It’s time to talk today about travelling. Yes, travelling. It’s a simple thing most of us in this era now would love to do right after finishing Uni or college, or those who just want to screw everything, quit their jobs and go see the world in sunlight (all those nights in the office with florescent lights do take a toll).
Traveling is one of those things that have become ubiquitous following the turn of the century, like owning your own computer/phone, less of a luxury now than it is a fact of life. For the average Malaysian in the 80s/90s, to “see the world” was a big deal. Getting on a plane was serious business back in the days: You either had business or family matters to attend to. These days, you get to travel for just about any reason, be it to broaden your horizons; gain some cultural experience; or, if you’re like me, just to eat all the food.
But here I must admit: Most of you know more about moving your mass out of Malaysia than I do. You’re talking to a guy whose number of foreign countries visited can be counted on one hand. You don’t need this article. I’m talking to my kind of people: People who see traveling as an epic quest reserved for the strong and courageous. You guys go ahead to Mordor, y’know; we’re happy here in the Shire.
However, as daunting as traveling sounds, it’s almost always worth working up your willpower for it, and its rewards are often richer than its risks. And if a piss-poor peasant like me can plan and plot a path to Peru, you can too.
So here we go. Here is The Piss-Poor Peasant’s Guide to Traveling.
ONE: Location, Location, Location
You can go anywhere. Well, anywhere but Israel if you’re a Malaysian, but that’s another story. 195 countries in the world – as a certain Elton John puts it, there’s more to see than can ever be seen; more to do than can ever be done (it’s from the song ‘Circle of Life’ for you peeps who didn’t watch Disney’s ‘The Lion King’).
There are only two things you have to take into consideration at this point. The first is money. Yes, AirAsia says that everyone can fly; but they never said how far. The cost of getting you to, say, New York would be considerably more than the cost of landing you in Bali.
The second thing is climate, and I’m not just talking about the weather here. Some countries are more tourist-friendly than others, and if you’re not yet ready to pick up a new language in order to get around, you’ll do good to pick a destination where you can understand the locals, and they can understand you.
Also, there’s the thing about safety. Let’s face it: Some places are safer than others; so before you end up in the middle of a political revolution you never signed up for, you’d do best to do your homework before hopping on a plane. International SOS has an excellent Travel Risk Map you can view right now that displays each country’s medical and travel security risks.
TWO: Getting There
Your airfare will easily take up the biggest chunk of your budget. Even then, there are ways to get better deals out of airlines. As far as the ‘traveling piss-poor peasant’ is concerned, every ringgit saved is a ringgit that could be spent elsewhere (like more food!).
The general principle is to plan and book your trip way in advance. I’m talking half a year to a full year ahead, as early as your airline would allow you. If the early bird gets the worm, the early-booking traveler gets the best bang for her buck. Also, check it once, check it twice, heck, check it three more times. Air tickets can fluctuate in price each time you refresh the search (not so sure why but it works!)
THREE: Staying There
Unless you’re planning to take in the riches of the world through the window of a cozy hotel room, there’s really no need to splurge on accommodation. Couchsurfing is great for when you just need a place to lay your head, the only condition being that you have to open your couch for other couchsurfers. Otherwise, Airbnb has a comprehensive list of accommodation options.
Note: If you don’t know what couchsurfing is, run over HERE for a really good explanation!
When you think about it, out of the 24 hours in a day, you’ll only be spending a quarter of it knocked out cold from sheer exhaustion and oblivious to your surroundings. It then becomes clear how insignificant the extra frills on your accommodation choices really are.
If you don’t mind at all, choose rooms with no adjoined toilets as they are significantly cheaper. You could even try sharing the bunk bed styled rooms with 15 other like-minded travellers too. Just remember this: Bringing along your own towel solves half your problems in this regard.
FOUR: Eating There
We’re finally on to a few of my favorite things.
Ever notice how, when you wander the streets of KL, you just somehow know which shops to avoid? Now think about how when you’re in a foreign land, these are exactly the kind of shops you go to look for food.
It just doesn’t make sense.
So this is where some basic communication skills beyond keyboard-banging come in handy. The locals always, always know the good places to eat. More to the point, they also know the cheap places to eat. And if the locals don’t know… you’re asking the wrong local. This brings me to the next point: use WeChat or Tinder.
These two are amazing mobile apps to help you connect with other people within your vicinity. Hit ‘em up. Chat with them. Whether they may be locals or other budget-concerned foreigners, you might just make new friends; and these new friends would probably know where the best places are to go and get some grub.
FIVE: Doing Stuff There
Bringing over from the last point I made, yes, you could also use those apps to connect with others and see what’s on their itineraries if you have none. They might know of places and things to do that are way beyond that cheaply printed travel brochure you got from the hotel lobby.
If you are not inclined to use technology, good old small talk with anyone around you could spur you in the right direction sometimes. And if you don’t want to spend money doing extravagant things, there are always the free things.
So what is free? Nature perhaps. Conversations with the locals. The sights and sounds of a land foreign to you. Take photos with that kajillion megapixel camera of yours (smartphone cameras are actually really good now so what’s stopping you).
Here’s a pro tip from the internet: For the things that are not free, even if you have to spend a little bit money; do spend it on experiences and moments, not on things (well not always, that t-shirt you saw looks kinda comfy).
Do More Research!
One last travel tip before we go: The fewer people who know you’re going on a trip, the better. Trust me on this one.
The world, especially in the past couple years, has become an incredibly traveler-friendly place. This article was written to just get you kick-started, getting your mind thinking about all the amazing places you could visit – you’ll be amazed at how much wisdom the internet has to offer if you just google “Ways to Travel Cheap” (there I made it easier for you too!).
So go. See the world. You don’t need as much cash as you thought.
And if you have anything to add to The Piss-Poor Peasant’s Guide to Travel, feel free to share ’em with us too!