The worst part about travel is saving for it. Unless you’re a points or budget-travel expert, travel is expensive, and if you’re the type of person who prioritizes travel before work, then you’re also the type of person who probably doesn’t make a ton of money off of your work. So the interludes in between two of your big trips can turn into these hellish bouts of self-deprivation and poverty, where every dollar spent puts you a dollar further away from your next excursion.
Naturally, to ease the pain of the awful purgatory of stationary life, you have to become extremely good at optimistic self-deception. So these are the lies you tell yourself while saving for travel.
The eternal fallacy of consumer society: yes, you can almost always afford not to. I’ve been prone to thinking of things like the amount of alcoholic drinks I drink or platters of delicious food I eat each month as a quota that I have to fill, so whenever I’m saving, I always revert to the “I can’t afford not to…” approach to spending.
This is not a real thing. If drinking is a necessity, throw a house party and drink at home, or just carry a sad poor-man’s flask around with you everywhere. Lower than usual prices does not equal savings unless you had to spend that money anyway.
Sure, if you’re making a few thousand dollars a month and your trip costs a few thousand dollars, you could theoretically save the money you need in two months. If you choose to live under a pile of newspapers, eat foraged food, and risk not having healthcare.
Even though travel savings deadlines are almost always delusional, I think this is the least harmful lie you can tell yourself. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-preservation: “In a mere two months I’ll be sitting on a beach/hiking the Andes/ziplining through rainforest canopy!” As long as some money is going into your piggy bank, you’re heading in the right direction.
You’ve seen all of the websites promising you cheaper flights. You’ve seen how you can maximize frequent flyer points to get a free flight. You’ve seen how you can wait on stand-by, or connect through a city that’s two thousand miles out of your way, or trawl Kayak every half an hour until something affordable finally comes up. You’ve tried AirfareWatchdog; you’ve looked at cut rate, barely legit airlines that’ll charge you $500 extra for a carry-on that weighs more than a sack of dry cotton. You’ve even looked at the cost of hitching a ride aboard a tramp steamer across the Pacific.
You’re not going to spend as little as you think on your airline flight, and the biggest mistake you’ll make while budgeting is to budget too low. It’s way better to be wrong and have extra money than it is to be wrong and be whoring yourself out to drug smugglers to pay for a flight back home.
One of the worst things serious budget travelers do when they’re saving is that they hole up in their home and don’t do anything while they save. The point of being a traveler in the first place is to have new experiences and to live life, and if life at home is just a waystation between trips abroad, then you’re not doing home right. Hanging out with family and friends, taking occasional road trips, putting down a buck or two to go on camping, hiking, or kayaking trips in places near home are all essentials if you actually want to enjoy the life you’re living.
Of course, if you use the times at home as an exercise in monk-like restraint, or if you’re able to transform your wanderlust into a rejection of materialism and consumerism, then more power to you. But this is different from cutting yourself off from the world. If you become a hermit so you can one day become a traveler, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The only thing that gets me through long periods without traveling is nearly constant road trips to visit families and friends. Over the past two years, I’ve only left the United States once, but I’ve managed to tour the entire East Coast on a budget. Sure, it’s delayed my next foreign trip a bit, but at the end of the day, I travel to live, I don’t live to travel.