25 chapters, 100,000 words, 120 illustrations
Table of Contents
HOW TO SEE THE WORLD
Art of Travel - European and World Backpacking
Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Samuel Johnson, England
Of course many backpackers aren't going anywhere unless they go dirt cheap. Harken the Earl of Somewhere: "It is much, much better to travel cheap, than to travel not at all."
If you have a minimal budget don't spend your wad on gear. You'll be happier without expensive stuff that may be lost or stolen, and have more money in your pocket for what's really important, like food, accommodation, and fun. You can probably get by with whatever you have.
I imagine there are many would-be travelers who spent so much on gear they didn't have enough left for the trip. Besides, in the budget backpacker subculture the cheaper you go, the higher your status.
- A $20 duffel bag with a few zippered compartments can function nearly as well as a fancy pack--and sometimes better--as long as you travel light.
- A cheap discount store tent keeps you mostly dry if you seal the seams.
- A one-liter plastic water bottle makes a good tap water bottle.
- Army surplus stores sometimes have good deals on sleeping bags and warm clothing. (But never wear camouflage clothing where there is guerrilla or terrorist activity. Nothing is more noticeable.)
- Check the classifieds for camping and backpacking equipment; also thrift shops and used sporting goods stores.
- Restaurant food is prohibitively expensive for ultrabudget travelers, especially in Europe. Many travelers rarely order anything from cafes other than tea and coffee, and get most of their food from supermarkets and bakeries. Think of yourself as a serious picnicker. Most hostels have cooking facilities, and if you are camping and have a portable stove you can also eat fairly well.
- The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is a money-saver in Europe. It nets significant discounts on admissions and other fees, and I once got half-off on a ferry from Denmark to Norway. The ISIC is available from Council Travel, STA, Travel Cuts, and other travel agencies specializing in budget and student travel. You must have proof of student status and $18.
- If you are no longer an official student (but still in spirit and income), bring along whatever old student ID you may have, or a friend's. Some kind-hearted clerks, especially in socialist-oriented Eastern Europe (at least formerly), just need an excuse to give you a cheap ticket. In a sympathetic tone you may hear them ask, "Studensky?"
My first pack was a cheaply-made external frame bought at a garage sale for two bucks. Its original, full retail price was probably under $20, so it was no great bargain. But I knew if I spent money on gear I wasn't going to have enough for travel, and I didn't know what I wanted anyway.
The frame broke five weeks into the journey, but I fixed it just fine with rope. (I didn't have duct tape.) While it wasn't exceptionally handsome, I had few worries about anyone stealing it. After three months of grand adventure its seams were busting and the rest was fraying, so it was retired with honor, a heroic, cheesy-little-backpack if ever there was one.
Photo: Age-old footpaths are the greatest!
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