Let’s face it, travelling can be expensive.
Backpackers often pride themselves on their ability to stretch a dollar. It’s like a badge of honour, being able to see just how cheaply one can live and surviving to tell the tale. And some of the best traveller tales come simply from being either stingy or just too poor for an alternative. The story of the lower class bus trip with goats and bags of onions through winding mountain passes is always better than the first-class, 15 hours quicker bus trip with air con and gold-plated toilets that cost $3 more.
To many people, the closer to poverty one can live whilst on the road, the better traveler they are. In a reversal to normal life, out on the road it’s the poorest who are most revered.
However there comes a time on every trip when no matter what sort of traveller you are and no matter what your budget is, you should really let go and splurge. Forget the budget just for a moment. Because when it comes down to it, sometimes you’re gonna miss out on the best that a place has to offer if you’re being too tight on the purse strings. To really appreciate and enjoy a country and its culture, sometimes you’re gonna have to pay. But holy shit is it worth it.
In many places eating can be pretty expensive (I’m looking at you, Europe). For this reason, a budget traveller is forced to skip the restaurants and stick to the majestic, luminescent aisles of the supermarkets.
The problem with this is that you run the risk of missing some of the best culinary experiences of your life. Let’s face it, many places around the world are great because of their food (Still looking at you, Europe). Food and alcohol are deeply ingrained into the culture, the social fabric of many countries, which means getting by on air and water means you’re not really getting to know that place. You’ll be missing out on diving into a rich subculture of eating and drinking based on centuries of evolution and secret recipes.
Can you imagine going to Italy without sampling the local pastas, meats and cheese, and a few drops of Chianti? I don’t think so. Would you say no to one of Argentina’s famous barbeques just to spare a few pesos? Uh uh. When a country stops all activity during the day to sit and enjoy some tapas and a beer, how dare you slap thousand of years of culinary evolution in the face by loading up on banana sandwiches and tinned tuna!
Crossing the border into a country does not mean you’ve really been there. A country’s real story doesn’t lie between the walls of of a drunken hostel. It lives and breathes in the museums and art galleries that showcase a nation’s greatest achievements. It lives in the roaring crowds of a football stadium. It dances the night away in concert halls and clubs and local music venues. The reality is that being entertained is not always cheap. Yes, there’s enough life happening out on the street to fill an itinerary. But rest assured some of the greatest things you’ll ever see happen on the other side of a ticket gate. If you’re not going to see some of the wonders of the world, what’s the point of going?
Going travelling isn’t just about getting new places, but also enjoying new places. Something travelers on a budget often forget is that you’re there to have fun, not just put another stamp in the passport. Having fun can be free, of course. But there’s some serious fun to be had if you’re willing to cough up a penny or two. Take Christchurch for example. Breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Cute lakeside town with a great nightlife. A shitload of hikes and treks in the surrounding mountains. But then there are the real activities – sky diving, hang gliding, para gliding, every other type of gliding every invented, buggy jumping, helicopter rides, jet boat rides, mountain biking, skiing, hot air balloons… wow. This shit is fun, but fun has a price tag.
Hostels are wonderful, magical places, don’t get me wrong. Nowhere is the spirit of adventure more alive and well. However if you’re on the road for a long time, there may come a time when you simply need to reward yourself for enduring bed bugs and shared showers with some peace and quiet. The peace and quiet that can only come from the comforts of a hotel. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a fancy one – although they are pretty awesome – but somewhere to put the feet up, scrape the weeks of dirt off in a real shower, is a god send. It could mean the difference between re-invigorating your love of the road, or sending you crazy and on the next flight home.
We know great stories come from epic journeys. And we highly recommend you take as many unconventional and scraping-the-barrel trips as possible. But to pay a little more for some travelling comfort every once in a while, it doesn’t make you a bad traveller. It just means ‘yes I appreciate the joys of roughing it, but fuck i need to sleep’. And no one can argue with that.
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