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What kind of traveller am I?
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-12-27 17:58:20 | Cuauhtemoc, The Federal District, Mexico
Keywords: budget, food, journey, lifestyle
When you prepare to embark onto a journey like I'm doing, one of the first question that comes up is budget and what will be your expenses. I knew what kind of traveller I was when in vacation, and I knew it would change a bit while travelling over the long haul. After six months on the road, that suspicion is confirmed :-) But six months on the road isn't enough to change me, at least not the core aspects.

As a vacation tourist, I was out most of the day, taking every opportunity I had to take pictures during the day and right after the sunset, exploring all I could of the city... and rest very little. That's normal since you're in a city only for a limited time. That's also how I travelled most of my first three months while I was in Canada and in the USA. But if that's a pace that is find for a week or two, it's hardly viable over months or years.

Being on a limited budget for now, still using my savings and not having any income, I had to make choices. These choices, as many other ones I've made in my life before this, allow me to be on the road, living the life many only dream of. It's not a perfect situation and if or when I get better income this decision pattern might be altered. But for now, I'm happy with the choices I make.

The biggest expense in my travelling is the lodging. I don't require much, but I do like a private room with a private bathroom, especially now that I'm staying at the same place for about a week. I did Couchsurfing on a few occasions for a few days at a time. I did private rooms with shared bathrooms and I have no problems with those, even for a week. Here in Mexico, you'll mostly find private rooms with private bathrooms, and that's perfect for me. I usually pick up the cheapest hotel I can find in town. I don't mind much if it's noisy with street sounds or with couples enjoying their afternoon break (I can put on my ear plugs, or enjoy the soundtrack) or even if I have to share my room with small creatures. I'm very not picky, as long as I have a clean bed and some form of work table available.

When I arrive in a hotel, the first thing I do is ask not to clean my room every day. It's usually fine once a week. First, because I don't like having people going through my stuff. Second, because I'm not a pig and I can easily live in a room for a week without making a mess out of it. Third, it's more work for them (for nothing) and more work for me (to undo my bedding every time, and redo it properly so I can sleep with room for my feet), so it's saving time and effort to everyone. If I need supplies (soap, toilet paper, towels, etc) in between cleanings I just ask for them and I put out my garbage every two days or so (every day if I have lots of food residues).

The other big expense of course is food. But that's an expense I can easily compress by making wise choices. First, I never eat in fancy restaurants and if I can help it, not in any restaurant. I'm not eating much and I view eating as a necessity, not an enjoyment. So, I usually prefer to do it quickly and be done with it to then do other stuff I care about. Plus, the restaurants are much more expensive, not only with the menu items which is normal since they have a rent and personnel to pay, but also in terms of taxes, tips, etc. When you eat in the street, the booths don't have to bother with such expenses so the price is much cheaper... and they prepare the food right in front of you. I'm very happy with eating just a few small tacos from a taco stand for about a dollar a meal. I can also get some tuna cans and mayonnaise from the grocery and make myself a tuna dip for nachos, that's also a cheap and good meal for me. In the USA and Canada, I did the same and I often went into fast food chains to enjoy their Dollar menu items. But I don't mind spending more on occasions to treat myself or experience a new dish.

Another expense I'm facing is the visits. That too, I try to compress it as much as I can. First, I never take city tours because I prefer much more walking a city than being trapped in a bus. I rarely take other tours (outside the city for example) unless I cannot find any public transportation method to reach a site I want to visit (or as in a recent experience, for security reasons). I never go into museums (paying or free), because I don't like the museums much and I once you're in a museum, you can be in any city of the world, not experiencing anything specific to the location you're in. Unless an expense is absolutely necessary to access or experience a UNESCO site I want to visit, I don't do it.

When I have to do it however, I don't mind paying a rightful price for a tour or a visit. For example, I have no problem spending 500 pesos (about US$40) for a day tour outside the city to visit a site, but I do have a problem spending 350 pesos (about US$28) for an hour on a boat canal tour. So, I do the first, but not second. The same thing when I have a local guide to show me around the city, I don't mind at all paying for the lunch and the expenses (like gas) occurred by my guide, that's part of the expenses of a tour.

Same logic goes with events or other visits. I don't mind paying a reasonable price (let's say about 150-200 pesos, US$12 to US$15, per hour) for an event that will allow me to understand more of the culture or of the life of the local population. That's also part of the discovery and the reasons I'm travelling.

For inter-city transportation, I usually take the cheapest option available, especially on the short distances (less than 5 hours). When it's for a longer transits, I sometimes go for a service that provides Internet service on board (which is usually comes with a 10% premium over the cheapest option).

I never go out in bars (as I never did while I was not travelling), I don't buy any kind of souvenirs (since I don't have room in my luggage and I don't have a home to bring them back to), I rarely drink alcohol (as I did all my life) and I don't waste money until it brings me something valuable in terms of cultural experience.

I'm not a party guy and I usually much prefer to be on my own than with a bunch of strangers. I like meeting locals one two at a time, but I become uncomfortable with more than 3 people. I'm not a very social person, even though I work on improving that (but it's very hard for me!). That's a factor that makes my learning of Spanish go slow... because I'm at a point where I need to practice my oral skills and to interact with others to improve my command of the language. Initially, I was hoping to be fluent at the end of the year... that will not be the case, because of my lack of practice. Although my Spanish is far from being perfect, I can still hold basic conversations and express my ideas. I'm not really in a rush... I still have about two years in Spanish-speaking countries.

On those aspects, travel haven't changed me compared to the life I was living before hitting the road, at least yet, we'll see as I progress in my journey over the years.

And you, what kind of traveller would you be? What level of comfort do you need?

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