteering far more accessible to everyone than ever before. Ever fancied working on a coconut plantation in Sri Lanka or cat sitting by a beach in Borneo? Well now is your chance.
One of the biggest mistakes most novice travelers make is a foolish attempt to see it all before all that money they worked so hard to save runs out. They rush from city to temple to beach, ticking off the ‘must sees’ from a some imaginery list. This often means they spend more time bumping about on a nausea-inducing bus than they actually do exploring a new town or interacting with locals. This is a classic travel fail.
The result of all this rushing is that many travelers are far too tired to actually enjoy the sights they traveled across the world to see. The exact opposite of smart travel. The guys at the Sleep Advisor talk all the time about how important a good night’s rest is, whether at home or abroad.
Travel is not like a computer game, there’s no way to complete travel and definitely no way to win. It’s not there is a leaderboard and you collect points for each selfie you get taken in front of a Unesco World Heritage site. No matter how many countries you’ve been to, someone has always been to more. Once you accept this concept then the idea of slow travel suddenly becomes a lot more appealing.
Slow travel, like slow cooking, is based on the idea that good things come to those who wait. Instead of attempting to ‘do’ a town in a couple of days, slow travelers think in weeks and months.
Not only do slow travelers truly get to know their adopted home they also save a lot of money in process. Instead of splashing out on an overpriced bed in an overpopulated hostel dorm room they rent a room in a house for a fraction of the nightly price. They learn the best places to eat and importantly the local prices. Instead of bouncing around town in taxis trying to see all the sights in a day or two, they calmly ride on their rented bicycle.
Slow travel is both smart and cheap. All it costs is time.
Well, there you have travel fans, my top three ways to travel smarter and cheaper. Give them a go and you’ll soon see that not only will you save money but you will get more travel bang for your buck! Happy travels!