The Art of (cheap) Travel

By the end of this year I will have visited 11 countries since January. Started off the year with Sweden and Denmark, and after a few summer trips to Norway, Iceland and Italy, I have moved to the Netherlands in the fall. This small country in northern Europe gives you access to its neighbours, therefore visiting Paris, Brussels and western Germany was no big deal either. And eventually I will finish the year by travelling to Poland in early December for a long weekend in Krakow and its surrounding area. I find myself asking more than anything else where I have found the time to go to (almost) one country per month, considering that I study full time in University and used to have a part-time job when I lived in London for the first part of the year. But the question I get asked more often is: how can you afford all this travelling?

The reason is quite simple: I am filthy rich.

No, not true at all. Unfortunately I do not grow money in my backyard nor does it fall from the sky when I need it. But if you are committed, like I am, to exploring as much as possible and living the best years of your life travelling around Europe, this continent gives you the chance to travel for a very, very small amount of money.

Beautiful London, where I have lived for the past 2 years
Beautiful London, where I have lived for the past 2 years

Websites like Ryanair.com or Couchsurfing.org will become your new best friends if you are willing to cut on costs and travel as much as you can and want. Therefore forget British Airways and and the nice luxuries of hotels (or expensive hostels), because if that is what you are looking for (completely legitimate, no judgment!) it is hard to afford more trips throughout the year as a student.

Therefore the first point is to fly with budget airlines. Ryanair offer amazing deals (and so do EasyJet and Wizz air for Eastern Europe) offering flights for as little as €14 (£11)! My single tickets to Poland for December were exactly €19 each way. And if you make a classic comparison, that could be exactly the price of two drinks in a London club on your next night out. So spending money wisely is something I always keep in mind (I do drink and have fun, regardless of this, do not get me wrong). Sometimes, though, you may need to try to avoid that extra purchase and keep that money towards a future trip.

The Swedish Island of Vrångö, which I visited on my first "budget trip" alone
The Swedish Island of Vrångö, which I visited on my first “budget trip” alone

The other, extremely important, reason why I can afford to travel often and goes hand-in-hand with budget airline travelling, is finding accommodation through Couchsurfing. Because you know that as soon as you get the joy of booking a €20 one way flight to somewhere exciting, you realise that you have to spend triple that money just for a mattress and a duvet, some genius came up with a solutuion. The idea behind Couchsurfing is the creation of an online community for people from all around the world who are willing to share their couches (or beds, or whatever they have available) to travellers who are not only eager to cut their spendings but also to meet others when moving around. Personally, I take advantage of this community quite a lot, and not only have I had the possibility to have a “free accommodation” during my trips, but most importantly it gave me the chance to meet locals and hang out with them, which is a fantastic way to enhance a trip. So rather than being in a hostel room with 5 other roommates you do not even choose, why not pick someone’s place and make new friendships, which could even last for your whole life? I have couchsurfed 6 times so far and all my experiences were totally positive and have made very good friends, some of which I talk with on a regular basis. If I were you, I would leave any possible preconceptions behind and join the website. There are many different kinds of users and you may find the right one for you. My first couchsurfer, a Swedish girl called Evelina, runs a very nice travel blog I would recommend visiting!

My first Couchsuring experience in Gothenburg, Sweden
My first Couchsuring experience in Gothenburg, Sweden

So for now, if you have bought your €40 return flights to some beautiful, exciting destination (that is probably the average price of a clothing item in H&M if you think of it) and have your accommodation set through Couchsurfing, you are totally ready to go! All you need to add are a couple of more euros for your basic expenses etc. (transfers to and from airports, maybe?). Therefore, the myth of expensive travelling might as well be forgotten as we can all simply travel around Europe even if we are poor students either getting their money from a grant/loan or a service part-time job – just like myself.

The aim of this post is not to show how good I am at finding cheap deals and controlling my expenses – because as all human beings I am not perfect and it may occur that in order to travel I sometimes purposely choose not to spend on things I might actually want. But when it comes to this, it is all a matter of priorities and choosing what eventually is best for yourself in the long run!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” (quotation attributed to Mark Twain)

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