The big elephant in the room about travel is its cost – well and also it’s association with class, privilege, and even sometimes problematic elements of post-colonial western voyeurism. I’m not going to preach to you about how travel is the only way to find yourself and how ‘money isn’t an issue’ – because frankly I think that’s naive. Money IS an issue and the ability to travel IS a privilege, and one that I’ve been very fortunate to be afforded as much as I have.
But with those disclaimers aside, I want to write today about how I travel so cheaply, and my recommendations and essentials within that process! (The essay on post-colonial white voyeurism is a whole ‘nother topic for another blog post haha!)
I think with travel the biggest expense really is accommodation more than anything else. These days you can quite often get cheap airfare and trains – especially around Europe – but accommodation can still prove hugely expensive. My first piece of advice with accommodation may seem a bit obvious but… staying with friends is free! Developing a network of international pals can make international travel sooooo much easier; and sometimes this can be done through community networks as well. A lot of people love hosting guests, even when they don’t know them – so a little networking goes along way!
If you feel too awkward asking someone if you can stay with them then there’s still hope for you. These days there’s a number of platforms out there where folks can gain free accommodation in exchange for a service. One example is apps like Trusted Housesitters, where people give out their homes for free in exchange for pet sitters around the world. It’s a great exchange – you get to take care of an adorable animal, and get free accommodation – and the hosts don’t have to worry about how their pet is fairing while they travel abroad themselves!
Another way you can mitigate travel expenses for accommodation is by actually putting your own apartment / residence up on AirBnB while you travel away. It makes perfect sense really – your own home can pay for your home abroad as simple as that, and cancel out the expenses of travel! Who knows, you may even be able to turn such an endeavour into a side business (assuming that’s legal of course with your current accommodation)!
Another possibly obvious tip for making travel cheap(er) is short trips, low distance – which especially in Europe is very feasible. It’s the same distance for me to take a train to Paris as it is for me to take a train to Edinburgh and remain in the UK – and about the same cost too! Figure out your trip for a couple nights, grab a light backpack carry-on, and your expenses could be minimal!
Speaking of backpacks, I want to give a huge thank you to Gaston Luga for sending over this beautiful backpack. It’s perfect for short stay trips abroad, and fairly fashionable at that. They haven’t paid me to speak about it, but I did agree to talk about it in exchange for the product, as a disclaimer! You can use my discount code BIRKHOLZ to get 15% off any of their products here! They’re encouraging everyone to #GoAnywherewithGL – and I think that’s a lovely campaign to encourage travel!
So what about inside the bag? Especially for shorter trips you really don’t need to bring much. I have a small toiletry bag which Gaston Luga also sent over, and I’ll just bring a couple light outfits, my laptop / chargers, and my camera if I want to film – and then I’ll usually also bring my side bag which I can add a book and some food, water, and other necessities in for easy access. If you travel frequently I find it’s especially convenient to just have a separate set of cheap, small sized toiletries in your travel bag so that when you’re headed abroad you don’t even need to pack toiletries – you can just grab your bag and go!
Now going back to flights and trains – those can still be a big barrier, especially if you’re travelling across continents. In Europe these days flights can easily range from £20 – £100 – so flying throughout Europe can actually be fairly practical when it comes to the actual ticket prices. Flights from Europe to the Americas and vise versa however are often much more, so I thought I’d mention a couple services out there that can help with deal discovers. Firstly, there’s some airlines these days that are doing long haul flights for extremely cheap – and although you won’t get entertainment or meals covered, you could end up saving hundreds. Specifically look into WOW airlines and Norwegian airlines if you’re looking for some cheap trips from the states to Europe!
No matter where you’re flying to or from though, there’s a couple sites out there that are grand for deal discovery. This is where I have to confess that I mostly use Google flights myself, as they have a pretty intuitive system that’s good at finding the cheapest flights available – but it doesn’t always account for certain deals, so sometimes it’s better to use an app like Hoppers that accounts for deals as well!
Okay, I know after all this that you still might be thinking – alright, but you still need SOME money. Some of us are having trouble just meeting rent and none of these options would help with exploration – and I totally get that. The reality is, sometimes, money does just get in the way – even for me. I often travel around Europe these days quite cheaply, but the reality is I haven’t been home in nearly a year and I’m not even going home for Christmas this year because I can’t afford the flights – and it sucks! So I feel you.
That said, here’s a couple total costs for recent trips of mine to super cool cities. I went to Portugal last year for approximately £130 for three nights and I went to Edinburgh last month for approximately £100 for two nights. I also went to Paris recently for almost nothing – but that was with work. Still, that’s another thing I wanted to mention. There’s a lot of careers out there these days that are centred around travel or remote work – and within those careers you could end up travelling quite a lot for fairly cheaply! Things like teaching English as a foreign language, for example, can get you into another country – or becoming a flight attendant!
That’s all my tips for now, but I’ve got loads more to share in the future so hit that follow button if you haven’t yet, or subscribe via email! I want to talk more in the future about what it’s like travelling specifically as an LGBTQ+ person – and speaking of that, check out my gay travel series below if you haven’t yet!
Thanks so much for reading you beautiful person!