Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lessons from a Frugal Traveler

One of the great resources for budget travel is the New York Times ( Frugal Travel column. It is well worth following this blog, now being written by Seth Kugel. However, I was interested in a post from his predecessor Matt Gross on lessons he learned during four years of writing the blog.

You can access the whole post by searching on the Times site for the May 25, 2010 post of this article. Gross concluded that he learned three main things--first, frugality is in the eye of the beholder; second, anywhere can be frugal; and third, friends are worth more than $. I agree with him on these points, though I would say the lessons I have learned from many years of budget travel and budget ttravel writing are somewhat different.

The most important point he makes, I believe, is about the need to prioritize. Even with lots of time and money, you would have to make choices. When money is limited, priorities are even more important. You will need to choose whether to splurge on decent accommodation, on sight seeing, on meals in restaurants or special events. If your budget is really tiny and you want to visit expensive places, you may have to economize on all these items or limit the length of your stay severely. If that is the case, remember that even one or two days in Rome, London or Moscow is light years better than no time, and with planning you can cover a lot in a short time.

If you want to go public with your travel priorities, you can list them on the Website It can be useful to have a written record of priorities in case you are tempted to go back to a favourite place once again, rather that venturing somewhere new.

Gross's point about reaching out to friends is important, though my take on it is a little different. Much of my travel was in the pre-internet, pre-high security era, when it seemed to be easier to meet interesting people at random while travelling. Today with even most public transit passengers buried in their smart phones, I suspect even people of Gross's generation can have trouble meeting people on the road.

It may be a question of personality, but I still enjoy the serendipity of venturing into unknown territory on my own from time to time. I think you learn a lot more when you have to rely just on your own devices, unassisted by friends or even friends of friends. It can get lonely at times, but loneliness is all part of the travel experience.


Post a Comment

<< Home