Guide to Travelling the World as a Broke Vegan
I follow several travel websites, they quite often write about how to travel on a budget. As I am a master of that, I'm always skeptical but read them anyway just to see whether they know something I don't. These articles always turn out to be a disappointment, at the end of which I just think to myself: "If you call £100 a week a 'budget', then you know nothing, my sweet child".
And so I thought, why not write an article to all my broke vegan sisters and brothers who have a passion for travel just like I do. Travelling is not expensive or hard like most people believe, all you really need to do is follow the next few simple steps:
1. Go to cheap countries
Before your trip, do some online research on the costs of living in the target country/countries. Travelling in developing countries will not only save you tons of money, but it's also way more fun and interesting. For example, developed countries usually have extremely strict laws and rules which takes away so much of the fun, and you will also find that people in poorer countries are often frendlier and more real, let alone that they will have a culture and traditions very different from your own.
2. Stay in hostels, homestays, outside or couch surf
When it comes to accommodation on a budget, you have many different options ranging from very cheap to even free. Staying in backpackers' hostels is a great option when travelling solo or staying in a big city, as you can make friends with so many other travellers and tourists from all over the world. However, if you want to experience something more authentic, you may want to consider homestays (which basically means paying to live with local families) or couch surfing. The latter one is completely free, all you need to do it register on www.couchsurfing.com and find a host! You can read reviews and communicate with your future host to make sure it's somebody who you want to stay in the same house with. Your host will probably show you around his/her city too, which saves you from paying for tour guides.
If you prefer not to plan ahead and just go with the flow, then make sure you pack a tent, sleeping bag or hammock (depending the climate of the country you're heading to), especially if you want to stay in nature most of the time. Sleeping outside is free unless you go to camping sites, and it also gives you a great sense of adventure.
3. Learn the expressions of veganism
Preparing your own meals in developing countries often turn out to be more expensive than eating out. You will find vegan restaurants where they speak English in every country, however if you want to save money, you will have to go local and eat street food. In many places they have never heard of veganism, so you need to learn how to explain it in their language. You don't need to take language courses, just learn basic expressions such as "no meat", "no fish", "no dairy", "no eggs" etc. If you are not confident talking, you could also prepare a 'vegan note' with a few basic sentences explaining what you would and wouldn't like to eat in the target language, and show it to the cook every time you eat out.
4. Use local public transportation or hitch-hike
Needless to say that taking taxis is a big waste of money, and it's also boring as you don't get to meet new people and you often get stuck in traffic jams. One great difference between a tourist and a traveller is that travellers try to live the life of locals, which includes using public transportation. You will end up having to walk more, but hey, that way you will also discover more - and isn't that the whole point of travelling?
When covering longer distances, the absolute best option is hitch-hiking, as it is completely free and loads of fun. Make sure you do some research on hitch-hiking in the target country (you can do so on www.hitchwiki.com) to find out how safe it is, read reviews and stories of people who have done it there.
If you are not comfortable hitch-hiking but still want to save money, choose public buses or trains. Don't book tickets in advance through travel agencies as they will charge you commission - instead, go straight to the bus or train station and purchase your ticket there.
5. Learn how to bargain
One very useful skill to have when travelling in developing countries is bargaining. The way you know you can negotiate the price is when you see no price tags - you can sometimes go down to as low as 20% of the price the seller tells you. Bargaining is an artform that you can master by practice, but the basic principal is to first say a ridiculously low price, then go up little by little, and in the end pretend to be leaving and wait for the seller to settle for the price you suggested. You will find that in many countries (such as Indonesia) bargaining is not a sign of poverty, but in fact is a way of socialization and a custom. When it comes to bargaining, it is extremely useful to learn the numbers in the country's language, as that way you imply that "you know how things work here" and they will immediately handle you as a local instead of a tourist.
When travelling long term, I would highly recommend finding some free volunteering work (believe it or not, there are plenty of volunteering jobs where you have to pay to work). After a lot of research I discovered that best website for finding such work is www.workaway.info. It does have a low registration fee, but it's absolutely worth it, as you can find and contact volunteer hosts from literally everywhere in the world. They would usually give you free accommodation and food, yet some of them will charge you a very low fee to cover your expenses. In either situation chances are that you will stay with locals, thus learning about their culture, crafts, traditions, language and a bunch of very useful skills. There are tons of volunteer jobs suitable for vegans, such as gardening and helping with wildlife conservation.
7. Don't impulse buy
Last but not least, don't buy random stuff on an impulse. We all get a little carried away in foreign countries when it comes to buying souvenirs, but we have to understand that those are all material things. Take as many photos as you can instead! Even if you buy small cheap things, their costs will build up in the end, and you will find that wonderful memories are worth more than any silly knick-knack anyway.
So there you go, your 7-step guide to travelling the world as a broke vegan. One very important thing that I learned during my travels is that if you want something, just ask. If you never ask, you will never find out what the answer would've been. Let's all keep that in mind, not only when travelling, but back in the "real world" too. Safe journey!