I consider myself lucky for having the time and enough money to go on travels almost every week. I am a SG20 non-government worker, so you can figure out I am not really earning as much as those in the private sector. I have time, and that’s what I need to live a life that suits me. What’s the sense of having all the money if all you can flaunt is your fancy hotel room?
Like what I said, I travel a lot, but on budget… really tight budget. I am having my wads stretched from east to west and perpendicular to it. If you plan to travel the whole country, start at least saving now. If you can form a solid amount of savings, like a year amount of spare money, then you are in good track of visiting almost all the cities and towns of your own country.
However, that savings could be drained any minute if you splurge in high-end mode. Staying overnight in a 5-star hotel is just as comfortable as staying in a 3-star hotel. It’s also the same feeling I get when I spend a night at the beach in a tent. You can start trying the art of backpacking by staying at a hostel or affordable hotel with good reviews. My upper limit for a hotel accommodation is 1,000 pesos. Anything higher than that is tagged as expensive. Of course, it’s better if the cost is shared. But as what Coelho and Hazlitt declared, solo backpacking is gold.
The following suggestions can be done prior or during your travel so you can save a little (or a significant amount) from your travel fund.
- Cut down on your luxurious eating habit. What you can eat at hotels or fancy restaurants is the same as what you can have when you cook at home at a price ten times lower. Pork barrel is the same as liempo at your office cafeteria. Your home-cooked fried chicken is better than those in most fast food establishments. You can prepare your own Caesar’s salad by buying ingredients from the market.
- Your favourite coffee from a popular coffee shop is the same as what you can have when you prepare your own coffee from native beans.
- Instead of going to the moviehouses every week, you may do it once a month or once in two months. Choose only the good ones. Your life, your travel, is better when it comes to cinematography, substance, colour and dialogues. Make your own movie by talking to different people, jotting down your good experience and storing the good feelings you had from your travels in your humanity. Share the good story to as many people as possible.
- You don’t have to buy new clothing ensemble for every trip. You can invest on quick-dry garments and durable footwears and bags. Travelling is partially about the place that you’re visiting and its people, never about the clothes you’re wearing.
- Travelling is all about experiencing the local culture. You do not go to a new place just to sleep in your hotel room, at the comfort of your feather-stuffed pillows. Go out. See the sun. Live like a local.
- Commute. Or better yet, walk. Avoid taking the cab or booking your ride home. This is self-explanatory.
- Whenever you are planning to go to a new place, you don’t have to include all the tourist spots. Choose the best. Avoid duplicates. If you have gone to one of the superb beaches that the place can offer, you don’t have to experience its other beach. Many tour packages in El Nido, Palawan and Coron are like this. Tour agencies offer island-hopping packages, and you get to see differently-named “hidden” lagoons and beaches, but you get the same characteristics – white sand, clear water, palms, colourful fish, etc. You should read about the best activity and spot that a place can offer. If you are into shipwreck diving, go to Coron. If you are into culinary tourism, consider planning a trip to Pampanga and Iloilo. For historical tours, try the Ilocos region. For surfing, try San Juan, Baler, Bagasbas and Siargao. For your ultimate white beach experience, try Bantayan, Tawi-Tawi and of course, the world-famous Boracay. For Southeast Asia, you can witness the best temples and pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar (you may want to see the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.. forget Thailand), you can have the best coffee in Viet Nam (forget the barako coffee of the Philippines or that commercial brand from Malaysia), urban jungle in Singapore (forget Kuala Lumpur, and don’t even dare to compare it with Jakarta and Manila), cheap clothes and small items in Bangkok’s chatuchak, heritage city like Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia (forget Vigan). But if you are looking for friendship that will surely last a lifetime, stroll the 7,100-plus islands of the Philippines, you can never go wrong with a Filipino who loves to sing (not me! lol) and smile at everyone.
(Photo credit: James Oliveria. Taken in Taipei City, Taiwan.)