We recently participatedinacolumn where several travelers compared their budgets head-to-head. We were surprised to see that we spent less per month than any other traveler featured on the page. This got us pondering why and how this happened and reflecting on if there had been anything we regret skipping on account of our budget.
More to the point though; did keeping to our budget leave us with any lingering regrets? We have a few, but as we discussed them last night a certain peace came over us as we realized there weren’t too many, and they weren’t huge things that we feel cheated from enjoying.
- Patagonia – We spent a lot of time busing down to the tipofArgentina and back up again. In hindsight we wished we’d take the ferry down the Chilean coast of Patagonia to where we hikedtheW and then worked our way back up. We would have seen far more (courtesy of the ‘cruise-like’ ferry) and broken up the return journey north a bit better. We also might have had slightly nicer weather in Bariloche, Argentina. Cost was the principle driver in not taking the ferry but timings, a desire to hit some whitewaterinPucon, and a hope of getting to Antarctica all combined to help us make the wrong decision.
- After hikingKilmanjaro, enjoying a Safari, whitewaterboogieboarding in Jinja, and paying the bill for GorillatrackinginUganda…we were feeling like we’d completely destroyed our bank accounts in a matter of days. This led us to bus across Kenya from Uganda to coastal Lamu. We soon wished we’d flown. The flights didn’t work out perfectly but it would have been better than that hectic 24 hours of bus after bus after bus. At that point in time we also had no idea how we were going to be heading northtoEthiopia and were expecting to fork over some major cash for big, last-minute African airfares in the coming weeks.
It seems that there were two very big keys to keeping our costs down. First, overland travel meant sleepingonbuses and trains rather than paying for constant airfares. We decided early on that we enjoyed traveling this way and don’t regret that decision. Second, we spent only one month in Europe and skipped on Australia and New Zealand. Although we’d hoped to make it to the South Pacific, we were simply too tired and homesick when the time came. Our route also kept us traveling most of the time in shoulder seasons where the climate wasn’t quite perfect (not a lot of vacationers driving prices up) but still good enough for us to enjoy ourselves. The only time the whole trip we had to deal with high season was while we were traveling through Turkey.
While in the Americas we generally erred on the side of keeping to our budgets and passing on the big items (e.g. Galapagos Islands) because we are from United States and those sites are much easier to enjoy to later in life than say, Uzbekistan. For the rest of the planet, we adopted a mental policy of treating ourselves to the big ticket items if we wanted to do them. Faced with $100-$200 bungee jumping and adventure swings in South Africa and Zimbabwe, we decided to skip and don’t regret those decisions….We also don’t regret the big bucks we spent for game viewing, visas, and climbing mountains.
Although many travel with philosophies that differ from ours, we all have budgets and all make decisions…both good and bad.
Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says
In a way it’s a relief to hear that some people have managed to do this trip for less money than what we have saved up for. I completely agree on skipping the things that can be done just as easily in the future and hope by the time comes we can wisely make similar decisions.
Anyway, I’m going to have to poke around this site some more since I seem to have missed a lot of your earlier adventures.
I agree with you on transportation: flights were one of our biggest expenses (especially because we took several trans-continental flights). By overlanding via public transportation, you saved a lot of money. Skipping Australia and New Zealand also must have helped your budget because those were two of our most expensive countries. And, I thought that y’all did a lot of couchsurfing and staying with relatives, right?
Great review of your budget and what worked and what didn’t! Thanks so much for participating in the series on our site. 🙂
@Jill- When we first started saving so few bloggers had posted numbers it was hard for us to know where to draw the line. Hence the seriously nerdy methodology from the first TheRoadForks reflection. Let us know if you have any other questions as you poke around, we have our overall budget page, but also wrote individual “Tobias Indexes” and continent spending pages along the way.
@Akila- We were shocked when we saw we were the cheapest RTW per person/month on your traveler talk back. The surprise got us talking and we quickly realized that overlanding was probably the no.1 reason why we were cheaper than everyone else. We still want to do Australia and New Zealand but this fall/winter we realized we weren’t appreciating the trip anymore, that was the big signal that it was time to come home.
We did couchsurf and say with friends, but from the beginning it wasn’t for cost saving reasons. We loved hosting couchsurfers before our trip in DC, they brought so much life and diversity to our “normal” lives that there was no question that we wanted to do it as much as possible on our own trip. We were able to stay with surfers who had stayed with us, in some cases even meet their families, which made us feel less lonely and more “normal”. Couchsurfing usually didn’t save us too much money anyway, we generally went out more and often picked up the tab!
Turkey's For Life says
There are always things you can do differently in hindsight and I bet the people who spent more money than you wish they’d scrimped on other things rather then spend more of their budget. We ALWAYS travel by night bus for long distances in Turkey because we’re always on a budget and the way we see it, it’s a night’s free accommodation. Yes, we might be fresher if we fly – but that makes less time in the place we’re going to.
Interesting reflections, and it sounds like you were overall very happy with how you spent your money. I can see how a safari and gorilla trek would be expensive, but completely worthwhile. I’m sure you’ll remember those experiences for years to come. A bungy jump that you could do anywhere in the world? Not so much. Good choices in my opinion.
The NVR Guys says
Having cruised from BsAs to Valparaiso, I can say that the cost was absolutely worth it. Certainly not as cheap as a bus, but you can find some unbelievable deals on very nice cruises if you know where to look.
For any travel budget, I think it’s important to focus on whatever your passion is, not just follow the lead of the tourist trail. I love to eat, and I spend the majority of my money solely on food. I don’t mind missing some of the “important” sites, I’m too happy eating! Looks like you guys have been able to focus on your priorities as well, and not worried too much about skipping some things that aren’t as important!
I think you guys have a good philosophy, sticking to a budget keeps you traveling but you have to break it sometimes for really amazing stuff.
Whatever your decisions, don’t do regret!
Thanks for all the feedback guys. Never want to live with regrets, but it was a good exercise to go back and take a look at what we did/didn’t do and our motivations. We’re still happy with the choices we made!