I have to be honest. I have been struggling to get any writing done for over a month now. I’ll caveat it by saying that it is especially true for my blog because I’ve been finding Instagram to be a far more interesting and engaging medium.
But that’s not what this post is about.
A little over three weeks ago, I concluded a 90-day journey around the country. No biggie except that I did this 18 months after I stopped drawing a salary.
Note how I do not prefer to say I-quit-my-job-to-travel.
How do I afford my travels then?
Through and through it was an out-of-my-own-pocket-experience for me; with no travel gods waving wands in the guise of FAMs, sponsors or benevolent parents. Not because of any lack thereof but because that is not my preference.
I understand I am not an exception. There are others like me. But it is for the uninitiated that it helps to call such matters out. More so because in direct and indirect, hushed and not-so-hushed tones I have been asked how I am able to afford my travels given that I am technically unemployed!
Short answer: If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. Courtesy: Jim Rohn
And no, that does not involve robbing a bank or scamming one’s way through!
Long answer? Sit back and read
I was looking at my bank statements earlier today. My account balance is precariously resting at a four-digit amount. I have to admit that it is new, very new to me. And in spite of it all, I have done more – both qualitatively and quantitatively – since I let go of The Desk.
My first long-term travel stint of 7 months last year had been through a project I was working on. And ever since that, I had managed three 2-week long trips in the 8 months since. Not entirely because I could not afford to travel but because I was busy doing things in the city – like getting trained on being a counsellor.
That being said, I was certainly itching to lug my backpack and head out of the city.
Through a few short-term engagements and a couple of travel writing assignments (both of which can be excruciatingly hard to come by), I had somehow been able to set aside enough money to be able to rub my palms together with glee and formulate a plan. The catalyst appeared in the form of a friend making a trip to Amritsar and a separate itch to trek Sandakphu on the other side of the country. My then five-digit bank balance seemed strong enough to stomach this plan. But I was also relying on an investment that was nearing maturity to pull me through should the need ever arise. This was also going to be the first time I set out without a return ticket in hand – well, at least I did not have one until a month into my travels.
Now, what started off by plotting Amritsar and Sandakphu on the map gradually looked something like this!
And yet at the end of those 90 days, I spent less than 90,000 INR.
And that includes expenses from a trip to Decathalon prior to the journey itself. So mathematically speaking, I spent less than 1000 INR per day – which is a lot less than what I invariably find myself spending when I am in the city I call home.
I am going to further preface The How by adding that travel is only as expensive as one’s preferences are – which means that somebody else can undertake the exact same journey I did for even lesser!
If you have been following my journeys through all the avenues that social media permits anyone to stalk everyone with, you would know that my preferred medium of transportation while traveling is by train. Not always the cheapest mode with flash sales and what-not on airfares, train travel still gets a vote from someone who does not (and currently cannot) plan too ahead into the future.
A little bit of common sense and flexibility go a long way for me in securing tickets that are still cheaper than the cheapest airfare.
For instance, I do not take the Rajdhani Express to Delhi when a Garib Rath will do just fine. That alone saved me 1000 INR. In the same vein, not every journey I undertake is by the AC coach – a sleeper coach will do just fine when it’s an overnight ride.
Those decisions alone save me anywhere between 30% – 50% of the total fare.
Likewise with local commuting, over time I have gotten a lot more comfortable hopping not just on to state or private run buses but also shared taxis and rickshaws to get from point A to point B – instead of hiring a private vehicle; which I reserve for extreme situations like when I was at Yercaud and Valparai and where getting around to any of the local sights was not without hiring a private car.
With the fair share of adventures and misadventures public transport comes guaranteed with, the money saved is still an added bonus for me. That same journey from Yercaud to Valparai required that I take four different buses. It is not the most convenient way to travel, I’ll agree. But that’s not what this post is about anyway!
Oh and sometimes I will also walk miles – just for the fun of it.
But what about stay? That gobbler of currencies can also be tamed when you’re willing to let go of preferences. A nice boutique hotel or a BnB would most certainly be an ideal must-have, but what it comes down to for me is – am I going to stay cooped in indoors and curl with a book while filling reams with prose flowing on to paper OR do I want to soak in the great outdoors?
Google has almost always had an answer for both those options and in maybe two or three out of ten instances, I have leaned more towards staying indoors.
Yes, I do need a clean bathroom (sometimes even more than I care for a comfortable bed or AC even though it’s summer) but that is all I truly care for.
In turn, it’s decisions such as these that allow me to spend that money hiring a private car when required. Plus, if you are travelling during the off-season, you could get lucky with hosts upgrading you to a plusher room as it was lying vacant anyway!
Long story short, being flexible as well as patient and crafty with your Google search skills can lead to some really good returns. That and the off chance of having an acquaintance or a distant relative or a friend’s family to couch-surf with do make it easier on the wallet.
I am still understanding and learning my way through cash-backs, reward points and mileages earned in exchange for purchases made.
And yes, almost all my travel till date has been within India. But the bottom line is the same – I’m still saving enough to savour as much as I can while I’m on the road.
And did I mention I did not have to touch my savings at all?
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