Travellers are generally pretty cool. It goes with the territory – chilled, open-minded, etc.
But this is the internet, and it brings out the judgemental worst in us all.
At risk of biting the hand that feeds (see also: Personal finance topics I’m so over), today’s rant is about the superior mentality some travel blogs like to take.
‘That cost you how much?! We spent way less than that…’
If you want to survive on as little as humanly possible, that’s your prerogative. If you can afford to travel in luxury and that’s the way you want to go, enjoy it. If you are mostly frugal but splash out on food, who are we to judge? Just because it’s possible to spend as little as $10 or 20 a day in some countries doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing it wrong’ if you choose to splurge some days. Even the cheapest countries cost money and I’m inclined to agree with Adam Seper on this one: “You can’t do/see anything on $10/day, no matter where you are.”
Being on the road for six months, we occupied a strange middle ground – one that fell somewhere between normal people who couldn’t fathom how we spent so little, and long-term (often permanent) travellers who berate me for spending so much.
Six months worked in well with legalities (visas and such) for the destinations we wanted to visit and our finances, among other things. It did mean we moved at a fast pace by RTW standards and therefore jacked up daily average spend but it was the perfect length for us.
(Also, the US is not the only country in the world. There are travel bloggers from other countries, who deal in currencies other than the greenback.)
Anyone with a bag bigger than a 25L backpack is doing it wrong
I liked the idea of travelling with only a carry-on, I really did. Then I learned just how tiny the dimensions are for carry-on luggage with some of the budget airlines. There was no way that was going to happen. Plus, our RTW flights (for all the long-haul journeys) included checked baggage anyway – it was only the shorter European flights we had to worry about. So I sucked it up and paid extra for baggage on those flights.
I wouldn’t consider myself high maintenance; I only had a couple pairs of shoes and a handful of pieces of clothing for six months – one of the benefits of travelling in warmer weather. But we did have a few other things like electronics and a sleeping bag to contend with, and I am a lazy, untrained packer who likes to haphazardly squash things in. Oh, and yes, I packed jeans, and yes, I wore them a ton!
We could certainly have bought smaller packs (ours were never completely full until towards the end, when we did all our shopping in the States) and learned how to use packing cubes and the like if needed, but I figured I would rather have the option of more room in case I needed it (this definitely came in handy at times).
Props to the super minimalists and pro packers. Travel is always easier with less stuff to transport – but different strokes for different folks. My 9kgs may seem excessive to seasoned nomads, although non-travellers always balked at how little we apparently had.
The ‘right’ way to travel
Like most things in life, travel is intensely personal. I was itching to get out of the Louvre after an hour; some people dream of visiting it their whole lives. I adore Venice, but plenty of people decry it as a tourist trap.
So-called ‘real travellers’ occasionally astound me with their close-minded snobbery. How about we let people experience travel however the hell they want? Not everyone has the luxury of slow travel – the ability or the DESIRE to travel for long periods – so let’s not give them shit for trying to get the most out of their time. We only had 3 months in Europe as per Schengen visa rules so yes, we were kinda speed-freak backpackers over there as we wanted to fit as much in as we could – and it was a blast. When you’re from NZ, Europe is a long and expensive journey away, so this was a one-off/rare shot for us.
Not everyone wants to stay in gritty guesthouses and hostels, no matter how authentic that might be, or volunteer on a farm, or teach English abroad. (We did all these things ourselves and had a blast … but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.)
Also, not everyone wants to spend months or years in developing nations no matter how cheap they are. After six weeks in southeast Asia we’d just about hit our limit in regards to heat and the environment in general. We spent too much on foreign food when we could no longer tolerate local food for every meal and found ourselves lingering longer in our air-conditioned rooms in the mornings as time went on. It was a grand adventure and amazing experience, but too far out of our comfort zone to spend months in.
I will wrap up with this: “You can indeed have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” (Borrowed from William Chalmers, whose excellent list of 22 examples of travel snobbery is here.)