Perceived (and real) cost are among the biggest reasons people don’t travel. I’m here to tell you that affordable travel is not necessarily as hard as you might think. Sure, you may not achieve your dream trip to Dubai or to a five-star tropical resort on $30. But with some flexibility and willingness to economize, you can travel well beyond what many people (with your same amount of money and capabilities) will ever do.
What is the difference between you and these people? Are they stupid, are they unaware of the world? Far from it. The sad truth is that travel has been framed as a luxury commodity, associated with a fancy and glamorous lifestyle, which makes many people feel like their options are limited based on money. Not only that, but many people never choose to be aware of the possibility of traveling not as a tourist.
Thanks What do I mean by that? Many people only ever travel to see friends and family, or to partake in a typical vacation destination. Mt. Rushmore, Times Square, Disneyland and the like have their appeal, but there is far more to travel than that. In fact, traveling alone to an unknown place, that is neither a prime tourist destination or a place where you expect to meet anyone you already know, can be one of the most amazing experiences.
“Travel has been framed as a luxury commodity, associated with a fancy and glamorous lifestyle”
To give an anecdote from my own personal experience, I once had the opportunity to ride on any Greyhound bus, anywhere in the USA, for two months. What did that cost? Under $600. It turns out that this is a ticket option Greyhound (formerly) offered. So, after visiting family and friends throughout Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, and Texas, what was my favorite location?
What was I doing there? Did I know someone there? Know of a particular attraction? Far from it. Initially just a week-long stop intended to pad out the time in between when I left Texas and when a friend of mine in California would be available, this turned out to be one of my favorite experiences on the trip. I stayed for free by WWOOF’ing (World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming), a program where you can work on a farm (loosely defined) in exchange for room, board and sometimes other amenities. Not knowing anyone there enabled me to be whoever I wanted to be, and going to a place defined by a local (rather than a tourist) culture made me of interest to people I met. The end result was an amazing week of far-flung activities such as: learning how to weld, spending my first day on the job serving as a classroom assistant in a Spanish-speaking daycare, using a hose to blast pigeons out of the rafters of a three-story adobe dome, stumbling upon amazing live metal music played to an empty room off of a side street at night, biking through Saguaro National Park, and much more. All this, for very little money- only a little bit each day for public transit (for sightseeing) as well as food, and often I was fed by my host.
My point with this tale is that opening one’s mind to travel as an unknown experience, rather than feeling bad that you can’t do the specific trip you might have in mind (which might be conditioned by tourist marketing propaganda that makes it look better than it is), can be immensely liberating – and relatively inexpensive.
Yes, there is an element of privilege to what I say. I won’t deny that there is privilege inherent in traveling for fun, and it scales up the bigger and bolder you go. But, within one’s sphere of privilege (consciously exercised with regard to others), I believe that most people can do at least a little bit of traveling – and hopefully make their own lives, and other people’s lives, a little better in the process.
(he/his/him) Austin Retlaff is a graphic designer, writer, video editor and multi-disciplinary artist living and working in upstate New York. Throughout his art practice he explores storytelling, communication, novel approaches to media and technique, and being original within a marketable context. Austin is passionate about storytelling to create unity, impactful moments, and clarity around meaningful subjects.