Cheap Travel

The Tao of the Vagabond

If you’re anywhere in Asia and you’re travelling broke then you’re effectively on a type of pilgrimage. Suddenly from being a worthless bum you’re promoted to the ranks of the faithful journeying under the protection of the relevant God(s).

See if you can get a card written for you in the local language explaining that you’re traveling with the help of God alone. That will help people get the idea and stop them trying to drag you to a hotel or your embassy. Don’t quibble with the religion – Jesus and Mary will feed you just as well as Krishna or Buddha. It’s just about changing the names around.

The most important thing is to keep your spirits up. You never know what’s around the next corner and you invite good things by being ready to receive them. If you’re smiling, enthusiastic about life and putting out good energy then people will see that and respond to it. Sitting around feeling sorry for oneself never did anyone much good.

Also, don’t forget that you’re poor by choice and that, really, poverty is less about how the coins in your pocket than the opportunities you have. When traveling in the Third World, your Western passport and education are enviable riches for most of the people you’ll meet whose choices are far less appetizing.

It is hard to travel broke, there’s no denying it. There will be times when you feel like you can’t make it and you’ll be swallowed up by your fears. Just remember that if you worry about going hungry and then one day it actually happens, you will have suffered the experience twice – once in your head and once in reality. Why double the agony?

And, if you’re feeling a little down watching the tourists eating their cream cakes on the terraces, remember that behind their facade of expensive hotels and restaurants they only see a diluted, presentable side of the culture they’re visiting. You on the other hand get to see it warts and all. When the police move you on or you’re intimidated by street urchins or when someone buys you a meal – then you end up with a unique perspective on that place that few get to see.

At the very least it will keep you in dinner party repertoire for years to come.