I’ve seen the articles. We all have. I see pins saying ‘Travel the World for Less than $50 per day’, ‘How to Travel for Free’ or ‘I Woke Up One Day, Packed My Dog in my Backpack and Never Came Home’ and think “Wow. That would be great. If I could travel for $50 per day I’d never stop travelling.”
Every time I have a weak moment and click through wanting to emulate the freedom I see in the picture I quickly realise I am so *NOT* that person. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’ve read them and thought “Hells yeah, that’s the thing for me,” that’s great. Pack your backpack and off you go. Live and love that marvelous adventure. But while you’re off waiting in airports for cheap last second fares, stuffing toilet paper in your backpack and relying on the kindness of strangers I will be earning the money to be able to sun myself on cruise ships and hand over fistfulls of cash for exciting, interesting or relaxing experiences.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making budget friendly choices and getting as much as I can for my money. Heck, I can spot a free thing at 50 paces, – but a budget of $50 per day just isn’t going to happen.
A lot of these articles talk about taking advantage of free and cheap things as they arise. Or planning for your credit card points to use well in advance to use at short notice when travelling.
For me, a big part of the joy of my vacation is the planning. I love pouring over brochures and looking at all the things I want to do online. I love researching the cruise line to make sure I know everything before I go. And finding five things I might like to do while we are in a certain location so we can decide what we feel like when we get there. I’m quite the fan of making things up as we go along on a small scale. If we find something more interesting to do, we’ll throw that research out the window. Hang the expense in some cases (I’m looking at you Amedee Island). But if I don’t know where I’m going to sleep that night, I don’t speak the language and its getting dark already – that’s going to suck the fun out of my evening pretty quickly (yay anxiety disorder!).
These articles tend to assume you are going to be on the road for months or years at a time. I’m not. We have 9-5 jobs. I have a husband who volunteers at the local fire station. I have children in their final years of school. Our parents are getting older and we like being around to help them and spend time with them. In short, at 40 your life isn’t focused solely on yourself. That is the freedom that comes with being in your 20’s. There are limited vacation days available to me and I’ll be buggered if I’m spending a single one of them deliberately waiting in an airport or figuring out where to sleep that night.
As a woman I already have a pretty healthy fear of being stabbed. Throw couchsurfing with strangers in a country where I am out of my comfort zone into the mix and that’s a panic attack waiting to happen.
Also – couchsurfing is a young person’s game. I’m 40. Sleeping on couches is for men napping with the remote in their hand after a long day at work. Not for vacation. Vacation is for relaxing, sleeping in, special grown-up-married-people snuggling (yeah you know what I mean. That thing you can do whenever you like on vacation because there are no kids around and you’re NOT sleeping in the lounge room where anyone can just wander in while you’re doing that-thing-that-pretty-much-convinced-him-to-propose-in-the-first-place*), using the hotel’s unlimited supply of hot water, ordering room service at 2am and not making your own bed. Vacation is not for sleeping on a stranger’s couch and doing exactly none of the things listed above. Already I wake up with my ankles and wrists hurting in the cold, adding in a cramped back from sleeping in one position all night sounds less than fun. Oh and my husband snores so loudly it’s like sleeping with a snuggly lawn mower. I’m not going to ask a stranger so enjoy those somnambulic rumblings with me.
Australia is expensive. From food to travel, nothing comes cheap. This isn’t Bali or Cambodia. Have you ever tried to book an airfare from Australia? We’re in the middle of nowhere with a relatively small population. This is reflected in every. airfare. you. will. ever. book. in. this. country. Factor in reliable domestic or international air travel and there’s my $50 budget blown.
Let’s assume air travel isn’t part of the budget, I could hardly get to the airport for $50 – have you seen the price of a train ticket from Central to Sydney airport? The 9 minute journey costs over $15. More than the 1.5 hour journey to get to Central from home in the first place.
Bus ticket to local train station: $3.50
Ticket to Central station: $5.81
Ticket to Airport: $15.76
$24.93 left of the day’s budget. I’m going caffeine free and eating Maccas for dinner on that kind of money aren’t I? Also, where am I sleeping for that money? Do I have to chose between food and shelter? Am I having fun yet?
Living Out of a Backpack and Lugging it Everywhere With Me.
See above. I live not far from Belanglo National Park and as such I have a healthy respect for the idea of not getting murdered and buried in a shallow grave.
Also no. I’m 40. I don’t have to do that shit any more.
Tours and Tourist Traps
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge: $278
Entry to Waitangi Treaty Grounds: $40
Trip to Amedee Island to snorkel with Turtles: $203
National Park Fees for Snowy Mountains: $29 per day
Skydiving over the South Coast of South Australia: $500
There’s no rescuing a budget after you’ve paid for that for the day without missing out on things for the rest of your trip.
And there’s no way to buy the memories you made doing that stuff once you’re home. Those kind of experiences are why I go on holidays in the first place. I’d rather go for four weeks and spend all my money sucking the joy out of every single experience I can get my hands on and eating in lovely cafes than for three years hoping I can buy enough food each day so I can earnestly tell people I’m a global nomad who saw the real Morocco.
Third World Countries Only
I can’t wait to go to Cambodia to volunteer my time and explore the beauty and history. I’m excited to hike Machu Picchu in Peru whilst humming my own Kronk-esque theme music. But I also want to sleep in a glass roofed igloo under the Aurora Borialis, and abseil down a waterfall in Fiji. Those awe inspiring $50 per day articles spend an awful lot of time *not* relaxing in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, island hopping in Greece or stalking Chad Kroeger through Europe. Those things take money (I assume that of the latter, I have never stalked that ruggedly sexy man, or at least you can’t prove enough to apply for a restraining order. Though I should probably look into costing that expedition just in case I’m ever single again. )
So while I completely applaud anyone who is living their dream of travelling on a tight budget to stay on the road for on end and I do give in to the occasional nomadic daydream, that’s just not where my life is at anymore.
The Brunch Fuelled Vagabond