Not everyone who wanders is lost. Many people dream of seeing the world someday, without ever making those dreams a reality. Travel is customary in most European cultures, but something “rich people do” in America. In Austria, there is a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. Making your dreams come true may be much more feasible than you think. I’ve taken trips within the US that have cost double that of a trip overseas. There are SO many misconceptions about travel that seem to be common amongst Americans today, here are my top 5…
Traveling is expensive as you make it. A four hour round-trip flight from Miami to the Caribbean or Latin America will run you about $250 per person. A 20 hour drive from Saint Louis, MO to Miami costs about $300 roundtrip plus the cost of a rental. I paid about 100EU for a railway ticket from Germany to France, so let’s call it 200EU roundtrip. My husband and I spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica for under $2,700, including two roundtrip flights, lodging, 4 meals a day, activities, and souvenirs for 15 people. This trip could’ve easily cost us $10,000 but we chose the less touristic route. We purchased cheap flights that only allowed carry-on bags, and stayed with a host family for $25 a night. We also rented a beach condo and an apartment through AirBnb. We took public transportation to each city we visited around the country, ate local, drank minimally, and spent a lot of time relaxing at the beach. However, there was no shortage of adventure; we went zip-lining, self-guided hiking through the jungle, and socialized with the locals.
2. Getting there is the expensive part
So back during my days of undergrad, trans-continental flights were my archenemy. I always had the window seat, furthest from the aisle, and ALWAYS threw up on the dissent. The combination of velocity and altitude seemed to get the best of me no matter what precautionary measures I took.
Anywho, I learned a neat trick for purchasing roundtrip flights leaving from the US. It’s called the 53 day rule. Purchasing a flight 53 days before travel is pretty much ALWAYS the cheapest. This rule has never failed me, or anyone I’ve recommended it to. However, purchasing a flight within a 3 or 4 day radius of the 53 day mark may only cost $20 more. However, outside the 2 weeks surrounding that 53 day mark WILL be significantly more expensive! I paid the same amount for a 4 hour flight to Latin America, as I did a 12 hour flight to Europe prior to hearing of the 53 day rule. Trust me…it works.
3. Good food is overpriced
Steaks and high-priced seafood are nice to have, but not a sustainable source of nutrition. If you think in terms of nutritional value, buying things such as organic fruits & veggies, and starches like potatoes or rice, will be much more cost effective. If you HAVE to eat meat (like my dad), go for eggs, turkey, or chicken – and only have it a couple of times. Another option is to cook your own meals. If you eat the locally produced foods, they may be less than half the cost of imported foods. It literally was more expensive to drink tap water in Germany, than local beer. In Costa Rica, a massive plate of seafood pasta was $7 – cheaper than a can of Campbell’s soup. Eat local. It generally tastes better and you’ll save a lot of money.
4. Tourists pay more
On the topic of eating locally, another misconception is that tourists will pay more. Yes, tourism is usually more expensive but that depends on the kind of tourism you’re looking for. Traditional tourist resorts, activities, etc are operated by non-citizens, and the local economy doesn’t profit much. Backpackers usually live like locals, and pay local prices. On our honeymoon, we considered staying at a thermal spring resort in the jungle that was around $500 a night. Instead we stayed with a Costa Rican family, in their hand-built cabin, for $25 a night. Sure our experience was less romantic but we figured there’d be plenty of time for romance in the next 50+ years we’d signed up to spend together. Traditionally it was pretty difficult to find a host family outside of studying abroad in college. Nowadays sites like AirBnb and Couchsurfing make it easier to find locals that will host you. If you’re going to travel to a foreign country, be sure you’re getting an authentic rather than filtered, and overpriced experience.
5. You should wait until you’re retired to travel
A lot of people think that traveling after retirement is the best option. I disagree wholeheartedly. I think traveling all throughout life is the best option. In our youth we’re more mentally and physically flexible. We adapt to changing situations quickly, and optimistically. We’re spontaneous, fearless, and have fewer responsibilities. Traveling is an experience like no other, it changes people for the better. Don’t wait to see the world because “someday” may never come. Be fearless. The only people that live with regret are the ones that never take a leap of faith.
The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.Randy Komisar