Contributed by Faye de Jesus
I’m not rich, far from it, so it took a lot of time and effort to save enough money for a two-week trip across the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy and Germany.
I’m a fan of simple living, conscious spending, sensible investments and saving. Years of saving ultimately made it possible for me to travel 6,500 miles away from home for a full fourteen days.
It takes a lot of work
When I met other travellers while on my European tour, I confirmed that I was and still am, in fact, poor when compared with those travelling from the US, Australia or South Africa. My peso-converted-to-euro spending power was laughable. Yes, I travelled and enjoyed to the hilt, but could never really splurge on fancy shopping sprees or super luxurious meals. And that’s totally fine.
I worked on a budget and stuck to it, prioritising expenses for food and my chosen ‘mini tours’ within the city, and didn’t spend too much on shopping.
My best meals there were simple and cheap, but delicious — a pizza and salad dinner in Rome, a pork panini in Florence, a huge bowl of Vietnamese pho noodles in Berlin, if my memory serves me right, and an incredibly affordable and satisfying 10-euro buffet with drinks in Montecatini Terme. My best experience was practically free, that is, hiking in Murren and Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland with an amazing view of the Swiss Alps.
Dream big, but work really hard and save up
This is my simplest unsolicited advice to fellow travellers with European travel goals.
Whether it’s a DIY backpacking trip or a packaged coach tour, you need to save up for it if you’re spending for your own trip. Set aside a “travel fund” from part of these savings.
At the risk of sounding like a disillusioned Gen X-er (I actually am one), to be blunt, if you don’t have any semblance of savings in your life, forego travelling. Again, this is assuming you’re spending for your own trip, not a sponsored one or in the form of raffle prize (in which case, congrats!). Of what good is a nice travel photo uploaded on Facebook or Instagram anyway when you’re actually drowning in debt, right?
As unromantic as it sounds, travel is a non-essential. It is not a requirement. It’s nice to experience, yes, but it’s unwise to travel without any substantial amount left for far more important expenses in life, like providing for your family, maintaining the household, having insurance premiums and paying for tuition fees, emergencies and the like.
Live a simple life to facilitate savings. Work hard. Invest. Explore alternative income streams.
Then, remember to reward yourself. Cherish the good things. Value substance over porma. Learn how to budget and follow that budget. Research all possible options and choose wisely. And those European travel dreams may just come true.