Many travel bloggers have the privilege of being able to travel and blog full-time which affords them the opportunity to travel slow. And while slow travel is a goal that both my husband Jave and I are working towards, for the time being, we hold down full-time jobs which is great because it allows us to earn good salaries, work on family planning, save for retirement, and have access to affordable health insurance. My job recently relaxed its vacation policy and now all full-time employees start out with 3 weeks of vacation per year. Nice! Those 3 weeks along with 4 personal days, holidays, and sick days (don’t act like you don’t use some of your sick days for travel!) actually makes for a decent amount of paid time off to travel.
Still, my paid time off is not a whole lot of time to travel the way I’d ideally like to travel, which is why I have to travel fast. My guess is that most Americans travel fast due to work constraints, family commitments, etc. Because I travel fast, I’m always pushed to make the most out of a destination in a very limited amount of time. That means that when I travel to some place I’ve never been, I rarely sleep in or veer too far off of my itinerary. The idea of wasting away a vacation day without doing or exploring something new is just not an option for me. I am always pushed to maximize my travel time.
That, however, does not mean that I don’t get as much out of my travels as those who travel slowly. And traveling fast doesn’t mean that I don’t take time out to relax!
Over the past several years, volunteering has become an integral part of our lives locally in Los Angeles. We’ve spent lots of Saturdays doing everything from beach clean ups and cleaning rabbit cages to refurbishing wheelchairs and feeding the homeless on Skid Row in downtown L.A. In 2009, we decided to incorporate volunteering into our travels whenever we can because it’s a small way for us to give back to the community that we’re traveling to. I usually incorporate about 1-2 days of volunteer time into our itineraries. We’ve found that volunteering helps us to meet new friends in new corners of the world that we otherwise may not have had the opportunity to connect with. Volunteering has also given us deeper insight into local cultures.
Past volunteer projects abroad have included a community beautification project in the Dominican Republic, throwing a party at a favela school in Rio, teaching English to some local boys in Istanbul, and feeding the homeless in Vancouver.
Sticking to a budget doesn’t necessarily make me a budget traveler. While the majority of our travels are on the budget end of the financial spectrum, that doesn’t mean that we don’t ever stay at luxury hotels, eat at nice restaurants, and the like. We’ve never stayed at a hostel and have no plans to do so (although we’ll likely make an exception whenever we travel to Scandinavia; update: we recently had our first ever hostel stay while in Copenhagen), not because we’re snobs, but because that’s not our style.
My approach to budgeting for travel centers around affordable luxuries. That means that I’m willing to splurge a bit in order to afford certain comforts when traveling. To be clear, before each trip, we map out our budget to account for airfare, accommodations, food, transportation, tours/activities, shopping, personal spending (for our own personal must-haves), and a cushion for unforeseen emergencies or expenses. Once the budget is determined, we look for deals that fall within our budget or that will keep us under budget, and during our travels, I diligently keep track of every dime that we spend each day and under which budget category it falls (e.g., Day 1: $50 – food, $15 – public transportation, $45 – tour). Needless to say, all of my accounting gets on Jave’s last nerve, but knowing exactly where our money goes each day helps me to be a more efficient travel planner.
One last thing about my travel style is that bathrooms are really, REALLY important to me when making a decision about where to stay. Like most travelers, I rely heavily on TripAdvisor for accommodation reviews and pictures. If an accommodation’s bathroom isn’t pictured, I will rarely take a chance on staying there unless the reviews are otherwise stellar. When Jave and I were doing the long distance thing before we got married, before I’d book a particular hotel in Negril, I’d ask him to go check out the bathroom for me. I know that’s extreme, but that’s how important bathrooms are to me.
Why are bathrooms so important to me? Well, as fun and exciting as traveling is, it can also be stressful and demanding – especially when traveling fast. The bathroom is the place where I go at the end of my day to unwind, release (well, we all do it!), and get refreshed. I can’t do that in a funky, grungy bathroom!
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