Travel

Seven Continents or Bust!

I’ve been watching a lot of travel shows lately. I find it helps to keep my wanderlust up during periods where I’m not actually traveling. They also provide me with ideas on where to go next. I like finding ideas on new and obscure travel locations, and then daydreaming as I might actually get there one day. It’s a good use of brainpower.

It seems that, as of late, all the travel shows seem to have converged upon a theme. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or if it just happens as a matter of volume. The longer one travels, the more of the hit list locations get checked off, and the more one needs to move farther afield to find new travel destinations. I suppose it’s a natural side effect of longevity.

The theme that I am alluding to is the need to visit all seven continents. Stepping foot on all seven continents is seen, in some circles, as the mark of a real traveler. In other circles, a real traveler is someone who has gone to a new land and learned how to live in a new culture. In other circles, one who has thoroughly explored a region is considered a travelers. Everyone uses the definition that best suits the way they view the world.

So, I guess my question of the blog post is this: Do you need to step on every continent to consider yourself well-traveled? Where I would think the answers are either yes or no, there are as many justifications for those answers as there are people answering. And that, is the beauty of individuality.

My personal answer to this question is no. I am also sure about my answer. Let me explain why. In my experience, travel is NOT a collection of places. A bunch of pins on a map, or stamps in a passport, without the experience of those places, is just a bunch or pins or stamps. When you go someplace new, you learn. You may learn about the difference in how people travel from point A to point B. You may learn about other people history in a specific country or region. You may learn how people get on with other people, or the things they hold sacred, or the way they grow food, or the things they teach their children. But, above all, you learn something. If I have gone somewhere and learned only that I didn’t want to go back there (Which has rarely ever happened), I still learned something. That something is the thing that give travel meaning. It is the thing that you try to pass on to others. Travel stories and barroom tales are all just collections of you telling someone else your lessons learned through traveling.

Here’s a small diversion to maybe help prove my point about a collection of pins. I have managed five of the seven continents. They would be North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. I have spent excessive amounts of time in North America, and Europe. Would I say that I have traveled through them enough to know them and learned what there is to learn? Absolutely, no.

I live in the US, and have travelled to all but five of the states. Yet, there are still probably over a hundred things still on my US to-do list. Places I want to go and things I want to do, before I stop travelling around the US and call it seen. Obviously, those hundreds of things don’t all hit into five states. They are still scattered all over the US.

As I said, I’ve been to Africa. It was in 2000. I took a Contiki trip to see Egypt. The trip was excellent and I saw a great deal of Egypt. I definitely did things that I would not have done if I had solo traveled around the country. (I am not necessarily endorsing Contiki. I’m definitely a solo traveler by nature. BUT, if you’re not the go it alone type, I will say that if you’re 18-35 and want to get out and see the world, Contiki is an excellent company to utilize. I have countless good things to say about my experience travelling with them, and the people I met.) Did I see all that Egypt had to offer, no. Did I get to plant my pin in the African continent, yes. Because I’ve been there, and planted my pin, should I not go back? I say, no. There are a whole list of places I want to visit in Africa as well. I plan to have grand adventures in and around the African continent.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the idea of saying you have been to all seven continents, as if you’ve accomplished some great task, means you’ve missed the point of travelling to begin with. Travel is supposed to enrich your life. Travel is supposed to open your eyes to new cultures and to new ideas. Travel is supposed to be – rewarding, not simply a collection of pins.

I have met people that have spent all of their time simply travelling their own country. They never escaped to farther fields, yet they are definitely more travelled than I am. They went out and saw something new, and with opened eyes were rewarded with new experiences. Those are the people I love to talk to. Their passion for places just over the hill or across the state make me want to go to those places too. To experience the same things they did.

That, in my opinion, is why we all travel. Not to collect pins (Though we all collect pins), but to have new experiences.

Now get out there. Go.

 

Two good friends of mine I was motorcycling around with, somewhere in the US Southwest. I’m thinking sometime around 2010 or 2011. Even though I had been to the southwest several times before, I had never been there – until then.

 

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Travel

An Open Opinion of the Current Status of the Airlines

Flight Problems.

This is strictly an opinion piece.

 

Over the last weeks the news and social media people of the world have been deriding the airlines for episodes of inappropriate customer service. Where the individual problems with the different airlines were indeed, real problems, I think that both the news outlets and the social media universe have done the airlines a fairly large injustice.

A quick google search of the FAA shows flight numbers in the order of 2.25 million passengers a day, with some 7000 planes in the sky at any given time. Okay, now go back to the last sentence and read it again. 2.25 million people flew somewhere. One person made an ass of themselves. Somehow it made international news. Now, it’s a travesty in the airways. I really don’t think so.

If I were to use the same logic that the news channels do, I would come up with an entirely different conclusion. I have made two flight across the US in the last two weeks. Both flights were one-stop flights. One leg stopping in O’Hare and one leg stopping in Philadelphia. I think we can agree that both of those airports can be problematic at times. That being said, one all four flights and both stops I had nothing but good service. The flight crews on all four on my flights were excellent. The logistics of changing planes at both stops was smooth and un-hassled. By every measure, I can rate the airline industry as excellent.

My point here is very simple. People focus on the bad because good news doesn’t sell anything. The news media and the social news media twist things to the horrible end every time they can – Because good news doesn’t sell anything. Telling people that 7000 planes flew today without incident has no impact compared to some idiot got drug off of a single flight for some reason that no one cares about. One incident in 2.25 million isn’t news, it’s fabrication – In my opinion.

My point should be obvious to anyone that has traveled outside their own country. If you listen to the international news before you travel somewhere, you will never get on the plane. If you believe what the news media and the social news media would have you believe, then the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. BUT, if you managed to get on the plane and go see, you obviously know that it isn’t. The rest of the world is a marvelous place to explore, with beautiful sights and wonderful people.

Don’t buy into the hype. Does the airline industry have some serious customer service issue? Yes. Frankly speaking, a great deal of the customer service problems are the fault of the customers. There are a lot of great people in the skies, do a great job, and trying to get unappreciative people wherever they want/need to go. That is why I do my best to thank the flights crews as I disembark my flights. It’s good for them to know that not everyone hates the job they do.

Take a minute and look at the facts before you believe the hype. Then, get out there and explore.

It’s a great big world out there, it would suck if you didn’t see it because you were listening to some idiot on television telling you not to go.

 

Just my two cents.

 

O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois, January 2015. Getting ready to board a flight to London, where I picked up the Grand Prize at the 2014 London Book Festival. It was a good flight.

 

 

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Travel

Getting Around Town.

This stream of conscience is more about internal travel than it is external travel. We will cover getting from country to country in another episode. Today let’s talk about how to get around a place once you have already made it there.

For the sake of good conversation, let’s start with Europe. It really doesn’t matter if it’s western or eastern Europe, I find the go-to answer to be the train. When I was younger, and lived in Germany, I drove almost everywhere. It was just a matter of get up and go. Now that I’m not embedded in the culture anymore, I find the train to be the best option. The train system in Europe literally goes everywhere. Seriously, I mean it goes everywhere. The small little town in the middle of nowhere will have a train station. I may only get one train a day, or a week, but it is still accessible. The other good note about Europe is – It ain’t big. I don’t mean that as a statement about the continent, but more about the cities in it. Most all the cities in Europe have one of two qualities. Either they aren’t very large or they have a metro system to get around. Any city of any size in Europe will have a metro (subway) system.

You can walk out of your hotel in London, get the tube to the train station, catch a train across the channel to Paris, and take the metro to your next hotel. No rental cars or cabs required. After hitting up Paris, you’re on the high-speed train south to Barcelona or Nice. Maybe, you head east to Frankfurt. Maybe it’s farther on to Rome. Wherever you’re headed in Europe, I personally think the train is the answer.

Now, the rail system does have some downfalls. The real downfall of the rail system is that you’re going wherever the train is going. If you like to do the random stops and check out the unmarked roads, then the train is not going to be your first choice. It’s cool, you have to travel the way you like to travel. Getting off the beaten track with a rental car in Europe is pretty easy. All of the major rental companies that operate in North America also operate in Europe. There are different requirements for insurance and such, but the process is basically the same. You may be required to possess an International Driver’s Permit, and should definitely check the requirements of the country you plan to visit. If you are required to possess an International Driver’s Permit, you can pick one up at your local AAA Car Club office where you live. Most major car rental companies will also offer deals to vacationing travelers. Check with the car company you intend to use or the booking agency you get your plane/hotel through as they may have incentives and saving plans available that can lower your cost.

If the train is for you, then there are options here as well. Both Rail Europe and EURail offer multiple day/multiple country train ticket options through their websites. The ticket packages need to be purchased before you leave North America, but can be bought in advance and activated when you arrive. Depending upon your ideas about what you want to do, buying single use tickets at the train station can be a cheaper option, as the rail passes are fairly expensive. If you plan to visit several parts of a country or multiple countries, the rail pass is definitely a money saver.

Moving on to Africa, Sadly here I’m not much help. The one time I was in Africa I used a travel company. Which one? Contiki. They were excellent. They also provided all of the logistics. Frankly, the traffic in Cairo was something I had never seen before. I didn’t know traffic and action sports could be blended together until I made it to Cairo. I’m sure there are good ways to get around, I just haven’t scouted them out yet.

South America. South America doesn’t have the infrastructure that North America has. It lacks any of the serious between city/country services, except for buses. Buses and planes are the between country services in the lower part of the Americas. The flights across country are also reasonably priced. The bus is the cheapest, but is also definitely sketchier. You can catch an internal of to-country flight quiet reasonably. Once you land, its cabs and buses around the city. The rental car option is also available in most major South American cities, but with a cab service it probably isn’t necessary. At least, that’s me. Some people like more independence of travel. If you’re looking for on-the-cheap, then a rental is probably a good option. You can burn up a little money running from one side of a city to the other. I just tend to find cabs easier.

South America is much more based on buses and cabs in the cities, and buses or private drivers from city to city. When I was in Costa Rica, I used the private driver option. Travelling up into the cloud forests, it pays to have a driver who knows where he’s going. It’s also nice to be able to talk to a local for a while, about whatever.

My time in the Caribbean has been a mix of cabs and rental cars. Seriously, beaching it is easy in a rental car. And, like North America, the car companies are everywhere. If you’re headed out for the night to party, leave the rental at the hotel and cab it. You will be happy you did on the way home.

I have utilized trains, cabs, buses, horse and carriage, and private drivers while traveling abroad. It really depends on how you want to get around. If you are the typical North American traveler, you want freedom of movement. That is easy enough to find, depending on your definition of freedom. If it’s I-want-to-go-right-now, then it’s rental cars probably. If its lets-go-and-see then it’s the train, or a bus, or a cab. Most cities and city to city connections in most parts of the world have a bus service. I recommend that if you plan to use the local bus service, you research it before you go. The ideas of safe and prompt vary wildly across the globe. If you’re thinking that you’re going from Lima, Peru, down the coast to Nazca, Peru, and that you’re going to be taking the Greyhound, you’re probably going to be sadly mistaken. You’re also going to have a bad travel experience.

I tend to think that have a good travel experience has as much to do with travelling like the locals as it does with interacting with the local society. If you’re in a place where everyone travels by bus, then get out and travel by bus. If you’re in an area of the world with good trains, then take the train. Believe it or not, moving around is actually part of the travel experience. Personally, I can’t wait to get to India or South East Asia and take my first ricksha ride!

The train station in Monte Carlo, spring of 2013. I was in town for the Monaco Grand Prix. It was a really nice train station.

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Travel

Life Beyond Europe

Is there more to life than Europe? I guess the answer to that depends who you ask. I say, absolutely. Others say, probably not. There was a time when, if someone said to me that I needed to go abroad, I thought of Europe. No, not just Europe, but Western Europe. Now days, I’ve managed to expand by horizons a bit, but Europe still has a powerful draw to it.

I have some friends that travel exclusively in Europe. I consider them tourists, not travelers. Tourists get packages and then go out and see what they have been told is not-to-be-missed. They are most likely itinerary driven people. I hate itineraries! All of the things that you will remember about a trip ten years later will not be in the itinerary.

If this is your lifestyle, that’s cool. Go, and enjoy. There are an INFINITE number of tour packages that cover Europe. And, there are a large variety of travel shows that cover Europe. It is easy to travel in Europe. The network of auto routes and trains is almost all-encompassing. More importantly, Europe has all the stuff people expect when they go somewhere that isn’t there home. It has deep, deep history. It has world class museums. It has excellent food. It has the sun-washed beaches and snow covered mountains. There is little that you can look for that isn’t there, somewhere.

It can also be easy to go to Europe and then just keep going to Europe. That’s what happened when I started travelling again. I had lived in Germany for several years when I was just out of high school. It was those in-between school and college years. Germany was a wonderful place. It was magical. It had mountains, and snow, great beer, and awesome food. The discos were loud and awash with people. There were festivals in every little town. Is was just a great experience. SO, when I decided to get back out on the road it seemed like the place to go. Quickly however, I decided that as much as I liked Germany, I also wanted to see other places. So I went to England. Then, I went wondering all over France. Then, I set down in Portugal, took the train across country to the channel, a train across England, and a ferry to Ireland. Needing a change, I spent weekend in Rome one winter, and Walked around Monte Carlo during the Grand Prix one spring.

I had settled into Europe. Why? Simple, it was easy. A quick flight from the east coast of America to anywhere in Europe isn’t hard to find. Hotels are on some lame similar standard with the States, and you can normally drink the water. It’s just easy. It was at his point that I went, what am I doing? Isn’t there more to life than Europe? Isn’t there a whole other planet out there?

The answer is yes. Yes there is a whole other planet out there to adventure around. Peru is fascinating. Australia is large and wonderful, sun-washed and hectic. Egypt is lost in time and antique. Costa Rica is jungles and surf. It’s all out there somewhere. All you have to do is go looking for it. Personally, I’m happy that I went to see other places.

Now, one could say that you can also find all of those things in Europe, if you look. That would be absolutely true. You can find pretty much everything above, save the jungle. That’s okay too, they really don’t need any jungle. But, back to the question: Is there more to life than Europe? I guess the answer is: do you want there to be? I would say that if you are happy doing the European shuffle, then do it. If you long for foreign lands and mysterious tongues, then do that. I like the second option, but I’ve already done the first one. Think about the way you travel. Think about the things that make you happy. Think about the types of activities you like to do and the excitement that drives you. Then, when you’re done thinking about it, go do it. If wondering the beaches of Europe makes you happy, do it. If wondering the bazaars of Cairo makes you happy, then go do that. I’ve done both. One experience isn’t better than another. They are individual experiences that I enjoyed completely.

So, I guess the answer to the question is – maybe?

Now, go on. Get out there.

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The old fortress in Lisbon, Portugal. Taken from the rooftop terrace of my hotel, somewhere around 2009.

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Travel, Uncategorized

Packing.

There is a truism about traveling the globe, I think. That truism is that you are always going to come back with more stuff than you left with. It habit, especially for us first world people. You buy cool stuff found along the way. You pick up gifts for people back home. Lets face it, nobody can resist that souvenir T-shirt from the street vendor. It’s a fact of travel. That being said, I like to leave space in the backpack to allow for newly acquired stuff. Not a lot of space, but enough so I can come home with one bag the way I left home.

Backpacking is a style I have been employing so long, I can’t remember another way. Well, that’s not completely true, I used to take a large blue hard-sided suitcase to summer camp as a kid. I held everything I needed for the week at camp and was basically indestructible. I think it was one piece of a set my mother picked up when she was young. It was old and showed the signs of many, many places. But camp was a learning experience. So, was the military. You go into the army ad they give you a fancy green backpack. You put all your stuff in it, and then you put it on your back. I learned fast during those days that LESS IS MORE. if you don’t have it, you don’t have to carry it around.

I have never forgotten that lesson. I still travel that way today. Still, less is more. Whether your in Cairo or Paris, Lima or Honolulu, if you need to find something you usually always can. Dragging around a lot of “Maybe” items doesn’t happen. You can rent gear or find a place that sells it. It’s a great world out there, and they have stuff.

As far as my individual travel style, I pack for a week. If I’m going out for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, I pack for a week. 7 days worth of pants (shorts and jeans), 5 days worth of shirts (I will have bought a couple by the time the week’s out) and 10 days worth of underwear and socks (Cause sometimes you don’t actually find the laundry mat where you think you will). It’s really that simple. It also takes up surprisingly little space in your pack. Extra space is god when you’re on the go. It allows for the rest of the crap you need to pack.

My standard packing list is pretty much like this:

Kelty Backpack (2600)

Rip Curl drawstring bag

Journal with extra pens

A cloth Royal Crown bag containing toiletries, Zantac, and Imodium

A small backpacker first aid kit

A small cloth zippered bag with passport, shot records, travel itinerary, diving cert card and log book (If Required)

A couple of trash bags for the odd rain event

5 shirts, 2 shorts, 1 pair of jeans, good long sleeved shirt, 10 days underwear and socks, hiking boots, Tevas sandals, a rain shell, and a hat (usually bought along the way)

Multi-country electric adaptor

Apple phone charger

Camera battery charger

digital camera

and an external battery for the iPhone

That’s really about it. That amount of stuff will fill the backpack about 85 % full. The drawstring bag can be used to carry stuff onto the plane or as extra storage. I pull the drawstrings full out and tie them off to the carry loops on the backpack. Sometime, you just end up buying extra crap.

I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of stuff. It’s not. It’s what I need to get around wherever I’m at. If something really comes up missing, I go buy one. To be completely honest, the only things you actually need to travel are a passport and a good credit card. The rest of it is just stuff. Back in the days of the tall ships people went abroad with just the clothes on their back. They all had a good time. You can too.

I can just images the thoughts at this point. I can’t go on vacation with just that little bit. I have to have changes of clothes. I have to have extra shoes. I have to have my computer and my dvd player and my big thick book (Okay I admit I drug a copy of On the Origin of Species all over Europe one summer). The truth is , you don’t. You don’t really need it. You certainly don’t need to be dragging it everywhere you go. Trust me, your back will thank you if you don’t.

This is the way I roll. I understand that other people don’t roll this way. I have lots of friends who have multiple bags all the time. If that is what you need for a security blanket, then do it. I have found a way that works for me. It may or may not work for you.

The one thing I absolutely do recommend is leaving a little room in your suitcase or backpack for the stuff you pick up along the way. The first time you find yourself in Heathrow, watching a bunch of shocked people trying to stuff all of the crap they brought into one piece of baggage because the customs people at Heathrow will only allow a single piece of baggage through x-ray with you, you start pack less. You also laugh when you get to the other side of the x-ray line because you only brought one bag and breezed right on through. Just sayin.

Try less. Just a little less. You find it’s not that bad.

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What’s in the pic, It’s all you REALLY need.

 

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Ways to cut some cost

Now that I’ve brought everybody down with the actual price of travelling Europe as an adult, let’s take another look at the actual travelling expense. There are ways to minimize what you pay while abroad. My favorite cost saving idea is timing. I travel off-peak whenever possible. Travelling outside of the natural high-travel period, or off-peak, is a blessing in many regards. First, if you aren’t too far outside the normal travel high-period the weather will not have changed drastically. This is important if you’re chasing the sun.

If you’re chasing architecture and museums, off-peak can be a true blessing. The normal travel crowds diminish significantly once you pass out of the high-travel seasons. Sites will have far fewer people to content with. Hotels and restaurants will also be less populated. This bit is important, as they want to fill space. Off-peak hotel and restaurant prices tend to drop, as to entice travelers. This ….. is good!

I travel off-peak whenever it’s good to do so. You will find a lot of the Mediterranean area of Europe is more temperate than North American travelers would think for. I visited Rome, in February, and the weather was quite pleasant. I pack the big coat and didn’t need any of it. It was a great change from the Chicago winter I had flown out of.

So, you say you can’t travel off-peak? Kids school breaks, or work high periods don’t allow for vacation. That being said, there are still ways to save a little cash. These things are all things that you have read about on other sites. There really aren’t too many NEW ways to save cash while abroad.

The real way to save cash now is to shop well. And by shopping well, that means shopping many website to see who’s really selling things at the lowest price. No one website will always have the lowest price. It’s just the way it is. Frankly, I don’t know how they decide how to price things. I think there actually might be a crystal ball involved somewhere. What I do know is, one website will always be slightly less expensive than another or several others.

I tend to use several sites for airline flights. My standbys are www.aa.com, www.kayak.com, www.easyjet.com, and www.cheapoair.com. I like to fly American Airlines as too keep my travel miles in one place. If you go straight to the actual carrier for any specific flight that you find on a flight search website, it will almost always be cheaper straight from the actual carrier. That cheaper rate may be 10$ or it may be 100$, but money is money.

Kayak is a great site for seeing multiple options for individual flight options. Cheap-o-air is another great option for seeing flight options. They both have easy to use search engines and are very easy to navigate. I use mobile apps for all of the above options as they are all good browsing options.

If you are searching for cheap flights inside Europe, I would suggest you take a look at the Easyjet website. They are limited in the amount of airports that they fly in and out of, but they are cheap. I also wouldn’t let the limited number of airports get you down. The price of the flights are low enough to usually offset the cost of a train ticket from your city to the city that easy jet is flying out of. And really, you traveling, aren’t you?

For full disclaimer I also use www.travelocity.com quite a lot. The site a bigger and clunkier than the ones mentioned above, but it does cover a lot of ground. I tend to keep its use to domestic travel as that’s really where it works best for me.

On the logging front I tend to use www.hotels.com, and www.booking.com regularly. I like staying at the Best Western chain, so I use the Best Western app also. I find that when staying in a new city, it nice to have a known hotel chain. Once again, domestically speaking Travelocity works well here.

If you want to stay local while in any particular city you are traveling to there are options for that as well. Both Frommer’s and Lonely Planet have great references for this. Their guidebooks break down each location’s dinning option and lodging options by dollar amount. They will give you a number of lower cost options, moderate cost options, and higher end options to choose from. This allows you to look at the actual locations and see what your money is buying. This is VERY important, IF you don’t travel much. European standards, and South American standards and their rating systems are different than those used in North America. Understanding how their rating systems work will go a long way to helping you have a better experience when you get there.

As with anything else in life it comes down to doing your homework. You need to search out the travel deals and look at all the options available to you. I can guarantee one thing, if some travel company says they have a great deal for you – It’s almost always a great deal for them. It’s sad but true. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look at them. I have used several collected travel options in the past. I’m saying that you should understand what you’re buying. You’ll find that shopping it around will provide you with savings options and sightseeing options that you can’t find in packaged vacations.

Get out there and look around. You’ll have a good time!

(Honestly, sometimes just planning a new adventure will give you a great amount of enjoyment.)

 

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A view from the steps of Saint Peters. In February. The Med had good weather.

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Seriously? I can travel for that?

I guess we’ll address one of the great internet myths regarding travel. Well, maybe not a myth but definitely a miscommunication. This would be the statements that you see saying “travel for 50$ a day” or “you can travel for 30$ a day anywhere”. These things drive me just a little crazy. Why? Simple. They apply to a specific type of traveller, but are always given as generalizations.

(What I’m about to say applies to Western Europe.)

If you are an 18-25 year old backpacker, bumming around the globe, YES, you can PROBABLY survive on 50$ a day. Will you have a great time? Hard to say. That would depend upon your idea of a great time. If you consider walking tours, hanging out in the park, and free exhibits a great time then you will make it okay. If you plan on couch surfing, doing the group bunk room at the hostile, or the rare house sitting gig, you can probably get by on 50$ a day.

If you have managed to make it to adulthood and have matured out of the Hostile crowd, making your way through Europe for 50$ a day will be much more problematic. Why? Simple. Hotels cost money. Decent meals cost money. Good museums cost money. AND, let’s face it, decent booze of your country of travel costs money. As you get older, and your tastes become more refined, living on the cheap becomes an issue.

I firmly remember my younger days, bumming around Western Europe while in the military. Living out of a vending machine at the train station. Buying whatever beer was on special at the local bar in town. Staying at the seedy hotels because they were cheap and I wanted more money for booze. They were good times! Do I travel like that now? Of course not. Well, of course not, all the time. I still have the random meal out of a train station vending machine just because it’s easy. I still buy the local beer at times just to try something different. These days I do so because I choose to, not because it is a necessity.

The main reason for this is because I have gotten older and my style of travel has changed. I like a good hotel. I like good meals. You can learn a great deal about a country by its food. I love great museums, and cathedrals. Therefore, I budget more money when I travel now. When you’re younger, I think that you’re expectations about a country are different from when you are older. That. Or you are looking for different experiences from your travel choices. The difference usually always costs more.

Okay, now that I’ve complained about the low-budget, what is my opinion? For Western Europe (Definitely any country in the EU zone, yes I mean add England) a realistic number for a middle-aged traveler who is looking to have a good experience and be On-The-Cheap is probably 150$ a day. Now, stop the freaking out. That number has a real world value behind it. Your standard Western European hotel is going to run you just shy of 90$ a night. (In my opinion, the difference between the 15$ Hostile bed and the 90$ ** Hotel room is worth every cent you pay for it, but I’m not 20 anymore either.) Now, you have 60$ left. Running around a European city that has a decent metro system will set you back 8-10$ a day. Okay, we’re at 50-52$ left for the day. A good meal, at a local restaurant will bang you about 20-25$ per meal. So, one good meal, one breakfast at the hotel, and a quick snack stand stop somewhere throughout the day, and you have spent another 25-30$. This leaves you with 20-25$ to spend throughout the day (Museum entrance tickets, t-shirts, and the like). It’s not a lot of extra cash.

That is what I consider the baseline. If I’m only going to be traveling for 10-14 days, I usually budget 1000$ on top of hotel costs, and subdivide it by the number of days I need to survive. Yes, this isn’t budget travel. This is real world travel. Now, do I actually spend the whole 1000$? Almost always, no. But, running out of cash sucks! I don’t like that. I would rather take a hit on exchanging my Euros back into dollars than running out of cash. By the way, almost all exchanger companies will give you a receipt stating the original exchange rate and exchange unused currency back for the same rate upon your return. The rate is usually always bad, but still better than whatever their posted “Buying Rate” is.

Like I said earlier, that piece is specifically for the Euro-Zone, and England. There are a great many places on the planet that a middle-aged traveler can do quite well for 50$ a day. It requires research and investigation, but it is definitely doable. South East Asia, Indonesia, chunks of India, chunks of Central America, parts of South America can all be done well for 50$ a day. I would caveat that the price is minus airfare. Airfare these days is a topic all its own, and is usually always considered an item outside of the standard expenses. At least in my world. Airfare can be reasonable and it can be expensive, but it is seldom cheap these days. Cheap flights are accidentally finds, or heavy research items. Again, I’ll jump off that bridge later.

The nugget of advice being parted out here? Not really sure, probably it would be stop and evaluate what type of traveler you really are. If you are young and carefree, you probably read this and thought I was crazy. If you’re older, you may be looking at my thoughts differently. Once you understand how you like to travel and the experiences that you want to have, you can budget accordingly. Some people travel very well on very little. I like to have a little more comfort at this point in my life. I say do what works for you. Whatever you chose to do, make sure it fits who you are and what you want to do. Do not just head out based on what somebody told you on the internet. That includes me! Your best experiences are the ones where you are happy and comfortable. You can’t be happy and comfortable if you are constantly worrying about cash. Just sayin…..

No go. Get out there!

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The view from my hotel room in Bruges, Belgium. 90$ a night. Circa 2015.

 

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