“Wow at your travel game, you’ve been to so many places this year, you must be extremely rich!”
“Dude, how come you’ve been to Barcelona AND London in the same year when I barely have some free days in the summer?”
“I bet you’ve won the lottery, there’s no way you could afford to eat at that restaurant in Rome…”
“That’s it bruh, I’m calling the money police on you!”
Don’t waste your time on calling the police folks, my friend. These are just some of the things people have said to me this year when I travelled to more destinations than ever before. All my friends and family think I’m either super-rich (I’m not, have a look at my prices) have a collaboration with Booking.com and some airlines, or am selling drugs in my free time.
The objective of this article is to tell you the truth about my travels from a personal and financial point of view. To show you that travel is not even close to always being fun, luxurious or easy. I am by no means rich, a drug dealer or a scam artist. I’d wish I’d be as good of a magician as to be able to travel for free, but I’m not David Blaine.
In this guide:
It all comes down to priorities when taking on a hobby as expensive as travel. Buying plane tickets, accommodation, restaurant food and drinks, transportation between cities, entrance fees to the many tourist attractions, these are all costly and are quickly adding up whether you like it or not. This is why if you don’t make travel a top priority in your life, you’ll never be able to do it continuously, or almost continuously for an extended period of time.
I’m not a full-time traveller. I just travel from point A, which is my hometown to point B, which is my destination, spend a few days/weeks there and then fly back to point A before the next trip. This adds up to my annual travels invoice because travelling by plane is still expensive. Even if you do it via low-cost carriers, as I personally mostly do. Plane rides are expensive, but so necessary while travelling.
Not being on the road all the time adds costs to my travels. People who are travelling all the time can settle in a place and live a much cheaper life, but if you’re doing it sporadically, with flights coming in and out, you’re adding expensive costs to the bill. Once you make travel a priority though, you can always find a way around costs.
One thing I will point out before starting my list of things that are not that great about travelling all the time is that my income is not huge. I have a good income especially for my country, but it’s by no means incredible or anything close to that. I travelled to 7 new countries in 2019, did a Romanian road trip by car and an Italian Grand Tour by plane and train, saw the magical city of Marrakech in Morocco and flew to London to see David Blaine perform live. Right now I’m at the airport in Timisoara waiting for my flight to Lisbon and my last international trip of the year.
This year I’ve been to Vienna, Prague, Barcelona, Marrakech, London, Romania, Krakow, Rome, Naples, Matera, Pompeii, Budapest, Lisbon and also Bucharest a couple of times. Yet my income is a little above average in Romania, a country where income is lower than in most of Europe.
It’s just working hard, long hours and tedious projects, and do it as well as humanly possible, after which you gather the money and spend them as you want. Prioritising decent living and travelling. That’s about it. Again, I am not rich, I am not a drug dealer, I’m not paid by any travel organisation or website. Ok, now that that’s settled, let’s dive into the ten truths that are not so great about travelling all the time on a budget.
I’m just going to say it: low-cost airlines are low-cost for a reason, and that is, they’re cheap. You get to sit in long lines for hours on end, have your flights delayed or cancelled for no reason, suffer in uncomfortable seats during the flights themselves and pay 5 Euros for water if you’re left without any. The good news is, most of the time, low-cost flights are decent. They’re still cheap, but “cheap” doesn’t have to be bad.
Most of my 30-or-so flights in 2019 have departed and arrived on time. I’ve had no issues with majorly delayed or cancelled flights. One time from Milan to Marrakech, the flight had a one hour delay because of a serious storm over Bergamo’s small airport. Another time I had to wait for 2 and a half hours at Luton’s airport for my flight back home.
But that’s about it. Other than those two situations, low-cost carriers have been nothing but milk and honey for me. My average ticket price was around 15 Euros, which means that I’ve been able to see 7 new countries in 2019 for about 450 Euros. That’s the same price you’d pay for a SINGLE RETURN FLIGHT from Munich to New York with Lufthansa.
Stinky hotels or guesthouses
If 95% of my flights have been great this year, I can’t say the same thing about hotels and guesthouses. Some of the troubles you go through just to keep the costs down are really going to be bothering you newcomers to the continuous work and travel lifestyle. While a lot of the hotels that I’ve stayed at in 2019 have been great, there were some that were more than stinky.
The phrase “you get what you pay for” is extremely true when it comes to a single room that’s just 20 Euros per night. It’s going to be small, smelly, without a private bathroom, loud and sometimes not extremely clean. You’ll even see a bug or two hovering around your sheets at night whenever you check your phone to see what time it is. Don’t panic, it’s just a normal traveller’s night.
Street food/supermarket dinners
Remember all of those delicious-looking Instagram plates of amazing food travellers are posting while on vacation? Well, that’s just one tiny tiny part of the story. The reality is, if you want to still have money for a bus ride at the end of your trip so that you can get to the airport for your flight, you’ll have to cut back on those fancy dinners to about a few during your stay. A few dinners are enough if you don’t want to go bankrupt.
Restaurant food in most places is expensive. That’s fine if you travel two to three times a year, but if you travel continuously, you’re going to feel it. That’s why most of my dinners are bought from the supermarket or a street food stall while I’m away. I sometimes treat myself with KFC or a nice cart of noodles from the suspicious Chinese food place down the street. It’s not all Instagram perfection when it comes to food and travel, that’s all I’m saying…
Busses and the metro
Private airport transfers are a luxury for most of us frequent travellers. The bus won’t kill you, so stop paying tons of money for private transfers or taxis that will more often than not rip you off. Instead, buy the cheapest way of getting into town from the airport you can find. Metro services are usually the cheapest, between 1,5 and 7 Euros in all of Europe. Cities like London, Istanbul, Barcelona, Lisbon and a ton more are linked via a metro line to their airports.
The downside? Crowded spaces that will sometimes give you panic attacks, sweaty smells all the way through, a bit of confusion as the trains are rumbling up and down, left to right and side to side on the tracks and maybe a fine or two when you “forget” to buy a ticket. It’s all good though. If you’re the adventurous kind, just try to go into Heathrow airport between 4 to 6 PM any day of the working week from central London. Good luck!
I’ve experienced all types of weather during my travels this year. I’ve been drenched by rain in Rome, made sick by the cold in Vienna, sweated my ass out from the intense Moroccan heat and yes, I’ve been pleasantly impressed by the breeze of the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona. The thing about weather and travel is, it’s always going to be a lottery. You can go somewhere and be delighted with nothing but the sun and clear skies, or you can go and spend your entire trip inside museums or coffee shops because the rain simply doesn’t stop.
One of the biggest issues, when you’re travelling with low-cost carriers and stay in cheaper hotels, is that there’s really no flexibility in your schedule. If you’ve found the ticket for 20-25th of May and you can’t go because of <<insert reason here>> you simply lose the money. There’s no refunds, no money back policies, no nothing.
Moreover, you can’t even go to a destination that you like when you actually want to. You always have to schedule these trips based on when the prices are the lowest. My recent trip to Lisbon cost me around 200 Euros and included the four flights, transportation in the city, accommodation and food. I booked it 2 months in advance.
If I were to go when I wanted to, it would have cost 3 times more for just the flights and accommodation. I cannot afford that, so I went whenever I could and did my job on the go. Which luckily is no issue for me but might be a great issue for you.
Close to no social life
When you travel this much, your social life will suffer. I haven’t had a stable relationship in a year and a half. I can’t hold on to someone I like because I am always on the move, and so far, there hasn’t been a significant other who’d share the travel bug at the same intensity as I do. My friends are also not that many, but at least the friends I do have are trustworthy and very patient with my hobby of always being away. Like Alex, my buddy from London who waited for me until 11 PM at night with fresh focaccia bread that he made and Harvey, is super British classy cat who was surely the highlight of my trip.
It’s still expensive
Even when you travel as a budget traveller, you’re still going to spend a ton of money on travel. It’s an expensive hobby to have even if you’re cautious about what you spend your money on. You’re still going to have to pay extra for restaurant food, taxis, entrance fees, sometimes more expensive hotels, transfers in places where public transport is not available (think Morocco, Egypt, Macedonia) and many other “hidden” fees that will potentially blow up your bill.
You’re on your own, period
Whatever happens, when you travel solo, you’re on your own. If you’re nervous by default, or if you’re not that good with managing situations that can go extreme in a few seconds, I advise you to take it slow with travel. While travelling has gotten me the most beneficial changes for my personal and professional life, it also has been the most intense experience I have ever partaken into.
When things go wrong while you’re at home, you always have someone to count on or at least advise with in order to get out of the situation. When you’re thousands of miles away and things go bad, you’re left with nobody but yourself to solve the issue at hand. And people say it’s easy to do the hard stuff on your own, but it’s far from that. It’s rewarding, yes, but not easy. It’s hard and frightening. But it does make you grow.
Travel is addictive
Finally, the thing to consider when travelling for more than once or twice a year is, once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, there’s no way you can get any cure for it. If you’ve taken 3 trips over the course of three months, you’re a travel addict, if and only if those trips were not business-related. If you simply wanted to go somewhere, you’re already suffering from a very serious disease called wanderlust.
The good thing about suffering from wanderlust is you’ll see a lot of places, meet amazing people from all cultures of the world, try their foods and wines, visit some of the most amazing attractions on Earth and overall expand your horizons and personality in ways you could never do from home.
The negative side effects of wanderlust are, you’re always going to be broke or cheap, always wearing the same two jeans and 3 shirts, and the same jacket for at least 3 years, you’ll always put your stuff in the same Puma backpack you’ve been carrying around since 2013 and you’ll always miss things like wine tastings, dinners with friends and birthdays because you’re always either away or broke. Mostly broke.
If you’ve read all of the 10 reasons why travel is not always so luxurious or perfect as people think, and are still thinking about going away to travel then congratulations, you’re a wanderlust. If you’ve changed your mind, I am extremely sorry as this was not why I’ve written this article. The purpose of the article is to set things straight, not just about how can I travel as much as I do, but also to tell you the truth about what to expect while travelling a lot. I hope you’ve found my ideas helpful and I wish you nothing but safe travels!
All photos in this article are mine. Please, if you do happen to use a photograph for one of your posts, notify me via email and link to this article. If you are looking for someone to write articles for you, or whatever content you need, good news: I’m here to help you out!