Think of travelling on a budget as one of your most precious belongings. It’s like the comfortable family sofa that you will never get rid of. Or your favorite tracksuit top that you wear indoors on a rainy day. It’s the chipped Winnie the Pooh coffee mug on your desk at work that you have had for ten years. It’s your best pair of shoes, the ones you keep patching.
It’s not necessarily modern, fashionable or hi-tech. It’s real and down-to-earth and it means something. It reminds you of fantastic experiences and happy memories. Travelling anywhere in Asia on a budget can be just this; a trip you will never forget, an experience you keep going back to in your mind.
Instead of staying in a hotel, look at all your accommodation options. There are hostels and home stays, couch-surfing and affordable guesthouses. Instead of taking a taxi or flying to every destination, make use of public transport. There are buses, trains, tuk-tuks, long tail boats, ferries and then there is walking. Instead of eating every meal at a restaurant, occasionally try the street food. You’ll find it is sometimes more delicious. Instead of booking a package tour, make your own plans and go at your own pace.
The best part about all of this is the people you meet along the way. Chat to the 70 year old Kiwi German man on a 20 hour bus ride to his annual holiday in southern Thailand. Join a group of Dutch travellers on a motorcycle trip around Laos. Laugh with a French couple as scooters get hoisted onto the roof of the already full bus. Share a Thai tuk-tuk with some Iranian men on the way to Koh Phangnan’s full moon party. Learn how to shuffle a deck of cards “the Russian way”. Be invited into an elderly woman’s house in South Korea for kimchi soup.
There is no better place than Asia to travel on a budget. I dare you to try it. Go home having seen the real Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong or Myanmar. Go home having made at least one local friend and having tried at least one local delicacy. Go home having learnt how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in a different language. Go home with a full heart and an open mind. Go home with a new precious belonging.
By: Philippa Francis