Travel costs money. Even the cheap backpacker and hostel life can eat through a healthy nest egg in a shockingly quick amount of time. When I’m traveling and I check my account balances, my immediate reaction upon seeing the printout from the ATM is always “Oh my god, I’ve been robbed!”
Then I take minute to think about my expenses and realize I’m just bad at math.
The idea of the broke traveler is romantic, but it’s not that realistic. Jack Kerouac kept wiring his poor Aunt for money throughout “On the Road” (I really hope he paid her back after that book was published and made him a fortune). Even Henry David Thoreau, paragon of self-reliance, was basically couch-crashing on his buddy Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lakeside property in “Walden.” We all need money to travel, but of course getting money requires a job, and a job usually requires you stay in one spot. So there’s a bit of a conundrum.
Still, you don’t have to travel like a backpacker and stay in terrible hostels with drunk and horny sun-burned nineteen-year-olds wearing the same shirt for three months to enjoy cheap travel or off the beaten path adventure. It’s not hard to Flashpack on a budget; you just might not be able to do it across Europe or America or Brazil. There are plenty of unbelievably beautiful places in the world where prices are cheap and but you don’t have to return to the hostel days. You just need to have a plan and stick to it. Here’s a few of my favorite places to travel inexpensively, while still living the high life.
If you are looking to travel cheap, South East Asia is really your go to destination. Thailand and Vietnam are both really great tourist destinations that won’t cost you an arm or a leg. But Indonesia is an amazing value. It also has amazing natural sites, some of the best in the world. You can stay at a hotel in Manado for $22 a night or you can splurge on a 5-star hotel in Bali for $100.
Indonesia is comprised of over 18,000 islands and only a third of them are actually inhabited. So it’s a scuba diving paradise. Indonesia’s island and mountain landscape is a result of its position on the Pacific Rim, so there are plenty of volcanoes to explore. There’s also the Borobudur, an eighth century Buddhist and temple complex nestled among mountains rising out of the jungle, which is, needless to say, a UNESCO world heritage site.
There’s fantastic nature throughout Indonesia, including in Bali
and Sumatra, and you can see Orangutans and Komodo Dragons. Island hopping is a must, and luckily you can get domestic flights for under $100, even at the last minute. Or you could travel by boat between the islands, with first class accommodations (meals and private bathroom included) for $40 a day. Who says you can’t afford first class?
While Peru is very much still on the well-worn “Gringo trail,” it stands alone on the trail in terms of value. Columbia and Ecuador might be a little cheaper, but what separates Peru from their neighbors to the north is the fact that Peru has a cuisine. It has real food that’s actually unique. You go east to Brazil and prices sky-rocket, as they do in Chile to the south. And Bolivia to the southeast, well it doesn’t have the ocean. Peru is the best value on the gringo trail if you want to experience mountains, the beach, great food, and also one of the true wonders of the world, Machu Picchu.
Peru also has Alpaca and Ayahuasca. Alpacas are the softest, weirdest looking animals on the planet that actually work for a living. Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew made by local shamans that contains DMT. It is administered by the shamans and is reported to give the user deep spiritual revelations. Not just typical hallucinogenic “trips,” but reality-shattering enlightenment sessions that users claim spur radical personal improvement and insight. You can have a session like this while touching Alpaca fur, some of softest fur on the planet, at the
same time. Peru is awesome.
India is not for the faint of heart. It’s like nowhere else on the planet. There are goats being slaughtered in the street, there are zero personal boundaries, and there are more people, smells, and colors per square meter than anywhere else in the world.
That being said, it’s the kind of place where the native culture permeates everything, and every minute brings a new experience. It’s also really cheap. And HUGE. Trying to summarize India would be nearly impossible. But a great adventure is heading north to the Himalayas.
The Indian state of Himachal Pradesh state is known for tourists, but there are plenty of things off the beaten path as well. This was where the British made their summer homes to escape from the blistering Indian heat. This is also where much of the displaced Tibetan refugee population settled when China invaded Tibet, including his holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s a huge region and opportunities for outdoor exploration abound. Make sure to see the Kullu Valley, or the “Valley of the Gods.” Even a colonial Brit like Rudyard Kipling agreed with
the local description of the valley, saying “Surely the gods live here; this is no place for men.”
Maybe not, but it is a great place for Flashpackers.