Words by Fleur Rollet-Manus
Flight to Mumbai? £355. Breakfast in Barcelona? £19. Gazing at the Icelandic glaciers? £85. A room in Rio? £12. As much as I long for travelling to be free, reality dictates otherwise. If your anything like me you would have racked up a bucket list entering the hundreds and a saving account leering towards the minuses before you’ve even walked out the door in the morning.
That being said, whilst some of my fellow travellers begrudge answering the question (and their response usually revokes nothing but an overdramatic eye-roll), I will, finally, lift the lid on the answer to the question on everybody’s lips: how do I really afford to travel?
I am a student with a minimum wage job and a tendency to have my espresso in martini form, how an earth am I jet-setting every other possible weekend? Well, and I promise to conceal no secrets and tell no lies, I can’t. I can’t actually afford it – I choose to afford it.
Despite the illusion, I don’t magically wake up in Indonesia, sand and sea at my feet, nor do I teleport myself to the Du Amo, pizza in hand, at a click of my fingers. I have no blue genie nor a magic code that I input to multiple my funds, I work hard and I make massive sacrifices. I hate to break the silence on one of the biggest travelling myths, but you don’t just accidentally backpack around Europe or wake up on the West Coast.
Working hard isn’t glamorous, counting your pennies isn’t sexy and pulling all-nighters to make your uni deadlines because you’re flying in four hours isn’t smart (trust me, it really isn’t advised!) But it is all necessary in the quest to collect passport stamps.
The way I look at it, there are two types of saving. There’s saving and there’s sacrifice saving. If your going to fill your ears with the stories of the tribe women in Namibia, your eyes with the sights of sunrises across the Caribbean sea and your heart with the children in Siem Reap then the latter is paramount – memories over materials! You boycott that night out, you brew your own coffee and you definitely don’t walk within a ten-mile radius of a single Topshop. Every penny you spend has to be scrutinised. If I am going on a big trip or am planning to whisk myself away then I swap those girls nights out for girls night ins and you won’t be seeing me with an coffee cup in hand. I go completely cold turkey so to speak. Now of course I know there is a side to saving that is considered sensible but, let’s be realistic, I’m a student and a backpacker, a student backpacker knows nothing of these sensible saving equations and chooses to walk the all-or-nothing tightrope. Sacrifice saving is the only way we know how to do it as we step off one plane and walk right onto another. Travelling is a drug and we’ll do whatever we can to keep taking it.
That’s not the only thing that keeps my head (and backpack) consistently in the clouds though. I am constantly in a state of wanderlust. I didn’t get bitten by the travel bug, it consumed me. I will do whatever I can to keep travelling. I yearn to be surrounded by like-minded travellers with my life’s possessions on my back, 24/7. And what happens when you give into the travelling bug? You make it happen. You work fifty hour weeks in a job that brings you no joy, you Depop every item you’ve ever owned (including Aunt Mables knitted jumper circa Christmas ’06) and you spend hours scouring Skyscanner and Holiday Pirate for flash deals or rock bottom prices.
There are no short cuts or spells that I can give you, but I can promise you that if you choose to afford to travel, you’ll never look back. Travelling is a form of education that evokes and inspires, and I hope I have inspired you to shut that ASOS tab and shimmy over to your penny jar. If you don’t start today, when will you?
Before you break open that piggy bank, make sure check out these websites: www.gov.uk/travelaware and www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. They have checklists regarding individual countries’ laws and customs, vaccination and visa information to help you get prepared. You don’t want to be forking out for medical bills after your sacrificial saving because you bought the wrong insurance! Don’t forget to follow @FCOTravel on Twitter and Facebook for travel advice updates too.