The debt crisis is taking over my life. And I’m not talking about the plummet of the DOW. I’m talking about my personal bank account and the incredibly disproportionate ratio between its balance and my student loan totals. Whatever crazy bank analyst decided it was appropriate and reasonable to loan me enough money at age eighteen to spend four years at one of the most expensive schools in country must be in cahoots with the other lunatic that sent me abroad to write my Master’s thesis. I am swimming in debt. Combined with my New York City rent, I’m pretty sure I live below the poverty line.
The good news is, I’ve spent the last seven years mastering the art of pauperism. Sometimes this means living off a loaf of bread and peanut butter, and sometimes it’s merely a matter of rearranging my priorities (groceries before beer, blah blah blah.) Because my case of the travel bug won’t seem to go away no matter how penniless I am, I’ve learned how to travel on an extremely tight budget. This has been comical at times – see: overdrafting bank account for a panini in Paris – but for the most part, I feel my limited cashflow has lead me to explore places in a way the typical traveler does not.
So, for all the travelers out there that may be inflicted by the debt crisis (and I hear there are many), I’ve put together a checklist to help maximize your trip- not your spending.
The Wino’s Travel Bible for the Poor
Be realistic. We’d all like to stay in five-star hotels and wine and dine at the finest restaurants, but in order to stretch a buck, you have to make some compromises. Look into hostels instead of hotels- the rates are way cheaper and the atmosphere is always fun. Look for places to eat in local neighborhoods instead of touristy ones – you’ll get the same quality food and service, if not better, for half the price.
Do some research. There’s a cheap happy hour around every corner, and most likely, an app to tell you about them (if there’s not, I call dibs on the patent.) Put in a little extra time to scout out free or cheap places to go towards the end of your trip if you’re running low on cash. You’ll thank me.
Choose your friends wisely. Someone (the Hubs) once told me that it’s easier to befriend rich people than make your own small fortune. I’ve found this to be true. I suggest rubbing elbows with someone who owns a boat. Or date a boy with a beach house. I’ve done both. Success story.
Go home. I’m a self-proclaimed city girl, but sometimes I love nothing more than a weekend in the country (see yesterday’s post!). When I’m craving a vacation-fix but my bank account is suffering, I pack up and head back to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A weekend at home guarantees good food, better company, and almost always ensures good, cheap fun.
Be lazy. There are some absolutely must-see tourist attractions, but almost all come with a price tag. This is when my measly bank account befits my laziness. Instead of handing over the 10 euro to climb the Eiffel Tower, take a hike across the Seine to the Trocadero, buy a crepe from a street-side vendor, and enjoy the view. Instead of touring the Louvre, pack a bottle of wine, take a seat along the Seine with a friend, and people watch. That’s how real Parisians pass the time anyway.
Stick to these tips, and I promise you won’t have to put off your next trip because of a suffering bank account. They may not be much, but they’ve worked for me- some of my best memories were made on trips when I literally had a few dollars to my name. Isn’t that what Hemingway said? “That’s how Paris was in the old days, when we were very poor and very happy?” Preach it, Ernest.
poor but well-traveled,